Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Do Not Be Afraid"

Fear…if we are honest, most of us would have to admit, at least on occasion, to succumbing to the stomach-churning emotion of fear. It could be anything from realizing you’ve locked your keys in the car to receiving a pink slip, or learning you or a loved-one have an incurable form of cancer. The list of fear-causers is endless, and the assault is fairly regular.

As you think of the Christmas story recorded in Matthew and Luke, you will notice Joseph, Mary and the shepherds were confronted with situations that brought such unsettled feelings. However, the word from the Lord through his heavenly messengers – in every case - was “Do not be afraid”:

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:18-21).

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS
(Luke 1:26-31).

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:8-12).

If there is a message our world needs to hear today, it is this one: “Do not be afraid”. As believers and possessors of God’s “great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4), we can cling to these assurances during times when life threatens to overwhelm us. And as God grants peace to us when we totally depend on him, perhaps others will see the difference he makes in our lives. We may then have an opportunity to share with them God’s message of love that “casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

As we ponder the message of Jesus’ birth, may we recall that a very real part of the Christmas story is “Do not fear.” And it’s true today because Jesus in near!

Wishing you a blessed Christmas…lefthandrightbrain:)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Emmanuel..."God With Us"

When people who are learning sign language think through some signs, they can see correlations with other signs. For example: the sign for “to register” or “to sign up” is a modification of the sign for “name” being placed on “paper”. The sign for “no” is a combo of the modified letters “N” and “O”. Realizing such things can serve as a memory aid when building one’s recall of the language’s vocabulary.

"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23).

While thinking about this incredible truth recently, the sign for the word “with” came to mind. To help you visualize this, close the fingers of one hand with the thumb resting on the index finger and pointing upward. This is the sign for “self”, and can be used (by making the right motion or movement) to sign “himself”, “herself”, “myself”, “themselves”, etc. Using the sign with an upward/outward motion (as toward heaven) shows the signer is referring to God Himself.

When the two hands making the “self” sign join in front of the body, it becomes the sign for “with” – basically, “self” touching “self”.

Self coming in contact with self…what an excellent illustration of the word “Emmanuel (or “Immanuel”, as it is spelled in some translations). And if we think of the Himself (of God) coming down (go ahead, use your hands to visualize it) to yourself…and connecting – well, that’s even a better picture of the baby Christ-child entering the everyday-ness of life here on planet Earth.

GOD WITH US…incredible, isn’t it? And what has He promised His children a result?

“…For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5b-6)

GOD WITH US…but there’s more:

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17).

While walking the dusty Jerusalem streets, sitting on a hillside or riding in a wind-tossed boat, the Lord Jesus was with His disciples. However, after His ascension, He returned in the person of the Holy Spirit to indwell them. Think about what that means. I can be a dear friend or family member, and have a very close relationship with someone as a result. But do I know them inside and out? Have I intimately experienced all the events that make their lives what they are today? Of course not. But as believers, God is both with us and in us. Because He has taken up residence in these bodies of ours, we aren’t just His “kin”, we’re His “skin”.

As we meditate on the incarnation - God with us - let us also ponder our salvation - God in us…forever!

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Friday, December 18, 2009

"And It Came To Pass"

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1).

“And it came to pass” – this is an extremely common phrase used in both the King James version of the Bible and the New King James version. The first reference is found in Genesis 4:3 and shows up regularly all the way into 1 Thessalonians. Normally, it is used to set the stage for an event – maybe a seemingly insignificant happening; maybe one of extremely great significance, as in the above verse. The things that “came to pass” ran the gamut of being joyful, awful, mundane or unusual.

The threads of God’s plans are carried along through many of these things that “came to pass”. Mary and Joseph needed to be in Bethlehem for Jesus’ birth, so “it came to pass …that that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus....” (Luke 2:1). The couple traveled to the city of David - and as we know, while they were there, “the days were completed for her to be delivered” (vs. 4-6).

What God plans, He performs.

“The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations” (Psalm 33:10-11).

These verses certainly detail God’s sovereign power, don’t they? But we talk about having a “free will”. We have the right to decide what we want to do; to chart our own course, right? If not, aren’t we just puppets on a string?

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (
Proverbs 16:9).

“Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails” (
Proverbs 19:21).

God is in ultimate control of the details of our lives. He wants what is best for us. And yes, if we stubbornly plow forward, rebelling against His word and will, He may step aside to let us see just how miserable a job we do when we take the reigns, or how lackluster our lives become.


Joseph knew Mary’s advanced pregnancy would make the trip of approximately 90 miles on a donkey’s back arduous. We know nothing of the communication between him and God during these times. I wonder if he had an “aha” moment when he combined the prophetic Scripture (Micah 5:2) with the required trip. Perhaps this confidence in God’s leading spurred them both on.


“Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses” (1 Kings 8:56).

What God plans, He performs. We can depend on it. And this fact should not cause us to chafe, but to rejoice! Instead of feeling hemmed-in, we should feel liberated; indeed, Paul, in Romans 8:21, calls this “glorious liberty. So in “it came to pass” moments of our life, may we adhere to this well-known admonition of Paul:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

“Good…acceptable…perfect…”. Though things in your life may seem unsettled, just as they could have seemed to Mary and Joseph, don’t fear these “it came to pass” moments. God has you securely in His hand!

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Making Spirits Bright


Recently, I attended a special program to gather info for a newspaper story; it will go down as a highlight of this Christmas season for me. In a neighboring city stands the Gautier Community Home - a residential facility for 20 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These residents – and the church who reached out to them with great love – were the focus of the story.

“They look forward to the party all year,” smiled Terry, a member of the congregation and the recreational therapist for these adults. “They keep asking when it’s going to be.” Well, several days ago, it was time.

The excited group joined others in the sanctuary for the Christmas musical prior to the big “party”. During the program there was a time of congregational carol-singing. Hearing some voices that were a bit loud and definitely off-key, I noticed they came from the section where this group was seated. I grinned, thinking to myself, “They don’t know how they sound and they don’t care, and I just know God is enjoying every minute of it!”

As the church family and guests transitioned to the fellowship area to enjoy some graciously-prepared refreshments, those from the group home were helped through the line. Special tables were set for them close to the gaily-decorated tree. Under the twinkling branches, big bags and boxes of gifts awaited the arrival of a man with a white beard and a red suit.

Suddenly, with a loud “Ho, ho, ho!” Santa (looking a lot like a white-bearded church member) appeared on the scene! It would be hard to say who was more ecstatic - these adults, some of whom were at least 60 - or the children of the church family. The special guest wandered around, giving out candy canes to young and old alike, and then enlisted two cherubic-looking young fellows to be his helpers. As names were read, the boys apprehensively delivered the packages to the appropriate recipients. Squeals of glee spread across the group as they tore into the gifts church members had lovingly purchased and prepared. Several paraded around, showing their treasures to those seated throughout the room.

