We the People

Christ has set us free! This means we are really free. Now hold on to your freedom and don’t ever become slaves of the Law again.

Galatians 5:1 (CEV)

The July 4th weekend is longer this year since it falls on a Tuesday. Talk show hosts and even our sermon have shared tidbits and snippets of history from that long ago weekend of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams wrote a letter to his wife on July 3rd and penned many thoughts on the process of developing this historic document. The last couple of paragraphs reminded of the significance of this date:

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

The sacrifice and dedication of the signers is summed up in his cautionary tone – You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States.

I am tired of division, hypocrisy, finger-pointing, and failure to get anything done by the Washington elected officials — both parties. This country has been blessed by God with so much wealth and happiness but we seem to be throwing it all away in an effort to be right. Our forefathers spilled blood and treasure to ensure our freedom. What will our grandchildren’s children say of our generation?

We live in a different world than the signers, yet, we must celebrate this historic day. Why? Because freedom is God’s gift to us — one not to be taken lightly. We must continue with that sacred trust to preserve and protect this land.

So, pull out that red, white, and blue shirt to wear tomorrow. Enjoy a meal with family and friends. Watch the fireworks light up the sky and know that we live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

God Bless America.

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Water?

I look up to the mountains—

    does my help come from there?

My help comes from the Lord,

    who made heaven and earth!

Psalm 121:1-2 (NLT)

One of my favorite things is to take my latte and breakfast to my screened porch and survey the world in and outside of my yard as I eat. Deer, coyotes, bunnies, roadrunners, quail, and an array of birds wander in and out of my line of sight and sound. I have a fountain, but early in the morning, it has not yet begun its tinkling melody. I recently replaced it and wondered if my feathered friends would come back and visit the new one.

The other morning, I watched one bird venture out and stand on the edge of the lower bowl. I know he knew there was water in it but he couldn’t figure out how to get to it. The water level was too low for his beak to reach. So, he hopped all around the rim, even losing his footing at one point but catching himself before he landed in the water.

I wondered if he would ever look up and notice the upper bowl that would have more than met his needs. Silently, I urged him to look up. It’s right there. Instead, he just hopped, first one way, then another, and eventually gave up and flew off. He never got his drink of water.

I couldn’t help but think of the many times I’ve tried every which way I know to solve a problem. I think I can figure it out so I check the Internet, talk to friends, go shopping, even just read a book—anything to distract me from my problem and the real source for the answer. The enemy has a field day while I stumble around and I’ve been known to take the wrong turn.

I have a majestic view from my office window and every time I look out, I think of our verse. Where does my help come from? I need to look up because my help comes from the Lord. He has the answers to whatever my situation calls for. If He can make those magnificent mountains and all the creatures in my yard, it’s a snap for Him to solve my problems.

But He won’t force me to come to Him, just as I couldn’t direct that little bird. When I choose to seek Him, He offers me all the thirst-quenching water that I need. Those problems? They don’t seem impossible any more because I know He takes care of me and will give me direction.

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Rescued

For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

Psalm 91:3-4 (NLT)

Where did the month go? The last post was written the day before we drove to Mesa to check out a rescue dog to see if he was a good fit for us. We had been researching various rescue sites but finally found him on Craig’s list. As we drove to meet him, we tossed around several names but decided to wait until we actually met him. It took about two seconds and he was Rusty, a Havanese with a cream-colored coat and rust accents. We took him home.

In some ways, I feel the blur, like that of a new mother only with a toddler. He raced through the house creating chaos in the wake. He had been abused, likely by a man, because he was very hesitant around Mark. The foster mom found him in the pound, all matted and dirty but longing to get out of the cage. He literally crawled to her once out, fearful and cowering. But after six weeks of care, he was ready for a forever home.

For the record, I am not the dog person — Mark is — but because of his background, Rusty took to me. It’s been a challenge to transfer the affection and devotion to Mark but after 30 days, we are well along that road.

