February 25 – He Sees and Knows

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I can be guilty of having temper tantrums from time to time. And although I am not proud of it, they tend to encroach upon me just about the time things are going pretty good. Sometimes, all Hades breaks loose and I find myself questioning God as to “why,” but not so much anymore. I’ve lived long enough to know it’s usually darkest before the dawn and if you just hold on awhile, things will get brighter.

What tends to trigger the oversized baby in me is a sense of not being understood by those closest to me. Here’s an example: I have a certain way I fold my t-shirts. Not a big deal, normally, but definitely a preference.

On most occasions I am just grateful when Jen or one of the children goes the extra mile and does mine. But there are those rare moments when that little voice says, “If they really cared about you, they would know how you like your shirts folded.” If I don’t nip it in the bud, that kind of thinking will hit me in the backside before I know it, leaving a whole lot of precious people feeling unappreciated. I know, you can’t relate…

The fact of the matter is every human being can and will feel that no one truly understands them at times. And guess what? They are right! We are so unique and our ways are very individual. God made us that way on purpose. One, a puzzle won’t come together if all the pieces are just alike. And two, if we had someone on planet earth that knew us “picture-perfectly,” we would never need to seek the face of our Creator. He alone knows and sees who we are and where we are headed. All others are His instruments to help get us there.

I love how Nathanael said to Jesus, “How do You know me?” Jesus wasted no time on frivolous introductions, He spoke in a way the man would know He knew him; but how? And here’s the nugget I encourage you to ponder with me and my family today: Jesus stares into Nathanael’s eyes and He says, “I see you! And I know you better than anyone, including yourself. Don’t worry; what I see in you doesn’t change what I think about you. So, if you feel the need to have a pity party, no problem; fits don’t faze Me. I’ll still be around when the smoke clears. Then, I will remind you that in Me alone lies perfection, not people.” He sees!

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you. John 1:47-48 NKJV

 Biblical Meditation: Psalms 139:1-4 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. (Check out all of Psalm 139!)

 

February 23 – Found to Follow

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One of the toughest things in the entire world is to get boys to follow. That’s the truth, even if I am a boy. Many of my lumps and bumps came from not following whoever was in charge of leading me at the time.

Very rarely was it because I was being willfully defiant or stubborn. On the contrary, most of the time, it was a matter of memory; I’d forget the instructions about as fast as they were given. At that point, I would follow the first fun-loving notion that popped into my head. Now I’m a dad raising my own crop of boys and nothing’s changed!

I’ll never forget the time my Caleb almost spent the night at the zoo. He was about four at the time and all he had to do was stick with his big brother. That’s it. But between big brother’s own set of distractions and Caleb’s desire to go another direction, when it came time to board and depart, little Caleb was nowhere to be found.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. Just about the time Caleb realized he was lost, the park security guard and his big brother came to the rescue. Now, if you were a bit panicked reading this, imagine being the parents hearing about it after the fact! Like I said, getting boys to follow is no easy thing, but very necessary.

In the case of Jesus and Philip, I see Jesus, like a big brother, looking purposefully for Philip. Now, the Bible doesn’t elaborate a whole lot about Philip’s particulars, but it is clear that Jesus sought him and instructed him to follow. The amazing part of the story is Philip’s response. With no questions, no qualifications, and no qualms, he obeyed. God knows, I want to be like that!

The truth is all of us have been sought after by the Lord. And like a big brother, He is telling us “Come, this way.” May we recognize His demands as divine direction. The Father has sent Him to help us get to the right destination without too many “bought lessons.” Today, I make a fresh commitment to pay attention and follow His lead, no qualms. Pray for me, and I’ll pray for you!

 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. John 1:43-44 NKJV

 Biblical Meditation: Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

February 12 – I’m Not Ok When You’re Not Ok

 

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One summer I was chosen to lead about 20 young men, ages 12-14, on a “Wilderness Expedition” with three other counselors. The trip was a blast. We hiked, we rock- climbed, we bathed in the river, we slept outside, we cooked our food over an open flame, I mean, what more could you ask for, right?