Joy. It was in great abundance that night, and it rightly should be, as one of the season’s hallmarks. Several favorite Christmas songs echo the joy the angel proclaimed on the night “…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14a).

As we know, joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Some may argue that what these mentally-challenged adults displayed that night was happiness, not biblical joy. I’m not going to judge that. But think with me; have we lost the incredible wonder of simple faith as we’ve become more educated…more mature…more cynical? I think God treasures the zest for living these group home residents exhibited. Maybe if our lives were less complicated - like that of these special adults - we would sense a release, and begin experiencing more of this special element of the Christian life...JOY! And we’d be more ready to declare: “Joy to the world; the Lord has come!”

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bibles and Beans


Today’s issue of the International Mission Board’s (IMB) monthly Prayer Points shares this info: “In December, the Radfords* will invite their poor neighbors, about 25 people, to their home for a simple meal. During the evening they will share the story of Jesus and give them New Testaments and other resources such as rice, beans and flour to help make their lives easier. Pray that this outreach will plant seeds and lead to a desire to follow Christ.” (*name changed).

Obviously, this missionary couple lives in an area of the world where it is dangerous to profess Christ, and could lead to harm for their family or those they serve, if their real names were publicized. At Christmas-time, as in their daily contact with those they hope to see embrace the Lord, they combine Scripture with kindness.

How often we have our own agenda. If we do venture outside our comfort zones, we try to encourage folks to attend church, a Bible study, or perhaps a Christmas program. Of course, we realize their most-pressing need is salvation through Christ, and we often emphasize that at the beginning, which they may perceive as “shoving religion” down their throats. Jesus showed a better way: he modeled servant evangelism. Consider his life as he walked among the people. Matthew 9 shows him restoring health (vs. 7, 22, 35), dining with those outside the religious circle of the day (vs. 10), raising the dead (vs. 25), giving sight to the blind (vs. 29-30), and freeing one from demon-possession (vs. 32-33).
Our Lord performed these merciful acts as he “went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, [and] preaching the good news of the kingdom.” (vs. 35).
In their Christmas outreach, the IMB missionaries presented the “bread of life” (John 6:35) with physical bread, modeling Jesus’ example. People were drawn to the Savior by his merciful acts of compassion; as he met their physical needs, their hearts were softened to receive his life-changing message.
In these hectic days of the Christmas season, may we slow down enough to minister to the needs of others, and look for doors to open to a gospel witness.
“Go, tell it on the mountain…that Jesus Christ is born!”
Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Of Kings and Shepherds

Have you ever contemplated the difference between the worship of the shepherds and that of the wise men? Although most manger scenes depict these magi from the East and the shepherds gazing on baby Jesus with rapt attention, according to the biblical account we know this was not the case. Let’s trace the early days and possibly years of Jesus’ earthly life:

The shepherds' visit:
“So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:15-16).

Jesus’ presentation at the temple:
“And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord…So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:21-22; 39-40).

The travels and visit of the wise men:
“When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:9-11).

Although the calendar dates differed, both groups did come before the young King with amazement and worship. However, the wise men arrived at the house with well-thought-out, expensive gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”. The shepherds, hurriedly dispatched by the angel, probably arrived with possibly no more than their staff.

However, worship is not about what we bring; it involves what is unseen. God looks on the heart, not our lofty prayer, and not even how big an offering we toss into the collection plate. Consider these components of true worship:

“For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).



"Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness” (Psalm 29:2).


“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23).


“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

Repentance...holiness...truth...praise. “Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn King!”

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas "Letter"

Had a new follower on Twitter. Often, if I check their home page, I find they have a Christian or at least a religious background. This one seemed interesting, so I looked further. The first post catching my attention was a so-called “Letter From Jesus About Christmas”. Heading to Google, I tried to find the author, but after seeing the article on several different websites with none listed, I gave up.

It’s quite a tongue-in-cheek dissertation, but it does have a lot of points that can make us squirm, and some great ideas of ways to bless others at Christmas-time or any time. Here it is:

Letter from Jesus about Christmas –


It has come to My attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don’t care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that, let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn’t allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn’t be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grapevine if you wish. I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were… If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth, here is my wish list. Choose something from it:
1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.
2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don’t have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.
3. Instead of writing the Prime Minister complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don’t you write and tell him that you’ll be praying for him and his family this year? Then follow up; it will be nice hearing from you again.
4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can’t afford and they don’t need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
5. Pick someone who has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.
6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don’t know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.
7. Instead of nit-picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren’t allowed to wish you a “Merry Christmas” that doesn’t keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn’t make so much money on that day they’d close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.
8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary– especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.
9. Here’s a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no “Christmas” tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don’t know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.
10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don’t do things in secret that you wouldn’t do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of Mine.


Don’t forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I’ll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I’ll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love, and remember:

I LOVE YOU,

JESUS

**************

I’m writing a few of these down, and pray I’ll implement them in the days ahead!

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cranberry Hootycreeks and Sacrifice

What am I bid for this lovely, mouthwatering plate of cookies? For Christmas last year, my daughter received a jar of dry cookie ingredients with instructions on what to add to make these delicacies called cranberry hootycreeks. (Whoever came up with the strange name, I have no idea, but I’m glad someone came up with the recipe!)

Along with basic cookie dough ingredients, the cookies contain dried cranberries, chopped pecans, white morsels, and oatmeal. They are delicious, and they are a temptation! However, I’ve been “good for goodness sake” in my healthy eating plan, so I decided to bake a batch. After working two of the confections into my eating plan today, I felt I was really sacrificing by not having the three more I wanted right then, plus a few more this evening.

Did I say “sacrifice”? Ha! I hardly know the meaning of the word, and most of my family and friends would say the same. However, I know where we can go to find those who are intimately acquainted with the meaning of the term:

“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law…” (Galatians 4:4).

Notice the word, “sent”. God the Father sacrificed greatly to send His only Son - the One with whom He had experienced intimate and perfect fellowship since before time began - into this sin-cursed world. And this Son, who was welcomed to planet earth by some humble humans and a bunch of smelly farm animals, would ultimately pay the greatest sacrifice. Listen to the heart-cry of our Lord Jesus as He faced the temporary suspension of His Father’s fellowship at the time of His crucifixion:

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, ‘Sit here while I go and pray over there.’ And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.’ He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will’” (Matthew 26:36-39).

“Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (Matthew 27:45-46).

It was for me. It was for you. That we, undeserving as we are, might experience LIFE…abundant and eternal, and all the grace-gifts that accompany it.
Shall we pause to praise Him?

“O, come let us adore Him, Christ the LORD!”

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)





Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Man's Hands, God's Plans

Think back over some events of your life that impacted you greatly, or caused a distinct turning point. Do you recall things occurring, that seemed like chance then, but as time progressed, you realize God was in the situation, orchestrating the events to accomplish a specific purpose?

"And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child" (Luke 2:1-5).

It has been supposed that this census was for the purpose of setting up a tax roll. Families were instructed to journey to their ancestral home to register. Since Joseph was “of the house and lineage of David” (see 1 Samuel 17:12), he and a very-pregnant Mary had to make the arduous trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

“So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered”
(Luke 2:6).

God took the edict of Caesar to get His chosen ones to Bethlehem, because that had been prophesied as the birthplace of the Messiah:

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times”
(Micah 5:2).

Did God place the idea for the census in the mind of Caesar Augustus (the first of the Roman emperors) to bring the couple to the chosen city? It seems likely that the Lord took the plans of man, and put His hands on them to bring His purposes to fruition.

Man’s plans, God’s hands. Our Lord is always at work, taking what may seem to be an inconsequential happenstance or a life-upside-down experience involving a friend, family member, boss, church leader, or even someone we don’t know – to propel us down the road of experiencing more of His plan for our lives. We have a choice – to let God handle the situation and direct us, or to bow up our neck against it, and maybe miss God’s best. I pray I’ll remember that God is never standing on my life’s sidelines wringing His hands. I want to learn to relax in His strong but tender grip.

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)








Sunday, December 6, 2009

Promises, Promises

A favorite television show detailed exploits of a man who would read a newspaper that supposedly was written the next day. After reading of future tragic or unfortunate “news”, the hero would manage to involve himself in the situation in such a way as to prevent the events from occurring.

Makes for good entertainment, but nobody can really tell the future, right? Wrong. God, who is eternal, not only knows the future, He orchestrates it and brings it to completion. Looking back through the classic, “A Handbook for Christian Maturity”, by Campus Crusade for Christ founder Dr. Bill Bright, I found this section:

“Jesus Christ is the subject of more than 300 Old Testament prophecies. His birth nearly 2,000 years ago and events of his life have been foretold by many individual prophets over a period of 1,500 years. History confirms that even the smallest detail came about just as predicted. It confirms beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the true Messiah, the Son of God and the Savior of the world.”

Dr. Bright goes on to list these Old Testament prophecies, along with their New Testament fulfillments:
His birth: Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18, 22, 23.
His birthplace: Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4, 6, 7.
His childhood in Egypt: Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:14, 15.
The purpose for His death: Isaiah 53: 4-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24.
His betrayal: Zechariah 11:12, 13; 13:6; Matthew 26:14-16; 27:3-10.
His crucifixion: Psalm 22; Matthew 27.
His resurrection: Psalm 16:9, 10; Acts 2:31.

Has anyone ever made you a promise and not come through? Have you made commitments you haven’t carried out? Sometimes situations prevent keeping one’s word, but usually it happens through apathy, forgetfulness, or busy-ness. People aren’t always dependable. And we learn not to fully trust others, especially when we’ve been stung.

God, however, is completely trustworthy:
“There has not failed one word of all His good promise...” 1 Kings 8:56
“He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Before Adam and Eve had left the garden, the first prophecy was pronounced (Genesis 3:15). The cry of Bethlehem’s Babe echoed the prophet’s message. The Psalmist’s foretelling resounded on the glorious resurrection morning.

What does this tell us? God is faithful; He’s fully dependable. And when the going gets rough, and I need someone (Someone) I know I can depend on, He’s definitely the one!

As we meditate on the promise fulfilled in that manger-turned-nursery, let’s thank God for His faithfulness to do what He says He will. Think of other Scriptural truths you’ve seen come to pass for you. Yes, life can be tough, but God is enough.

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Of Angels and Shepherds



This unique ornament pictured was sold at a Christian book shop where I once worked. When they surplus stock went on sale, I bought several, which have been given to missionaries I have known. If you look closely, you’ll see that the “O” encapsulates a golden world.

As I looked at it today, I began to think of the song, “The First Noel”, which reminds us of the angel’s message on the night of Jesus’ birth:

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:8-12 NKJV).

What a message to these shepherds! The angel told of “great joy which will be to all people”.

Note the word, “all”. I love the word “all” in the Bible. And I think when it is translated from the original language, it means “all”…plain and simple. No one is excluded from God’s call. Just as “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, (Romans 3:23), the Bible also teaches us that God “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). There’s that word again.

The angels hurried to find the “Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes”. On discovering Him, they couldn’t keep the news to themselves:

Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds (Luke 2:17-18).

The shepherds became the first witnesses of the Lord Jesus. Others continue this task today. One special part of this season is the opportunity to focus on the work Southern Baptist International Mission Board servants (the shepherds of our day) carry out, bringing the message to “all people” in the far reaches of the earth. Will you pray for them today, learn about their task, and give generously to support them? And whether or not we might follow in their footsteps, God is still urging us, as He did the shepherds, to “widely make known” the message that a Savior has been born!

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain.

Friday, December 4, 2009

"A Dream's Direction"

His plans for beginning a family had come crashing down on him. The woman he loved had delivered some devastating news – she was pregnant. As thoughts of what to do swirled in his anguished mind, he struggled to rest. Finally, sleep gave him some relief. As he dreamed, a startling revelation brought by a heavenly messenger altered his decision and propelled him into an incredible journey.

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins”… Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS (Matt. 1:19-21, 24-25 NKJV).

Can you imagine an angel of the Lord appearing to you with a message while you slept? When you awoke, would you have the courage to act on such? Would you second-guess your decision? After all, it was a dream.

Joseph was called “a just man”. Other translations use the word “righteous”. He walked with God, and was the very one the Lord had prepared to fulfill His promise made to Abraham 42 generations before (Matthew 1:17). Joseph knew the Scriptures, and was confident enough in God’s leading to step out in faith, shouldering the biggest responsibility of his life.

Do you have a “dream” God has placed in your heart? No, not one that happened while you slept, but one the Lord has been impressing on your very soul. Is a nagging dissatisfaction about your current Christian service causing you to dig deeper into the Word, pray more earnestly, and seek godly counsel, perhaps for a major shift in your life’s focus?

Joseph carefully – and surely, prayerfully - considered a course of action. And his first decision would have made perfect sense to his friends and family. But not to God. Joseph chose God’s way, and had the privilege of helping mold the young, tender years of our Lord Jesus. No greater challenge and adventure could be given to any man.

