He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

Monday, May 26, 2014

What Legacy?

            An article turned up recently about how Memorial Day started back in 1865 by former slaves who were honoring 257 dead Union Soldiers.    It was quite impressive actually, since they dug up the bodies which were buried in a mass grave in a prison camp, and then gave them a proper reburial in honor of their service.  A parade followed with singing and celebration. 

            As we celebrate Memorial Day 149 years later, I wonder about the legacy these soldiers left as they died for the Union Cause and those on the other side: the Confederacy, which also believed they were fighting for a just cause “under God.”  Both sides gave so much and while the Union “won” that horrible war, feelings still can be provoked as to the “real” winner, depending on where you grew up.

            Then there is the legacy the former slaves left.  They began a tradition of honoring those who fight in battle for the right of freedom.  They celebrated after the ceremony and following tradition we celebrate, with barbeques, parades, family get togethers, sports events, and even our retail markets create all kinds of “Memorial Day sales” in honor of the holiday.
            It made me wonder what kind of legacy I am leaving.  What am I going to leave behind which holds the most importance?  A legacy can be money or other material goods, but money and other items lose value and is only an earthly commodity.    A legacy can also be a tradition or something you have learned or can offer of yourself which makes a meaningful contribution to those receiving. 
            If I am going to leave a legacy, then I want it to be something that matters; something that makes a difference in people's lives, beyond this life.  I want my legacy to be of the heart and spirit.  If I can touch someone’s heart and mind in a positive way, it is likely to have a ripple effect that touches the lives of others. That impact can be felt for generations after we are gone. Isn’t that what living is all about?  Isn’t that what happened from the first Memorial Day celebration back in 1865?

            What of God’s legacy?  He provided the ultimate inheritance.  He provided us with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, His Word and ultimately His Kingdom.  I suggest the greatest legacy we can leave, therefore, is spiritual truth to those around us.  It is what means the most in this life because it is what renders us to God’s Heavenly Kingdom.  To share with others a personal encounter with the One True God can be no greater gift. 

            As you contemplate the meaning of Memorial Day, by remembering those who fought for the freedoms we enjoy, I encourage you to share God’s gift of Jesus with others.  Rewards await you, not just in this world, but in the one to come.        

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Place of Extremes

Fire!  It can be a beautiful thing!  It is a divine source of heat when I am cold!   As we drive across South Dakota this early, cold morning I picture the early Native Americans gathered around the fire in the tee pee getting dressed or outside while Mom is cooking.  Then my imagination takes me to the early settlers as they crossed this massive state, again, taking refuge around the campfire to keep warm or preparing a meal.  Even in our modern world there is something warm and inviting about a fireplace, (especially at Christmas!) as I sit comfortably in front of it relaxing on the sofa. 

But when I turn my TV on and witness the horror the folks in Southern California have been facing, fire doesn't seem so beautiful.  They have lost their homes as wind driven flames devoured everything it touched.   It strikes me as I consider how much of our world and even daily lives are faced with these polar ideas.

A river whose waters allow for a refreshing swim can turn into a rushing and violent force when pounding torrential rains fill the banks to overflowing.  Food resting on the table as we sit to a meal can be wonderfully pleasing and satisfying unless the food is diseased or we eat ourselves into oblivion and obesity.  Medicine for an ailing body is wonderful until that same medicine is used to disorient and abuse our minds to escape a fallen world.

A worship service is a wonderful, spirit lifting experience until Satan wrecks havoc with the congregation causing dissension and strife.  Music can soothe the soul until it becomes a twisted form of satanic worship.  The tongue can say beautiful, kind words to build a person up and that same tongue can bring a body to tears with cruelty.  Love and marriage between two souls can be the most exquisite experience until sin enters in and destroys the relationship causing immeasurable pain and grief.

It seems like everything in our world has extremes from fire to love and everything in between!  There is the place in each of these ideas and so many more, where all is good and beautiful and then those same elements can make our world cold, dark, dreary, harsh and painful.

I am so glad we serve a God who is the one constant we can depend on...even when everything else in our world is ugly, sad, heartbreaking, violent or cruel.  It doesn't matter what we are going through, from vicious fires licking their tongues through a community claiming everything in it's path to the vicious tongues of gossip which breaks up relationships, to a raging river of water to raging emotions.   God is always beside us, always loving us, always ready to embrace our hearts when we allow Him in.

As you move through this next week, I suggest you consider the little things in your life, that under the right circumstances could become “big things;” or the good things in your life, that if turned upside down could become ugly things.  Don’t take for granted the good things, like love, family, your job, your church and certainly not your faith.  Without them, life would be difficult at best, and horrific at worst.  God is faithful and we have Him to thank for his steadfastness, love and consistency.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Desire of My Heart


I just re-read a devotion I found from 1995 tucked away in an old Bible about the fear which can rise up when asking to know God’s will.  The writer explained that while she prayed God would show her what He wanted her to do, she was fearful as she read the accounts of some of the Old Testament prophets who really didn’t want to do what God asked because they felt horribly inadequate.   Moses was certain he couldn’t follow God’s call since he wasn’t good at speaking, so Aaron was sent to go with him.  Joshua was afraid when God called him to go to war.  And then there was Jonah who fled from God when God told him to go to Ninevah and ended up in the belly of a whale!  

