Sunday, September 26, 2010

Out for bear

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)

My frustration intensified as I studied our daughter's college tuition statement. I was puzzled by what appeared to be the university's retraction of a somewhat sizable refund that we'd been given.

Quite a bit of my irritation stemmed from the fact that I'd spent a lot of time and phone calls the previous month to gain understanding of the original reimbursement. Receiving assurance from the cashier's office that we were, indeed, entitled to the refund, we gave our daughter the go-ahead to cash the school's check. Now it seemed we should never have received the refund.

I was confused, angered and short on patience. Adding to my edginess was the fact that I was pressed for time to complete several overdue work-related projects and had just been handed two unplanned tasks. Learning that my daughter wasn't the only student affected by the accounting error only added fuel to my already unpleasant attitude. Consequently, I was "out for bear" when the cashier's office staff member answered the telephone and ready to tell her what I thought.

It's been said that the tongue is the most deadly weapon in the world. With razor sharp words we cut through the thickest of skins. We strike at the core of a person's being with damaging speech that divides friendships and wounds even the strongest of relationships. The writer of Proverbs describes reckless words as piercing like a sword (Proverbs 12:18). It's not surprising that the infamous list of seven things detestable to the Lord includes "a man who stirs up dissension among brothers" (Proverbs 6:16-19).

The writer of Proverbs also reminds us that if we hold our tongue we will not say the wrong thing. In fact, we're thought to be wise when we keep silent (10:19). Dear friend, let's put the "blade" away and use our words to help and heal.

Keep me from saying words
That later need recalling;
Guard me lest idle speech
May from my lips be falling;
But when within my place
I must and ought to speak,
Then to my words give grace
Lest I offend the weak.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

O God, My Faithful God
Johann Heermann 1585-1647

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Frantically Fluttering

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

The hummingbird darted into our garage through the open doorway, and it quickly became obvious that the little bird was totally disoriented amidst a sea of freshly painted white walls and ceiling. As fast as it zoomed in one direction, it frantically turned and zipped in another looking for an escape. The bird's long, straight and very slender bill made it appear as if a quiver of arrows was being shot throughout the room. The hum made by its rapidly beating wings echoed all through the otherwise quiet, empty garage as it hovered in mid-air.

Backwards, forwards, up, down. My husband kept his eye on each movement the bird made matching its rapid, frenzied flight pattern with his characteristically steady, deliberate pace. With straw broom in hand, he gently worked at guiding the little hummer in the direction of the open doorway. At times the space between bird and man was all but nothing that my husband could see its tiny chest throbbing from its rapid heartbeat.

After what seemed an eternity, the bird finally caught sight of the way out and it whizzed out the door's opening as swiftly as it had entered. We cheered as we watched our freed captive soar into the open air. And then we stared in horror as we followed its tiny body plummet from the sky.

Concluding that the strain of its release had simply been too much for the little guy, my husband slowly walked across our neighbor's yard to where it lay on the ground. Kneeling down next to the bird, he reached out his hand to touch the white tips of its rounded tail feathers. Suddenly, the bird perked up and flew off once more.

Too many times I'm like that little hummingbird--anxious, frazzled and afraid of what might happen next. Caught up in a sea of emotion, I flit in one direction and flutter in another. I bump my head against the proverbial brick wall, even to the point of exhaustion, before dropping to my knees and asking for help. Still God is faithful.

"The eyes of the Lord are everywhere" (Proverbs 15:3) and nothing escapes His attention. That includes you and me, dear friend. Jesus said, "Even the very hairs of your head are numbered" (Matthew 10:30). When we ask Him for help, God's response is always based on His perfect knowledge of us and our situation.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:6-7). My friend, let's trust Him with our anxious concerns.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Monday, September 6, 2010

Don't be a Beverly Hillbilly

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
Ephesians 4:17 (NIV)

The 1960s good-natured American sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies follows the rags-to-riches journey of the Clampetts. After striking "black gold" on their swamp land, the poor backwoods family is transplanted to the swanky, wealthy city of Beverly Hills where they can now live in relative ease and take advantage of all that their newfound riches have to offer. The family is challenged, however, to let go of their old way of doing things. Constantly looking back, they go so far as to move their meager mountain cabin into the backyard of their lavish mansion home.

The Essential Bible Companion describes the apostle Paul's letter to the Ephesians as "quintessential Paul," a concise summary of the essence of the apostle's faith and theology. In the first three chapters, Paul speaks about God's divine purpose in Christ and the believers' position in Christ. In the last three chapters, he is quite specific in his "dos" and "don'ts" of how believers ought to live practically as a result of this position. He writes, " must no longer live as Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking."

Salvation is God's free gift, but it carries with it the responsibility to live and behave from that point on as God wants (Ephesians 1:1, 17). This means deliberately discarding the old, selfish way of life, shedding former habits, and letting the new life change our thinking and remold our pattern of behavior.

All too often, I find that this new life and new way of thinking and behaving eludes me. As I begin each morning on my knees dedicating the day and my life to the Triune God, it seems that with an "amen" barely out of my mouth and not yet standing on my feet, I'm already returning to my selfish, fretful, whining, and unkind ways. Ah, how true--the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.

Thankfully, Jesus doesn't leave me hopeless. I can't by my own reason or strength live as Jesus calls me to live. Through the Holy Spirit, God called me with a holy calling, not according to my works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Timothy 1:9). At the same time, the Holy Spirit by faith sanctifies me--that is, He renews my heart so that I can overcome sin and do good works (Ephesians 2:10).

By His work on the cross, Jesus completed everything for my salvation and sanctification so that I can enjoy a new life. No wonder Paul said with such confidence that "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).

Who is sweeter than Christ Jesus?
No good thing in Him I lack!
Hand to plow, at peace I follow
Where He leads me...why look back? -Starke

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following