Will you follow Joseph’s example, as he “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him”? What challenging and thrilling adventure has God planned and presented for you to say “yes” to?

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)



Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gabriel's Visits

Roughly 400 years had passed since there had been a prophetic word from God. As Malachi closed out his final chapter, the next pages we find in our Bible were long-delayed. God seemed silent, but He was active. The stage was being set for fulfillment of Galatians 4:4-5:

“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

Luke, one of the gospel writers, details these events. In chapter one of the book bearing his name, he recounts two visits of the angel Gabriel, one to an aged priest named Zechariah, another to a young Jewish maiden named Mary. As you read these familiar accounts, consider the messages (a birth of unusual circumstances would occur) and the responses of the two hearers. First, Zechariah’s news:

"In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John…. Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time" (Luke 1:5-13; 18-20 NIV).

Next, Mary’s:

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God." "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38)

In both messages, Gabriel told his listeners: “Do not be afraid.” He shared with both that they would soon have a son, and outlined the events that would accompany the incredible births. Look at Zechariah’s response: "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." Gabriel reprimanded the priest for his unbelief, declaring would be unable to speak until the child was born.

Fast-forward six months to Mary’s encounter with the heavenly messenger. When told she would give birth to the “Son of the Most High”, she responded, "How will this be…since I am a virgin?" In this encounter, Gabriel reacted quite differently to Mary’s perplexity. I’ve often wondered, when both seem to be confused about how the unique births (according to normal human reproductive standards) could possibly take place, and were seeking answers, why Zechariah’s speech was abruptly silenced, and Mary just received a gentle explanation.

I don’t have the answer to that quandary. Perhaps it was because God expects – and requires – more of those who have walked with Him a very long time. Whatever the answer, the births took place at the appointed time, and the lives of Jesus and John were intrinsically intertwined, even from the womb (see Luke 1:39-45). John had the opportunity to be “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘“Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God (Isaiah 40:3).’”

As John sought to prepare hearts to receive the Messiah, may we likewise provide Him a similar dwelling place – a soft heart where He can make Himself fully at home. May our attitude be such as that of Mary:

“I am the Lord’s servant…may it be to me as you have said.”

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

No Room


“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7)

We’ve all seen the Christmas plays. Children clad in bathrobes try to recall their lines as they portray the precious story. Sometimes the kindly innkeeper is depicted showing the exhausted Mary and Joseph to a cozy area replete with a feeding trough full of nice, clean hay. A carefully-positioned light and strains of “Away in a Manger” make the scene look almost idyllic as Mary lovingly places her firstborn into the manger-bed.

Reality: The only Scriptural facts are presented in the above verses. How they came to the manger setting is unknown. Our imaginations are all we can use to consider the conditions of the birth. And as far as clean, soft hay…probably not. Joseph may have needed to shoo some slobbering cows away from dinner and dodge droppings to make room for the newborn Jesus.

No room in the inn…before Jesus was even born, He faced rejection.

Have you ever heard the poignant song, “No Room”? It is part of a cantata by John W. Peterson, entitled “Night of Miracles”. Here are the words:

No room, only a manager of hay. No room, He is a stranger today.
No room, here in His world turned away, no room, no room.

No room, here in the hearts of mankind. No room, no cheery welcome could find.
No room, surely the world is blind, no room, no room.

Chorus:
No room. Angels, in heaven up yonder watch with amazement and wonder
To see the Son of the Highest treated so. No room, no room, no room.
*****************************************

Today, the story is the same. Millions, even billions, have no room for the Babe of the manger who is the Savior of the world. Yet do many claiming allegiance to follow this Christ offer Him much better? At this time of year set aside to celebrate His birth, do we inadvertently become the innkeeper, “taking care of business”, (preparing for and rushing to one holiday event after another) while turning our back on the One we so desperately need to focus on? Or are we deliberately setting aside time to ponder the Scriptures, truly listen to the carols, and seek to give Jesus a gift He will cherish…a daily surrender of our lives to His gracious control?

“Are you ready for Christmas”? I’ve already heard that question this year; perhaps you have, too. I want to have the courage to respond, “What do you mean?” Then as I listen to their answer, I’ll silently pray for courage to say (and truthfully mean it), “I’m a follower of that Jesus the carols proclaim, and yes, I’m daily making my heart ready for Christmas. How about you? Are you ready for Christmas?” That question may open doors for sharing the best GIFT all. Let’s pray together to make it so.

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thankful for the Little Things

“Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us
with benefits…” Psalm 68:19a

I’m kinda slow. Sometimes I don’t notice the simple blessings God showers on me daily. Perhaps I’m too busy, or my spiritual radar is off-track. I really do want to be more thankful, so I’m going to ask God to make me cognizant of things to thank Him for – big or small.

“Small” would describe one blessing that brought a smile today. It was the size of a satsuma; actually, it was a satsuma. And not just one, but, as you see in the photo, clusters of the tempting fruit, literally dripping with sweetness.

I had stopped to join some friends for some walking exercise, and as the group readied to leave, my friend asked if I liked satsumas; someone had dropped off a large bag of them. Since I’ve been trying to eat healthier, fruits and veggies are replacing an overabundance of starchy carbs, fats and sweets on my plate. And satsumas rank up toward the top as fruity faves!

Putting them away, I thought of other simple pleasures of the day: having a nice, warm bed to arise from this morning, a clear mind to sort through the activities of the day, lunch with our senior adults at church, a heating pad to ease my aching back this afternoon, and a pair of dry socks and a cup of steamy coffee to enjoy after being in-and-out of the rain for most of the day.

Admittedly, none of these ranks up there with winning the grand prize in a contest you’d forgotten you’d entered, but they are things for which we can – and should - thank and praise God. Can’t you imagine Him smiling when He sees our pleasure in such small favors? He delights in arranging them and presenting them to us. And it’s all because He loves us so!

Maybe my “thanksgiving” should turn into “thanks-living”…copying God’s loving nature by sharing things with others, just as my friend did with me. God, the great example-giver, patterns the way. I’ve but to take up the mantle and follow.

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Ends of Our Noses

What do you see when you walk out of your church doors? What’s across the street? Next door? Around the block?

I recall Dr. Jim Futral, president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board telling our state Baptist paper’s readers that their witness was to reach from the ends of their noses to the ends of the earth.

