Monthly Archives: June 2012

Not My Home

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“Home Sweet Home”….”There’s No Place Like Home”….”Home is Where the Heart Is”……”Home Where I Belong”….I could go on and on.  There are so many references to home in our everyday vernacular, idioms and weaved into every fabric of our memories and plans.  Home is where we should feel safe and loved.  Many people across America grew up in the same home that they currently live in today.  Home is  different things to different people.  Home can be a brick ranch with a white picket fence, an apartment in the middle of town or a shack at the beach.  Regardless of where you live, your home is an investment.  Maybe your investment is not financial but rather an investment of time.  My home reflects me:  my personality, my likes, my hobbies and the comfort I want for my family.  I have spent hours painting, cleaning, polishing and decorating in order to create a home that I am proud to live in and show off to friends and family.  I figure that I spend about forty percent of each day at home, so why not make my home a place I feel welcome and happy?  In fact, I have lived with this motto for so long that I have spent more time decorating and loving my earthly home that I have neglected, for the most part, my investment in my heavenly home.  I would even venture to guess that I have spent more time decorating my virtual home on Pinterest than cultivating treasures for eternity.  When I examine this fact, I can view my priorities as seen from God’s perspective and it makes me sad.  I’m sure it breaks His heart.  After all, He told us in Matthew 6:19, “Stop storing up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.”  This is not an optional statement.  If you know anything about grammar, then you will recognize that this verse begins with a verb behind a subject that is an “understood you”.  Basically, Jesus said “You, stop!”  If I told my children to stop in that manner, it would be viewed as a command.  Are you following this?  God gave Moses the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament.  The “Thou Shalt Nots” are such a part of society (at least it used to be) that most of us know some or all of the Ten Commandments.  The legal parameters of America were founded on these commands.  IF we know what’s good for us, we will listen when God commands.  Here He is, in Matthew 6:19, commanding us to stop decorating our homes on earth where they will rot and can be robbed.  Instead, in the next verse He says, “Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”

So much of my time, I say my time as I cannot speak for anyone but myself, is spent on useless things that I think are important but when put into the perspective of eternity are actually useless.  What a waste of the precious time and resources that God has given me to use for Him.  Obviously, He wants us to enjoy life or He would not have created an ocean for us to play in or sunsets for our visual delight, but He wants us to live like Jesus who had no prized possessions that eventually become idols because He was “about his Father’s business”.  Ultimately, this is not my home.   My heart is longing for my eternal home where I will live with my Father forever.  I hope I can keep this in mind as I continue on my journey.  I want to continue decorating my home…. my heavenly home.

In Matthew 19:21, Jesus told a wealthy young man who had asked Him what he needed to do in order to inherit the Kingdom of God, “sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven”.  This life will be over in the blink of an eye and before I am ready, I will be kneeling in front of the Creator of everything.  It will be my greatest honor to be able to place crowns at His feet.  “Lord, please help my focus to be on eternal treasures and to keep my eyes on You!”

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Mean Girls

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“Mean Girls”…. if you haven’t watched the movie, more than likely you’ve heard of it or at least have a good idea what the plot might reference.  For the most part, human behavior follows a predictable pattern.  As a child, a person is typically loving and trusting.  As a teenager, that same person becomes self-centered and critical of others, almost certainly to the point of mean.  Then, usually during college years, a responsible and consistent adult outlook and actions develop.  There are those few, however, who are and will remain – MEAN. In the movie, a group of teenage girls band together to form an elite (at least in their eyes) group.  They proceed to mock and torture anyone else who does not meet their lofty standards.  Predictably, they turn on each other, disband and the process of maturity begins after feelings have been hurt and consequences have been suffered.  In real life, the same plot plays out in every middle school and high school across America.  Basically, it’s a right of passage that every person participates in, whether they want to or not.  Most people outgrow this stage, but there are those few “mean” girls and boys who never manage to grow up.  It’s always disheartening when you have to interact with these people.  Unfortunately, they live and work among us.  It is an unavoidable, unpleasant experience of life.

Recently, I had the disappointing misfortune to cross paths with a few of these malcontents.  Human nature takes over during moments like this and propels me to levels of great revenge plotting.  Fantasies of lightning bolts flashing from my eyes to zap and torture these “mean” girls run rampant through my mind.  Alternately, deep and gaping holes in my heart weigh me down and crush my spirit.  At some point, in every person’s life, an experience like this will take you by surprise and will come from someone who should have grown up and from whom you least expect this action.  Catty, infantile, mean, hurtful and juvenile are all words that aptly describe these individuals.  In the last couple of years, a person who becomes prey to a ‘mean’ girl or boy is actually labeled a victim of bullying.  The media has ensured public awareness for this growing problem.  Despite this knowledge and labeling, meanness still exists.  We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people, so the only thing we can do is to choose to respond with love and kindness.  This is completely contrary to my first instinct to plot revenge.  In order to repay hatefulness with love, I have to actively choose to die to myself and let Jesus love through me.  If I react in anger, which is that first human instinct, then I not only do not reflect Jesus and His love, I also become a victim, because anger is a self-consuming emotion.  Anger is an active pursuit.  It is not passive, but rather is a driving force of reaction to something perceived as insulting or damaging.  As a Christian, I am called to a higher standard.  Romans 12:2 says that we are “not to conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.”  It’s not natural, nor is it easy to react to a negative situation with love.  The only way this becomes possible is to have a mind that is focused on Christ.

