The Joy of Giving

     Each Christmas I ask my husband, Terry, what he wants for Christmas. “Give me a list,” I instruct. He asks the same of me.

We learn to make wish lists as children when our parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles seek guidance in what type of present to put under the tree. As a child I spent a lot of time circling all the things I wanted that were found in the catalogs that arrived by mail.

This year, instead of pouring over a catalog looking for something we want, Terry, and I have been looking for gifts to give in a catalog published by Samaritan’s Purse. These aren’t your usual gifts.

You can purchase the gift of sight by helping to fund cataract surgery. Buy a filter so families can remove impurities from the contaminated water they haul into their homes from ponds and streams. Even help rebuild or repair houses for families in Iraq and other countries that have had communities destroyed by war.

Terry wants to buy a goat to give to a family in Niger or South Sudan. Dairy goats provide nourishing milk to drink as well as sell for income. I am intrigued by the honeybees which provide a way for a family in Iraq, Kenya, or Ethiopia to earn an income as beekeepers. People receive a hive, harvesting equipment and other supplies. These gifts include training.

Why does giving honeybees and goats bring such great joy? Our Father gives generously and following in His footsteps brings pleasure. These gifts will not only provide milk and honey they will reveal the goodness and kindness of God to those who receive them. Providing insight into the loving God we serve, to people who do not know Him, brings great joy.

Tony Evans in his Bible commentary explains that we give with joy, a glad heart, in response to the goodness of God. “When you know that God is your source, you can be cheerful in giving since you understand there would be no possibility of giving if he hadn’t given to you first. ‘The earth and everything in it… belong to the Lord’ (Psalm 24:1).”

He explains further that when we sow generously, we reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:6). What do we reap? God’s blessing which is “the God-given capacity to experience, enjoy, and extend the goodness and favor of God in your life.”1

Joy at Christmas is infectious. And now I know why. It is the God-given capacity to extend the goodness and favor we experience in our relationship with Him to others. And as others experience His goodness, they also demonstrate it to others. That’s the snowball effect.

Gift giving at Christmas has become tarnished over the years. We talk about toys that are forgotten within a few weeks, regifting all the presents we don’t appreciate, and the struggles to find a gift for the person who ‘has everything.’ Yet when it is an outflow of the goodness and favor we have experienced and our gifts are a desire to extend this blessing it is an activity that brings great joy.

Join the Conversation:

1-Does gift giving at Christmas make you stressed or joyful? Explain why?

2-How has your view of gift giving changed after reading this short article?

References:

1-The Tony Evans Bible Commentary published by Holman Reference Nashville, Tennessee. Page 1191, commentary on 2 Corinthians 9:6-7.

Words We Speak Reveal Our Heart

     “Jesus spoke only the words the Father gave Him.” I read this in a Bible study I am working through.1 This sentence causes me to pause. Not because I think the statement is doctrinally unsound. The proof is John 14:24. I stop to think about the origins of my speech, the message that comes from my mouth. Do I filter what I am about to say through the Word of God, holding back any comment that is based on personal feelings, cultural bias, or a worldly perspective?

     Matt 12:34b–“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” [NKJV]

Is Scripture abundant in my heart guiding my speech? When it is, my response to another person is not harsh (Prov. 15:1), but gentle (Prov. 15:4). I ponder my answer (Prov 15:28). If I am insulted or criticized, I do not respond with insults or criticism but with a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).

I put away bitterness, wrath, slander, and malice (Eph. 4:31). Merriam-Webster.com defines bitterness as “a deep-seated ill will;” wrath as an “intense emotional state induced by displeasure;” slander as “the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation;” malice as “a desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another.”

