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.

 

February 7 – Giving For a Living

i-am-with-the-wounded

Most people think in terms of money when the word giving is mentioned. However, true generosity involves much more than a few dollars and cents. It is a lifestyle. In history, we find examples of individuals who grasped this reality.

Recently my family came across such a lady. She lived in the 1800’s and exemplified a life of giving. During the Civil War, this little lady decided she would go on to the battlefield and dress the wounds of the fallen soldiers.

She realized that many men could possibly bleed to death in the field from injuries that could be treated, before they could ever get to a hospital. She was denied access by the general several times, but she would not give up! Although the sentiment of the day was that the battlefield was no place for a woman, the commanding officer finally surrendered!

This woman was willing to put her life on the line so that others might live. That is the spirit of generosity. So whether it’s in the form of money, time, or talent, we would all do well to develop such character in our lives. Ask the question before the Lord right now, “What can I give?” As you wait for Him to reveal His will to you, reach out and do something really simple for those right around you—your family!

Here are the five “I Will’s” from the Character First curriculum:

I WILL share what I have with others

I WILL recycle

I WILL not expect anything in return for my generosity

I WILL give of my time and talents

I WILL praise the good I see in others

By the way, this precious, persistent lady was not only known as the “Angel of the Battlefield,” but after the Civil War, she went on to create the American Red Cross. Her name was Clara Barton. What a great example to follow!

Biblical Meditation: Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His Person, giving praise to God the Father through Him.

 

January 13 – The New You

moorestown-new-jersey

Right around the corner from me, another 100 year-old house is getting a “face-lift.” We live in a historical district and it is a wonderful sight to see these mammoth-sized memorials being restored.

As Jen and I were walking the other day, we took an investigative snoop of this particular home’s progress. The roof is finished. New windows have been installed. The outside has been scraped and painted.

Everything is moving along. But as we looked through the window, we saw there was quite a bit more work to be done before this house could be considered “renewed.”

Then it hit me. Here lives a picture for those of us who have been raised with Christ. We have been born again. Now the old self must be renovated and regenerated. The process is tedious, time-consuming, and often tiring.

But not only does it save the “house” and add worth to it, it positively affects the “whole neighborhood.” And so, the new you “in-Christ” will add value to every life in your path. It’s time to roll up your sleeves, and start “pulling off the wallpaper” of evil practices and fleshly ideas.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we will patch any holes we find and paint those walls with behavior that heaven can back up with applause.

Jen talked to the man responsible for much of the restoration going on in our area yesterday. She mentioned how our family thought he was much like “superman,” flying from house to house with a “magic” paintbrush.

He laughed as he explained his intermittent feelings of despair along with triumph. He saw his progress as sometimes painfully slow.

Don’t be discouraged by your pace as you go. Strap on your tool belt and lace up those work boots. Let’s start stripping off the old and let’s being putting on the NEW YOU!

 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:9-10

Biblical Meditation: 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

October 13 -That’s Why We Pray

Luke 11:1-3 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name,  your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.”

We watched a movie the other night about a little boy going through a serious trial.   Everyone told him to pray. He heard the word “pray” over and over, but it didn’t really make much sense to him. So, instead of trying to figure it out, he decided to write a letter to God. He began to write Him a letter almost every day. He talked to Him like He was a friend who cared and someone who could help. He then began to develop an amazing sense of peace to which others were drawn. He began to see answers to his “prayers.” His confidence grew and everyone around him was affected by his trusting demeanor. Lives were changed because this little guy decided to talk to God.

 

I think prayer is a perplexing thing for most of us. It is one of those very important things that nobody knows much about. Yet, we talk about it all the time. “Pray for me, I need to get a job.” “Oh, we really need to pray for so-and-so, their mother is in the nursing home.” It can almost be an overused catch-all word that translates “Help me!”

 

Jesus talked about prayer many times. The Bible has hundreds of references to it. When Jesus taught the disciples the answer to their question about how to pray, He basically says, “Talk to Me. Get by yourself. Listen part of the time or you’re monopolizing the conversation. Be thankful for the everyday things. Talk to Me like you would a trusted friend, a friend Who has the power to change the circumstances. Most of all, be ready for Me to change you!” The next time someone says “pray for me,” or you need some prayer yourself, try writing your thoughts in a letter to God. Put a date on it and refer back to it. Be real, but be respectful. Cry if you need to, He hears that too. Most of all, get that Bible off the shelf and read. He’s been talking to you all the time, it’s all there in black and white.

That’s why we pray. “The greatest tragedy in life isn’t unanswered prayer, its unoffered prayer.” (quote by Adam Clarke)

Jennifer

Biblical Meditation: Psalms 54:2 Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.

 

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.

January 8 – Don’t Be Cruel

If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch; if he’s thirsty, bring him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness, and God will look after you. Proverbs 25:21-22 MSG

I developed a bad habit when I was growing up of putting myself down. My thinking was then it wouldn’t hurt so badly when the other kiddos made fun of me. I beat them to it.

But that created a constant scrutiny and negative attitude within. So in order to break free, I started changing what I said about myself and forced my mind to build new images.

I think this is more common than we might realize…the enemy is on the inside of me! And when left unchecked, the condition can prove fatal.

Amazingly, the same feelings of ridicule and rejection we feel toward somebody that we don’t get along with (an enemy) can translate into ill feelings toward ourselves in the areas we “don’t like.”

And as far as God is concerned, the right to draw up battle lines against ourselves or anybody else is sad, and quite frankly, just plain mean.

No matter how much that thing about you or that person gets on your nerves, there is rhyme and reason for it. And if you let Him, the One who loves you most will teach you marvelous things about yourself through the very things you cannot stand.

Like a fresh glass of iced tea in the summer is kindness toward an unkind situation. Pour a cupful of mercy toward others, and don’t forget to pour one for yourself!

December 6 – Glass Extraction

The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry, and a wise friend’s timely reprimand is like a gold ring slipped on your finger. Proverbs 25:11-12

Pain tolerance is a funny thing, to some degree, and a high threshold can be a good thing. But there are areas in life that being “numb” to the natural feelings of discomfort can be detrimental to your health and wholeness.

Most of my life, I’ve carried scars of some dysfunctional events from my childhood. When I was young, I remember hurting, and I would cry. But as time progressed and I got bigger, I quit crying and grew cold.

In an effort to live a “normal” life, I chose to move beyond the trauma and those who had parts to play in it…”just forget about it.”

But no matter how hard you try to forget about a tiny sliver of broken glass lodged in your finger, time and test will cause it to surface. And you will grab ahold of something and suddenly writhe with sharp pain.

And that’s when a timely friend with a timely word can be invaluable. Not everybody in your life is there to agree and get along. God loves you and I enough to provide what we need as well as some of what we want.

I’m blessed today and healing nicely from “a sliver of the past” extraction instigated by a good friend with pin-point accuracy at just the right moment.

If you have a wound buried so deep you don’t even feel it anymore and yet you know it’s there, I pray for you. May the right person be used at just the right time to relieve your burden. Because when you hurt or aren’t healthy, there are a host of others that love you who can feel it!