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FRESH EYES

Vacations are wonderful things—times to relax, unwind, regain perspective—so we return with fresh eyes and a renewed spirit to tackle the challenges of life.

My husband and I returned yesterday afternoon from a week’s vacation in Maine and when I walked in our front door a whiff of house-e-tosis curled my nose hair.

Our fresh vacationed eyes rested upon a heap of garbage and gunk we had grown accustomed to in the middle of the kitchen floor. The place was nasty and I determined to clean up and toss out offensive odors and clutter we had allowed to swarmed our home and cloud our vision for goodness knows how long.

This morning I charged out of bed intent on shifting into hyper-cleaning mentality. However, my Precept homework was a week behind, so I grabbed a cup of coffee, my Bible, and study notebook and headed for my chair.

I turned back to the previous lesson for a quick catch-me-upper. And found Paul’s prayer for those Ephesian believers so on point with my state of mind today I had to ponder, pray, and then write this post.

In Ephesians 3:14-21 Paul asked God for five things for you—for me—for all believers for all time:

• That God would grant I be strengthened with power through His Spirit in my inner man.
• That Christ may dwell in my heart through faith.
• That I be rooted and grounded in love.
• That I may be able to comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of God’s love.
• That I may be filled up to all fullness of God.

Then Kay Arthur asked us to go to our Strong’s Concordance and look up the meaning of the word “dwell”. “That Christ may dwell in my heart through faith.” The Greek word is “katoikeo” and means “to house permanently, i.e. reside. Or “to settle down in a dwelling, to dwell fixedly in a place.”

Just like I’d grown accustomed to the odor of my house and had overlooked cobwebs in the corners, dust on the baseboards, and sticky stuff on the floors—fresh eyes showed me red zones of squalor. Squalor that needed my attention. Attention that required action to make my house clean. Presentable.

And as God always does, He shined the light of this knowledge deep in my soul where the real house cleaning needed to occur. Several phrases leaped off the page and jabbed my heart.

That I be rooted and grounded in love. That’s right rooted and grounded in love—not rooted and grounded in faith. Ouch! That changes the whole picture doesn’t it? The first part of that verse sets the perimeters: “…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you being rooted and grounded in love…”

We were in Washington and Boston part of last week and this area of IMG_1897 342

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the country is far removed from the Texas way of life. Vast numbers of folks reside in a much smaller space. Dusty, dirty, loud commuter trains take folks everywhere. You see life up close and personal…and personal is always yucky when you look through critical eyes. Having just come from a city concerned about the spread of Ebola, I saw DSCF6767squalor, pictured lurking germs, and looked down my nose at their dirt and noise—ignoring the beam in my own eye.

This morning I wonder what Christ sees when He looks at me? A heart “rooted and grounded in love”? That would be another “ouch”.

What does He see in your heart?

But wait, it gets better (or should I say intimately more uncomfortable). From verses 14 through 19, each verse is conditional upon the former. If Christ doesn’t dwell—hasn’t come in, settled down, and resided in our heart—we can’t be rooted and grounded in love—love comes from our Lord. Nor can we, regardless of our education or church standing “comprehend the breadth, length, height and depth, or know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

So folks, before I begin my Fall housecleaning this morning I am compelled to “bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,” and confess the squalor in my own heart—my lovelessness—my critical spirit—my judgmental nature.

Christ tells us in that day He will tell many who depended on their good works—those who looked down their nose at would be brothers and sisters in Christ for whatever the reason, but cared for themselves, grumbled, found fault, caused divisions, worldly minded, devoid of the Spirit; those with faces painted pious, who never participated in anything beyond an hour on Sunday morning; those who lacked roots of love—these He told, “…depart from Me. I never knew you.” Or in essence…I never moved in, settled down and dwelt in your heart. I don’t know you.

‘Cause when the Holy Spirit lives in your heart, His love shows up in every area of your life. You can’t remain the same because you’ve become a citizen of the Kingdom of Light. You’ve had a heart transplant.

But are the arteries of your heart clogged with pride? Are your veins so corroded with the appetites and longings of the flesh there’s no room for the wind and fire of His Spirit to light your soul like He did with Moses on that mountain top so long ago? Or Abraham, or with David, a man whose heart beat with God’s allowing his soul be illuminated with lyrics and songs of praise to his Lord?

Don’t know about you, but today I’m cleaning Jesus dwelling place and asking “…according to the riches of His glory,” that I “…be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man…”

With fresh eyes I’ll guard my heart for trespasses, offensive odors, a haughty disposition, and a critical spirit which tend to seep in and create squalor. Needing, desiring, pleading instead to be filled with the fullness of God each and every day ‘til Jesus comes.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal…Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” (I Corinthians 13: 1-8(a) NKJ).

Today I’d like to introduce my friend and fellow Prism Book author, Sharon McGregor. Featured below is a picture of her new release Autumn Dreams. Isn’t this cover just gorgeous and begging to be read?

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Now Sharon, give us a quick blurb to tickle our fancy.