All three of these men and others like them were asked to do hard things.  They were being called out of their comfort zone into a place where they were going to face rebuke, ridicule, scorn and perhaps have need to fight for their very lives.  How could God call them to such a place?

I feel a little like Moses, Joshua and Jonah!  I know, without question God has called me to write yet I wonder about the ridicule and unbelief of my message to the unsaved; and sometimes, it really can be hard job, especially when I write about unpleasant things. And then most often I find myself fearful; fearful of failure.   Even this morning I was looking at my “project list” and noted those manuscripts which have been returned and I thought, “Really?  How many times do I need to send these out?  Are there no editors who see value in my work?  Am I doing something wrong?  Why am I not successful?  How can I make a difference if no one reads what I’ve written?  Why do I continue this battle?”  

At the same time I know I can’t quit.  I tried once or twice and found myself still writing stuff down!  Writing is what I do.  It’s part of who I am.  It makes me, me!  So the desire of my heart is to be productive, but it’s more than that.  I want to honor God and still be successful.  I can’t picture myself “working” at another job.  And if this is indeed what God has called me to do, then shouldn’t I see progress?  (That said, admittedly I do see progress, it just seems like the progress is incredibly small and slow!  I’d love to see my books and other work which is out there, getting published!)

Yet when I think about the scripture from Isaiah 6:8 where Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord asking, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?”    ….  Isaiah says simply:  “Here am I.  Send me!”  I want to be like Isaiah without regard for monetary reward.  But I admit that’s hard.  In writing, often monetary reward is where you see that you are indeed being productive.  It is the measure of success.  If my work keeps coming back to me, what have I accomplished? (I can honestly say when I receive responses on something I’ve written, I also know I’ve accomplished something and have been productive.)

My point is, we’ve all been given a job to do while here on Earth to be productive and feel worthwhile.  Sometimes, what we’ve been asked to do is difficult, takes us out of our comfortable “box” and plops us in the middle of something bigger than ourselves.  It’s what we do when we get there that makes a difference.  All we can ultimately do, is do our best and allow God to do the rest, knowing full well, His plan will be carried out by us or in spite of us!  How we follow, is ultimately up to us: cheerfully before, or cheerfully after “time spent in the belly of the whale!”

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Good First Impression

            It is true “you only have one time to make a good first impression.”    Do you ever wonder what impression you make on people?  I do.  My personality tends to be positive, outgoing, energetic, friendly, and some would even say “bubbly.”  This usually allows for quick communication between strangers and me (especially since I believe strangers are just friends I haven’t met yet.)  I take great joy in saying hello to passersby or paying a compliment just because I can!  When I do that, it is spontaneous and totally sincere and very often, to compliment a stranger, is to see them light up in total surprise.  

            When I was just a young teenager I met someone who I immediately liked, but because of circumstances never had the opportunity to know.  Not only did I not get to know this person, I never knew I’d even made an impression! Many, many years later, quite to my surprise, this same person came back into my life.  That first impression from years ago was still solid.  I had, without knowing, made an impression that remained for over forty years!

When I reflect on some of my peers in high school, I was positively certain that again, I had made no impression at all, but am surprised by the kindness and warmth that is shared as I get to know them as adults!  What a treat!  Honestly, I am amazed they would remember me at all!  Why do we remember some people and have to search deep within our filing systems to recall another?  Am I the only one baffled by this?   

It concerns me to see how young people (and some not so young!) in our modern world who sometimes seem to simply not care what impression they make on anyone.  Whether it is attitude, clothes, body art, or body “accessories” each leaves an impression!  The sad thing is when the opportunity presents itself for a job interview, each of these elements is important for making a first impression.  Add to this a less than decent vocabulary and unpleasant personality and they can’t possibly be prepared to project their best. 

When someone meets you, what do they see?  What do you want them to see?  Do you present your best personality with polite manners and social graces, or at least a degree of friendliness and genuineness or are you one who doesn’t care if another person likes you or not?  There are those who really don’t care.  I guess I wonder about that.  What does a person think of himself to have that kind of attitude?  This is certainly, in my mind, not a Christian approach.

 I’d like to think when I meet someone for the first time (and every time thereafter) that I would project Christ.  I want people to see the fruits of The Spirit as defined in Galatians 5:22-23:  love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Do I give my best to God, relative to how I live, my behaviors, attitude, and the impressions I make on other people?  Do people remember the “godliness” in me?  —and note, that doesn’t mean being fake or less than genuine.  If talking in private with another person, what would they say?  Impressions aren’t important to a lot of people, since we’ve become an “it’s all about me” society.  But is it really supposed to be this way?  

I guess I am searching, as I write this.   I do care about what people think of me, especially relative to my faith.  Am I truly projecting what God wants?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Am I odd to care about what people think?  Does it really matter?