So what is at the end of our nose? Whatever it is, we may need to look no further for the starting point to reaching our world - our “Jerusalem” hometown - according to Acts 1:8. One local church campus is right across from a city school and a sprawling apartment complex. My home church is across from City Hall and on the corner of the downtown area. Within less than two blocks are retirement communities, the city’s Senior Center and other dwellings. Many congregations are neighbors to hospitals, nursing centers, shopping areas, and housing communities from mobile home parks to expansive subdivisions. God has a vision and a mission for each.

As you seek to obey God’s call to “look on the fields” (John 4:35), will you ask Him to let you see (with spiritual eyes) beyond the physical structures of your surroundings? As you go to worship services or Bible studies, consider taking some time to prayerwalk through the nearby communities and businesses, asking for God’s direction on ministering to those who live or work there. Invite a fellow member to go with you. Do it regularly. Greet people you meet, tell them what you are doing, and ask how you can pray for them. You may step right into a divine appointment the Lord has orchestrated to bring a seeking heart to Him!

You’ll never know unless you “follow your nose”.

Best wishes from Benreading:)



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Buildings and Lives Renovated Here

Catching the fall colors in and around North Carolina’s LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center was just one benefit of my recent volunteer stay. In addition to making new friends and enjoying precious fellowship, I served numerous groups and individual families at the expansive campus. Schedules and themes varied, of course, but presumably, all came with a goal of becoming more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 12:1-2).

Huge scaffolding reached skyward in front of the venerable Pritchell Hall. Months ago, a huge section of roof fell to the ground with a thundering noise. Although the collapse occurred during a busy check-in period, no one was hurt (but that’s another story)!
This renovation began before I came and was completed a day or two before my departure; quite a huge and costly undertaking. One day, while leaving the Rhododendron dining room, I came across two volunteers giving a coat of powder-blue paint to the dull gray walls of a large conference room. Probably this chore didn’t take more than a day or two. As I walked back to the volunteer lodging area, I passed through the lovely Mountain Laurel hotel. The east section was built several years ago; and the west, more recently. To make these gracious accommodations possible, older, run-down buildings had to be demolished and the rubble removed.

A fresh paint job, a sizeable repair project, a totally-new construction. These were building projects, but the same applies to the lives of guests who venture onto the grounds many call “God’s country”. Yes, it seems to be a hallowed place where God does some of His finest work. Some who come need only a light touch, others need a bit more (or a lot more) renovation, and there are those who need a brand-new beginning.
Thankfully, God has a promise for all who are His children, or who will become such during a stay at Ridgecrest:

“… [H]e who began a good work in you will carry it on
to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 1:6 NIV)

No matter how much renovation and rebuilding is needed, I pray each who encounters the Master builder will cooperate with His plans, as His “blueprints” are always perfect.

… lefthandrightbrain.




Monday, August 31, 2009

"Tell Me Again What You Can't Do!"

(Going through some old files, I came across this article I wrote years ago about a truly incredible servant of God. He didn’t do anything that’d make him a household name, but when he stands before his Lord, he’ll surely hear the gentle words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Prepare to have your heart warmed as you read on.)

Tell Me Again What You Can’t Do!

At the age of 82, Boyce Crown was quite a bit older than most of the other summer staffers at the huge Christian conference center where I volunteered last summer. As I watched him cheerfully go about his work, keeping his area of the cafeteria stocked and cleaned, I couldn’t help but notice his love of life as he enjoyed the camaraderie of guests and co-workers.

What made his joyful manner so amazing was that Boyce was severely handicapped, or so most people would say. I noticed that one of his eyes was just a narrow slit, and he seemed to be visually impaired. One leg was completely useless, being permanently bent backwards at a forty-five degree angle, and he used a crutch under his arm to get around on his other leg. He worked with his free hand, but could also manage to use both hands by gripping the crutch under his armpit. It seemed like there was nothing he couldn’t do! He swept up bits of cereal and empty sugar packets, refilled baskets of condiments, restocked the milk coolers, and cleaned the glass exit doors. He was always on the lookout to see how he could make the conferees’ stay more pleasant. All this with one leg, one crutch, and a gentle, happy demeanor that brightened the day of all he encountered.

After watching him for several days, I asked for a time to meet with him to hear his story. In his humble manner, he consented, but really didn’t feel he had anything “all that special” to offer me. I knew different, though, and was determined to get his background down on paper. We met during his lunch break, and with absolutely no sign of bitterness, he unfolded the events of his difficult, but rewarding, life.

At age two-and-a-half, he and his brothers were playing in a broom-sage field, and the older boys set the field on fire. Boyce got caught in the fire, and was severely burned and blinded in one eye. Since this was before the days of modern medicine, there wasn’t much that could be done for him. The doctor advised his parents to let him stay in whatever position would bring him any comfort, probably not expecting him to live. As he was bedridden for an extended period of time in a position with his leg bent at an angle, his skin healed and he could not straighten his leg. Later, others in the medical field suggested amputation for his leg, but he declined, as he had learned to adjust quite well.

Upon graduation from high school in 1942, he went to work with a furniture manufacturing company, and worked there for twenty-seven years. After another company bought them out, he worked for the new owners for five more years. Transferring to a job with Ethan Allen, Boyce began as a sander, and worked up to a management position. Retiring in 1985, he worked with a cousin in the service station and used car business. At the time of my interview, he had been at the conference center for six years. He and his wife have three daughters and five grandchildren.

I asked Boyce how long he had been a Christian. He cocked his head and chuckled as he answered, “I was saved when I was thirty-four years old, and I asked the Lord to let me live to serve Him as long as I had served the devil. I sure had that prayer answered!”

The two weeks I spent as a volunteer afforded me the opportunity to get to know some fascinating people, and the inspiration of Boyce’s life made the experience all the more rewarding. I plan to be back at the conference center this summer as a conferee, and I sure hope to see Boyce there, serving up daily doses of joy and kindness, along with the orange juice and coffee!


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Half-empty/Half-full?

Look at that partially-filled glass on the table. Is it half-empty or half-full? Do you look at such glasses through “rose-colored glasses”? Is your nickname “Polyanna”? Or do the corners of your mouth seem to say, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” (like the little miss at left)?

I'm definitely a half-full type person, and try to "cast vision" for others to join me. It’s frustrating to me, in Christian circles, when discouragement-mongers grouse about "how bad things are these days", as they remember the past. They expect God's judgement (and it would surely be well-deserved) to fall at any minute. I always rush in to remind them of a way God is work. Recently I shared about the 25,000 youth and adults involved in this summer's World Changers programs.

Some people enjoy being downers, and their poisonous attitudes are easily "caught". I wonder if those with a pessimistic slant are actually putting up a protective shield. Perhaps they’ve been deeply-hurt in the past when dealt a hand of cards extremely difficult to play. Things were bad - very bad - when they expected them to be very good. So their rationale is to expect unpleasant results, and if that happens, then they aren’t discouraged. Better than expecting tremendous results and have your hopes dashed, right?

