Monday, January 31, 2011

Brownies for Breakfast

A youth group gathering at my friend's home one afternoon recently prompted me to bake a batch of brownies for my sons to bring along. My friend approached me the next day and said, "Thanks for breakfast this morning! I ate the brownies that were leftover after the meeting last night!"

Brownies for breakfast. It sounded so good to me that I had the same thing today. There's nothing like the chocolate chewiness of a brownie to complement a cup of hot coffee, consumed while enjoying a beautiful morning out on one's back deck.

My spiritual breakfasts with the Lord are a lot like that. There's nothing more delicious than a fresh word from God - a lesson He speaks to me out of the experiences of my life, a word He wants me to voice to someone else, or a Scripture verse that perfectly completes a thought He expressed to me at some earlier point in time. But not all my mornings are like that. Some days He makes me eat oatmeal - good for me, but kind of bland. On other days He fixes bacon and eggs - a lesson with a little more meat in it. But sometimes He lets me eat brownies. On those days He gives me something that thrills me long after our "breakfast" together is over.

It's the bread and meat He brings to our spiritual mealtimes that sustain us, but it’s the hope of brownies for breakfast that keeps us coming to the table.

"...crave spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." (1 Peter 2-3 NIV)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Blistered Heel

Smiling in delight and anticipation, my husband laced up his new golf shoes before heading off for his first round of golf for the year. But after nine holes of play he was walking with a decided limp. His new footwear had rubbed a raw spot on the back of his right heel.

Many of us approach a new season in our spiritual walk with as much excitement as my husband took to the links that spring morning. But sometimes the friction we encounter from people and circumstances as we walk in the new shoes God’s given us to wear can likewise leave a sore spot in our spirits that hinders our ability to function effectively for a time. As I watched my husband apply a bandage to his blistered heel before putting on his shoes this morning I realized anew the importance of covering our hurt spots with prayer before taking more steps in any direction, that wounds inflicted upon us would heal quickly and not fester or further impede our spiritual progress.

His blister long gone, my husband’s shoes now fit comfortably and cause him no further problems. When we’re hurt may we experience a similar emotional healing and spiritual strengthening so that our hearts will be less susceptible to any painful circumstances surrounding us as we travel on down the road.

"Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me."
(Psalm 41:9 NIV)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Beyond Measure

Every workday for several years I trudged through the woods of the Pacific Northwest and spent eight hours measuring trees. While each day was different in terms of weather, the terrain to be traversed and the density of the undergrowth I had to clamber through, my duties were always the same. As a forester in the employ of a private paper company, my job was to measure the height and breadth of whatever trees fell within the limits of my circular plots. The numbers I obtained would later be plugged into various computer systems that would calculate the volume of wood on the land and enable my employer to make an estimate on the value of each particular stand of trees.

Now many years later I realize that what I did so regularly in my profession is impossible to do with God. There is simply no way to measure His worth. The love of God is limitless and His benefits incalculable. Advanced as our computer systems are today, there’s not one that can put a value on the peace of mind, physical and spiritual health and prosperity that are found in a relationship with Him. And while we try to express it in various ways, the goodness of God is something we can’t conceive in our minds so much as know in our hearts.

"...And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love..."
(Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Abounding in Love

Our Wednesday night church service took a somber turn when a middle-age man came to the front of the sanctuary to speak to the pastor. Sobbing, he said that he’d just been told that his son had been killed in a car wreck in a nearby town. He’d been asked to come to the mortuary and identify the body, but he had no gas money to get there. Our minister hugged the man, cried along with him, and then asked if he’d like him to go with him on his gruesome task. Shaking his head no, he wiped his eyes, thanked the congregation for the money that had quickly been gathered and shoved into his pocket while the men of the church gathered around him in prayer, and left the building.

Some days later we found out that the whole situation had been a hoax. Some in the congregation were angry to learn that they’d been taken advantage of by a con man who played on the sympathies of a compassionate crowd to raise a few dollars for himself. But my husband suggested that perhaps the scenario had been a test to see how we would react to someone needing our help. It reminded us of the “secret shoppers” who come to the grocery store in which I work. Their identities a secret, they act like regular customers and then later grade the employees on how well they performed their duties.

It’s better to lose some cash in a con game of some sort than to have God find us lacking in compassion in a true time of need.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
(Hebrews 13:2 RSV)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lit from Within

The stained glass windows of the little church attracted my attention. Although I’d driven through the village many times before, I’d never done so at night, and so had never seen the building lit up from within as it was by the church service going on inside. Truly the windows sparkled like jewels on the darkened street and beautified the whole town as a result.

My perspective of stained glass windows has always been from inside a church building. I’ve often marveled at their splendor as sunlight has streamed in through them on a gorgeous day. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen how beautiful they are at night, when lit by the lights inside the building.

We Christians are likewise the stained glass windows of society, beautifying the world around us when we allow the light of God inside of us to light our countenance and enhance our surroundings, everywhere we go.

During the daylight hours, the windows of the little church look like those on any of the other buildings in the town. But in the nighttime hours they glow with a beauty beyond anything the others have to offer. And likewise it is in the dark hours of our troubled times that the light of God within us causes us to stand out, shining forth through us in incomparable beauty to a watching world.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

(Matthew 5:16 KJV)

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Jesus-loves-you lady died a few days ago.

I never knew her real name, nor did any of my fellow grocery store employees except the one bagger who was distantly related to her and through whom we learned of her sudden death. Yet everyone recognized her the minute she came through our lines because she ended every transaction with the same "Jesus loves you" declaration...every time, every shopping trip. She never failed.

Although at first a little awkward, her faithful proclamations soon made her an endearing figure about the place. Sometimes one bagger in particular would see her coming and blurt out her message before she ever got a chance to, almost as a form of greeting. And I realized that eventually she didn't need to say it at all - she was so linked to those three words that the mere sight of her delivered the message without her even having to open her mouth. Clearly she had accomplished her mission on this earth, so the Jesus Who loved her simply gathered her in His arms one day shortly before Christmas and took her on Home, a reminder to those of us she leaves behind that when our to-do list is likewise complete, we can surely expect the same.

"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."
(Acts 20:24 RSV)

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