Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Oh Deer

This week my wife and I had a rather unique experience. A deer ran into our living room window. Nothing was broken, except the deer's pride perhaps. "Oops. I ran into a house."

The only thing I could think of for why the deer did such a thing was that the woods surrounding our house was somehow reflected in the window and the deer thought it was running into the woods. Whatever the reason, the deer was clearly confused and lost.

That got me thinking. We humans can be a lot like that confused deer was the other night. Blindly charging ahead, not checking to see if what we are about to do will harm us or hurt us.

Jesus told us we are to "count the cost" before we do something.

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?" - Luke 14:28-34
Have we as Christians estimated the cost of being a Christian BEFORE we became one? It will  cost us plenty, just as Jesus said. It has cost me friends and relationships, even family members. No one told me about the "fine print" before I became a believer.

That's not true. Jesus told us the cost 2,000 years ago. I just didn't hear Him.

I re-wrote this story because the previous version did not glorify God. I did not glorify Him and it cost me. I feel like I let Him down and didn't give Him my best nor the honor that is due Him.

Before we do anything in this life we must first ask ourselves, "Is what I am about to do or say honoring to God? If it is not, why am I about to do it?"

Is running into this house the God-honoring thing to do? No? Then we need to repent, turn around, and try a different direction, a different story.

Honoring God with the living of our lives should be a very high priority for us. It should be our duty. We are representing God here on earth. To quote a Todd Agnew song, "If Ephesians says to imitate Christ, who do we look so much like "the world?"

May we always be thinking BEFORE we act. May we always "count the cost" before we commit to any action or words. By doing that we will be honoring God with our lives. And that's what Christians are known for.  Jesus told us . . .

13 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." - Matthew 5:13-16

May we look before we leap. May we stop and think before we "jump into things" or open our mouths . . . or in my case, write a story. May we ALWAYS honor God in what we say and do . . . like a city on a hill. So that others might see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.

Shine Your Light - Nichole Nordeman
My Jesus - Todd Agnew

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Sin of Doubt

Doubt and fear can be crippling in our relationships with others. Not so much fear I think, but doubt is the cause of numerous fights and relationship issues. Let me give you an example. You send someone a text and you don't hear back from them right away. What happens next? We begin to doubt. We begin to question. Our minds begin to fill in then blanks - often with guesses, not facts.

That's the thing about us humans. We tend not only TO doubt be we also can CAUSE doubt in the minds of others. We do that to each other a lot! Even unintentionally.

A few winters ago I was driving to work - a 45 minutes ride. It was snowing out and the roads were slippery. My friend at work sent me a text to see how I was doing. I was concentrating on the road and did not see the incoming text.

By my not responding, my friend began to doubt my safety and began to worry. Doubt and fear caused my friend to get in her car and drive toward my house, scanning the ditches for my car as she went. Doubt and fear can cause us to do many things we wouldn't do otherwise. When doubt and fear get tangled up with our love for someone we can end up doing some pretty crazy things. What she did was admirable but it was based in doubt.

After Jesus was crucified, God raised Him from the dead. Mary Magdalene testified as to her seeing the risen Lord. There was doubt among the disciples so they ran to the tomb and were still not satisfied. They doubted her story.

When Jesus finally appeared to them and they saw Him, they STILL doubted.

"16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted." - Matthew 28:16-17

How can one doubt the risen Lord when He is standing right on front of you!?
Doubting Thomas

That's easy. We tend to doubt the things our minds cannot comprehend.

It is easy to doubt and question our human relationships because . . . we're human. We make mistakes. We are prone to sin and doubt. It's in our very nature. But there should be no fear or doubt in our relationship with God, yet there will be. We're humans. We doubt.

I'd like you to read something. It speaks to our doubt and fear.

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister." - 1 John 4:7-21

There should be no fear or doubt in our relationship with Jesus. God's promises are true. God never lies. To do so would be a sin. So cast off your doubts and fears. Believe in Jesus, who became OUR sin, so that we might have life in Him. Do you believe that? DO you believe and not doubt? Have no fear. Love one another as He first loved us. There is no fear or doubt in love.