What have I learned from Rusty?

Patience.

Endurance.

Forgiveness.

Acceptance.

Trust.

Exhaustion.

Love.

I wonder what my heavenly Father would say about me? Probably, many of the same words would fit the scenario of my life. He was there in those moments when I was cranky, willful, disobedient, and tempted to give up because it was so hard. God persevered, grabbed my hand,  and returned me to the right path. He offered help and hope.

We discovered that a gentle voice, small hand gestures, enticement with treats, and a bunch of toys helped to gain Rusty’s trust. He learned that we were not going to leave him but would be there as his family. It didn’t happen overnight but patience helped all of us to keep going.

Doesn’t our Heavenly Father offer the same to us? He speaks to us in a still, small voice, opens his hand and satisfies our desires, and promises to never leave us. We are safe and secure in his love. And, oh, how patient He is with us. His love never fails.

A dog is GOD spelled backwards. What a great example of the relationship of complete trust and love that God offers His children when we turn to Him.

 

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May I help you?

Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men.

Colossians 3:23 (HCSB)

I grabbed my number from the dispenser on the counter and lingered near to be sure I heard it when it was called. This wasn’t the first time I had stopped by for the same problem. I was at Costco attempting to get my glasses adjusted. You would think it was a simple process.

The woman called my number and as I handed her my slip to confirm that I was next, she told me to wait a minute. I followed her around the counter where I noticed she was waiting on someone else at the same time. I think she thought it would only take a minute, but those minutes stretched on. She finally handed the problem to another employee and I gave her my glasses for adjustment.

She did a couple of tweaks, had me try them on, took them back and cleaned them and said, “Thank you very much.” I left because I can’t always tell if it is right until I wear them a bit. IT WAS NOT RIGHT.

A couple of days later, I decided to try again but I did NOT want that same woman. I pulled my number and waited. Thankfully, she was busy and when it was my turn, a young man, named Christopher, turned to me and asked, “May I help you?”

After briefly explaining my problem, he took the glasses and immediately offered to change out the nose pads. “I always do this for my customers because these are much more comfortable.” Great! The time and effort that he took to adjust my glasses so that they were just right was the exact opposite of my previous experience. He really did “help me.”

Certain businesses are known for their great service — Apple, Disney, Nordstrom, Ritz Carlton, and Costco (minus this one woman who I think was having a bad day) — to name a few. Rather than just being a number, you are a person and their aim is to please you and meet your needs with respect and accommodation.

Years ago, I was a discussion leader in Bible Study Fellowship and I remember the teaching leader admonishing us to not grow weary as we headed into the final stretch of the year. She said, “Don’t just finish somehow. Finish it will all that you have.”

As believers, our impact for Christ on those around us will happen in the small circumstances of life — standing in line at the grocery, walking the dog and passing others on the street, taking a moment to say thank you to the barista, opening the door for a mom loaded with children and stroller, opening the door for the older gentleman who is a bit unsteady, dropping a hand-written note in the mail “just because,” remembering birthdays and special occasions. Smile. Eye contact. A hug. Simple expressions of love.

Jesus loved people and they loved Him back. They wanted to be in His presence…near Him…touch Him. He had a reputation of care and concern and because of that connection, they listened to His message of salvation and accepted His gift of love.

What better way to represent Him and be His public relations people than to say, “May I help you?”

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Battle Armor

 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.

I Peter 5:8-9 (NLT)

Raytheon has been in the news this week since they are manufacturers of the Tomahawk Cruise Missile. One of their sites for production is in Tucson. I’ve had a few of my MOPS moms whose husbands worked for Raytheon but never really knew what they did. They couldn’t call them at the office or stop by for lunch. Some of our nation’s secrets are housed on those acres and in those buildings.

The nature and capability of these latest missiles caught my attention. The Raytheon website describes them as Today’s Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile can circle for hours, shift course instantly on command and beam a picture of its target to controllers halfway around the world before striking with pinpoint accuracy.