Wrong…oh, so wrong. Sometimes, we fulfill our own destiny by our attitudes. By deciding to look at things positively, we can often bring hopes and dreams to positive fruition by our mindset, prayer and dogged determination. Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” Seems Paul is saying, “Brothers and sisters, focus on the good. And use me as an example. Then God’s peace will rule your heart.”

Yes, things look bad at most every turn. But we are to be salt and light to this desperately-needy world. And whom would you rather have influence you – one breathing out discontented sighs as they recount their problems, or one who has had their attitude adjusted by the God of grace, and is always ready with an encouraging word? Which is more honoring to the Lord, who "daily loads us with benefits" (Psalm 68:19)?

Paul was a good role-model. Over and over in the epistles, his thankful and indomitable spirit shines through. Christians over the centuries have been strengthened by his Spirit-inspired words. And what about Jesus? In him, we see the correct blend of realism/optimism when he said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33)."

Yes, the glass is half-full. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get some iced tea!

(If you like my blogs, please share them with a friend. Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain)


Friday, June 26, 2009

The Dog Stick

Our subdivision is mostly level, with a few gentle hills here and there. This usually makes for a nice, leisurely bike ride. However, there are times when a neighborhood dog is running loose, and he decides to give chase! For that reason, I carry a sturdy branch that I call my “dog stick”. I can wave this threateningly in the face of an oncoming canine. Upon seeing the stick, the dog backs off and just barks, instead of charging.

When I cozy into my favorite spot to have my quiet time with the Lord, I try to remember to grab my “dog stick”. Strangely enough, it looks a lot like a pencil. Oh, it is a pencil! Satan, the “dog” that he is, seeks to distract me with reminders from my “to-do” list, people to call, or unresolved issues from previous days. He wants, by whatever means possible, to deter me from gaining necessary spiritual strength, wisdom and encouragement. His attacks are relentless; if one method doesn’t work, he’ll try another! That’s when I raise my “dog stick”. With paper and pencil in hand, I can quickly jot down those diversions that come to mind, so that they can be put aside to deal with later. Sometimes, of course, these thoughts form the basis of needed intercession, but I still write them down. This helps keep my mind from wandering and helps me focus, instead of becoming frustrated and giving up.

Paul warned the Corinthian believers to beware of Satan’s desire to “outwit us” (2 Corinthians 2:11), “For we are not unaware of his schemes”. We must continually be on the alert for these “schemes”. Peter writes these words of warning: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). One of the deceiver’s most effective schemes is to distract us from praying, but we can keep him at bay with our own “dog stick”!

Related scriptures: 1 Peter 5:6-10, Mark 14:32-38, James 4:7-10, Ephesians 6:10-20,
2 Corinthians 10:3-5








Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How Do You Spell "Love"?

How do you spell “love”? This doesn’t come across well on the printed page, does it? And is it a trick question, or what? Well, you may have heard the answer I’m looking for, and I’ve certainly seen it fleshed-out this past week. How do you spell “love”? How about T-I-M-E?

I encountered a man with a sharp knife a week ago today and he sliced about a 10-inch gash in me. And several “partners-in-crime” stood by, supporting his actions. Thankfully, he made sure I was unconscious before he laid open my leg and hip joint. Yes, Dr. Drake replaced my damaged hip with a new one, and now I’m one the road to recovery, which I pray will be uneventful. (Did I have you going there for a minute?)

Such events give friends and family an opportunity to demonstrate their compassion as well as God’s love. The gracious acts began days before when I received a lovely card; the sender wanted me to know she was praying for a successful outcome. Calls came in to check on the time. The morning of the operation, as I lay swaddled in the sterile hospital whites waiting for the procedure’s beginning, chaplain Bob Storie, a long-time friend and perfect picture of God’s gentleness and humility, stopped in to pray with my husband and me. During the surgery, friends and family helped while away the hours.

During my four-day hospital stay, many brought gifts, words of encouragement, lively conversation and prayers. Two or three visitors assured me meals would begin arriving at our home in the days to come. Now that I’m home, we’ve enjoyed entrees, veggies, cornbread, homemade soup, and luscious desserts. Friends have stopped by and cards have arrived in the mail.

So “love” can be spelled “T-I-M-E”; all these actions required the doers to put aside things they could have been doing for themselves and invest time (and money) in helping smooth the road to recovery.

Lord, thank you for these selfless acts my friends and family have showered upon me. In future days, if I don’t take advantage of service opportunities you’ve planned for me, please give my memory a gentle nudge.

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:10-13)

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Joy in the Jailhouse

(I am recuperating from surgery, and can't sit long, so I'm offering some of my devos from the past. Hope this fave helps you face trials with expectation and faith! This was part of a submission package that led to my being accepted as a writer for WMU's Missions Mosaic magazine several years ago.)

The cell was cold and damp, which made the shackles binding their feet much more intolerable. Their lacerated backs screamed with pain from the beating they had endured. Paul and Silas could have complained to God for allowing such revolting consequences as a result of their obedience to his leading (Acts 16:9-10). Instead, they remained confident that God had led them to this very place:

“About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25

There was another who surely listened as they sang the first century version of “Amazing Grace”. As a mighty earthquake shook the prison, the doors flew open, and all the prisoners’ chains were loosed. The jailer was about to kill himself, thinking his charges had probably escaped. But as Paul shouted “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” the shackler had his sin shackles removed as he fell trembling before the two, asking, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (verse 30).

This joyous midnight worship service led the jailer to Jesus, causing him to be “filled with joy because he had come to believe in God - he and his whole family” (verse 34).

Lord, in your word, you said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Thank you that we can experience your joy, regardless of our circumstances. May the way your joy shines through us in the midst of difficulties glorify you, and point others to your salvation!

For further study: 1 Thessalonians 5:16, Philippians 4:4-7, Acts 5:25-41, Romans 12:9-14,
Psalm 16:11











Monday, June 15, 2009

Still Waters

(This article was written a few years ago, but I am preparing to experience its timeless truths again. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to encounter a man with a sharp knife, who is going to give me a new hip to replace the damaged one. This involves at least a 4-day hospital stay, followed by a few weeks of rehabilitation at home. I'm looking forward to the promised soul-restoration.)

I wouldn’t exactly call my sofa a verdant field, but this week, God is “[making] me to lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2). Again, I have ignored my body’s need for adequate rest, and have run headlong into a cluster of germs stronger than my resolve to be Superwoman.