Doubting Thomas Video - to Nichole Nordeman's song "What If"

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Meanwhile, In The Shower

Trying to figure out what God will do next is nearly impossible. Sometimes we might guess and be right but that would be a rare exception to this unseeable being who works in us and though us and all around us yet works quietly, preferring to be unnoticed. Yet, desiring to be known.

I have written before about the topic of "ideas" - wondering where they come from. I probably deduced that, in the end, ideas, like everything else on this planet, come from God.

Some of the best ideas I come up with . . . or should I say, the ideas that GOD comes up with, occur to me in the early morning hours. That's probably because I am still half asleep anyway and probably walking in some kind of dream state as I step into the shower, but that truly is where most of my ideas come to me.

Perhaps I should quit my day job and become a professional dreamer like Daniel. Yeah, that would be me alright. I'd be a natural. My wife will tell you that I have very little trouble falling asleep in the living room chair - a prerequisite for dreaming. LOL!

"7 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream." - Daniel 7:1

This past Thursday morning I was struck by an idea that came bursting into my cobweb-filled brain, totally uninvited. The early morning thought I had was for a construction project. Not your "normal" dream but what IS normal when we are dreaming, right?

Anyway, for the past two days I have thought about little else - pursuing this dream, trying to figure out what to do with it. It seems weird but I think God wants me to build . . . a shed. Yeah, I know . . . it's not really an "ark", is it.

Reading what I wrote just now, I admit the idea DOES sound a little weird, but a shed is actually the perfect answer to a bigger question I have been asking myself for months now. As I look back on some of the "ideas" I have had along the way, they all seem a bit "out there" but that's why I think they are going to work. They all fit together and God loves the strange, the unexpected and the unusual. Hey, He loves ME and I'm certainly strange. But, as Mandisa's song asks, "What could be stranger (and more unexpected) than God in a manger."

My passion is helping others and I hope that, by honoring God while I do that, He will bless me with His provision in my pursuit of this "dream". Did my "dream" really come from God? I don't know. But ideas come from somewhere, and this one is just so "out there" that hesitate to make it known at all. And how will I know it will be "of God" or "of man"? That's easy. If it is "of God", it will succeed.

Here's a short video that I saw on Facebook Tiny Home group's page that launched this strange plan.

France Prefab Tiny House - Pin-Up Houses

Daniel's Prayer

God  Speaking - Mandisa

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


I see them in their offices. In early. Staying late. Working through lunch. Working on the weekends. Totally focused on what they're doing. That description applies to many of the people where I work. They have a passion for architecture, for structural design, for designing amazing buildings for the people who need them.

That's the way scripture says we are to work.

"23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." - Colossians 3:23-24

But what if we aren't excited about our work? What if we aren't working enthusiastically for our employers? Does that mean we are disobeying God? Quite possibly. But maybe not.

What if we are meant to be doing something else? What if God wants us doing something entirely different than what we are doing now? Something we will have a passion for? That begs the question, "What ARE we passionate about? What would we do instead of our current jobs that we could do with a passion for the work?"

Right now in my life I am nearing "retirement". When I think of retirement I get the stereotypical image in my head of an old couple playing golf or on vacation in some quaint European village. I think those pictures we placed in my head by some investment company commercial wanting my money.

I don't want that. I want to work after I retire. But I also want to work with a passion. I have gone to work, doing what I do, for years . . . decades! I want to do something different. Something challenging. Something to glorify my Lord. I want to have passion for what I am doing.

Are you considering a job change in the near future? Are you bored with what you are doing now? There are two questions you should ask yourself. The first is, "What am I passionate about?" And the second is the killer. "Why aren't I doing it right now?" Ouch.

So, I am making plans to do something "more productive" for God.  I am planning on leaving my job - retiring - as soon as I can. Maybe that will be in a year, a month . . . who knows. But I have a drop-dead date in mind. March of 2018. That will be my 65th birthday. If I have not left this job by then, on that day I will.

I have nothing against where I work or the people I work with. This place and these people are like family to me. But I think I am supposed to be doing something else. Something driven with a little more passion than I have right now.

