Thursday, February 21, 2019

Don't Look Back--or Around!

"No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
--Jesus (Luke 9:62, NKJV)

Amy Carmichael* points out that Jesus says looking back, not turning back. (There is a huge difference, isn't there?) When we look back, we can't plow a straight furrow. In other words, we "mess up." 

The devil knows that. Thus, he continually tempts us to look back at our past sins, at our worthlessness, at our failures, at the things we want but do not have, at the things we once had but no longer have, at the "good life" others seem to be living.... 

We must NOT let our thoughts linger on those kinds of things. Instead, we must read God's Word daily and keep our minds focused on the truths it contains (rather than on the devil's lies) as we continue to move forward, fully committed to doing His will.

*author of Thou Givest...They Gather

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Tough Love

Reflecting on the years she had children to care for, the guest on a radio program said, “I grew tired of struggling to get the children up, fed, dressed, and out the door on time for school. So, one Christmas my husband and I bought alarm clocks for each of them and said, ‘It’s your responsibility to get yourself up and to come to breakfast cheerily.’”

She didn’t say how that worked, but I’m assuming it did. If so, I’m sure everyone in that household felt less frustrated without the constant naggings that used to go on and without the frenzied rushes to get out the door. 

I wonder how that would have worked if Mama had given my sister and me the responsibility for getting ourselves up and to the breakfast table cheerily. I wonder how that would have worked if I had tried it with my own children. (One took responsibility for her wake-up schedule without being told; the other was more like me and required lots of trips to her bedroom door and lots of loud commands to “Get up NOW or you’re going to be late!”

The earlier the children learn to take responsibility for their actions, the easier and quicker they learn that actions/decisions have consequences as well as rewards. The earlier they learn to face those consequences, the quicker they learn to collect what they need before heading out the door. For example: Forgot your lunch??? Too bad!

I never felt I could be that tough with my children--or grandchildren. No matter what they did (or didn’t do), I felt compelled to come to their aid. I thought that’s what loving parents did. But child-rearing experts recommend “tough love,” which requires parents to say, “I love you too much to allow you to continue behaving that way.” Now I see that nipping bad habits in the bud early on is much easier than trying to instill good habits in older children.

Tough love is painful for children and parents. Yet, it brings great rewards.  Even the Bible says so. Take Hebrews 12:11, for example, which says: Now no chastening [discipline] seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (emphasis added).

Note: We can also apply the "tough love" principle to ourselves!

So Brief!

When talking with my twenty-one-year-old grandson, I mentioned several goals I've set for myself this year, including walking 7500 steps (3 miles) most days so that by year's end I will have walked at least 500 miles.

I went on to say, "I don't like to sit around. You've noticed, haven't you, how whenever I do sit down to talk or watch a few minutes of educational TV that I reach for the bag that holds my yarn and crochet hook? That's because I like to make every minute count--for life passes by so fast."

Later that same day, I read words written by Moses centuries ago and marveled at how true they still are. After he'd commented on how brief this life is, even if we're privileged to live 70 or 80 years, Moses said to God, "Teach us to number our days [to realize the brevity of life], so that we may gain a heart of wisdom [grow in wisdom, especially in regard to how God wants us to live this life He has given us]" (Psalm 90: 10, 12, NKJV). 

Indeed, our days are passing by so quickly. May we use each one for God's glory and the good of others. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Little Dab of Light

Normally, photographers love to have plenty of light when they're photographing. But professional photographer Joe Baraban, who also teaches on-line photography courses, recommends finding "a little dab" of sunlight in a dark scene. "When you find the light," he says, "you'll find the shot." 

To prove his point, he shares a photograph of an outdoor seating area. Most photographers would have thought the scene too dark and looked elsewhere for "the shot." But Joe saw a little dab of sunlight spilling through a small hole in the red umbrella/awning fabric and falling onto a white chair. That chair* became "the shot" because it contrasted beautifully with its dark surroundings.

As I reflected on that, I thought about how the apostle Paul urged those who of us who are children of God to talk and act in such a way that we will shine as lights in a society darkened by sin. (See Philippians 2:15). We may be quite ordinary, but even a little dab of light will make us stand out, in a beautiful way, like the chair Joe photographed or this rose that I photographed. 

*Note: To read Joe's article and see his photo visit: 

Lessons from a 5K: #5--Do YOUR Best!

Note: This is the fifth in a series of posts. Click here to read the previous one.

As I mentioned in other posts in this series, I finished last in the 5K. On one hand, I'm embarrassed by that. On the other hand, I'm extremely proud of myself--for several reasons:

  • I finished the course even though my body begged me to give up.
  • I did something few, if any, people my age even attempted that cold February morning. 
  • I bettered my practice times by 30 minutes, so I was really giving it all I had--and on a course that had more hills than the one I'd trained on.
Lesson 5: Our opinions of ourselves change, depending on the standard of comparison we're using. There will always be people who perform far better than we do. Compared to them, we're a failure. There will always be people who don't perform as well as we do. Compared to them, we're doing great. Since we can never gain a true evaluation of ourselves by comparing ourselves to others, we do ourselves a great disservice if we do. We'll benefit far more if we always try to better our best--and celebrate that!

However, when it comes to evaluating our character, there is a standard of comparison that gives us a true picture of how we're doing. To remind me of that, I wrote this note many years ago in the front of my Bible:

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Lessons from a 5K: #4--Give Thanks for the One Who Walks Beside You

Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts. Click here to read the previous one.

As soon as my daughter finished running the 3.1 miles, she used the Find Friends app on her cell phone to see where I was and then ran to me. 

"I'm so happy to see you!" I said. "I really do need someone to walk with me for my legs feel like rubber bands."

We finished the last mile or so together. Just having her right beside me--and the law enforcement officer in his vehicle right behind us--removed much of my fear of falling and made the final leg of the race so much more pleasant. As I struggled up the last hill, Jena said, "The rest of the course is easy. You can do this!"

When we reached the FINISH line, I said, "Let's get someone to take our picture." I certainly wanted her to be with me in the picture for I don't know if I would have made it without her love and support.

Lesson #4: Even the hardest "course" through life is made easier by those who love us and willingly walk beside us. Sometimes we're the one who needs such a friend. Sometimes we can be the friend someone else desperately needs.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Lessons from the 5K: #3--Realize Someone Is Watching Over You

Note: This is the third in a series of posts. Click here to read the previous one.

A law enforcement officer had been assigned to stay behind the last runner to be ready to provide any assistance any of the runners might need. Early on, when it was obvious that another lady and I were not able to keep up with the rest, the officer drove his vehicle alongside me and said, "If y'all need a ride, let me know."

I said, "I should be fine. I'm just slow and a bit wobbly because I'm still dealing with balance problems left over from a long bout of vertigo."

For the rest of the race, he followed a few feet behind me, never getting close enough to make me feel he was trying to make me go faster than I felt was a safe pace for me.

As I walked, I realized God was watching over me and that He had arranged for the officer to also watch over me and to help me if I stumbled and fell. That comforted me.

I thought about several passages of Scripture including these words written by David:

Lesson #3: We are never out of God's sight or out of His care. He even reminds us of that by letting us see the people He has placed nearby to assure and assist us!