Always Look Before You…

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My daughter Beth had finally reached the stage where she was ready to use the potty-training seat all by herself! (It’s OK, I’ll wait while you applaud.) Squeak, click, went the bathroom door.

A moment later, there was a blood-curdling scream. I turned into Super-Dad and flew to the loo. Shake! Rattle! The door was locked! “What’s wrong, honey?” I yelled, and was answered by a plaintive cry of despair.

Smash, crack, bam! I kicked the door open and tumbled into the formerly peaceful cubicle where Beth stood, whimpering and cradling her finger.

I grabbed her finger and kissed it all over. “Ohhhh, what happened honey?”

With tears in her eyes, she replied,

“I got poo-poo on it.”

Always look before you…well, you know the rest.

~from How to be Funny

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I Want to Know Him

Is Jesus still on the cross?

Yes. No. Both.

Read on.

Ash Wednesday begins the traditional season of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter (Lent literally means “Forty”). So what?

“Old, dead tradition stuff.” That was my summation of the season before I became a Jesus-follower. Even for some time after my conversion, I thought, “What do I need with ‘tradition’? I’ve got Jesus!”

But now? That ‘tradition stuff’ helps me connect more deeply with Jesus. How? By providing a season for me to ponder what’s unfinished and still resistant in me to Christ’s work. Just as meditating on Scripture helps me focus on who I am in Christ, Ash Wednesday and Lent help me focus on what I have yet to become.

The “Ash” in Ash Wednesday represents the “dust” from which life is drawn (“ashes to ashes, dust to dust”). But it also reminds me that my old life, the old me, is dead, turned to ash. And that the new life, the Christ-life, is still being formed.

Christ’s atonement tore a cross-shaped hole in the veil between death and life, between us and eternity. And so some churches use an empty cross to celebrate his finished work, our salvation made complete. But others use a crucifix to commemorate his presence in the ongoing work of making us complete. Which emphasis is correct?

Both. He ascended to prepare a place for us (John 14:3). But he is also present with those who pick up their cross and follow him daily (Luke 9:23). Interestingly, quantum physics casts its vote for both: because time as we perceive it–an endless progression from “finished” toward “not-yet”–isn’t real. Time simply is. Just as most of the stars we see flamed out eons ago, but are still there, Christ’s work on the cross was completed 2,000 years ago, but is still there.

I’m not alone on my cross. He is with me.

And so, even as the ashes are placed on my forehead tonight, I will think of both the crucifixion and the resurrection. Because:

“I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, to be conformed to His death that by any means possible I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or am complete, but I press on…”

~Philippians 3:10-12

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Procrasti-Nation

Procrastination

Well, it’s Tuesday. Guess I better get started on that work I was gonna finish “by Monday at the latest.”

“You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. What mood is that? Last-minute panic.” ~Bill Watterson

“The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.” ~Alan Dean Foster

“The slacker craves yet has nothing, but the soul of the diligent is fully satisfied.” ~Proverbs 13:14

“Someday is not a day of the week.” ~Janet Dailey

“Procrastination is like stopping a train that left the station: when we procrastinate, we hold others up.” ~Joseph R. Ferrari

“God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.” ~St. Augustine of Hippo

“Just do it!” ~St. Nike of Sneakerus

         “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone”       ~Pablo Picasso

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Laying a New Foundation for Your Life

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Connecting With God

I wrote previously about rebuilding the “house” of my spiritual life. It’s my hope this example will inspire you to lay your own foundation, whether with these verses or others.

The foundation is the least visible part of a house, but it’s also the most important. I pray these verses by heart at the start every week. (Note: the words in italics are based on studies in the original Greek and Hebrew.)

sand_faceRomans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to (“shaped by”) this world (or age), but (instead) be transformed (literally “metamorphosed” like a caterpillar) by the regenerating of your mind, so that you may be able to discern* what is the will of God: what is good, well-pleasing, and perfect.**

Prayer is not about aligning God to my will. It’s about aligning mine to His!

Matthew 7:24-25 – Having chosen to center my life on God’s will, I look to Jesus for the “how to”:  “Anyone who hears these words of mine and is doing them is like the wise man who built his house on a rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house, but it stands (Jesus shifts to present tense—the house is still standing!) because it is founded upon rock.”

Bottom line: “Build your life on his Word!”

John 8:31-32 – I now focus on motivation: “When you remain*** in my word, then you are truly my disciples. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set* you free.”

How could anyone not be excited by a promise like that?

Psalm 119:10-13 – Next, I personalize my intention, using the words of King David: “With my whole heart I seek you! (And to that end) I have hidden (or “treasured”) your word in my heart so that I might not sin against you (David realized that all sins are sins against God because anything that is not in accordance with His will damages something or someone He created). And with my lips I will proclaim all of the ordinances of your mouth.”

I will live by and teach all the truths I have learned.

Matthew 26:41 – Here I add Jesus’ warning and promise, “Watch (“stay awake!”) and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation (there is certainty in these words—if you watch and pray, you will not fall!). The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Greek = “infirm,” not weak by design, but sick, broken).

I’m sincere, but I’m also fallen and must constantly nip temptation in the bud!