Amazing! Technology has increased both safety and accuracy which is so vital in today’s war on terror. The enemy sneaks up on us in the homeland with lone wolf shooters and killing sprees in nightclubs and Christmas parties. He drives beer trucks into department stores and runs over pedestrians on bridges. He sprays sarin gas on children and adults, resulting in horrible and painful deaths. And that is just lately.

Our military uses the most sophisticated weapons that can be produced to fight these atrocities. Did you know that we have specific armor to fight our enemy, the devil? He is just as cunning and ruthless as ISIS and his goal is to take us out. He knows our weaknesses and vulnerabilities and designs entrapments just for us.

However, we are not left helpless in our daily fight. The apostle, Paul, wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus and gave them the battle plan:

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.

The daily uniform: belt, breastplate, shoes. Weapons of defense and offense: shield, helmet, sword. And to activate them all — prayer.

The sailors that fired off those missiles had the best equipment and training and were ready for any complication or counter attack. They had been practicing for two days before the “Go” signal was given.

As warriors in God’s army, we, too, need to be ready for the fiery darts used to distract and disarm. He’s out to seek and destroy by any means necessary. But we can and will overcome because God is right there with us. He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world.

Gear up.

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Refining

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer various trials, so that the authenticity of your faith —more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

I Peter 1:6-7 (Berean)

While scrolling through my email, I found a Groupon for a facial located at a distance not too far away. I love massages but I treat facials more like going to see the dentist — every now and then it’s a good idea to check in. The selling pitch was that an arm and shoulder massage were included.

Sans make-up, when I arrived the esthetician gave me a form to fill out. One of the questions was what did I want to get out of the facial. I thought a few moments and then wrote down that I wanted her to take off 20 years.

An hour later, I left after tolerating many layers — cleanser, scrub, mask, serum, moisturizer — interspersed with hot towels, cold towels, and steam. Sensations of stinging, pain, massage, and finally, soothing lotion, alternately applied, reminded me why this is not my favorite beauty treatment.

But, but, but — my face is now so smooth and soft. It was worth it; I may even go more often.

God’s refining often comes in the form of many layers, too. We do our best to hide the imperfections on our faces with make-up, highlighters, and concealers, to name a few. We may try to cover up our sin and hopelessness with busyness, indifference, and addictions.

The trials we endure are like the scrubs and masks that rid my face of all the dead skin cells and clogged pores, finally,  getting down to the bare, clean skin. God wants to give us life — abundant life — and it won’t happen if it’s hidden by sin and selfishness. It may take the sting and pain of God’s cleansing to remove the old to reveal the new.

Yet, He doesn’t leave us bare with no covering, an easy target for the enemy. No, He blankets us with the blood of Jesus bringing life. He gives us the Holy Spirit who fills us with love. And above all — when we have endured to the end — HOPE is our reward.

 But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:3-5 (CEV)

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H. R.

Kind words are like honey—
    sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

Proverbs 16:24 (NLT)

Recently, I stopped by the Starbucks counter on the way to my seat in the boarding area.  As I gave the cashier my order, I thought she might have assumed I was a corporate plant because by the time I was done, every box on the cup was checked. I moved down the counter to pick up my latte and thanked the barista when she handed it to me.

After sipping it, I said, “You made it exactly right, it’s perfect.”

The woman waiting next to me asked me if I was in H.R. I told her no and asked her why she would suggest that.

She replied, “Because you gave her a compliment.”

I commented that it’s too bad that we are quick to give criticism and slow to give kindness and she agreed.

Later in the trip, I had a conversation with one of my grandgirlies who was struggling with friendships at high school. She was afraid that a friend might take a compliment and give it more meaning than she intended rather than hearing it as a quick encouragement. It made her rethink whether to say anything or not. I reminded her that, maybe, her words might be just what that person needed on a bad day. Being kind and polite is always appropriate.