So, what are the first steps to take when considering a job change? Well, step number one is to pray, of course. I have been praying about this for a year or so. Perhaps not as often and as intensely as I should have. But that's because I am "comfortable" I think. We need to be more intentional in our prayers when it comes to major life-changing things. We don't do that because we like to think we are in control of everything. We're not. Or at least we shouldn't be.

The second thing we need to do is to make a plan. Take some steps. Think about the "what-if's" and prayerfully consider each one. The important thing to remember is to faithfully keep God at the center of all things. He should be our "reason" and our "focus".

What is YOUR passion? Are you living it?

If you had to work at the job you're working at right now and not get paid for it, would you still do it? No? Then why are you still doing it?

That question eats away at me. Daily.

Find your passion. Take steps in that direction. Do it while you are young. Find that passion you have a follow it in your career. But your "following" should not be for selfish reasons like playing golf everyday when you are 65 . . . unless THAT is your passion. Ha ha ha!

Our passion should be serving God. The questions is, "How are we going to do that?" What tools has God given us to help us serve Him better?

Get passionate about examining your own gifts and abilities. But do so with God in mind. The minute we place ourselves above God in our passion, we will be doomed to failure. Seek God's will first!

"33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." - Matthew 6:33

Working For A Living - Huey Lewis & Garth Brooks

Monday, September 19, 2016

It's Not Me, It's You!

We all walk through this world, viewing things from our own eyes. We watch others react TO us and WITH us as if we are the main players in a movie, and to some extent we are. We are in every scene. Our eyes are the camera lens through which we see everything. If we are not careful we can find ourselves in the lead role. And that's a bad thing.

I have seen much in my 63 years of existence on this planet. Much of what I have seen has saddened me. Other things have brought me great joy. Marrying my wife, the births of our children, the view from a mountaintop, and seeing a bald eagle fly close by and look directly at me. All these things could be viewed as scenes in a movie - starring ME!

God is very good at humbling us when we need it. I thought I had done a pretty good job of making sure that GOD was the star of MY movie but this past week God reminded me once again that HE is the star. HE writes the scripts. HE casts the players and HE makes things happen all on HIS timetable, not mine.

I received a message this week from a young adult friend of mine saying simply, "I think I'm ready." That could mean almost anything. However, previous conversations and prayers made me hopeful that this young soul was about ready to give her life to Jesus.

I did all the right Christian things to get ready. I began to pray. I enlisted others to pray. I literally had five people praying for this person. I invited her to church and then out to lunch afterwards where I assumed we would be talking about Jesus. I was all ready to go!

Take a look at the first word in each of the sentences in the last paragraph. I-I-I-I-I-I. At that point "I" still had no clue that "I" was in the process of learning a very important lesson. No clue whatsoever.

The conversation that day with my young friend went nowhere. Jesus came up a few times in the conversation but things didn't turn out the way I had planned. We talked about how we must take a leap of faith sometimes and trust in God to catch us. But the day, and the conversation, just left me feeling empty somehow. Like I had failed God.

Meanwhile . . . everyone one who had been praying for my friend continued to do so. They didn't know my friend. They had never met her. Yet they prayed for her to receive Christ.

Four days later . . . when God felt like enough time had elapsed so I could properly see who was in control . . . I received the following message from my young friend.

"Good morning! Still thinking about that leap-of-faith talk we had."

That's when things became clear in my mind about the lesson God wanted me to learn. That's why I named this story what I did.

It's not me, it's You, God. It always has been You.

"30 He must become greater; I must become less.” 31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all." - John 3:30-31

Father, please forgive me. I have walked through this life you have given me thinking there was something I could do to bring people to you. I have come to realize through this lesson you have taught me that it's not me who works miracles through some spoken word or persuasive speech. It's YOU, Lord! It's not me who baptizes, it's you! It's not us praying some sinner's prayer. No! It's YOU!!! You are the giver of life, You raise the dead back to life. Our goal should not be righteous works, it should be abiding in You. If we abide in you, Your work will happen in and through us. Lord, it's not me, it's You!!

Rethinking Outreach - Francis Chan

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Letter

In these days of fast food, on-demand relationships and lightning quick communication, it's hard to believe that an old-fashioned letter could have much of an impact. But this week I was reminded that the simplest things in life can sometimes carry the most meaning.

