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

Monday, August 25, 2014

In Color

           I read an article about a young boy, only 21 months old who speaks two separate languages and knows sign language.  His mother is Japanese and father, American.  When the mother speaks to her son, she speaks to him in her native language while his father speaks to him in English.  This enables the child to learn to communicate with both families fluently.  Sign language is added more for an extra, but certainly the value of the language could be immense.  Additionally, what seems even more interesting is the boy seems to have the innate ability to sense which person needs which language to communicate effectively. 

There are so many different cultures with different languages throughout the world how does a person communicate at all with all the differences? I am thankful I have reasonable mastery of the English language although admittedly, Id love to learn another language.  But it makes me wonder how many languages is it good to know?  Is it more difficult to learn a language once youre an adult?  Could learning another language change your attitude about another culture?

A friend recently shared her young son was going to learn Greek.  She said reading the Bible in Greek is like reading it in color.  She compared it to the black and white TV screens.   You could see the picture in black and white, but to see that same picture in color brought it to life.  What an amazing gift.  She went on to explain the Greek language has more tenses and can therefore depict some things more clearly than we can in our English language. 

I love reading Gods word, but to read it the way it was written those thousands of years ago, would be amazing.   How do you view Bible reading?  Do you find it difficult and a chore?  I suggest first using a Bible in plain English, (unless you prefer the King James Version) and second make sure your heart is open to what God has to say.  A person whose heart is not right will read the Words and find it foolishness.  When we have a heart which chooses to make Jesus our Savior, those same words will come to life, kind of like my friend described: in color!  They are beautiful and fulfilling, rich and worthwhile, because we recognize them for what they are: the words of Christ given to us so we may grow in Him.  

As a Christian community, I believe we tend to read the Bible out of duty rather than reading it like the road map of life it is meant to be.  The answers to our life questions are found there.  It is the essential child raising handbook.  It describes morals, attitudes, and right and wrong.  It is the ultimate marriage manual and even has diet guidelines.  And it offers the path to a relationship with God the Father.  Open a topical concordance, (or do an online search for topical concordance of the Bible") and you will find an amazing list of topics from which to choose; from which to study.

I challenge you this week to decide on a topic of interest; then diligently, using available resources, read every scripture listed on that subject.  You might even take it a step further and again using resources on line (or the library) search the words you are reading to define them in the Greek translation.  I suggest when you are finished you will likely know exactly how God feels on the matter!  Like the vibrant Fall colors on the trees pictured, you will be reading His Word in color!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Watermelon Patch


A friend of mine shared the story of her eleven year old daughter who is responsible for selling watermelons from the family watermelon patch.  She maintains the grounds, weeding, picking, washing and then stacking the melons to display for customers.  On a recent Saturday she sold nine watermelons at $5 each.  Sunday, the family heard a knock on the door and were surprised when a family traveling back to New York stopped to ask about the melons.  They had gone by the day before but for traveling reasons wanted to wait until the following day to purchase any, especially since they wanted five!   Melons where they lived were running $10 each.

The girl offered to take them to the patch so they could choose the ones they wanted. Agreeing, they were off, and to her delight they bought ten!  Living on a farm, the child knew and understood the monies collected went to her grandfather since he owned the farm and her "job" was part of her responsibility to help the family in all the tasks involved in making the farm successful.  Of course, at the end of the day, (or summer) a percentage of the received funds were given to her for school shopping and her pleasure, but at the time she was not aware of that.

The lessons the child learned, will remain with her the rest of her life.  She learned the importance of a job well done, but also about family.  Life is not just about one person, but about those you love and are close to.  It's about taking care of someone else and their needs before our own are addressed. It's about responsibility.  It's knowing the world does not revolved around our needs and wants alone and recognizing we didn't get where we are without the help of others!

In our world of sports events, movies, and a whole list of other extra curricular activities, family has fallen well below the "important" mark.  To ask a child to actually do something that even resembles a "chore" which seems to only benefit the family without pay, is just scandalous!

How many families do you know where responsibilities, like the little girl described above, are expected without pay?  I would suggest not many.  Most young people refuse to do anything without some kind of reward; and preferably request cash!  We have raised a culture where priorities are so skewed it is hard for young people to know what is right and wrong, what is really important, and that life does not only revolve around them!

Their young lives are so focused on what they want, where they want to go, or what they want to do, they rarely have time or even have desire to consider other people.   They are only thinking of themselves.   If this generation feels this way, the next generation will feel even more so since each generation dilutes what is learned more than the one before.

The Bible teaches us to serve.  We are instructed to have a servant attitude, taking care of another's needs before we think of our own.  Sadly, this "me" attitude isn't reserved for our young people. There are many adults who believe their needs, wants, desires, instructions, commands if you will, must be addressed before all others.  It matters not there are others with similar issues or problems, or that other people sometimes have priorities which must come before theirs!

I believe we can learn a lesson from this little girl who obviously accepted her responsibility to her parents, grandparents and all involved, and even enjoyed it, given she was so ready to take unexpected visitors out to the watermelon patch so they could choose the ones of their choice.  Are we so quick to serve? Are we ready to see to the needs of others, even if there doesn't seem to be "anything in it" for us? 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Worth A Thousand Words

Photographs are fantastic.  They tell stories, mere words can’t touch.  In fact, I’m certain everyone knows the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  There’s that perfect smile, look of adoration, frustration, pure joy or even total surprise. Children in pictures are amazing.  To see the glee on their face is something magical!  But what happens when we find ourselves in a picture we really don’t like?