There was just one smudge of a problem on the otherwise perfect outdoor canvas. The “whiner-boy!” This fellow took issue with every single detail of the trip. The hike was too long, the river was too cold, the rock climbing hurt his hands, and the food was horrible. By the end of the first of the three day journey, every counselor and camper was ready to blindfold him and help him get lost in the forest!

But on the third day, everything changed. Our last and final “wild trial” was an underground tunnel appropriately nicknamed the “birth canal.”

This thing stretched for thirty yards and you had to pass through flat on your stomach and fully extended. You crawled with your fingers and toes! It was so dark, you had to keep talking and touching the person’s feet in front of you so you wouldn’t lose your bearings.

Needless to say, it was an intense three hours. But when the whiner boy started trying to wiggle out of going through, a couple of the tough boys got in his face in a very firm but brotherly way. They refused to go without him. Those boys put whiney-britches between them and praised and pushed him every step of the way.

Before it was all done, that kid cried and cussed, but they didn’t give up on him. The rest of us were so encouraged and humbled by the action of these two boys, we all forgot about our own struggle and began to encourage our buddy in the middle. And I will never forget the look on the young man’s face when we all emerged from the canal covered in dirt from head to toe.

Without saying a word, everybody knew he would forever be different. He had experienced something that each and every one of us so desperately need. He realized that he mattered. Not just to his mom or dad, but to a group of people he barely knew.

His success and his failure in that canal affected us all. That young man tasted the privilege of responsibility. True responsibility’s core is made of care and concern for others. And in the eyes of God, that’s what living is all about (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:26-28).

Don’t be easily frustrated by the whiners today. And don’t make excuses for them either. Just take a stand as you can, right by them. And walk a mile or two. You and God will be glad you did!

If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. Galatians 6:2 The Message

 Biblical Meditation: Matthew 5:40-42 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

 

January 16 – Law and Order

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The other day I was pulled over by a police officer as I traveled through a small town in Oklahoma. I rolled through a stop sign and by the time I realized what I had done, it was too late.

The kind officer stated to me the obvious and commenced to doing his job. Although I meant no harm and my actions were accidental, for all practical purposes, I had broken the law and thus warranted correction. That may sound a bit harsh, but in reality, law and order are the basic building blocks to everything that exists. And if they are not adhered to, chaos and confusion will destroy all that is good and right in the world.

God is the original law giver, so, His spoken words are literally ‘law in motion.’ And it is by that law all created things find their unique place and function in the grand scheme. This is insightful for all who desire to comprehend God’s way of establishing calm in the midst of chaos.

First, you have to accept the God-given right and responsibility to call forth law and order in a particular situation. At that point, don’t try to re-invent the wheel.

Take time to research laws God has already established. From Genesis to Deuteronomy, you will find all you would ever need to build a solid moral “right and wrong” compass. From there, order your steps accordingly. You may have to rename some things and get rid of others.

But whatever you do, make sure that your physical actions align with the laws you verbally legislate. And if you should ever find yourself floating through one of life’s stop signs like I did, refrain from the urge to complain. On the contrary, take time to thank the Good Lord for the reminder and make the needed adjustments, quickly, if possible!

 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear;” and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:9-10 NKJV

 Biblical Meditation: Isaiah 30:21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”January 

January 15 – Please Ask First

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Has there ever been a time when something bad happened because you were doing something you didn’t ask for permission to do? Well, that has happened to us many times! One particular incident stands out in our minds.

On a Saturday morning Nathaniel woke me up to suggest that we try to make some oatmeal for breakfast. (And of course we didn’t ask.) So, I got up and we quietly went to the kitchen so we wouldn’t wake up anyone (especially Micah, because she was still working on having an inside voice).

But what can we say, she was only 2! Anyway, we poured a whole box of oats in a pot of water and turned on all the burners. Now just think, a 5 & 3 year-old messing with a stove? Not good!