Our society becomes more rude, impolite, and unkind as the months pass. We, as believers in Christ, are called to be kind — to share the ultimate love that only Jesus can bring. Our lives are a book that others read and hear. Take the time to notice, to compliment, to encourage. Let them wonder of H.R. might stand for His Royalty.

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Change? Depends

 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT)

If you asked Mark how to get home, he’d say he didn’t know. When we married and moved to the Bay Area in California, I’d been living there for almost 40 years and knew every back road so that I rarely went the same way twice. Yet, I’m not one to change the furniture arrangement in my house, but, I seasonally change out all the decorations.

You might say, I’m a bit conflicted about change. Some is good and some I’d like to reject. It seems that the older I get, change happens more often.

We had the wonderful opportunity to hear Sandi Patty at her Forever Grateful Farewell Tour concert this week. Sandi’s music is embedded in my heart and soul after listening to her for 40 years. From the opening note, tears filled my eyes and spilled down my cheeks because something wonderful was ending.

We changed churches this year — never an easy task — and I’ve struggled to find my place, meet new friends, and serve with the gifts God has given me. Our church is expanding and in the middle of a building project. The sermon series for the year is all about change and the pastor noted that some people will like it and some won’t. We haven’t been involved long enough to have feelings about the changes, yet, I feel like God has brought us here for “such a time as this.”

Our women’s Bible study finished “entrusted” by Beth Moore last week. Paul’s second letter to Timothy was the theme and its focus was to encourage us to be mighty women of God — to share the Gospel with the gifting God has given to each of us. And often that means we have to change how we reach out.

I’m pretty set in my ways but nothing makes me see red faster than for someone to give the answer “but we’ve always done it this way” to a particular problem or situation. How do we share the Gospel in a way that connects with our neighbor in this ever escalating all-about-me and my needs world if we are not willing to speak in a way that is heard?

We fix our eyes on Jesus and shine the light He gives us to those we meet. People are looking for answers — and we have the answer. Discouragement, fear, apathy, and frustration swirl about in every arena. A change in President, home, marriage, or job is not going to solve the hole in our hearts. In the end, it’s not about us — it’s about Jesus.

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.

 

 

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#millionwomanmarch

 

Compete in the good fight of faith. Grab hold of eternal life—you were called to it, and you made a good confession of it in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12 (CEB)

Forty-four years ago, the famous court decision, Roe vs. Wade, was passed. Twelve days earlier, my first baby was born and I was in the fog of new–motherhood. All the discussion about this hot topic was under the radar for me and I admit, I missed it.  It wasn’t until seven years later, the impact of that fateful decision began to penetrate my thinking and I realized that I never wanted to miss something as important as that again.

It wasn’t that I was a bad citizen — I voted. Maybe, I read the paper. But I had a friend who ran for Congress and needed some help getting out the vote on Election Day. I volunteered and was hooked in this wide swath of life called politics. Because my children were school-age, the issues that concerned them, concerned me. As a result, not only did I support the pro-life position but also worked on education reforms in my school district.

I spent twenty-five years in the heat of the battle. It is with a bit of amusement that I watch and note that the millionwomanmarch is creating such a stir. You would think that women never cared about anything before. Ask the suffragettes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries what they hoped to accomplish. Of the 58 million aborted babies, how many women didn’t even get a voice? A fellow at the gym had to get home so his wife could go to the march in Tucson. When I asked him why she wanted to go, he said it was to solidify with other women against husbands who were telling them what to do. (I wondered how he felt about that but said nothing.)

The Madonna’s of the world do not represent me. Ashley Judd will never see me spend any money on her movies again. The angry, resentful, bitter attitudes displayed may make them feel better but I can assure you that it does not speak for all women. We who are older worked in our own ways to make a difference. We did not sit home, watch soaps, and eat bonbons. And the fact of the matter is that it is hard work.