As my codiene-laced cough syrup and a powerful antibiotic combine with my weakened physical state, I have resigned myself to spending time on the couch, cuddled up with a favorite quilt and a box of tissues. In times past, I would have begrudged such periods of relative inactivity. However, I now realize these “down-time” days are God-ordained, and can provide unique spiritual benefits. Seeing that the world continues to function without my help frees me to relax, while the Lord, who is my Shepherd, “leads me beside the still waters” (verse 2).

Maybe God is leading you “beside the still waters” through circumstances beyond your control. A job loss, a physical ailment, the ending of a relationship…all these frustrating and painful adversities can cause you to feel you’ve been placed on the sidelines. My friend, don’t rebel against these opportunities. Instead, see them as God calling you aside for time alone with him, that he may strengthen you, mold you, and possibly redirect you. Don’t shun the Shepherd’s tender care; the end results will be worth the trial and the teaching. You will then be able to agree with the psalmist who confidently proclaims:

“He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
Psalm 23:3

Related scriptures: Psalm 23, 1 Kings 19:1-12, Mark 6:30-32, Psalm 116:1-9, Isaiah 40:27:31


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Spell Check

The following is the imaginary result of a young student’s “homework assignment”:

I want too tale you a story that hap end two me knot long ago. My teacher inn school saw that mini of here pew pills where making lost of miss steaks in spelling. Sew she axed me if I wood mined doing a pay per a bout it. I toad her I wood use my compute her soft wear too check my spelling. The spiel check soft wear is reel grate! I could right a lawn grope of sentences an thin I’d lock to sea how good I deed. Aft or I come pleated this story, I was reel sir prized! I deed knot mist spell a signal word I rote down. Am I and in tell agent per son or note?

We can laugh at this "story" because it's full of misspelled words, contextually speaking. But my computer spell check didn’t notify me of any errors! What can be true in the realm of grammar and syntax can apply to the spiritual realm as well.

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9

Sometimes, even as believers, we try to make decisions based on “the wisdom of this world” (1 Corinthians 1:20). Writers make use of their computer spell check program because it makes good sense, but as we see, it isn’t always a reliable guide. So how can we be sure to discern God’s “ways” and his “thoughts”, as shown in the above verses? By seeking the Lord and his wisdom, by comparing worldly advice to scriptural truth, and by praying about everything, we can experience God's leading in our decision-making.

Related scriptures: Proverbs 3:5-6, James 1:5, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, Colossians 2:8-10,
Philippians 4:6-9



Saturday, June 13, 2009

Keeping Our City Beautiful

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, [Dorcas] who was always doing good and helping the poor.” Acts 9:36

A few miles of country road gave way to the thriving, growing city of Vancleave. Shops and businesses seem to be opening weekly as families flood to settle and build homes in this formerly rural community. As I entered the city, headed to a writing assignment, I passed a sign that read, “Keep Vancleave Beautiful”. The creator of that sign probably wasn’t thinking of spiritual “beauty”, but a few Scriptures came to mind concerning ways believers in Vancleave could keep their city “beautiful”:

“O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness…” Psalm 96:9
“…How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15

When Peter was writing to husbands and wives concerning how to treat each other, he encouraged the wives to let their beauty “not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4).

Think about it! If each of us exhibited God’s kind of beauty through worship, witness and a well-ordered home life, what a mighty impact we would have on our communities! So let’s stop trying to make ourselves look good by new clothes or fancy skin care products, and invite the Lord make us attractive - his way!

Father, I pray for the willingness and enabling to “beautify” my community as I interact with others. Through daily activities and encounters, may I be so used of you, that others will see your life and love exhibited in my life.

Related scriptures: Acts 4:13, Acts 9:36-42, Philippians 2:1-7, James 1:19-27, 2 Peter 1:2-8


Friday, June 5, 2009

Friends

Trees often inspire me to grab my camera. From bare branches reaching skyward, to burnished fall colors shouting out God’s glory for the world to see (Psalm 19:1), I am often awe-stuck with their beauty and majesty. Being fascinated by the trees’ bark, I snapped this shot at a Florida roadside park some time ago.

The photo also reminds me of friendship: two friends, side-by-side, facing the world together. I’ve heard it said that a person with two or more close friends should consider himself incredibly blessed. The Bible speaks of a unique friendship that you and I can have with one who knows us more intimately – and accepts us more unconditionally – than any other friend, no matter how dear.

“…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs. 18:24)

This “friend”, intimated in the Old Testament, but clearly revealed in the Gospels and beyond, is none other than Jesus Christ. In his brief three-year public ministry, he invited twelve men to get to know him through day-to-day interaction. And among these twelve disciples, a cursory study of the first four books of the New Testament shows an “inner circle” of Peter, James and John.

Friendship was important to Jesus. And he invites you and me to be part of his list of friends:

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)

When the time drew near for Jesus to rejoin his Father in the throne-room of Heaven, he shared this message with his (at-the-time) confused followers:

"If you love me, show it by doing what I've told you. I will talk to the Father, and he'll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can't take him in because it doesn't have eyes to see him, doesn't know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you,
and will even be in you! (John 14:16, The Message)

Jesus was a flesh-and-blood man who got tired and hungry, endured insect bites and enjoyed a beautiful sunset, and felt a range of emotion, from anger to sadness. Surely he relished a back-slapping laugh as well as a hearty hug of a loved-one. However, the physically-present Christ would soon be seen no more by his disciples, and in his place would be the Holy Spirit. In ways past our finite mind to fully comprehend, Jesus had been with them, and now would be in them. Forever.

“Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews. 13:5)

We have friends, some who know us fairly-intimately. But none have ever been able to live inside us, to fully feel what we feel, whether it be joy or anguish. Only Jesus, through the Holy Spirit (also called Comforter, Counselor, and Friend, among other names) can fulfill that role. And he did so much more; he was willing to die for us:

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends." (John 15:13)

Stories have been told of friends and family who were willing to die for their relative or comrade. Jesus, however, exceeded this. He willingly gave his life for his enemies, as we all are before coming to him.

Consider what the friendship of Jesus means to you, and offer thanks to him. And if you haven’t already claimed him as friend – and as Lord – would you do so today?

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)







Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Heart's Desire

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Well, here it is…the desire of my heart! It isn’t a luxury motorhome, but I’m not looking for such. I really would like a small model of bed-and-breakfast (and bath!) on wheels to get around the country, for vacation and ministry trips, or to lend to friends for a much-needed sabbatical.

You’ll notice the “For Sale” sign on the window. If it would have said, “For Ann”, I probably would have bought it on the spot, as it is the closest thing I’ve seen to “just what I wanted”! (My kids ask what I want for a birthday or Christmas gift, and I keep telling them, but so far, one of these hasn’t appeared in my stocking.)

