Friday, March 29, 2013

Look Who's Got a New Life!

It's Twist!  Now his name is Ollie, but he's here for a visit while his new owner is on a trip. 
At six months, he is happily settling into his new home, and doing typical kitten things like pouncing on his owner unexpectedly and shredding the plants.  But he's also cuddling, purring, and playing with every toy he can find.

Things weren't too promising for this orphaned cat.  Dumped off, unwanted, he couldn't stay here and no one else would take him.  Then he was rescued and he's blossomed from the dirty and hungry waif he was.

Today is Good Friday, a day that Jesus took on a huge punishment in order that every filthy orphan living apart from God's favor due to sin will find atonement in his sacrifice.

It is a day to remember our new lives!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Cheerful Giver

Franklin is the most friendly cat I've met.  While he's a bit skittish when new people come over, that is mainly because Tilly barks and behaves like an idiot.  When things settle down, Frank appears and happily stares at the new comers until he gets attention.
He's also a good friend to Captain, who none of the other cats like.  In short, Frank is a cheerful giver of love.

It's hard to part with money.  It's harder still to part with our love.  Often, we'd rather write out a check than spend time with someone who needs help.  They may be in tough financial circumstances, but mostly they need someone to care.

Why does the Bible say God loves a cheerful giver?  What does this mean?  Perhaps it means that by giving with a smile on our face, we acknowledge that God has given us all love and all our resources.  He only asks us to spread it around a little. 

Yet somehow, it's just not that easy.

Is it easier for you to give time or money?  Neither?  What about giving a good attitude to your day, your coworkers, your family?

Monday, March 25, 2013

When Dogs Attack (the trash)

Yesterday morning when I came home from church, there was trash all over the floor in the kitchen.  Specifically, it was trash from my take-out meal the night before, which was a full rack of ribs (don't judge me, heehee).  This was odd since there is a baby lock on the door that holds the trash.  Yet Tilly found a way to move it juuuuust enough to get in and extract her prize.
Of course I was upset she broke into the trash and made a mess.  Of course I was upset that she was possibly setting me up for an emergency vet visit.  Of course I was upset that she woke me up twice to make necessary trips outside in the middle of the (snowy) night.

Mostly though, I was upset that she reminded me of, well, me.  Despite all the knowledge and intellect, I still do things I should not do (like eat the whole rack of ribs, minus the bones).  Yet I plow through the barriers and keep on going. Self-control and impulse control have been particularly difficult for me lately.  Perhaps it is the long winter.  Perhaps it is just me and my nature.  Maybe it's yours too.

It's frustrating when I feel helpless and discouraged.  Instead of strengthening my resolve to do better, instead I cave and tend to make more of a mess of things.  Eventually, I remember that I am powerless so often to do what is good and right.  The only way I can avail myself of any discipline is to call upon the name of the Lord.  As odd as it may seem, his indwelling Holy Spirit enables me to do what I can not do in my own human power when it is within his will for it to be done.  Whether it is a matter of avoiding the chocolate peanut butter snack or offering hope to a hopeless person, I need to seek the strength of the Almighty God.

Friday, March 22, 2013

No Small Thing

Despite the frozen pond on the first day of Spring, the squirrels have been busy unearthing everything they buried in the Fall.  Not far from here, there is an infamous yet unofficial squirrel crossing across a busy road.  Sadly, there are many flattened animals along that stretch.  It is gruesome, but I remind myself that God carries about the sparrows, so he probably cares about squirrels too, along with all of his creation.

Yesterday I heard the retelling of a story.  A woman asks her pastor if it's wrong for her to pray about the little things in her life.  The pastor asked her something to the effect of "In God's economy is there any little thing?"

I love that!  Isn't it just so true?  EVERYTHING is easy for God.  It is only in our human mind's that we perceive small matters like new rainboots or parking spaces as small matters and world peace and political stability as difficult (or impossible).

God's power is immense.  It is no small thing that we worship a God who is often described as All Powerful, yet deep in patience and love.  Now that should help you sleep better at night.
What's worrying you today?  When you hold it up to God's power, is it really so difficult?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Everyone Knows It's Spring

Except nature.

There's snow blowing around and ice on the pond.  The low temperatures tonight are expected to be 15-20 - and that's without a windchill.

Despite the ice we had Monday and the strong winds of yesterday, guess what Tilly did:

It was a good lesson for me.  With so many of us harboring serious bad feelings about the weather, Tilly reminded me that you can still have fun.  Whenever she sees that silly ball, her ears perk up and she tackles it with great delight, then stares me down until I kick or throw it.  In other words, Tilly lives abover her circumstances.  So what if the ball was coated in a light casing of ice, "let's play" is still her attitude.

Our lives go through periods of great joy and deep sorrow.  Mostly, our lives are on a path that can be tedious and uneventful.  Yet the only time we seek God with great earnest, disappointment, or even anger is when we're going through the tough stuff.  Maybe we remember to throw a prayer up now and then, a casual, check-it-off-my-list prayer. 

The Lord desires us to come to him with exhuberance and delight - to approach every day living with a "let's play" attitude.  What amazing creation in this world does God want to share with us? 

