Monday, January 28, 2008


Psalm 30:5b: “…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

I had come home from church on this beautiful, sunny Sunday morning. There was a break in the bitter coldness that had engulfed our area, and the mildness was rich in the air. The sermon had been meaningful, and I was feeling good. It was one of those “all’s right with the world” moments, when you’re smiling and happy and calm. I half expected some little cartoon animals to gather around the car and begin singing… okay, maybe that’s a little over the top, but it was a great Sunday morning.

I stopped for gas, and across the street the car wash was gearing up for what looked to be a promising day of sales. What better way to wash away the grime of a cold week than to treat my car to a car wash and drive home in style, the black hood glittering in the sunlight, all fresh and clean? I drove over, got in line, turned up the radio, and enjoyed the moment. Now this is the type of car wash where you get out of your car and stroll along as your car goes through each wash station. I have to admit, I still get a kick out of watching the foam spraying all over the place, the rhythm of the water streaming, and the huge whirling brushes and air dryers do their thing. The only thing better is actually being able to sit in the car! I always imagined that, just perhaps, when you went through the car wash in your car, you might come out in another land, just like the scene where Dorothy opens the door onto a colorful Land of Oz!

I paid at the counter, and went out to my beautiful baby car, all gleaming and enticing as the day I took her off the lot. Yes, it was a good day! I got in, took a moment to enjoy the fresh scent of scrubbed rugs and vanilla freshener, turned the radio back up, and began to drive away. And in literally two seconds, no sooner than it took to turn onto the road home, SPLAT!!!! A bird christened my windshield, and by the looks of it, I think it must have been a turkey vulture or perhaps an unusually large goose! (Pigs aren’t flying yet, are they?) No…. no… are you kidding me? Are you kidding me???? It was one of those surreal moments when suddenly everything goes into slow motion, and you are faced with “the choice.” Okay, I can really let this get to me. I can get ticked off and grump and mumble about my bad luck and just really let it get to me. Or, I can try to find the humor in it. I starting laughing… not just giggling, but laughing until my sides hurt and the tears welled up in my eyes. I just downright howled with the ironic silliness of it all! Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor? I managed to get home, and grabbed a HUGE roll of paper towels and an economy bottle of window cleaner, and managed to get rid of the mess, through fits of giggles.

I couldn’t help but think how much life is like this little analogy God gave to me this sunny Sunday morning. We go along, feeling good, living strong, and suddenly SPLAT!!!! Something comes along to fowl up our plans, to dump all over us to the point where we can’t see clearly any longer. And we’re faced with a choice – do I focus on the SPLAT on my windshield, or do I try to find the lesson, and the humor, and just ride it out? Sometimes it’s a great big SPLAT, some life-altering news; sometimes it’s a smaller SPLAT that still rocks us to the bone. Either way, we have a choice in our reaction, and in our focus. We can look to God to give us strength and courage and to help us deal with what has been dumped on us. And hopefully, at some point, we can smile again.

I encourage you to grab some paper towels, and laugh.

A Fresh Start

Psalm 19:14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

I began a new job today, and it feels like January 1st “fresh start” time again. I realized that I was walking into this company with a clean slate. No one knows me – no reputation to be upheld (or lived down), no mistakes to overcome, no regrets. I have a clean canvas upon which to paint the next scenes of my journey. It’s almost heady – I can be anything, anyone, they have no idea who the real me is yet. I could practically come in with a fake accent and they would be none the wiser.

So what will I do with this newfound freedom, this opportunity that doesn’t come along too often in life? One of the Seven Habits (by Stephen Covey) says “Begin with the end in mind.” I would like to look back on the end of my career at this new company with the knowledge that people would say about me, “You know, I never heard her say a bad word about anyone.” I hold this goal very dear, as I know how easy it is for me to be sarcastic, passive aggressive, and to allow the bitter words of gossip to drip from my lips like venom. Too often I have wished with all my heart that I could have taken back a harsh word or cruel, thoughtless comment – the joke at another’s expense, the wry cynicism that was in direct opposition to words that would be kind and gentle and useful.

This time, I want my words to be filled with love… uplifting and healing. I want Jesus to be reflected in every utterance that comes from these lips. At the end of the day I’d like to be able to listen to a replay of my conversations and not only not wince at something, but to breath deep and smile and know that my speech was pleasing to God. I’d like to use my words to build up instead of tear down. And with the Lord's help, each day I will begin walking towards this goal with the prayer from Psalm 141:3 -- Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD, keep watch over the door of my lips.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Making This Year Count for Christ

Matthew 6:33 “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”

As with so many around the world, we begin a new year with new goals and resolutions. Weight/health goals, financial/material goals, relational goals, career/education goals. I want to weight X amount, earn X amount, get a new car, develop a deeper relationship with my spouse/significant other/children/family member, get a promotion, get my degree… All these things are good, and important, and we should start off the fresh pages of 2008 with clear goals and specific, targeted steps for the journey ahead to achieve those goals.

How about spiritual goals? Have we thought about that? Oh, yeah, I’ll read the Bible this year, and try to get to church more often, maybe teach a Sunday school class or volunteer for vacation Bible school this summer. Again, all good things to accomplish this year.

But… have we invited the Lord into our goal-setting process this year? Have we laid out our dreams and desires before Him in prayer and asked Him what He wants for our life in 2008? All those goals mentioned above – have we placed them before Him and asked if that’s what He wants us to accomplish?

Before we consider any goals, consider what Andrew Murray wrote in the January 1st devotional of the book, “The Andrew Murray 365 Day Devotional”:

Many Christians… have never really grasped the secret that the Lord Jesus in Heaven will continue His work in them every day, but only on one condition: every soul must give Him time each day to impart His love and His grace. Time alone with the Lord Jesus each day is the indispensable condition of growth and power. Bow before Him, tell Him that you long for Him and His love, and He will let His love rest on you… learn the lesson of spending time each day, without exception, in fellowship with your Lord.

When we think about our lives and what is ahead for us this year, above all else, we must give our hearts and lives afresh to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. When we ask Christ into our lives, to forgive our sins and cleanse us, we become Christians – Christ-followers. We are forgiven, and begin a new life with Him. We, too, are called to grow up into strong, mature believers (a lifelong process). This requires daily time with the Lord – as important as the air we breathe and the food we eat.

First and foremost as we sit down to write out our new goals, we must place time each day to meet with Jesus through prayer and Bible study. Not because it’s one more ritual that will make God love us more (He loves us that much now, no matter what), but because we want to develop our love relationship with Him, to get to know Him better, and become more like Him. As with any relationship with someone we love, our desire is to spend time with that person, just be in their presence, learn all about them, please them, share our hopes and dreams, love them more and more. It’s just the same with our relationship with God. That should be our top goal, our top priority this year… because we love Him.

Then take all the rest, lay them out before Him, ask Him what He thinks, ask Him for guidance and wisdom so we can know that everything we are shooting for this year in His will and on His path. May this year be for all of us the best year ever in making our lives count for Christ - for being a mirror of His love and righteousness and purity - for a life more abundant in joy and growth than any year before, because we have put Him first.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Second Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart… inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

1 Chronicles 22:19a Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God…

Joshua 1:7 (Message) Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out… every bit of it. Don't get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you're going.

Philippians 3:13-14 I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: forgetting the past… I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to Heaven. (Living Bible)

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in His grace until His task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns. (Living Bible)

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 …run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. (Living Bible)

Hebrews 12:1-2 Let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience/perseverence the particular race that God has set before us. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (Living Bible/NIV)