Well, if a person wants to claim Bible promises, Psalm 37:4 would be high on the list. Hmmm… I feel like I am delighting myself in the LORD, but I haven’t seen automatic transmission-equipped "desires of [my] heart show up yet. I’m sometimes a good persuader – I’ve tried to “cast vision” to my husband of why this would be a good thing to have, but he isn’t buying it, literally or figuratively. So, as the obedient wife that I am, I haven’t gone against his wishes, although I have pouted a bit.

So what to do with Psalm 37:4? Could the verse mean that if we find our delight in doing God’s will, that he will give us (place within us) the desires he wants for us? Or is it just as it says, and my motorhome (that I am desiring with the absolute purest of motives) and the right time frame just haven’t yet coincided? Or maybe I just think I want one, and after I got it, I’d wonder “What was I thinking?!?” Hard to say (aside from being pretty sure the first answer is probably closest to the Scripture’s intent), so guess I’ll just wait on the LORD to see what transpires.

“The LORD favors those who fear Him, Those who wait for His lovingkindness.
Psalm 147:11

And His lovingkindness is better than a motorhome, anyway and any day. But I’m still open to the mini-home-on-wheels possibility, though!

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)






Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Pay It Forward"

A devotional in Radio Bible Class’ Our Daily Bread (www.rbc.org/odb) was entitled “Pay it Forward”, based on the movie by the same title. Trevor, a 12-year-old boy, wanting to make the world a better place, began with himself and a good deed.

The Scripture chosen for the devotional was John 13:3-15, the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. Imagine, the Lord of the universe humbling Himself by engaging in the lowly task reserved for servants! Surely a collective gasp and a hush fell upon these gathered in the upper room, as the Lord knelt before each man to grasp his filthy feet.

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:15)

A lesson was to be learned, and it was about more than foot-washing. Although some take the above verse literally and engage in the practice today, the “example” Jesus was referring to was that of servanthood, not applying a wet towel to dusty toes. As today’s disciples, we must seek – and accept – opportunities to show the spirit of Jesus’ act; to meet the needs of those God places in our paths. Dirty feet needed to be tended to in New Testament days; we can render other acts of service in today’s world.

Let me get back to “Pay It Forward”…years ago, after our community suffered Hurricane Katrina’s wrath, volunteer groups from across the U.S. came to our aid. In addition to Minnesota, Georgia graced us with the most volunteers. Folks from First Baptist Church of Woodstock had come for a particular week, and I met them over a meal at our church. My daughter, Lee, who lives about an hour from Woodstock, had become a single parent, and we had a spare mattress set we wanted to get to her. These servant-hearted fellow believers (see photo) came by our house, picked up the bedding and transported it to their church, where one of Lee’s friends picked it up and brought it to her.

Fast-forward a few years. Last week, Lee was planning a trip to the Mississippi coast, and a friend-of-a-friend had something she needed to get down here. My daughter was able to meet the woman and receive the item - a hand-crafted case to hold the flag used at my friend’s husband’s funeral. She is waiting excitedly to receive the special gift. Lee had the opportunity - and pleasure – of paying it forward.

“…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:28)

Lord, may I not be so busy or inflexible that I miss the joy of following your example of servanthood when you provide the opportunity. Remind me of Your abundant blessings, and let me pay it forward!

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)




Monday, June 1, 2009

God's Enduring Love


As I was leafing through my Bible today, Psalm 136 caught my eye, due to the way it is formatted on the page. The reason for the unusual format is that each line ends with the same words, “His love endures forever.”

Take a few moments to read the psalm, looking for evidences of God’s love. You’ll notice his creative power, his mighty arm of deliverance, and his abundant blessings. As I meditated on these truths, I began to think of portrayals of God’s love today. I decided to write my own “Psalm 136”; highlighting just a few of the ways I’ve seen God’s love evidenced in my life:

He has given me his salvation,
His love endures forever.
He meets my every need in abundant measure,
His love endures forever.
He guides me in unexpected ways, to show me his plan.
His love endures forever.
He has gifted me with a loving husband, a precious family and treasured friends,
His love endures forever.
He has allowed me to live where I have freedom of worship,
His love endures forever.
He has provided his word to exhort, instruct, and encourage,
His love endures forever.
He is with me continually, even if when I don’t seek his fellowship,
His love endures forever.
He has redeemed my children, and they are committed to following him,
His love endures forever.
He gives me grace and confidence to accept the trials he allows to come my way.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
His love endures forever.

Like these rained-drenched roses shown in the photo, many things may appear lovely, but their beauty is short-lived. Praise the Lord for His everlasting (and every-so-daily) love! Why not try writing your own “Psalm 136”? You may want to place a copy of your version where you can read it often, as a constant reminder of your Father’s abundant love. And share your psalm of praise with others, so they can rejoice with you…perhaps they’ll write their own!

Related scriptures: Psalm 100, 2 Corinthians 9:6-14, Genesis 1, 2 Chronicles 20:20-22,
1 Chronicles 16:23-36
Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)




Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hands and Hearts

In these days of e-mail and text
messaging, isn't it nice to get a
card in the mail? And it's even more special if it happens to be one that is hand-crafted!

This evening, about 60 of our church members (of a variety of ages) showed up to begin "Summer Nights of Service", a multi-facted outreach to show God's love to the community. We cleaned trash from the beach, surveyed neighborhoods, prayerwalked some of the area school campuses, handed out bottled water to those getting exercise by walking our local bridge, and made cards. Some of the cards will be sent to those who shared prayer needs during a previous survey. We are calling our card-making ministry "Hands and Hearts", and as we make and write cards, we pray for the needs of each person, and include a note to let them know of our prayers.

It was great to see folks from ages four to 70-plus engaging in ministry. And our staff coordinator (for the card-making) assured us that we had just as vital a part in outreach as those who went out on the streets of our town.

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us", says Romans 12:6. Along with this chapter, we find a listing of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. These lists are probably not all-inclusive. Obviously, beach clean-up or card-making aren't on any of the scriptural lists, but those of service (Rom. 12:7) and encouragement (Rom. 12:8) are.

Some think of spiritual giftedness as being demonstrated in one who can deliver a great sermon, or is effective at leading others to Christ, and rightly so. However, a careful study of these Scriptures show many ways to effectively serve Christ, and facilitate spiritual birth and growth. And a good way to discover new areas of giftedness is to take advantage of opportunities such as these. It's also an effective way to introduce our children to serving the Lord by serving others.

Maybe it's time to step out of that comfort zone, and into a new, fruitful area of service; what adventure will you try?

best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)