Think for a moment about Jesus’ three years of ministry on earth.  We have only been given a small glimpse into the activity that took place during these 1095 days.  Over 60% of our known history of Jesus’ actions is based on His healing of other’s hearts and bodies.  The last verse of John says that if all that Jesus did was to be written down, he supposed that there would not be enough books in the world to hold all His activity. This tells me that Jesus loved and He loved a lot.  It’s one thing to say you love someone, but actions are the proof.  Angry people don’t usually help those to whom their anger is directed.  Conversely, someone filled with love is guaranteed to help all.  In the same way that anger is an active emotion, so is love.  If we are to be like Jesus, then we are to love with our mouths and our actions.

Matthew 5:43-44 ~ 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbors and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Mark 12:33 ~ “To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

These are the verses that I am focusing on to ingrain the spirit of love in my heart (the renewing of my mind) in hopes that my first reaction to meanness will become love.  I am not quite there, and I am not sure that I will ever get to that level of Christianity, but I strive towards that goal.  I can hear the Apostle Paul cheering me as I run the race, pressing toward that mark.  The finish line is still in the distance where Jesus sits with crowns and trophies and is ready to say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”.  I want to be found faithful on that day.  Lord, please help me to love as You have loved me!

An Apple in a Bunch

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Bright and shiny, firm and polished, the Golden Delicious apple seemed to call to me from across the room.  I had recently gone to our local produce grocer and loaded up on fruits and veggies for the week.  To the dismay of my children, I have started a “whole foods” lifestyle change and replaced junk food with natural food so there is now an abundance of fruit in our home.  I have found that I am not as hungry as I used to be and I no longer crave the quick sugar fix that a cookie brings because my taste buds would rather have cold watermelon or, in this case, a shiny apple.
The first thing I do after purchasing fruit and veggies is to wash everything.  I rinse, sometimes scrub, and then rinse again to make sure that there is no residue left on fruit that might be grabbed to eat in a hurry.  While washing, I also inspect for any signs of damage or bruising that I might have missed in the store.  When I am satisfied that my apples are clean, to the best of my ability, I then display them in a fruit bowl in hopes that my family will get the subliminal message to eat fruit.  Sometimes it works but it is going to take a while to change bad food habits that have been in place for many years.  Today, I was the one whose eyes were drawn to the fruit and the subliminal message transferred to action when I plucked that golden apple out of the bowl and started munching.  I have a certain way that I eat apples.  I start in the middle and work my way around the circumference and the move up in the same pattern.  When I reach the top of the apple I then return to the middle and make my way down.  I’m not sure why or how I started this process, nevertheless this is my apple eating pattern.  So, I started in the middle, as usual, and ate while I read a book that I was particularly engrossed in reading.  Thankfully, I glanced down at the apple while flipping the page of my book.  I noticed that something was not quite right in its appearance.  Just below the surface, which is why I hadn’t  see this earlier, there was an area that had rotted.  Yuck!  That observation ended the eating of that apple.  I could easily have cut the rotten area out and then the rest of the apple would have been fine to eat, but once that image had made it from my eyes to my brain, my mouth subsequently lost the desire to eat.  The thought of eating something that rottenness had touched is just unappealing.  My mind made the quick leap from the glimpse of the small bruised patch in my apple to a smelly trash can swarming with flies and producing a foul stench.  Extreme, yes, but regardless, the rapid images flooded my mind’s vision and propelled me to throw the apple I had just recently been enjoying into the garbage.  Over the course of a lifetime, there are many similar events that will take place, so I am quite certain everyone is able to identify with this experience.  It’s not unusual for something to appear as perfect on the outside while just below the surface lies an imperfection.  At least with a completely rotten piece of fruit, I would have been forewarned and known not to eat it.
Sometimes it takes an experience like this to let us know, in a way that we can understand, how God feels about our behavior sometimes.  Galations 5:9 says,”A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”  In other words, one rotten apple can spoil the bunch or, in my case, a bite of apple containing a rotten section can ruin the entire taste of apple.  As Christians, we have a responsibility to live in a way that shines the light of Jesus to everyone around us.  To whom much is given, much is required and we, as those who are newly alive in Christ, have been given all that God could give.  When we act in a way that mimics regular people who have not experienced the gift of salvation then we create an area of rot in the “apple”.  As we grumble and complain to others or perhaps judge anyone but ourselves, or even just act sad or depressed then we enlarge that rotten spot.  Pretty soon we have infected those around us so that they either spoil alongside us or we repel them and drive them away from ever seeing the light of the Lord.  I know I have been guilty of this many times.  Thankfully, I belong to the God of many chances and the only One who can create a fresh and new apple from one that is bruised or rotting. God tells us in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.” (NKJV)
Even if you have experienced the Christianity of a “rotten or bruised apple”, won’t you give God a chance?  I speak from experience when I say that He has given me many chances!