“Let your speech always be with grace,” we are told in Colossians 4:6a. To have our speech controlled by grace we must have grace in our hearts (Col. 3:16), writes Warren W. Wiersbe in his commentary on the book of Colossians. Why? “It is from the heart that the mouth speaks. With grace in our hearts and on our lips, we will be faithful witnesses and not judges or prosecuting attorneys,” he explains.2

     The author of the Bible study I referred to at the beginning, Mary Shannon Hoffpauir, wrote the love reigning in the heart of Jesus Christ was evident in what came out of His mouth. I may have mentioned the definition of this agape love before, but it is important to know the kind of love that reigned in Christ’s heart. It is a love that “intelligently, intensely wills the best for another.”3

     This type of love prompts thoughtful speech. We consider the impact of the words we are about to speak so they will be constructive, benefiting the listener (Eph. 4:29). In the book of James, we are told to be quick to hear and slow to speak (1:19). This means we listen carefully to what is being said and take our time responding rather than preparing our answer as the person we are conversing with is speaking. Our speech must be vitally important to God if we will give an account of every careless word spoken (Matt. 12:36).

     Ultimately, we just can’t be too careful. If we aren’t changed on the inside eventually the words that pour from our lips will expose the ungodly characteristics that remain in our heart. Jesus tells us in Matthew 15:11 that it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles us. When our responses are less than godly, we need to examine our heart. I want a heart filled with gratitude, love, grace, mercy, compassion, kindness… so my speech will reflect a transformed heart. How about you?

Join the Conversation

1-What comes out of your mouth? Honestly examine your heart. Is there anything you need to work on?

2-As you are transformed by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, do you notice changes in your speech? If so, what?

References:

1- “Lose Control: The Way to Find Your Soul” by Mary Shannon Hoffpauir published by Abingdon Press.

2. “Be Complete” New Testament commentary on Colossians by Warren W. Wiersbe published by David C. Cook.

3- “The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words” by Terry L. Miethe published by Bethany House Publishers.

Stripping Off Weights to Win the Race

     We can shed responsibilities to lighten our load as quickly as we strip off a sweater when we are too hot. It is reasonable to think resigning from a committee, stepping away from a place of service, or just saying “no” when asked for a favor is the weight that slows us down in the race God set before us (Hebrews 12:1).

     What do you think is meant by “lay aside every weight” or “throw off everything that hinders?” Not sure, I decided to do a little research.

     The Tony Evans Bible Commentary states the author of Hebrews was addressing spiritually immature Christians who were unwilling to grow through living by faith. He writes: “We need to jettison unbelief and anything in our lives that might trip us up spiritually and prevent us from running the race well all the way to the finish line.”1

     When we learn Scripture and are firmly persuaded God can accomplish all He promises, we proceed with confidence. We are no longer indecisive. In the past, I would train to run marathons and other types of physical running races. To make the distance, I learned techniques for sustaining my physical stamina such as drinking water along the way and carrying nutrition bars to eat during those energy slumps. I had faith in the advice of other experienced runners and put it into practice so I could finish the race well.

     F.F. Bruce writes in The International Bible Commentary the earliest known Greek manuscript of Hebrews uses the word euperispastos, which means ‘easily distracting.’ Later a slightly different Greek word replaced it, translated into English as “weight” or “hindrance.” This may refer to drifting, dullness, lack of spiritual exercise, or immaturity.2

     Physical activities may have to be eliminated to stop drifting… what keeps you from attending church, reading your Bible, setting aside time to pray for others? Has God’s Word become dull or are you interested in learning, excited to delve into a good Bible study that helps you dig deeper? Do you worship God? Can you explain the gospel message to an unbeliever? We can become easily distracted by the world and lay aside spiritual pursuits.

     In The Word for Today New Testament Study Guide, Chuck Smith writes: “God has a plan for each of our lives—the race that is set before us. We are to remove any weights and sins that would impede our progress or slow us down. Some activities are not sin, but they do encumber us and make the race more difficult.”3 Too much time on the golf course, growing our career, or pursuing a hobby?

     My conclusion is that there is no exact list I can write out. We all must remain vigilant, consistently examining our heart, our ways.

     We can look for signs of unbelief that might cause our faith to falter. Bruce writes the way to avoid distraction is to keep our eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). “As author, He himself participated in believing. He was controlled by faith not by sight.” He was perfecter “for all that faith hopes for finds its consummation in Him.”

