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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Groundhogs!

Merry Christmas!

Who’s ready for Spring?
Winter hasn’t even gotten a good start, and we’re already wishing for warmer weather.

We talk about it all winter long, all through the cold, the rain, and the occasional ice storm or snow.  Winter in the South can be quite miserable.
We’re looking for some encouragement during the long dreary days of winter, and one such boost comes on February 2, Groundhog Day.

The folklore says that if it is cloudy when a groundhog steps out of its burrow on this particular day, Spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, while winter weather continues for six more weeks.
The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where Phil, the “official” Groundhog of the day, makes his annual appearance. 

No matter that he is more wrong than he is right.  We need a little hope that Spring will come once again, that trees will grow new branches and new leaves, that flowers will pop out of the ground like magic, and birds will sing their lovely songs.
Spring means a reawakening of nature, a transformation of roots thought dead, a restoration of our weary souls, worn down by the drab days of winter. 

So why am I talking about Spring on Christmas Day?
Because, like Spring, Christmas represents a new beginning for Christians, the greatest new beginning since the creation of the world.  Without Christ, there would be no Christians.  And not just that, there would also be no hope, little love for anything but ourselves, no sympathy, no empathy, a drab and dreary world far beyond our imaginings. 

I know we just had Thanksgiving and thought about things we were thankful for, but I think it’s appropriate to intentionally be thankful again today, thinking of the small baby that was Christ Jesus and all that He became and is for us in our lives.
Christ fits perfectly within us, whether we’re celebrating Christmas, Groundhog Day or the 4th of July. 

And today, of all days, we really should invite Him in and see Spring through His eyes.
Merry Christmas from David and I!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Taste and See!

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.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

John the Baptist

I have always admired John the Baptist for the way he handled Jesus’ arrival.  I know, I know – John had the Holy Spirit to guide him and all of that.  But still, given human nature, it could have been a real problem.

Think about people you work with now or have worked with in the past.  How many times has someone in your classification, someone doing the same things you do, get a promotion to supervisor and become a completely different person? 
And I don’t mean that in a nice way.  I mean they become bossy and arrogant, ordering people around just because they can.  Of course, resentment runs high so the workplace becomes tense, people become stressed, and the work doesn’t get done as smoothly and as timely as it should.

All because somebody gets, what we call in the South, the big head.
It’s just another form of greed.

Look at all those celebrities that have money out the wazoo and yet they constantly want their names known, their accomplishments known.  When their popularity goes down, they show up on game shows and reality TV. 
Because they still want that spotlight and the power that goes with it.  People fawn all over celebrities, which is something I guess I don’t understand.  From what I can tell, some of these people are popular just being themselves on a TV show. 

I think they should be paying us to watch them, not them getting paid extravagant amounts to be watched.
John the Baptist had disciples, he had followers, he baptized countless people.  The Bible says all the country of Judea and everyone who lived in Jerusalem came to him to be baptized. 

He was the center of attention and probably could have asked for just about anything from his followers and he would have gotten it.  They admired him, they looked up to him, they believed in him and his message.
Pretty heady stuff.

But when Jesus came, John stepped back.
He still had disciples because the Bible tells us that John sent some of them to ask Jesus if He was the One they had been waiting for.  He probably still had some folks that followed him around and listened to him.  But it couldn’t have been on the same scale as before Jesus came.

And yet he still preached, he still pointed people to Christ, just as he had done his whole ministry.
So I have admired John the Baptist for the way he stepped away from center stage.

Recently, I realized that this was not the first time someone in John’s family had done that very thing.
I had read many times the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, going to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  Elizabeth was old and barren when God decided she should be the mother of John the Baptist.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, baby John jumped in his mother’s womb.

Here was Elizabeth, old, barren for years and now pregnant, talking to her young cousin whom she had not seen for at least 5 or 6 months.  Don’t you think the first words out of her mouth would have been about her own baby?
Elizabeth uttered 5 sentences to Mary.  The 4th was about her baby leaping for joy.

Like mother, like son.  Elizabeth recognized that Mary’s news was much greater than her own and she stepped back.
John recognized the Lamb of God and he stepped back.

It’s important to recognize that sometimes we just need to get out of the way so the Holy Spirit can do His work.
The next time you’re feeling frustrated, stop and look around.  Your answer could be just a step away.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Housework and Hair

I absolutely loathe housework.

I don’t know why I hate it so much.  It’s like a huge feeling of dread comes over me and I physically can’t make myself do it. 
One of the things I prided myself on when I was younger was a very strong sense of self-discipline.  I could do anything, no matter how loathsome, and see it through to its end.  Now I just give up and I don’t care at the time that I’ve not done what I was supposed to do. 

Later I tell myself how lazy I am and what’s the matter with me and all that kind of thing.  But at the time, I rationalize to the point that I don’t do whatever I’m supposed to be doing.
Another thing I prided myself on was my hair.  It was thick and was a beautiful color of grey mixed with dark brown.  I guess I needed to be knocked down a peg or two because my hair is so thin now and I can’t do anything with it.  I fret over it a great deal.

Maybe God wanted to show me that I should depend on Him and not on my own efforts.  Maybe housework and hair are important in the world’s eyes, but God’s eyes are different.
I’ve been trying to let it go and do better at the same time.  It’s kind of a thin line.  I need to have self-discipline to some degree or nothing will get done because basically I’m an extraordinarily lazy person.  But where does my own self-discipline end and letting God work through me start?

And the same with my hair.  Where does my effort at styling and feeling good about it stop and God’s intervention begin?
It’s a thin line and one I overstepped for many years, now that I look back at it.

When I think, “I must take the trash out,” “I must unload the dishwasher,” and then I think of all the reasons not to, I need to realize what I’m doing and how I’m thinking, ask God for His holy perseverance, and then do what  He empowers me to do.
Housework and hair don’t seem very important when there are so many very serious problems in the world.  But God is a personal type, and He sent Jesus to save us individually.  The indwelling Holy Spirit is also sent to each one of us.  So housework and hair are important to God because if I’m fretting over these things, I’m not looking to God for my strength and I’m not partaking of His peace.

I’ve got to do better…

Our foolish pride comes from this world, and so do our selfish desires and our desire to have everything we see. None of this comes from the Father.
                                                          1 John 2:16 (CEV)