February 10 – True, Through and Through

 

 

Have you ever heard, “A hard head makes a soft behind?” Well, I must say, I am all too familiar with this phrase. It simply refers to those individuals who tend to make things hard on themselves by not heeding the warnings of the wise.

That was the case when I decided to buy a pricey gold necklace for a young lady I admired in high school. At best, she considered me a friend, but I, however, thought she was pretty special. My mother warned that the necklace was a bad “token of our friendship” idea.

But my mind was made up. Bad move! By the time that deal was over, I was so soured on jewelry that my wife, years later, almost didn’t get a wedding band (a little exaggeration, but not much).

Yet over the years and with the birth of each child, my love for Jennifer caused me to search for something, something that would express what she truly is to my life. It was then I came across the Character First lesson on sincerity and the attributes of the pearl.

Previously, I thought diamonds were by far more superior. But as my sincerity story described the difference between cultured and genuine pearls, I knew I had found my something. Although the cultured pearl comes from an oyster, just like a genuine one, at its core it is really a ready-made glass bead.

On the contrary, the genuine pearl is the result of a tiny piece of sand or debris getting trapped in a very sensitive spot when an oyster opens up. And in an effort to ease the pain, the oyster coats the particle with endless amounts of a tear-like liquid called nacre.

 And over time those many layers of tears form something very precious. That’s my Jennifer! Time and tests only seem to make her shine brighter because her heart is true.

But ponder this. God thinks the same about each one of us. We are His strand of pearls. He paid a premium price for us; the precious blood of His Son, Jesus. And there is nothing in this world that He won’t do for us. So, the least we can do is draw near to Him with a Teachable, Respectful, Undaunted, Eager heart.

Having a true heart doesn’t mean you are “mistake-free.” It simply means you are real before God. It means that you are “all in.” No games. And that guarantees you will miss it from time to time. But that’s what sets you apart. Because you love Him enough to continue to pursue, His love will cover your edges and make you true, through and through.

The Character First Five I WILL’s for Sincerity:

I WILL be all that I can be.

I WILL take responsibility for my own actions.

I WILL respect others’ opinions.

I WILL always mean what I say.

I WILL not take advantage of other people.

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22 KJV

Biblical Meditation: Matthew 13:45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.

 

January 20 – Let the Game Come to You

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Often we try so hard to figure out the how’s and why’s. And that is what’s so hard to “unlearn.” The good Lord has promised, confirmed, and reiterated time and time again His will and intent when it comes to meeting our needs.

But stop just a second and consider: Did you eat today? Most of us did. And if we were in dire need, many of us have answers waiting in the wings. Truth of the matter is, the lot of us shudder at the thought of leanness.

And yet the very thing we are afraid of is the very thing that will set us freer than we’ve ever been.

Here’s a slice of my personal experience on the matter. If you let go, your needs will be met and come to you, as you need them and when you need them…maybe even at the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute!

There is a force at work (the economists call it supply and demand) but its undercover name is trust and obey. When you have nothing to depend on but Him, He becomes all you will ever need.

 Cast your bread upon the waters. For you will find it after many days. Ecclesiastes 11:1

 Biblical Meditation: Philippians 4:19 My God shall meet all of your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

January 3 – Mighty Mites

 

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One of my dearest friends in the whole world and his precious wife have found themselves in a tremendous battle. To some, their situation looks pretty tough. But I tell you, there’s nothing like hard times to bring to light those who truly love you and stand with you.

My buddy’s the sort of guy that served his country, paid his dues, and wouldn’t ask anybody for a single penny. He believes in hard work and helping others. So, when he found himself swimming upstream and holding on to his wife’s hand for dear life, it was all he could do to keep his head above water.

Well, out of the blue, people from where he works started strategizing on how they could get involved and help remove some of the financial burden. They started collecting change in mason jars! Now, I am told that a pint-sized mason jar might hold $30 or more of random change. That doesn’t seem like a lot when you are talking about serious medical bills.

But it is an extravagant amount when you consider why people would give. My own children, when hearing about the jars, filled their own share. All because they, like everyone else involved, wanted to let my friend and his wife know they were not in this fight alone.

After the fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about the power of the widow’s mite in Mark 12. Often, I viewed this passage as a plus for the “have not’s” and a minus for the “haves.”  But that all changed for me. No, I began to see that Jesus was showing the disciples the power of “from the heart” giving.

The widow didn’t have a lot of surplus when it came to money.  But her heart said, “It’s the least I can do to give what I have to the Master for His service.” And it is that spirit, I am convinced, that I have witnessed in these precious souls pouring out their change for my buddy. So, today, may you and I be most encouraged. Whether our giving is big or small, when it comes from the heart, it is extravagant in the eyes of God.  

Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins-a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave  what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford-she gave her all.” Mark 12:41-44 (MSG)

Biblical Meditation: Mark 12      

March 24 – Don’t Wait for Washington

“Speak up for the people who have no voice, for the rights of all the down-and-outers. Speak out for justice! Stand up for the poor and destitute!” Proverbs 31:8-9 MSG

I will share a couple of incidents, but no names. The pain is too real and the problem is far too prevalent.

He and his little sister had free and reduced lunches at school. But on the weekend, food was scarce around the house. One Saturday afternoon, he decided to take a loaf of bread and package of wieners from the local grocery store.  Too young to be inconspicuous, a veteran cashier caught him sneaking out the front door and alerted her boss. When they got him back in the store, it became apparent he was “one of those kids.”  He was banned from the store and labeled a troublemaker…and he and his sister went another day with empty tummies. . . .

Her daddy took a job in a new town. She left her old friends and was hopeful that she’d make some new ones at her new school.  The town was small and everybody had pretty much grown up together. The first day she arrived, not one girl seemed to notice. She made every effort to get acquainted, but all her advances were met with resistance.  Two years later, she graduated and as far as she knows, no one at the new school remembers her name. That was twenty years ago and the memory still stings.

There are people all around us that need someone to care enough to look beyond their immediate existence and reach out on behalf of another. I was one of those people at one time in my life and fortunately, there was “somebody” who cared.

But it is far too common to hear things like “let Washington pay for it. That’s why we pay taxes, anyway!” What a shame.

God expects more out of His children. We are our brother and sister’s keeper. When they hurt, we hurt. And if they hunger, we too are malnourished as a culture.

To ignore it doesn’t make it go away. Love says “reach out and touch somebody’s hand, and make this world a better place…cause you can!”

So. Don’t wait for Washington.

March 5 – Don’t Mind If I Do!

“There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, ‘Enough!’ the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’” Proverbs 30:15b-16 NIV

Old Bud Searcy was all about helping the women and children while the menfolk were away…helping them right out of a meal!

In the beloved Disney classic, Old Yeller (originally in print by the same name), one of the only characters one would dare not “take a liking” to was Mr. Searcy. This was basically because instead of taking care of those in need, he helped himself (at their expense.)

Even as a little kid, I knew old Mr. Searcy was a bad egg. He made for good comedy, only because we all know a “Mr. Searcy”! But, at the same time, it makes a case worth noting…

To him who is eager for a handout seldom finds value in a hand up. Therefore, the word “enough” will be strangely absent from his verbal repertoire.

Try as you may, life is not complete without the never enoughs. And from time to time, a meal on their behalf isn’t going to break ya. But remember, the Searcys do well to bump up against some, “yes you can” every now and again!

Lorenzo

March 3 – Middle of the Road

“Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Proverbs 30:7-8 NIV

Having an abundance of anything increases heightened awareness. Awareness of people, places and their things, or lack thereof.

Being always responsible for making sure motives and maneuvers are above board can promote paranoia and allow bitterness and self-preservation to set in. And sad to say, this has happened to many a man who didn’t have a dime.

Too much time, too much praise, too much chocolate, whatever! We don’t do “too much” very well. One very wise and wealthy soul once shared with me his secret to a well-balanced and prosperous life.

“Lorenzo, when I feel like grabbing, that’s when I start giving by the boat-load. Because when I don’t, stuff and status get in the way of what matters most, i.e., the ones I love.”

I have no idea where today’s good word finds you. But chances are, you have amassed a wealth of something. Let God help you be honest about it…quit denying it, for crying out loud. Then, devise a plan to get back to center.

It’s ok to be loaded with good things. But it is unhealthy to be “bloated” with the weight and the worry that too often clings to those “things.”

Happy traveling!

Lorenzo

February 24 – A Fine Line

The accomplice of a thief is his own enemy; he is put under oath and dare not testify. Proverbs 29:24 NIV

Helping one another is basic, biblical, and benevolent. But many times there is an invisible line that separates actions that hinder and those that truly help.

Handouts feel good…initially. Yet, when the recipient begins to make preferential demands, kindhearted notions sour and the desire to “help” can grow cold.

Hand-ups, on the other hand, protect the intent of the giver and the integrity of the receiver. Often, patience, persistence and practicality are mainstays in this approach. And many times, those preferring a “quick fix” bail out of the race. But those who are truly wanting to progress, excel.

You do me no favors helping me “not help” myself. Give me tough love if I am taking the easy way out. But when you see me giving it my all, a helping hand goes a long, long way!

Pray to define that line. And when you do, it will all go just fine.

Lorenzo