     I think of the marathons I completed and how I sometimes had to push through to the end. Running 26.2 miles is not easy. Yet the goal to reach the finish line makes runners endure any pain or discomfort that might distract them, take them off course. Pinpoint the distractions and we may find those weights or hinderances we are to strip off.

Join the Conversation:

1-Have you studied this passage of Scripture? What do you think the author refers to by “weights or hinderances”?

2-Can you pinpoint a few distractions that might take us off course?

References:

1-The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, by Tony Evans, published by Holman Bible Publishers in Nashville, Tennessee (2019).

2-The International Bible Commentary, by F.F. Bruce, published by Guideposts, Carmel, New York (1986).

3-New Testament Study Guide by Chuck Smith, published by Word for Today (2005).

Tossing All That Clutters

     There’s a box in my carport destined for a thrift store. It is filled with a variety of items that are not easily discarded. A “fruit of the Spirit” cookie jar which was a parting gift from a friend when God moved my husband and I to a new region for ministry 20 years ago. A small jewelry box from my aunt that delighted me one Christmas morning when I was a child.

     The cookie jar I stored in my garage, intending to fill it with cookies. I wrapped the jewelry box in tissue paper and tucked it in a bin with other “keepsakes” when it became out of place on my dresser.

     My desire, as I pass on these two items, is that they bring joy into the life of a stranger. The purchaser considers them a “find.” This term is used by avid thrift store shoppers to describe a treasure they discover on a shelf.

     The Holy Spirit prompted the purge, placing it on my heart as winter approaches and I scramble to prepare the yard for the ice and snow that will ruin planter boxes, outdoor furniture, and garden décor. There is just not enough room in the garage. He revealed the need earlier as well.

First as I worked with my brothers and sisters to sort through my dad’s study following his death, determining what to keep and what to toss. There were boxes of committee papers documenting the years he served on boards that were no longer relevant. But the personal journals, binders of the river trips in the Yukon Territory he organized, and the harmonicas he played provide a personal link for generations to come.

A second prompting came after our return from an 18-day mandatory evacuation during the Dixie Fire this summer. We had gone through an intense time of preparation sorting through personal items to determine what to pack. I took all the photos, plaques, and certificates off my “writing wall,” which faces my desk. I frequently stare at this wall as I contemplate my next sentence. I wanted to be able to replicate the inspiration should my house burn.

After the fire, I dug through boxes in the garage and joined a friend for a yard sale parting with items I had held onto for years. Also, I gave a Twiggy magazine to a 16-year-old who was making clothes from that era. It was in my trunk. She framed it to hang on her bedroom wall. My wish to bless by passing on treasured belongings was realized this time. And now as I prepare for winter there is more to do.

Why has the Holy Spirit ushered in this season of purging?

     At times I feel overwhelmed by the mountain of “stuff” that has overtaken my garage, corners of the house, or closets. I slump under the weight and begin to slog through life. Often, I can’t find what I need, and I am frustrated. My thinking feels disjointed and so is my work and my ministry. Hebrews 12:1 reminds us to shed those things that hinder our walk and our ability to serve: “let us strip off every weight that slows us down especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” [NLT].

     Then there are those keepsakes that tie us to the past. A season of life that has ended. In the past, I embroidered elaborate patterns onto jeans; authored short stories; went on press trips; spent time on the ski slopes. If I get rid of the jeans, the stories, the press kits and skis, do I lose a piece of who I am? It doesn’t seem wise to keep old manuscripts in a file drawer or jeans no one will wear in a closet. Again, Scripture brings clarity. Phil 3:13—14: “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

     And so, I am purging all the clutter. As I go about this work it becomes easier and easier to discard. My hesitation is dissipating. As the Spirit clarifies the process, I see clearly what no longer holds any value.

God Gives Us Understanding

     There is nothing in our life that is, or should be, separated from God. Yet sometimes I assume I have dug up, chased down, gathered, sorted, made sense, and painstakingly grasped, information about something I needed or desired to learn.     It is easier to go it “alone” these days. We have the Internet. We have YouTube. Literally, teachers and lessons at our fingertips. I was intrigued by Aidan Bryant, a self-taught 17-year-old aerialist who placed second in America’s Got Talent this season. He mastered his craft by hanging bedsheets in a tree and practicing what he watched on YouTube videos. Impressive, don’t you think?