Autumn Dreams is a romance novella that takes place on the prairies in the late 1940’s.

Maggie arrives at her new teaching job, to board with a family she’s prepared to like. What she isn’t prepared for is her landlady’s brother Marshall who seems to immediately hate her. She is captivated by Ellen’s six year old daughter Emma who is having identity problems when faced with the arrival of a new baby. Then Ellen goes into labor in the middle of a storm and Maggie must come to terms with her fears and help. Along the way she helps a family grow closer, but what about her hopes for the future? Can she get past the wall Marshall has set up and does she really have a future here among the people she has grown to care for?

I love a good romance story and love that period of time. Here are two websites you can go to for directions in finding Sharon’s book. I’m sure Amazon would be the first place I’d check.

http://www.sharonmcgregor.com and http://www.sharonmcgregor.com/blog

Now tell us a little about yourself and how you became a writer.

I came to the West Coast after growing up on the Canadian prairies. My imagination and story weaving got its start while being an only child living on a farm. And from there I moved from cowgirl dreams to romance and mystery, but I’ve never lost my love of horses.

Beside reading and writing, what occupies your time?

My daughter and I have two shops–one an ice cream-candy shop. The other a bath boutique.

And your family?

In spite of spending years escaping the cold, I now spend endless hours at the ice rink watching my grandchildren figure skate and play hockey.

And I summon the courage to get on a plane (I’m terrified of flying, just like Maddie in Northern Lights) to visit my son and grandchildren who are still knee deep in the prairies.

Give us a little insight to why you write what you write.

I love endings with happy resolutions which is why I enjoy writing romance and cozy mysteries. Autumn Dreams is my second romance novella with Prism Books.

Sharon, thank you so much for spending time with us today. I’m headed for the bookstore this afternoon for my copy of Autumn Dreams. Perhaps you’d like to zip over to Amazon.com and afterwards take a moment to give Sharon a book review. I’m sure she’d appreciate knowing how you liked Autumn Dreams. Thinking about Christmas gifts already? Why not give a girlfriend a copy of Autumn Dreams.

Next week: Fresh Eyes

SAYIN’ GOODBYE

Sayin’ goodbye is hard.

The distance from the airport parking garage to the Southwest gate seemed endless. Tears threatened an assault. I gulped them back. Grandson Noah and I chatted about stupid stuff, each of us knowing the elephant in the room was grief over having to say goodbye. Again.

Oh, I knew I’d talk on the phone with him and see him next trip, but my heart ached. We’ve done this drill so many times and it never gets easier. But to say goodbye and know it’s final for the duration of life in the here and now—that’s hard. Really hard. But it’s not forever.
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Sayin’ goodbye hurts.

After the death of our daughter, I sat in the counselor’s office and heard her ask me, “DiAne, have you said goodbye to Michelle?”

Her words smacked me in the face. I snuggled in my self-righteous, stupid self and stammered mad. Why should I have to say goodbye, my daughter was a believer. She’s with Jesus. I’d see her again. Why should I have to say goodbye?

But in the days that followed, God brought scenes of my children leaving for college to mind. I saw them drive out the driveway, knowing I would see them again and what did I do? Stood in the driveway waving and watching ‘til they were out of sight, shouting goodbye.

And I know one day the goodbye will vanish and we’ll be together again and the hurt will vanish too.
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Sayin’ goodbye is necessary.

I remember the last time I saw my mom before she died. Alzheimer’s had robbed us of everything the last eight years of her life. But when I leaned over and kissed her, shortly before she went to be with Jesus, she replied in a clear, lucid voice, “goodbye.” Her body died a week later. But Mama’s mind and ability to respond to an earthly relationship died seven years before.

Saying goodbye frees us from focusing on the ugliness of death and to comprehend the glorious riches of God’s grace and the reality of His promise of an inheritance and eternity with Him.

We can’t focus on heaven when our eyes and heart are mired in the muck of fear. It takes months, maybe even years to say goodbye. But God has a purpose and plan for you, so it’s necessary to say goodbye, for now.
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Sayin’ goodbye confronts us with an ugly reality.

Whether your loved one has been ill for a long time or their death is unexpected, you are never prepared for that moment of separation. We are created eternal beings. And the bottom line when ferocious grief assaults your soul, you are brought face to face with your own earthly mortality. And Satan’s cunning voice whispers to your hurting heart, “You’re next.”

“Inasmuch then as the children(us) have partaken of flesh and blood. He (Jesus) Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He (Jesus) might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and release those (us) who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14 NAS).

Yes, God has numbered our days too. But if we trust Him for today, can’t we trust all our tomorrows and everything that goes with them to Him too?
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Sayin’ goodbye reveals a weak link in the chain of our lives.

It is so easy to pour out platitudes when others are plunged into the tsunami of grief . We recite scriptures and think in our minds we believe them with all our heart. But in the practically of the valley of the shadow of death our faith is put to the test. Do we really believe what we preach to others when we’re the ones hurting? And God asks, “Do you trust Me?”

