Archive | March, 2017

What Choices Do We Have?

20 Mar

So much in life is beyond our control and choice. Flood, fire, earthquake, tornado, hurricane—each powerful and demanding. We’re forced to kneel before Nature’s fury. Other situations may trap us and deny our power to choose.

Consider other people’s choices. Children have no choice regarding frequent moves due to a parent’s occupation or military service. Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse rob many of dignity and hope. Thieves “choose” precious possessions in the dead of night and hijack our treasured security. A spouse decides he/she no longer wants to remain married consequently jeopardizing our financial and relational world. Someone drives drunk on the Interstate, creating orphans and heartbreak.

Another category:  choices we make but can’t choose resulting consequences. We abuse our sedentary bodies with food, alcohol, and tobacco despite the doctor’s warning. We now face hospitalization, perhaps long term care. We practice shopping therapy—clothes hang in our closets still wearing price tags, a “keeping-up-appearances car” fills the garage. Yet we’re helpless to control a plunging credit score and high interest credit card bills. We take our spouse for granted refusing support, affection, and attention. Unfortunately, we can’t control the response of “too little, too late” and the divorce that follows.

At these times, life seems to offer no alternatives, no choices.

Don’t despair. We were created to choose. The first thing God did was to give mankind work and a choice (Genesis 2:15–18). He designed humanity with the ability to choose between good and evil.

Choosing God brings life.

Deuteronomy 30:19 Today I ask heaven and earth to be witnesses. I am offering you life or death, blessings or curses. Now, choose life! Then you and your children may live (NCV).

There are several kinds of death other than physical. We can experience mental, spiritual, emotional, and/or intellectual death.

When other people’s choices threaten to destroy us, we can choose bitterness and anger, resentment and revenge. We can ask “why me” and wonder “if only.”

Or we can choose life and trust .

Romans 8:28a We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love Him (NCV).God

This isn’t a promise for everyone; it’s only for those who love and trust God. With His help we can rebuild after a disaster. We can choose to exercise, eat healthy, and give up harmful habits. We can decide to get counseling rather than rely on shopping therapy. We can learn to communicate and cherish loved ones even if we can’t undo past mistakes. We can trust God to bring justice in His time and His way, even if we don’t see it (Romans 12:19).

Most of all, we can choose to forgive—forgive others and ourselves. When we pray the prayer Jesus taught, we say, “Forgive us our debt as we forgive our debtors.” That may be the secret to living fully—continual confession and continual forgiveness, accepting and offering the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ. Let’s choose wisely, friend.

A Living Sacrifice

11 Mar

After a massive stroke, Dad’s right side remained paralyzed and he was incapable of speaking more than a few words. Gone were the days when he played his guitar with such joy and beauty. (He took lessons until he turned eighty-one.) During the three and a half years he remained in a nursing home, Fuzzy Davis maintained his smile and courageous attitude. With great effort, he used the hall rail to navigate his wheelchair, pausing regularly to wave a wordless greeting to everyone he met.

Our family kept a spiral notebook in his room where we recorded visits, his care, and any bits of encouragement regarding his condition. One day we found two pages overflowing with beautiful words and signed by his Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA). Here is a short summary of what we found.

We love Fuzzy so much. He’s always kind and willing to do whatever we ask of him. He never fights us or tries to hurt us. He is such an inspiration and he has blessed our lives. We are grateful for the opportunity to care for him. We all love him. (Signed by the staff.)

 Dad’s last years taught us what quality of life really means. Trapped in a body that no longer responded to his will, Papa still brightened other’s lives. He got me laughing when he was first to decipher the phrase on Wheel of Fortune. He encouraged the chaplain as he nodded his head in agreement with the message and wept during the hymns. He responded graciously to care offered by the CNAs.

Some claim death is better than being confined to a wheelchair and/or bed for years. However, a simple spiral notebook confirmed Fuzzy’s life still had meaning and purpose. His spirit outshone his defective body.

Our deteriorating tent also reminds us that our true home is heaven; we’re just passing through. When Papa completed his ministry, Jesus called him home to total healing and unending joy.

 “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20–21 NIV).

 Our bodies, regardless of their age or vitality, play a crucial role in our spiritual growth and transformation.

 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1–2a NIV).

 As we prepare our hearts for Resurrection Sunday, let’s offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God and in loving service to others.

Making Room for the Best

4 Mar

Last Wednesday signaled a beginning and an end. Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, a 40 day period of preparation for Easter. It also provides an opportunity to end self-centeredness. The word Lent stems from an Anglo-Saxon word for spring. Perhaps we could think of it as spring-cleaning for the soul. The 40 days relate to Jesus Christ’s wilderness temptation (Matthew 4:1–2). Forty days to help us focus on Christ’s sacrifice and help transform us into His image.

For me it’s like a fresh start, getting rid of the adequate to make room for the best. How can I cooperate and collaborate with God as I prepare my heart for Resurrection Sunday?

Lent begins with repentance, a change of mind and attitude as we acknowledge our wrongdoing. We turn from sin and turn to God. Many churches place ashes on the forehead as a symbol of that repentance. Repentance is part of our spiritual spring-cleaning. What has to go? What should we keep? What should we add?

A month ago I started the process of discarding. I gave away 130+ books taken from my living room shelves, a difficult process because I love the written word. I haven’t even started on the books in my office and other nooks and crannies. I’m motivated by a desire for simplicity and to “Just Be, Just Do” (found here). It’s so easy to slip into our default mode of accomplishment and speed, of working in our own strength. That need to depend on God led me to wrestle with the following questions.

What takes my time, energy, and affection (possibly a good thing), but has become a substitute for God’s best?  What am I willing to give up, do without, or discontinue that hinders new life in others or in me?  What should I continue or add that will serve others and further God’s Kingdom?

Are there questions you need to ask? “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me (Psalm 139:23-24). Dig deep, but don’t be surprised if the answers aren’t monumental. Sometimes small things make the biggest difference.

Finally, my devotional reading (A Year with God—Day 60 by R. Foster & J. Roller) led me to Second Timothy 3:10. “Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness” (NRSV). I accepted Foster’s admonition to “be cautious and humble about what we may be teaching with our words and deeds. Teaching is so much easier than learning. It is also more dangerous.”

So here I sit at my computer, attempting to share my heart and this 40-day journey. I’ve given up sugar for my health and Spider Solitaire for more time. I’m continuing to discard things and adding order in my days. I’m reaping time for writing this blog and one-on-one relationships. Small but difficult changes with joyful outcomes.