John 15:10-11 – “When you obey me, you remain*** in my love, just as I obey the Father and remain in His love. (This does not mean, “I only love you when you obey me,” it means, “Obeying me keeps you out of harm’s way and allows you to ‘stay’ in my love.”) “I’m telling you this, so my joy will remain (stay) in you. Yes, your joy will be complete!”**

What a promise!

Hebrews 12:1-2 – I always conclude with these words of encouragement: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (we are not alone!), let us also (just as others have) lay aside every burden (the fears and failings that pull us off course) and the sin that clings so closely (addictive behaviors Run-the-Race-2-220x119that seems impossible to overcome), and let us run with perseverance the race set before us (keep getting back in the race!). (How? (By) looking to Jesus, the founder and finisher** of our faith.”

He put us in this race and he will enable us to finish it!”

To be continued…

⇔ ⇔ ⇔

*The aorist verb tense (Greek “no limit”) = an ongoing activity, sometimes translated “keep on doing.”

**Teleos (Greek) appears repeatedly in the New Testament. It may be translated whole, complete, mature, perfect. It’s an essential God-quality that we are called to grow into, meaning, in essence, “no longer broken.”

***Meno (Greek) can be translated remain, live or rest, but may most accurately be rendered “abide.” It means to make something your “home.”

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The Cross as a Way of Life

death-to-self-transformationTo die to self, to keep the old nature nailed to the cross, is such a battle, isn’t it? And yet in the end it turns out to be not just any battle but the battle. If we win this battle, Jesus tells us, or rather if we allow him to win it in us, we win the entire war. And then the whole world wins.

“If anyone would come after me, they must deny themself, take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake will save it.”

~Luke 9:23-24

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Inquiring Minds Want to Know

  Some burning questions you may never have thought to ask: (most found anonymously)

How did evolution begin?

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Science:

  • If you melted dry ice in a pool, could you swim in it without getting wet?
  • What happens if you turn on your headlights while driving at the speed of light?
  • Would the ocean be deeper if sponges didn’t grow in it?
  • If there’s a speed of sound and a speed of light, is there a speed of smell? 
  • Do sheep get static cling when they rub against one another?
  • If a bee was allergic to pollen would it get the hives?
  • Can a pig pull a ham string?
  • If you put a chameleon in front of a mirror, what color does it turn?
  • If someone gets addicted to counseling, how do you treat them?

Arts and Literature:

  • If Cinderella’s glass slipper fit perfectly, why did it fall off?
  • Was Captain Hook called Captain Hand before he got the hook?
  • Why is he called the ‘Lone’ Ranger when Tonto is always with him?
  • Does the Little Mermaid wear an algebra?
  • Why doesn’t Tarzan have a beard (or any body hair, for that matter)?
  • At the ballet, you see girls dancing on their tiptoes. Why don’t they just get taller girls? (Greg Ray)

Language and Culture:

  • Do Dutch people always split the bill?
  • If a parsley farmer loses a lawsuit, do they garnish his wages?
  • Are mattresses ever not on sale?
  • Why don’t women put pictures of their missing husbands on beer cans?
  • What do Greeks say when they don’t understand? (“It’s all _________ to me.”)
  • Whose cruel idea was it to put an ‘s’ in the word “lisp”?
  • If “there’s an exception to every rule,” is there an exception to that rule?
  • Can an ambidextrous person make an offhanded remark?
  • Why do ‘fat chance’ and ‘slim chance’ mean the same thing?
  • “When you clean out a vacuum cleaner, does that make you a vacuum cleaner?”
  • If a mime is arrested, do they tell him he has a right to talk?
  • Why do people sink so slowly in quicksand?
  • If money doesn’t grow on trees, why do banks have branches?
  • Can a short person “talk down” to a taller person?
  • What’s the synonym for “thesaurus”?
  • Are female teamsters “teamstresses”?
  • Are male seamstresses “seamsters”?
  • If you steal a clean slate, does that go on your record?
  • If pro and con are opposites, does that make Congress the opposite of progress?

And finally, the biggest question of all:

  • If God sneezes, what do you say to Him?
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The Lives of Trees

Of all the flora upon the earth, none seem quite so human as trees. Endlessly varied, not only by species, but individually, they strive to find nourishment, to grow and produce offspring. They struggle to weather the storms of life, and yet when they sense their time has come, they surrender to the earth. They are persistent and steadfast, yet patient and peaceful. Perhaps that’s why they live so much longer than we do.

Click on any image to enlarge it, or to begin slideshow.

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” ~Khalil Gibran

“Listen to the trees as they sway in the wind…and their roots give names to all things. Their language has been lost. But not the gestures.” ~Vera Nazarian

“Of all the trees we could’ve hit, we had to get one that hits back.” ~J.K. Rowling

“Real love ought to be more like a tree and less like a flower.” ~Mya Robarts

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast

~Alfred Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see

A billboard lovely as a tree

Indeed, unless the billboards fall

I’ll never see a tree at all

~Ogden Nash

“An orange tree would rather die than produce lemons, whereas instead of dying the average person would rather be someone they are not.” ~Mokokoma Mokhonoana

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ~John Muir

“Blessed are those who do not walk in the ways of the wicked or sit in the seat of the mockers, but who instead delight in the law of the LORD and meditate upon it day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water,  yielding their fruit in season,       and their fruit does not wither.”

~Psalm 1:1-3

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