February 27 – Say What?

musk-thistles

When you move back home, you find so much that is familiar. And those things are constantly warming your insides up because it’s all connected to your childhood “hard drive.” I’ve been experiencing that over and over the past few weeks, and wow, I like it!

But another part of the familiar is the small part of UN-familiar. We’re in western Oklahoma flatland here, and the hills and gullies we have are few and far between. In the continuous spaces of grass pasture, there is an evil and devious enemy to all who live and work in these parts: the musk thistle.

Now if you’re like me, you have trouble even pronouncing that! And I don’t know a thing about this tacky weed. I have no familiar memory of battling it while I was being raised here. My cousin brought up his task of the day a few weeks ago: spraying all of the musk thistle.

I just looked at him in confusion. Say what? What is a musk thistle? Oh, by the way, it’s even against the law to allow them to grow. They have to be sprayed or dug up from the roots. Hmmm, that pesky intruder has to be eliminated, or else.

Sin is like that. Evil, deceptive, destructive, as Romans 6 says, it leads to DEATH. We’re talking basic right and wrong here. I know it’s not politically correct to talk about it, but the facts are, sin exists, it can ruin our lives, and it is insidiously persistent.

It doesn’t need an invitation, and no one is exempt from its advances! But like the musk thistle, with determination and a plan to root it out, the weeds of sin and all the little tiny seeds they hold can be bagged up and stopped in their tracks.

Don’t let those thistles and thorns of sin overtake your time here on earth. Place your trust in the One Who paid for them, and follow His directions for chopping them down. One at a time. You won’t be sorry!

Jennifer

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

Biblical Meditation: 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

 

February 1 – Now I’m A Believer

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I will say it until my departing days: God knows our address. It makes no difference if we don’t believe He exists, He is a loving Father who is able to acquire our undivided attention.

When I was younger, I spent a great deal of time stressing over the souls of loved ones; especially those who had animosity toward God. Maybe they were mad about some social injustice or an unexpected death of a close friend. Although they seemed to feel justified in requiring an answer from God, I couldn’t help but be scared for them.

Sometimes I would give my most diplomatic argument to try and help them see God in a more positive light, but the words never seemed to land in the right place. But one day, I realized they weren’t hurting God. He’s not petty, He knows man better than man knows himself. I am convinced, like this account with Darius, God has His hand securely placed on His sovereign plan and no one, but no one, is going to change it.

He knows every person’s soft spot and at just the right time, He can touch it. That individual will then articulate some of the most beautiful words of honor you’ve ever heard. Like these of king Darius:

For He is the living God

And steadfast forever;

His kingdom is the one which

Shall not be destroyed,

And His dominion shall endure to

the end.

He delivers and rescues,

And He works signs and wonders

In heaven and on earth,

Who has delivered Daniel from

the power of the lions.

Daniel 6:26b-27

So, don’t spend another moment sweating the fate of your ostentatious uncle, or anyone else for that matter. Pray for him, love him, and walk right before him. And leave the “button-pushing” to God.

 Then Darius wrote: To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. Daniel 6:25-26 NKJV

 Biblical Meditation: John 10:29 My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater and mightier than all [else]; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand.”

 

January 27 – An Unexpected Tug

When the country is in chaos, everybody has a plan to fix it—but it takes a leader of real understanding to straighten things out. Proverbs 28:2

In business, in school, and now, around my house, the “least expected one” usually saves the day. I specifically am mindful of the lion’s share of the “above 12 years old” Dunford’s frantically looking for misplaced van keys. Inevitably, little bitty hands will tug on my pant leg, “Daddy, you looking for these?”

What’s sad is the fact that I, like most, find myself looking to the smart, the aged, and the polished for answers. But time testifies of men and women of real understanding who few ever imagined they had outstanding ideas.

I don’t know what country you are in as you read this, but I know at least one that fits the bill of today’s proverbial thought. And though I never want to see anyone suffer catastrophe, history says then and only then do we quit looking for the keys where we think we left them. This is when we let a power beyond our brains and braun and bank account get us back on track with help we could never find or afford.

I’m not meddling and I’m not being political.

But our predicament humbles me and these words today inspire me to hope for a tug from an unexpected source.

Lorenzo

 

 

January 12 – Not Without Nelly

Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. Proverbs 26:20

My sis and I grew up watching Michael Landon’s Little House on the Prairie. I loved the show but almost every episode I’d get ticked at Nelly Olson. That chick was always stirring up some kind of mess, but nobody seemed to want to put her in her place because her Mama was ten times worse.

Part of my extreme frustration with the “Nelly” character stemmed from having my very own at school. I had a classmate in those days who could have taught little Miss Olson a thing or two about the art of “busybody-ness and tattle-telling.”

Every single day of fifth and sixth grade she seemed to torment me. Anything I said got misconstrued and all that I did, she had something to say about it. And because I wasn’t good at arguing diplomatically back when, I would just get mad, then get in trouble, and she come away looking squeaky clean.

One day, however, that all changed. She crossed the line and stirred up a hornet’s nest that just about shut the school down. Police were called and potential criminal charges were being discussed. Several little boys narrowly avoided unjustified consequences.

So it was then when I learned one of the wisest strategies in dealing with a “Nelly.” First, I have to be willing to recognize what is happening. Then, I have to prevent myself from taking his or her accusations personally (no emotional response.) Then I make myself speak well of them, no matter what. Why, you say? In doing so, I give them absolutely no “wood to burn!”

