Sunday, June 28, 2009


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


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 ( 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:)