So then we decided to go tell mom about this idea when all of a sudden she runs in saying “something smells like smoke!’’ Well, our basket near the stove caught on fire!

Thankfully, dad hadn’t left yet and he carried us all to the garage and put the fire out with mom’s water bottle.

So the moral of that story is always, no matter what, you must always ASK FIRST.

For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened. Luke 11:10J

A Dunford Family Classic written by Hannah at the age of 14.

January 9 – Obedience is Life and Death (Jenny)

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One of the sorest subjects around our house in our entire marriage involved an animal. Let me be more specific: a 120 pound black lab puppy. (He was not the first pet to be a part of this story, but I won’t go back that far!)

I completely dropped the ball when it came to helping this active and enthusiastic dog. Of all the obedience training I attempted to put in place while Lorenzo was at work, nothing seemed to stick! Several places on our home’s light beige carpet stuck around to prove my ineptness. In spite of all the success of my sisters and other friends and family with their pets, I just couldn’t get it to sink in.

Truthfully, I was too inconsistent to see any real progress! We do live in a society that values obedience training in our pets. And I know lots of animal lovers that do an amazing job. But the stakes really get high when we start talking about the pursuit of obedient children.

My husband has always said that whatever we see in our 2 year-old that goes uncorrected, “multiply that particular behavior” by a 16 year-old. It usually doesn’t give a pretty picture. Research has shown that the foundation to our children’s character is formed by the time they turn five.

What may look like cute antics right now in our toddlers won’t be so cute when they are ten, or older. In much the same way as our dog, (and even more so), our children are begging us for boundaries! They not only need to know “yes, no, who’s in charge, and I love you,” but they need to be trained how to respond in certain situations.

All of us have moments we need our children to stay close to us and not run off. So when our first three children were four and under, I would take them to the mall (a big, safe space) on a morning that wasn’t busy, and I would tell our older two that “our job today is to stay by mommy.”

Then we would walk around the mall, as I reminded them of the goal as I pushed the baby in the stroller. If one of them ran off, I would bring them back and give them a gentle reminder. After fifteen minutes of this kind of training, we’d all be ready for a reward.

Moments like that can really pay off in the long run. We can practice situations at home that will come up later, such as eating in a restaurant, sitting quietly through a wedding, etc.

Obedience doesn’t come just because we demand it, or even from using discipline, it comes from building a relationship. And it is life and death, because we can all face a time when a child tries to run towards a busy street. Then, obedience can save their life.

God loves an obedient heart. He’s certainly not into condemnation, nor does He hold our wrongs against us.

Mistakes will be made. But just as Jesus willingly went through the last moments of his life as God revealed His will to him, so should we cultivate the riches of obedience in our children. And their response to us will always reflect the level of our obedience to the Father as well. Spend time training your heritage towards obedience.

And these words which I am commanding you this day shall be [first] in your [own] minds and hearts; [then] you shall whet and sharpen them so as to make them penetrate, and teach and impress them diligently upon the [minds and] hearts of your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:6,7 AMP

 Biblical Meditation: James 1:25

Favorite Source: Hints on Child Training by H. Clay Trumbull

November 25- The “Something” He Wants

Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ. Ephesians 5:11-14 The Message Bible

 I have come to realize there are a whole lot of actions that are permissible for me. I can act on them and they aren’t necessarily wrong and won’t cause any major problems for anybody, so I tell myself. If you are in any way tempted by such human tendencies as I am, may I be a source of encouraging insight to you today. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean it’s the “something” He wants you doing. Don’t allow your selfishness to pull the wool over your own eyes; every step is ordained, planned and orchestrated by the Author and Father of all Creation. There is no such thing as a self-made man or woman at the end of the day. All that we are belongs to Him and He has established some guidelines to help us decipher His will for today. If you have any desire to stand before Him on that “tallying-up” day with a clear conscience and a completed work order, you will have to spend some face time with Him now – day by day! So don’t waste your time in the dark alleys of “I know what’s best for me.” Get on your knees and report for duty with the Master Foreman and get to working in the Light.