Elections have consequences and fear is surfacing as the primary one for women today. The battle cry is to unite, train women to run for office, disrupt where possible to get the attention of the media, be a pain in the neck. That may get you some scrutiny for awhile but I certainly don’t want my granddaughters to follow in your footsteps.

Lawmakers have to learn the art of compromise which is sadly lacking these days. I ran for a party office and as pro-life as I was, I learned how to approach each lawmaker in liberal California to get their endorsement. We sat down and discussed what was important for each of us…where to give a little to get a little. As a result, every lawmaker always took my call. They could trust that I wasn’t going to yell at them, disrupt the chamber while in session, say and write filthy things on the Internet, or embarrass them.

I have had two chats on Facebook over the last two days with young women that I know — Christian wives and moms — that believe the world, as we know it, is going to end with Donald Trump as President. He was not my candidate but he is now the duly elected President. The one thing I can testify to is that we will survive. When Bill Clinton was elected, I was devastated but I received a fax early the next morning that said, “Never, never, never, never give up,” a quote by Winston Churchill.

One day I realized that in my effort to change the world, it was my effort and not God’s. All the time, energy, and money spent to make a single change can be overturned by the voters in the blink of an eye. He called me to get out of politics and into the role of Mentor Mom for a group called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). What greater calling than to influence the mothers of the next generation for Jesus where real change takes place, than to march in the streets and create chaos.

I hope that one day my five granddaughters will say that their Nana was a strong woman who believed in faith, freedom, and family and fought the good fight every day of her life.

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Just a Word

 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)

Have you gotten used to writing 2017 yet? I love a new year — new wall calendars, new devotionals, new Bible studies, new semester. Changing over from the past of 2016 and embracing all that is ahead in 2017— I love it!

Starting from scratch has a particular appeal for me. It gets my creative juices flowing and I begin to look at a project in new ways. Never compelled to operate under the guise of “I’ve always done it this way,” the new year gives me freedom to expand what I already know and look for new and better ways to do it. “It” may be the way I decorate my house, arrange a closet, organize my library, exercise routine, or choose which areas to serve my God, family, and church.

One routine that I began in 2013 is to choose a word for the year. I thought I was being original until I opened my email today and found a devotion from a pastor telling you how to do this very thing. My journey began in sheer desperation because life was hard and getting harder. My word was HOPE. I needed to know that I was going to make it, by the grace of God. And He provided the hope that sustained me then and continues to this day. Always HOPE.

Other words flowed from that original word to include joy and grace. Last year, I though the word would be love but God had another in mind — humility. He kind of hit me upside the head but proved over and over that being humble was something I needed to practice.

This year it’s kindness. I’m just beginning so I’m not sure how it will play out but I know it will affect what I do and how I speak to family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.

Our world has become impersonal, impatient, and often unkind. We expect our life to be solved with instant messages, microwaves, emails, and TV episodes wrapped up in 40 minutes. Friendships are “likes” on Facebook. Being kind is not part of the mix and requires persistence and intentionality; two big words that may require spell check because they are not in vogue.

Yet, the outcome of a little kindness may be a new friend, a smile from an overworked employee, a squeeze of the hand or a pat on the back to let someone know you care. It may be a meal delivered in the middle of illness or crisis. Or a simple note that says, “I care.”

To help me focus, I’m always on the lookout when I read the Bible for verses to include in my journal with a focus on kindness. Etsy is a great place to find a plaque that I place on my desk to remind me of my commitment when I glance at it. If you’re artistic, make your own. God is faithful to give you opportunities to use your word and encourages you in the process.

A special blessing happened this year when my grandgirlie, Kate, called a couple of weeks before Christmas and asked me what my word was for the year. Under the tree was a bread board that she had burned in the words, “be humble.”

So…do you have a word for the year? It’s never just a word. What is God whispering in your heart that He wants you to concentrate on for 2017? Let it be a filter that God will use in your heart and mind and add in ways you never imagined.

I’d love to hear what your word is. Feel free to comment.

 

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