     Then during my morning devotions, as I read through chapters in the book of Isaiah, these words capture my attention: “it is God who gives us understanding.” God gave Aidan his video lessons and the understanding he needed to hone his skills.

     In Isaiah 28:23-29 we are told the farmer knows when to plow and when to sow; how to cultivate the soil and properly plant each seed in the proper place; what to do after harvest so what is grown can be used. Isaiah explains that black cumin must be beaten with a light stick, not threshed with a heavy sledge. Cumin is beaten lightly with a flail and a threshing wheel is never rolled over it. Grain for bread is easily crushed so the farmer doesn’t keep pounding it. Instead, he threshes it under the wheels of a cart, careful not to pulverize it.

     I pause to consider this information and ask you to contemplate it as well.

Whenever we enter a situation without the proper instruction the results are at risk of ruin. While ruin may be a bit dramatic, we can at least agree it will not be the very best.

The past few summers I have put a lot of work into finishing two wooden Adirondack chairs I purchased several years ago for my yard. I stained them when they were new, but the summer sun, and rain during thunder and lightening storms, soon wore the finish. So, I decided to paint them and put a lacquer over the paint to protect it. Well, the paint started peeling. A friend explained that for the paint to stick I must use a primer. So next summer I will strip the chairs and repaint with a coat of primer first. I think about how the farmer knows the steps for properly preparing the soil as well as the proper way to plant each seed.

     This lesson easily transfers to our relationships with the people God places in our path. He gives us instructions on how to interact in a multitude of situations. Just this morning, as I read chapter 3 of Colossians, I noted these instructions: “Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. [Col 3:13 NLT]

     Lately, the Lord has been teaching me about “making allowance for other’s faults,” or considering their ingrained coping mechanisms, areas of struggle, and worldly patterns that have not yet been transformed. Therefore, I am not surprised the Lord would offer an element of understanding on this issue as I read Scripture.

     God also tells us not all people can be approached in the same way. Some brothers and sisters in Christ may be weak in their faith, or timid, or fearful. Therefore, we consider their emotional state just as the farmer considers the crop during harvest. Like some crops, people we interact with may require a light touch.

     So, when I face the unknown, my first step should not be Google. My go-to in everything must be God alone. I must approach Him with trust that He will point me to any books, videos, or classes I may need for further instruction… even if I should decide to string bedsheets in the trees to become an aerialist.

Contemplate Your Ways:

1- What is your “go to” when you are trying to learn something new?

     2-In what areas of learning do you need increased understanding? How might you seek the Lord for understanding?

Finding Personal Points in Seemingly Random Lessons

     Often, I am surprised by comments made by pastors, authors, and Bible study teachers that strike sharp and pointed, like an arrow finding a bullseye, piercing my heart. Archers celebrate those direct hits and so do I. They are a work of the Spirit.

     The Holy Spirit knows me, knows you, better than we know ourselves.

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.” [Psalm 139:1-4 NLT]

     And He uses what He knows to provide insight, to change our perspective, to give direction, and encourage.

     Recently I found a few of those pointed comments in a book I am reading written by Lysa Terkeurst titled “Uninvited, Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely.” I picked it up as part of a Bible study to review for possible use at church. Also, I wanted to study the writing style and format of the book for she is a bestselling author, and her readers are women.

     One point was that sometimes rejection is actually for our protection. She writes: “It is easy for us to focus on the ruin. But look for His mercy in the midst of it.”

As a writer, I have experienced quite a lot of rejection. Although I have published hundreds of articles, I have also received hundreds of rejection letters when querying editors with ideas. Many times, I have been disappointed.

     At these times she suggests a little self-talk: “God, I don’t understand this situation. But I do understand Your goodness to me. I thank You for the protection that is part of this rejection even when I can’t see it. I trust You.”