Today, find a way to thank God for something, no matter how inconsequential it seems.  Let that shape your attitude as you go through your day.  Even in the mundane, grey, cloudy, how-can-this-be-Spring day, we can smile and see the invisible hand of God that is always there, sunshine or clouds.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Keep a Lid on It

Do you ever resolve to straighten up your attitude, only to have it immediately challenged?
Saturday, I resolved not to complain.  For two weeks.  Then this morning, the car is covered with ice.

(By the way, that's Carbon, I know it's not a car.)

So what do you do when your resolve is challenged?  Studies show people in our society have poor impulse control.  In other words, we don't think or plan ahead.

Relying on God for strength, resolve, etc. is a good plan. But we just forget to avail ourselves to it.

Today, remember to linger with the Lord.  And watch your step!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lesson Learned

It's pretty rare that a properly trained dog will snap back when disciplined. However, it does happen if the dog has a bad temperament or the discipline is unfair. A dog that is eager to please a fair and loving owner receives discipline easily.

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I wish I could say the same about myself....

This morning I was reading a devotional about living above difficult circumstances and relying on God for His power and grace. The thought flit through my mind that "Yeah, I do pretty well with that." No sooner had that thought sunk in that another stronger thought emerged. "And just WHO do you think helps you with that?" Um, yeah, that would be GOD, not me. Thanks Holy Spirit, who seems to specialize in nagging me.

Isn't that annoying?

Then I worked on my Bible study, which was about Paul reprimanding the Corinthians, and how they recieved it. Paul makes mention that he hated to hurt them with the rebuke, but knew they wanted to follow God. In other words, it was necessary pain.

I won't go on, but there was a radio Bible teacher who also happened to mention that we need to put aside our pride to hear what others say.

Yes, that all happened today and it's not even eleven in the morning. I'm like a dog with a bad temperatment and my first reaction is to argue the point. However, when I remember, I shut up and listen, fighting my knee jerk reaction (emphasis on the word "jerk"). Then the Holy Spirit reminds me that if someone cares enough to pull me aside, they are probably doing so for my own interest. This is what the Lord does as well, convicting us of sin - not condemning. In other words, listen, repent, and move on in joy and peace!

What about you? Are you a willing listener or do you fight?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Why Bother?

Over fifteen years of watching hundreds of different dogs, I've observed that some dogs obey their owners out of fear, others out of love, and some who don't obey at all. A dog who obeys out of fear of consequences doesn't necessarily act afraid. While the initial training may have involved harshness, over time they simply developed the habit of obeying. Dogs trained out of love (which may still include consequences, but not harsh ones) obeys because their aim is to please their owner, yet they also develop the habit of obeying. I Some people started their spiritual life out of fear of God - as in if you didn't follow the rules, you'd be struck by lightning. And while some still follow for that reason, the hope of God is that we learn to love Him, and that our obedience flows from the understanding that behaving in the ways he gave us result in our good and extending his love to others is for all our good. However, from the outside, the habit of obedience is the same. My question is "If you're obeying God because you fear him, then why bother?" While their are temporal and eternal consequences for faith, if you today are obeying a God of fear, may I suggest you are not worshipping God at all? God is love, and while a proper regard and respect for God's power and divinity is good (sometimes called fear in the Bible, but with a different meaning), God asks for our faith in Him because he is good - that Jesus' sacrifice for you is one you should trust so you can enjoy God's grace forever. Sometimes I pray out of habit and not because I necessarily want to do so. However, it's a good habit of obedience, and once I'm praying, the time with God is never wasted. Spending time with the one you love and loves you back immensely is never useless.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cabin Fever

The weather is driving everyone nuts. Not only is the lack of sunshine wearing on me, my cats are going bonkers. Fortunately, I bought them a new cat condo. Sure, it's not like a condo on the beach, but it's all they're going to get. It's been quite a hit. They can look outside, scratch and chase each other. Faith is challenged at times of hardship. It's often forgotten in times of goodness. But when it's dull...then it's just an endurance test. Most of life is an endurance test. "Persevering in the faith" may be one of our greatest challenges. If this is what you're facing today, think about adding something new and vibrant. It may be as simple as a new prayer book, or perhaps challenging yourself to make a new friend. Either way, hang in there with a prayer asking the Lord to give you not only strong shoes for a rough path, but ones with a long lasting tread.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Memory (Foam)

After months of not sleeping well, brilliantly I realized perhaps my mattress was part of the problem. I flipped it (which was no mean feat) and - surprise - I've been sleeping better! The mattress is one of those soft, squishy ones that conform to your body (which frankly reminds me of the creepy Norman Bates' mom imprint on the bed -shudder). Not so curiously, the cat that normally sleeps right next to me has decided that the mattress switch is not such a hit afterall. He's now gone back to the opposite, bottom of the mattress, where he probably still smells and conforms to his imprint there. Isn't it true that we often return to what is familiar instead of embracing what is new - and sometimes better? Throughout our lives, God allows us seasons of comfort and familiarity, but he also allows discomfort and newness. We may hesitate, but learning new things in a spirit of adventure allows us to learn and be excited by what God throws into our path. It is for our good and His glory. While it's tempting to go back to what is safe, is that really any way to live?