That’s been over thirty years ago and I still struggle with a Nelly from time to time. But in that time frame, I have worked to build some healthy relationships and even call some “friend.”

“Nelly’s” are here to stay, so get a game plan. Underneath all of that “persnickety” you might find a really cool person!

October 27 – Trouble in River City

Become wise by walking with the wise;  hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces. Proverbs 13:20 MSG

One of my favorite musicals is “The Music Man.” I’ve almost convinced our children that a musical is a work of art, but it’s an ongoing process. The life lessons available through a few ingenious songs are simply invaluable (the catchier the tune, the better . . . thank you Rodgers and Hammerstein)!

Well, if you know this story, you know that the townspeople of River City, Iowa, are mighty concerned about their young people.  Professor Hill has given them a hint about the town’s new billiard parlor and the trouble brewing as a result of it.  The whole musical centers around the community working to steer their youth towards the positive endeavor of a band.  Even though the Professor turns out to be a phony, his feeble efforts do help the kids make better choices and the band makes a debut. And amazingly, the kids influence the Professor to come clean and tell the truth for the first time ever.

Our lives will be the result of our associations.  How wise the Proverbs continue to be, thousands of years from the time they were written.  Though the trouble in River City seems small in comparison to our world, the concept still rings true.  The wise man looks perceptively at the one he calls “friend.”

The influence of those we hold close and dear can make or break the hopes we have for our days on earth. If we surround ourselves with fools, then fools we will become.  But walking with the wise means wisdom is on her way to meet us.  And that beats trouble any day.

October 20 – The Angler’s Way

The fruit of the [uncompromisingly] righteous is the tree of life, and he who is wise captures human lives [for God, as a fisher of men – he gathers and receives then for eternity]. Proverbs 11:30 AMP

It finally rained! And now, I can prepare my garden for some late fall planting or winterization for spring. So the other day, my kids were down in the half acre oasis checking to see if the few weeds we had were going to cooperate and extract easily.

In the process, they unearthed an abundance of plump, juicy worms. Normally, we like to keep those little productive guys working on the soil, but with so many, my gang had a brilliant idea. “Let’s go fishing!”

For me, there are three basic keys to catching fish: bait, tackle, and timing. No matter what kind of fish you are out to catch or the location where you are going to catch them, bait, tackle, and timing will either increase or decrease your rate of success.

This has, for me, become a mandatory skill set for about everything I do in life. So, if you are going to get along, move ahead, or bring change, you have to know how to “catch people.”

The first key is bait (food). It represents things of interest to the persons you are endeavoring to reach. It is what makes sense and relevancy in their world. For instance, I have a group of friends who are undergoing some intense training for career advancement. They have a series of tests and qualifications they have to complete before they can graduate from one phase to the next. And for them, when I show up on a qualification day it speaks volumes. That’s the good kind of bait. It’s all about letting others know you care, for real!

Using the same analogy, the second key is tackle. It’s reflective in taking time out of my day, driving my car, and offering a place to train and prepare during the week’s class.

And the final key, timing, is just that, making time at the right time. In the case of my friends, timing is as important as any of the keys. And that is what makes it fishing. You can’t just generically put a schedule together and check off some boxes if you plan on “catching fish.” You have to put in some time and get to know your pond, and . . . love your fish.

The keys work whenever they are “righteously” applied. And a good fisherman lives for the times he or she can do just that…fish!

October 13 – A Tale of Two Kings

When swelling and pride come, then emptiness and shame come also, but with the humble (those who are lowly, who have been pruned or chiseled by trial, and renounce self) are skillful and godly Wisdom and soundness. Proverbs 11:2

The good book gives a historical account of two kings that ruled the children of Israel, God’s Chosen People.

The first was Saul, the son of Kish the Mighty. This young man was handsome, rich and a head taller than all of his kinsman (I Samuel 9:1-2). He had everything going for him, but when he was set in as first king of Israel, he became prideful and it ultimately caused him to lose the kingdom (I Samuel 13:13-14).

Then there was David. This would-be king was humility and servant-leadership personified. The youngest son of his father Jesse, he spent his early days watching over his father’s sheep. As a matter of fact, when the Prophet of Israel came to town to anoint the next king of Israel, David’s dad didn’t even send for him (I Samuel 16:1-13).

To date, David is known as the king of Israel that proved, even in the midst of a grave mistake, that he was a man after God’s own heart. Therefore, God Almighty paid him the highest honor any earthly king could ever wish for; He sent His only begotten Son through his lineage and one day He, the Son of God, will sit on the throne of David and rule the nations (II Samuel 7:1-29).

Pride is a funny thing. It makes you feel responsible, but it secretly undermines a complete dependence on God. The truth of the matter in the case of the two kings is David messed up much more than Saul if you measure the severity of their mistakes. The difference maker with God, however, was the attitude of their hearts. When confronted with his sin, David was broken and genuinely repentant (II Samuel 11-12). Saul, on the other hand, justified his behavior and apologized only to save face before the people (I Samuel 15).

May today find me broken rather than embarrassed. And may God find humility in my attitude rather than haughty self-defense. Though we are human, He has provided us with all kinds of help to get in a spot where He can pour on the blessings. But at the end of the day, we have to be willing before we will ever truly be obedient.