Some years ago my girls gave me the Christmas present of “glamour shots.”  The girls all turned out positively beautiful, while I, on the other hand, must not be a bit glamorous.  I look awful!  It didn’t look like me and I was so disappointed!  Now, granted, in my opinion I don’t photograph well anyway.  I always smile too big, crunch my eyes or have a look of “something else” on my face that ruins the picture.  While my girls smile that beautiful smile, and no matter what angle the picture is taken, look great!

This morning, I heard on the radio, comments on the scripture about women’s adorning the outside and how much less important it is than what is on the inside.  The speaker shared, while we can’t choose to be naturally beautiful on the outside we can choose to be beautiful on the inside.  That is reassuring!

What does it take to be beautiful on the inside?  I think the single, greatest thing we can do to make us look and feel beautiful on the inside is to know Jesus.  When His light is in us we can’t help but shine.  I believe it requires good character, honesty, kindness and humility.  But the question becomes how to get “there!”  First: smile!  I’ve heard it said "a smile is the single best “accessory” you can wear!"

Be positive!  When a person displays happiness and joy, it overflows.  It creates its own power making people feel better.  When others feel better, you will too.  Acknowledge the beauty in others and be generous with a kind word or compliment, which has amazing emotional healing ability.  If you are around someone who has had a bad day, depressed or even physically ill; telling them how they are beautiful in your eyes and your world, means more than any material gift you could give them.  It shows kindness and acceptance of who they are….just like they are! 

When someone projects negativity, repel the force with optimism!  People need to be reminded even when the world isn’t right (and when is it?) keeping a positive attitude will make the ugliness less ugly and therefore tolerable, even if it means you have to be the change you want to see happen!  Work toward a noble cause which is reason to celebrate because it gives satisfaction with being part of the solution, not the problem!

Be fervent about showing enthusiasm when you are happy or excited.  Consider: as adults we take great joy in seeing a child excited, whether it be about a good grade, creating a Lego project, drawing a picture, giving a flower (albeit really a weed), learning to skip or whistle, any number of small wonders in a child’s life!  It always makes us smile.  Why not carry and share that same enthusiasm as adults?  Why are we so stiff necked we believe we can’t be excited about anything?  The world is grand and we have every reason to celebrate small (or big) wonders we experience every day.  It’s God’s gift to us.  We should relish the moment, and share the joy!

So be beautiful today, regardless of how you think you look in a photograph; just because you are!


Monday, August 4, 2014

Our Speech Speaks Our Heart

Recently I was asked to spontaneously comment on 1 Thessalonians 5:18 in relationship to our speech patterns:    “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  And then comment on these questions:  Do you fail to give thanks in all things and at all times?  Are you filled with an attitude of gratefulness and praise?

My favorite Southern Gospel Group:  The Kingdom Heirs
I commented to my listeners, that sometimes it’s very difficult to remain thankful when things are going badly.  It can take grueling effort to look at the matter from a different perspective and come up with something encouraging or good.  When a couple is having marriage difficulties, it’s tough to come up with something uplifting.  When a child or other loved one is in a hospital bed fighting cancer it can be challenging at the very least to come up with anything that sounds remotely positive!

I like to look at my cup/life as being “half full” rather than “half empty.”   It makes my attitude a lot more pleasant.  It doesn’t mean I am happy all the time, because as I explained, while I am usually happy, I also have bad days and I’m not feeling positive at all.  That’s okay because I know ultimately good will prevail, because God is good and I will again see the sunshine.  But on those days when I’m feeling low, sad and just tearful, I have to seriously remind myself that God’s got this.  I have to find that song in my heart that brings joy despite the pain.  

I much prefer those mornings I wake with a song in my head (and heart), and then find it on a Christian radio station or a favorite CD!  But I need to listen to it as “good medicine” when I’m feeling low.  Because what I hear affects how I feel, and what I say to others also, affects how I feel. 

This is true even when we aren’t in a particularly low mood.  If we have a friend who comes to us with “murmuring,” how we respond affects both of us!  If the response is, “Yes but….” And then follow it with something positive about the person, or even situation, if possible, it has the power to change the other person’s negativity to something positive and keeps our heart from spiraling downward.  If the response is, “I know just what you mean…” and follow it with more negativity, then the stage is set for more rumor, gossiping, and murmuring.

If my heart is filled with thankfulness and praise then what comes from my mouth should also be thankfulness and praise.  Your mouth cannot speak what your heart or mind does not think.  When our hearts are filled with anger, bitterness or anything ugly, that is exactly what will come out of our mouths.

God wants and expects change if we are His.  We are expected to reach deep into His word to know His law and His mind.  We are to renew our minds, put off the old creation and put on the new.  If we haven’t yet done this, then it’s going to be really hard to stop negativity of any kind, because this is where Satan lives!  Even as His children, we are prone to worldly behaviors and this includes thoughts and speech which is ungodly and ultimately a sin.

My challenge for you this week is to consider your speech patterns.  Are they words of kindness or words that bring other people down?  Are they “gossipy,” those tender little tid bits of information that only have a grain of truth?  Are they words which are offensive?  Would you say those words to Jesus?  Would He approve of words spoken in anger? You choose.  Will you allow Satan to control your thoughts and thus your tongue with harmful speech or will you agree to letting God be in control so that what you say is uplifting?