I have a young friend. She's an interesting young lady. A former youth group kid when I was a youth leader, my young friend is an artist. She and her boyfriend (also an artist) have tried to simplify their lives recently by eliminating the "baggage" that weighs them down. Admirable, and rare, in today's world.

One of the things my friend eliminated was Facebook. Again, admirable, but sadly Facebook has become one of the few means we have of keeping in touch with one another these days. So, in order to keep our friendship active and alive I wrote my friend a letter. She replied. We have been trading letters for a while now but recently her letters have stopped. That's where self-examination and imagination began to take over. There was no communication. I began to doubt and to question.

Did I say or do something to make my friend mad? Did my last letter get lost in the mail? Did my friend get into a car accident? Maybe she is unable to write! Did she and her boyfriend move back to Colorado? Did they break up? Have I lost a friend? Our imagination can really run wild, swimming in an endless sea of possibilities, if we let it.

Communication from God can be like that. He has written 66 letters for us to read and re-read. But when was the last time He wrote us? 2,000 years ago? That's a long time. Our human imaginations can run wild. Does God really love us anymore? Is He still out there? Is He alive? Is He real? Doubt can creep in where certainty once reigned.

Two days ago I got a letter in the mail from my friend. I stared at it for a while - the doubt still in my head. What would it say? What bad news was awaiting me inside the envelope? There was a hesitation in opening it. Still, some questions had been answered simply by the fact the letter had arrived.

My friend WAS alive! The return address told me she was still near! But there was still that doubt about our relationship. Were things still good? Were we still friends? All those doubts were put to rest by doing something rather simple and obvious. I opened the letter, and I read it.

When was the last time we read God's letters to us? When was the last time we were reminded how much God loves us and cares for us? When was the last time we have clung to the truths in God's Word as our only hope? And, equally as important, when have WE written back?

We can't actually write letters to God and expect to receive a reply in the mail, but we can pray. We can speak to God and He has promised that He WILL hear us (1 John 5:14). We can also live our lives FOR Him, in thanks for all He has given us and written to us in the past. Serving others and living a transformed life are excellent ways to communicate our love for the Father.

When I didn't hear from my friend for a while I began to wonder about the state of things, but as soon as I received that letter, I was reminded that everything was just fine. There was nothing to fear. The same thing applies to our communication with God. We must keep the channels open!

I'd like to close by sharing a few sentences from my young friend's letter. One could almost read these words and imagine a similar message coming from God to those of us who have not heard from Him in our lives for a while.

"Please, don't let me not writing sooner make you believe I haven't been thinking about you. I feel overwhelmed with the amount of things I could share with you."

Letters from someone we care about can have an amazing effect on us. They can suddenly lift us up and encourage us. The following is the opening paragraphs of a letter received by the Philippian church from someone THEY cared about - the Apostle Paul.

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God." - Philippians 1:3-11

How would you feel after receiving THAT letter? Encouraged? When was the last time YOU wrote somebody a letter? When was the last time you read HIS?

And finally, a quote for my young friend . . .

“Susie, what shall I do - there isn't room enough; not half enough, to hold what I was going to say. Wont you tell the man who makes sheets of paper, that I haven't the slightest respect for him!” - Emily Dickinson

Letters To God Theatrical Trailer
Paul's Letter to The Philippians

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Little Piece of Heaven

Well, I had a story all written for this morning, but now I find myself writing a brand new one, all because I listened to a Skillet song on my way in to work.

The song is about a young couple who found themselves pregnant. Not married, no money, no jobs, they wondered how they could possibly take care of a child. So they decided to terminate the pregnancy. They had an abortion.

But soon afterward they found themselves feeling terribly guilty for what they had done. They felt ashamed and the memory of their decision haunted them every minute of every day. They went see a counselor, it got do bad.

The counselor told them to treat their abortion like a death in the family so they did just that by doing three things. 1). They held a funeral. 2). they bought a headstone for a grave. And 3). they named their baby. This song was written from the father's viewpoint, sung to his aborted daughter.