     Here is the Scripture Lysa gives to help us remember this concept:

Psalm 34:7-10
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and He delivers them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. NIV

     A second point is that we should intentionally look for the good things that will come out of the rejection. She writes one of her “sticky statements” to help us remember: “Today’s disappointment is making room for tomorrow’s appointment.” What plans does God have for me that doesn’t include that class I want to take that costs too much? Even though the acquisition editor I met with during the She Speaks conference didn’t offer to publish my book, I can expect good things to come out of the rejection. I will watch for them.

     The Holy Spirit doesn’t need a Sharpie, my tool of choice to make note of something I want to remember. He highlights points He wants to get across in a supernatural way. They seem to glow in our heart an iridescent yellow. And He finds them on the pages of the books and early morning devotionals we read, a teaching heard on the radio as we drive to work, the Sunday sermon, or during the Bible study discussion. But they come, and often in the most random ways.

Expect God to Speak

During church, Christian conferences, and Bible studies I always seek
a word from the Lord. These times I expect Him to speak to me. At a
recent conference, “Beautiful,” I was not disappointed. The messages reinforced
and built on what God has been teaching through the Dixie Fire, which has
been burning for two months.

The mural projected onto the walls of the sanctuary where we met, provided
one. It was a forest with lush green undergrowth, a familiar landscape when
summer began in the mountains where I live. In the mural, a woman walked
along a trail in solitude. Whenever I stay at a conference center designed for
such gatherings, I notice how little alcoves with benches have been built, and
small tables with a few chairs placed next to gurgling water providing
opportunity to step away for quiet time with the Lord. Manmade places of
solitude. Back home I would marvel that God had placed me in the woods
where I only needed to step out the backdoor.

But the fire burned hot and many of those treasured, natural places were
destroyed. Yet at the conference, the speaker, Jean McClure, taught from
Psalm 46 during one session and as she read the first sentence of the
scripture I was once again reminded that God alone is my refuge. He reminds
me of this when I become dismayed by the burned trees.

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”
Psalm 46:1 NLT

“How did David get to the point that He would not fear? He had learned
to tuck himself into the Lord,” said Jean.

I had learned a lot about “tucking” during my cancer treatment and during
every tribulation I have become better. How about you? Do you ever tuck
yourself into the Lord? He is our refuge. Places of solitude are fleeting,
lasting only a short time.

This was not the only message God had for me during the conference. I
wrote: “Jesus carried on His back the cross of Calvary to save millions
from the fires of hell.” That comment stuck. Earlier Jean had taught about
the beauty of people coming to Christ and how we should look for
opportunities to tell people about Jesus. The burned trees will now remind
me that millions are in danger of the fires of hell. When wildfire destroys a
forest, it provides a perfect picture of life apart from Jesus.

In the book of 1 Samuel, Eli the priest instructs the boy Samuel to say
“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” if he hears his name called while
sleeping in the Tabernacle near the Ark of God. As a Christian I am the
temple of the Holy Spirit so I too dwell in the presence of the Lord.
Therefore, the Lord can speak at any time. As I mentioned, I expect to hear
His voice when I am focused on a message. But Samuel was surprised.
I want to go about my day expectant. I want to walk as a
listening servant with a heart attitude of “speak.”

Contemplate Your Ways:

1-Is your ear always tuned to hear God’s voice? How does God speak
to you? What has He told you lately?
2-Where do you hear God’s voice most frequently? Why do you think
this is so?

Four Elements of Effective Prayer

We have been praying. Appealing to God to end the rampage. Out of control
flames, named the Dixie Fire, that have dominated the landscape of Northern
California for more than a month (start date 7/13/21). However, this morning
my husband posed an interesting question concerning our prayer.

“We frequently quote 2 Chronicles 7:14, but not the verse that precedes it.
Can you recall verse 7:13?”

I could not. So, he read these verses to me combined.

“When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts
to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people
who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek
My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven,
and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chron 7:13-14 NKJV

The experts say a drought in California, leaving the forests with very
little moisture in the fuels, is one reason the fire cannot be stopped.
“When I shut up heaven and there is no rain (or snow)…”

California had 24% of average snowfall in 2021, experiencing its second
driest two-year period on record. With dry timber, the fire has burned
an incredible amount of land, over 800,000 acres. Town-by-town,
region-by-region evacuation orders are issued and then lifted. Leaving
behind burned homes in many areas. My town, Westwood, was evacuated
Aug. 5 with residents allowed to return Aug. 22. There were many restless
nights with reports that this time the fire could not be stopped. Threats
came from many directions, for the fire burns wherever the wind blows.
Evacuation orders are issued as the fire burns northeast and northwest
as well as southeast. Alarms on cellphones startle as they alert residents
to flee.

While I know there are many reasons for natural disasters such as the
laws of nature, the fact we live in a fallen world and all creation groans
under the curse of sin, and even at times God’s judgement, I also
know that God is sovereign. He has absolute control over all creation.

So how can we make our prayers more powerful during times of natural
disaster such as the Dixie Fire?

ONE-We must have a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ having
received His gift of salvation from the penalty of sin, which is separation
from God. Through Jesus we become children of God and can approach
God as our heavenly Father. We are His children, part of His family–
His people.

TWO-Our approach is humble, with no pride. We are dependent on God,
in need of Him for a solution to the natural disaster and protection from
its devastating impact as we go through it.

THREE-To seek His face is to ask for forgiveness and favor. Tony Evans
writes in his Bible commentary: “Prayer that moves God comes from a
recognition that sin turns His face away from us and turns us away from
Him. It approaches God on His terms.”1

FOUR-We turn from what displeases God to what pleases Him.

So often we feel helpless during a natural disaster, but we are not.
Evans writes: Prayer “is the tool we have been given in order to pull
something down out of the invisible and into the visible.” We can pray
effectively for God’s intervention.

Contemplate Your Ways:
1-Look at the elements of effective prayer. Is there an element that needs
your attention? If so, take time to address it.

References:
1-The Tony Evans Bible Commentary by Holman Bible Publishers.



When Startled, I Become Scattered

Startled, the wild turkeys that were gathered in a field below the abandoned
railroad tracks I was walking began to run. They raced up the steep
embankment with their necks stretched high, leaning forward as if to
propel themselves along at an ever-increasing rate of speed, in search
of tranquility. But where? They began to scatter down the tracks. No one
to shadow until a turkey made what seemed like a brilliant move…
cutting to the right and down the opposite embankment. Soon others
followed. One-by-one they cut to the right racing onward, away
from danger, destruction, impending doom.

I do not know what prompted them to scatter. I could see nothing in
the field below the tracks. I did not hear anything. Yet they were
startled.

Life sometimes startles us. At these times our actions can resemble
the flock of wild turkeys. We can’t stop thinking, talking, pacing,
fixating on a problem, an issue, the things that don’t fit our plan.

The wild turkeys have caused me to stop and look at my writing
life. Writing is who I am, it is what I do. And currently I am working
on a book, a time-consuming endeavor with a sharp learning
curve, but because it is a writing project, I can comprehend the
process. Yet while I was writing articles for magazines and
newspapers something called “platform” came about. Now
publishers not only look for a good book idea and good writing,
but they also want writers to have a platform. A presence on the
Internet with a Website as well as thousands of followers on
social media.

This twist caught me by surprise when I learned of it. And like
the wild turkeys, I have been running scattered in pursuit of a
platform ever since. This Website was the first successful step
in platform building. Although I haven’t quite solidified a
date for the blog posts, I write them… but of course I love
writing.

Another important aspect of platform building is obtaining
email subscribers, but this has been difficult. It seemed easy
to do at first glance, but subscribers remain aloof. I get it.
I too am hesitant to subscribe to Websites other writers
create for these subscriptions generate too many emails. So
not quite sure how to gain followers, I have been working
scattered. Gathering information here and there and trying
the tips and advice in an unplanned manner. I am racing
down the tracks without clear direction.

Therefore, like the wild turkeys I am getting off the “race”
track. I will work slower, more methodical and take the time
I need to figure out the various aspects of platform building.
But that will not be my main pursuit. Writing is my main
pursuit, and I will continue to develop the Website as a
ministry. Write extra copy worth downloading, reading, perhaps
keeping in a binder as a quick reference.