Lucy - Skillet (with the story behind the song)

I listened to that song, as I said, on my way to work this morning. I couldn't help but shed a tear. You see, my daughter and her husband are trying to have a baby right now. They would give anything to be able to hold a young life like Lucy's in their hands right now.

And so this morning I prayed for all the young mothers and fathers of the world. That they might truly appreciate the gift of the life they have been given. And for the mothers and fathers who find they can't have children. I pray for them as well. I pray for young children in orphanages, on street corners, and in alley ways. May we always remember your name.

Won't you please join me in prayer as we seek mercy for these young souls. And also pray that God might take the ones that have been given up, abandoned, and thrown in the garbage to die. May these young mothers and father choose life over death. May they chose adoption rather than abortion. There are so many young couples who want children. And so many young babies who need loving parents. God, please, help us in this area. Help us chose life. Amen.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Parable of The Hungry Martian

My wife and I just got done watching The Martian - a film starring Matt Damon who's character got left behind on Mars. Without spoiling TOO much of the movie, he survived on Mars for nearly two years by eating potatoes. Actually, it wasn't the potatoes that saved him as much as it was his ingenuity. He was botanist!

Do you like figuring out how to do stuff? I absolutely LOVE to do that. I think that's kind of a guy thing. My wife doesn't like figuring out how to do things herself. It's easier for her to just have ME do it. Although I seldom do things according to her time schedule.

Where does the ability to do things come from? These days a lot of it comes from YouTube. Last weekend I wanted to make an omelet so I watched a YouTube video. Seemed simple enough to make so I tried it. Worst . . . omelet . . . ever.

Why are we good at some stuff and not good at other things. Even though we went to the same classes in school, some of us are just better at some things than others. Teachers call people that can do stuff "gifted" or "talented."

I think our "gifts" are given to us by God.

Are you gifted in some way? Is there something you can really do well? I'm not super good at anything. I like to write and I enjoy building stuff . . . and figuring things out. Did God give you the ability to earn money through something you can do? Did He give you a gift that has yet to be discovered? I think He did.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is The Little Drummer Boy. Why? Because the little drummer boy didn't have any physical gift to give the baby, Jesus. But he gave his ability to play the drum - something God had previously given him.

I think that's what God wants us to do. To use the gifts God has given us to glorify Him. What better way to honor the One who saved us by living our lives for Him with the gifts He gave us. Let us live our lives in such a way that we honor God. That, I think, is the ultimate form of worship.

"10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen." - 1 Peter 4:10-11

Little Drummer Boy - Pentatonix
The Martian Trailer

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Parable of The Banana Bread

My wife and I are very predictable and very compatible - even though she tends to vote Democratic and I usually go the Conservative route.

We know each others likes and dislikes, we can finish each others sentences, and even drink out of the same bottle without wiping it off first. We're close. After 39 years of marriage, we should be!

Every once in a while my wife brings home a bunch of bananas. I like them fresher and a little firm while my wife likes hers somewhat aged and a little softer. But no matter how many bananas she buys, we always seem to have one or two left that don't get eaten. There's a reason for that. And we both agree, it's a miracle! :)

Brown bananas are disgusting. Most people might want to throw them out and get rid of them. But not MY wife. She saves 'em. I know. That seems strange at first but she can take the most disgusting bananas and turn them into the most amazing loaves of banana bread. What a gift! To be able to take something disgusting and turn it into something good.
But who decided to do something like that? Someone back in ancient times actually thought it might be a  good idea to cook up some over-ripe fruit and eat it. Sure! Why not! What could possibly go wrong?

It was probably the same guy who thought squeezing a cow's dangling underparts was a good way to get something to drink. And the same guy who digs around under a chickens butt to find something good to eat!

But banana bread IS good no matter WHO invented it. My wife takes old, good for nothing fruit, saves it from death in the garbage can and creates something wonderful, uesful and amazing out of it. It's a miracle!

God does the same thing with us.

We can get pretty disgusting ourselves - full of sin, we are disgusting in God's eyes. But God sees good in us. We just need a little cooking. The Bible calls it "refining." It might take the rest of our lives but God keeps working with us, mixing us in with the right set of ingredients.

He takes of mix of failed relationships, trouble in the workplace and health issues and throws in some love, compassion, mercy and grace, and the next thing you know He pulls a born-again Christian out of the oven.

My wife's banana bread is amazing. So is God's amazing handiwork. We still can go bad if we sit on the shelf long enough but that's why God wants us to be used. Consumed, if you will. Is there someone in your life who needs some "food" - The Gospel? Hey, we are God's banana bread.

If you find yourself feeling down, if you get to feeling like you're no good and that nobody cares, remember that God is not done with you yet. You are still a work in process. When you find yourself heading for the mixing bowl, about to be smashed into mush through a difficult trial, don't forget that the most beautiful diamond was once a dirty lump of coal.

God is not through with you yet!! So rejoice!! He is making you into something amazing!

Consider the woman Ruth who had nothing and had to follow the harvesters, searching for grain they had missed. Through her struggle God provided abundantly and changed her life forever through a man named Boaz. Look at God's provision in this story! Ruth emerged from her struggle . . . and one of their descendants saved the world. Jesus.

14 At mealtime Boaz said to her (Ruth), “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.”

When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. 15 As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. 16 Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”

17 So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. 18 She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.

19 Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”

And glory be to God who took notice of a bunch of bananas like us!

The Book of Ruth
How To Make Banana Bread

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

When It Rains

I drove home during a rather nasty storm last night. Black, dark clouds spanned the sky from north to south. And I was driving right into them. Did I stop? No. Why not? I think people have a sense of "that will never happen to me." Until it happens to them.

Several people pulled over and waited for the storm to pass. I saw a big truck parked under an overpass, a car parked on the side of the road - flashers flashing. They were smart. And me? I just kept right one going. What could happen, right?

That's when my car began to hydroplane. Has that ever happened to you? It's not fun to be going 65 MPH only to discover your steering wheel no longer works. They say there are no atheists in foxholes. Well, there aren't many to be found in severe weather either.

Have you ever heard the saying, "When it rains, it pours?" What does that mean exactly? It sounds redundant to me. Google says it's a proverb. "misfortunes or difficult situations tend to follow each other in rapid succession or to arrive all at the same time."

If that's the case, if that saying is to represent one bad thing after another, then why did Morton put the saying on its containers of salt? A little research finds that pouring salt used to be much more difficult to do on humid days, especially when it was raining. But back in 1914 Morton added magnesium to their salt and humidity, and rain, no longer had an effect on the salt's ability to pour out of the can. "When it rains, it pours," suddenly has a positive meaning instead of a negative one.

Do you remember ever having a really bad day and then something happened to make it amazing? That's happened to me a couple of times and each time it happened, each time the rain poured, a positive, life-changing event shortly followed.

Think about that the next time something really bad happens. Think about what we do when the storm finally stops and the sun comes out. What do we look for? The rainbow! A positive sign that the worst is over and sunshine and better times are soon to follow.

God is an expert at turning bad things and making them better. Look at me! Take your average sinner for example. Everyone of them was made "better" by placing their faith in Jesus. By letting Him into out lives we can somehow manage to navigate even the most difficult storms.

God never promised us a cloudless, sunny sky in this life. He actually promised we would "have trouble" (John 16:33). But right after Jesus said that. He told His disciples something worth remembering through the storms in our lives . . .

32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:32-33

Remember that, always. When things seem worst, remember that Jesus reigns over everything. Every situation, every struggles . . . even over every storm.

"37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm." - Mark 4:37-39

Jesus can save you from the worst situations in life - like when you decide to trust Him, fully, after trying and failing in your relationships time and time again. Why don't we trust Him? Because, just like me, we think we can do it ourselves. All it takes is one hydroplaning moment for us to realize that we so easily can go spinning out of control.

We need Christ. We need His calming influence on our lives. Please, let Him calm the storm in YOUR life, Today.

Calm The Storm - Spoken

Monday, September 5, 2016

Like A River

This past Saturday I took a morning hike along the Eau Claire River up near Wausau. It was  beautiful day. For the most part I was alone, hiking a riverside trail upstream through some increasingly rocky terrain.