It is so easy to become scattered. Racing around without
much direction to accomplish something. Striving like those
turkeys to complete the distance. I routinely turn to God’s
Word when trouble looms, indecision lurks, behavioral
issues occur. Yet so often I will race off when something
seems pressing, a must do right now. Startled by the
circumstances, I begin to race around gathering information
here and there to complete the task at hand. I become scattered
and forget to look to the Lord.

Contemplate Your Ways:
1-Have you been startled lately by a daunting task? Maybe
something new you have had to learn at work, a school
assignment, or a requirement for a promotion. What steps
can you take to keep from darting off in every direction,
scattered?



An Appointment That Did Not Seem Divine

What’s on your calendar? I put social dates and commitments such as dentist
appointments on mine. Other routine activities, such as watering the yard, are
not written each day but regardless are completed.

God doesn’t seem to have a calendar, at least not one we can visually view.
Yet He does make appointments for us, which we don’t miss. When we see
the hand of God in a situation, perhaps an encounter with a stranger giving
us an opportunity to share the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ,
we give praise to Him for arranging a “divine appointment.”

Yet these encounters God gives us are not always accompanied by a
hallelujah chorus. In fact, the experience does not seem so divine. I
recognized such a meeting the other day after ordering dinner at an
In-N-Out Burger. The drinks at this fast food restaurant are self serve
so I walked to the dispenser to pour a lemonade over ice. However,
the old method of dispensing beverages had been changed. To prevent
the spead of COVID, the device was hands-free. Except I wasn’t sure
by the icon on the dispenser exactly what I was supposed to do to
make the ice tumble into my paper cup and the lemonade pour over
it. As I tentatively tested different methods, I heard a voice beside me state:
“It’s non-touch, this isn’t the 60s anymore.” My inner being bristled,
like the stance of a cat recoiling with a screech to show its displeasure.
However, my screech never reached the surface, remaining deep within.
At that moment, it was tough to graciously react to a condescending
remark. Instead of thanking him for his help, I mumbled something
about not eating fast-food very often.

The dinner break was around 7:30 p.m. and followed a long, tedious
drive out of the mountains to Sacramento. I had been following the
church van, driven by my husband, while I drove our pickup truck.
Both were filled with a few items we had chosen to “save” as we
evacuated from a wildfire. I was still trying to process my plight.
Items left behind kept surfacing in my thoughts on the long drive.
And then I was standing next to the drink dispenser where God placed
a man at my elbow to make a remark that He knew I would find
offensive. In a Psalm, King David found words to describe the deep
knowledge God has of us from the inside out. He wrote:

“Oh Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about
me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts
even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at
home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.” [Psalm 139:1-4 NLT]

Yes, my encounter was a divine appointment. God knew my thoughts
toward this man, whether I expressed them or not. God has been
writing lessons on my heart about consistency for the past 12 days
since the mandatory evacuation for the Dixie Fire. Life circumstances
change unexpectedly, but what remains constant is my behavior.
Wherever I go, who I am in Christ remains constant. Therefore, my
responses remain constant. I have a kind reply for a stranger at a
drink dispenser no matter the words that come from his mouth.

In his book, “The Blessing of Humility,” Jerry Bridges writes: “There is
much work to be done in our character. God uses adversities as one
means of doing that work (see Hebrews 12:5-11). It means we accept
the difficult and painful events of life as under the controlling hand
of our loving and infinitely wise heavenly Father. It means we believe
that God causes all events in our lives, whether good or bad as we
judge them to work together to conform us more and more into the
likeness of Christ (Romans 8:28-29)”1.

Those glory appointments, when some action God has orchestrated
demonstrates His character, that is the type of scheduling we deem
divine. We marvel at having been used by God. But sometimes those
encounters are for the refining process and that too is divine. It is
only after honing that we can be used for His glory.

Contemplate Your Ways:
1-Consider the encounters you have had lately with strangers. Were
any not so divine appointments? If so, what did you learn?

2-Have you had any hallelujah chorus divine appointments? If so,
how did God use you?

References:
1-The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges published by NavPress.