As I walked I couldn't help but notice the river and how it changed. When I first began walking the river made no sound at all - just water flowing around some rocks in the stream. Further upstream, however, I began hearing the river speak to me. Like a bunch of kids playing in the distance.

First there were little rapids - places where the water hurries over the rocks - splashing its way around them. Then there were times the river ran silent again, until there was another ledge of rock to tumble over.

Finally, I arrived at my destination, The Dells. It's a place where the rock formations force the water into a narrow, rapidly rushing torrent, demonstrating what true power can be generated by such simple things as earth and water.

As I sat on one of the rock outcroppings, resting at the end of my hike, it occurred to me how similar our faith is to a river. Sometimes it is quiet and unassuming, sometimes it is strong and forceful, yet, whatever the circumstances, God's Holy Spirit is always there inside us . . . it is always moving.

How was it that God called you to Himself? Was His Holy Spirit working on you your entire life? Or was there a sudden revelation and transformation? God works in different ways for different people.

What is the purpose of a river (if rivers can have such things)? What is its ultimate goal or destination? Well, all rivers have the same "desire" - to get to the ocean. Is that desire any different than our desire to get to heaven?

In the Old Testament, Ezekiel spoke of a river that flowed from the temple. That river was Jesus. And Jesus also spoke about God's dwelling place. It was to be in us! Read the prophecy of Ezekiel and then the promise of Jesus.

"Then he brought me back to the side of the river. As I returned, I saw that there were very many trees on both sides of the river. He said to me, “These waters go out toward the east country and down into the Arabah, then flow into the Dead sea. When they flow into the sea, the waters there become clean again. Every living thing that gathers where the river goes will live. There will be very many fish, because these waters go there and make the salt water clean. So everything will live where the river goes." - Ezekiel 47:6-9

"37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive." - John 7:37-39

Is God's river of life flowing from within you?

The River - Jordan Feliz

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Doing What Is Right

People can do the stupidest things. Yet, we can also do the most amazing things. We're weird that way. We do stupid stuff one day and really neat stuff the next. Why is that?

I think we humans should come with an alarm system that will go off whenever we're about to something exceptionally stupid.

WARNING!! WARNING!! Do not put your finger in that fan!! Do not stick your tongue on that frozen flag pole! Do not check to see how much gas there is in the lawn mower by using a lit match to help you see! And my personal favorite, do not drive off without locking the trailer onto the trailer hitch!!

Today I'm going to tell you two short stories to illustrate both extremes of this point about us humans. My first story is really short. It's about Colin Kaepernick. Are you ready? Here it comes.

What were you thinking?!? End of story.

My next story is about a young man named Travis Rudolph. Most people will not recognize that name, but he made a big impression on me this week simply by eating pizza. Oh, and by the way, he is a wide receiver for the Florida State Seminoles. That's him pictured above.

Here's another picture of Mr. Rudolph. He's eating lunch with Bo Paske, an autistic middle school student. Rudolph was visiting the school when he noticed the red-haired boy sitting all by himself at lunch. So Rudolph asked the boy if he could join him and the rest is history. Young Bo is now the most popular kid in school!

We can easily form opinions about each of these football players. I don't know Mr. Rudolph's taste in music, who he's going to vote for in the upcoming election or what size shoes he wears. None of that matters compared to doing what is right in this life and in my opinion, Mr. Travis Rudolph did amazingly well that day. What he did was almost . . . biblical!

"8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." - Philippians 4:8-9

One of these two football players has done what was right in the eyes of The Lord. The other, well, we must pray for him. And although there may be problems in this world, we must each chose how to address them without alienating millions. Each of these men acted. One acted righteously.

As you and I walk through this world I pray we would be more like Travis Rudolph. This world needs more people like him. Our actions tell others a lot about who we really are. Are we sending a message to others through our actions that tell them, "Hmm, they must be Christians." Or do we look just like "the world?"Let there be NO doubt who we are and WHOSE we are. May we live OUR lives

 "3To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice."- Proverbs 21:3

"8He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:8

Courageous - Casting Crowns

FSU Football Player Eats Lunch With Kid Who Has Autism