And that’s the bottom line. But even the faith to trust Him is a gift from God, all we need is a heart that wants to.

Sayin’ goodbye requires us to accept God’s sovereignty.

During some of the darkest days after our daughter went home to live with the Lord Jesus, I read Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the Lord…” I had read that verse many times, but that particular day the words jumped off the page and pierced my heart. Her death was unexpected to us, but not to God. He numbered her days before she was born.

Clear as could be I heard in my spirit, “Do you trust Me?” In the silence of the moment with my teeny-weeny less than mustard seed sized faith I whispered, “Yes, Lord. I trust You.”

And the clouds of grief diminished a little each day as I learn experientially to walk through life’s dark times trusting everything to God.
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Grief never goes away—it changes, and grief is God’s roto-rooter to increase our heart’s capacity for joy.

Sayin’ goodbye is the beginning—not the end.

Jesus tells us death is an enemy. An enemy that reeks incredible heartache and destruction. But it’s not always going to be that way. God created us to become living stones, not dead stones. Stones that are being built into one body in Christ Jesus.

Our loved ones do not become heaven’s newest angels. God created all the angels there would ever be in the beginning. Those who love and trust the Lord Jesus are living stones who will rule and reign with Him forever.

Our loved ones aren’t sitting on a cloud, plucking a harp. No, if they had faith and trust in Jesus, they are doing what God planned for their lives. Doing what God transformed them to do and be. They are healed, filled with His joy, and alive forever by the same power that resurrected our Lord Jesus Christ and defeated Satan’s power over us through the fear of death.

The joy of His promise of a future and an inheritance is the power that enables us to keep on keeping on.

Saying goodbye is a choice.

The term “in that day” refers to a certain point in time, a time only God knows, when this age will end, death will be nailed in a coffin and buried forever. And Jesus will rule and reign, right here on earth, and we will never have to say goodbye again.

God’s promises are sure. You can trust Him. Scripture tells us He is not willing for any to perish, but that all should come to eternal life, through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you’ve never trusted Him, choose to accept His free gift of salvation purchased for you at the cross. Please make that choice right now.

You don’t have to wait ‘til you’re good enough. I sure didn’t. You can bow your head right now, admit you’ve sinned, and by faith believe that Jesus died to purchase you back from Satan. Thank Him for loving you and ask Him to teach you to trust Him more every day. Tell Him you want Him to be your Savior. Then tell someone, tell a friend, tell me, you’ve chosen to accept God’s gift of mercy and grace and follow Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Sayin’ goodbye allows you to choose worship.

We are so prone to hang onto the shirttails of pride. Meeting the challenges of the day, solving problems, running life—‘til death sideswipes us and we realize we are in control of nothing. At that point you will either turn to or away from Jesus. You will become bitter or you will worship The Lord God Almighty, El Shaddai.

And worship is the reason we were created—to worship. What do you worship?
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Sayin’ goodbye is an act of surrender.

Surrendering your loved one and yourself to the God who created you, loves you beyond your ability to comprehend will bring you to your knees giving honor and glory to Him. “… one Spirit, one Lord, and one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6 NAS).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10 NAS).

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED

We’ve all heard this title so often the words become cliché, but please grant me the privilege of referring to that lonely road one more time.

My husband and I were scouring the countryside around Crandall, Texas, for photo ops last weekend and due to the drought, found few. We meandered up and down country lanes which had become washboards that rattled our brains, not to mention the underpinnings of my car. Dust clouded the windshield and I was ready to call “uncle” and go home.

Then I saw it—that special frame—the one shot that made the whole afternoon worthwhile. And like a lollipop to a stick, I connected to this picture, this premise, this long, lonely, path. The one God calls us aside to hear Him. You know, the road less traveled.
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A super highway snaked not a mile away and farm to market roads (that’s what we call two lane roads in Texas) not a half mile to the north. All busy taking folks from Crandall to Dallas or Terrell. But this little path rolled along the curvature of the pasture, probably carved by a single tractor. Over and over again.

The past few years of my life trailed through my mind. And I connected with the ruts and ridges worn deep in the earth by the journey each morning from home to pasture, and each evening back home again. An HD picture of my life.

Years ago I began writing, received a few rejections, and threw the manuscripts in a drawer. Every now and again I’d pull them out and do a rewrite, until five years ago. God tapped my shoulder and said “now or never.” He brushed away my frugal excuses about lack of money by the announcement of a half price writing conference ready and waiting for me to enroll. So I registered, attended, and the rest is history.

Within ten minutes of walking into that intimidating gathering, I found out numerous things I had done wrong. No wonder I’d been rejected. God connected me with a writing family and for the next five years I diligently pursued my goal of becoming a writer—until a month ago.

I was tired. Exhausted. Bone weary with words. Edit groups, rewrites, hours placating a temperamental computer, costly conferences, dollar signs plastered over each ink cartridge, more edits and editing, and time, bolts of time—all for what? What if I couldn’t even write?

Oh, I’d received a trio of awards for a few chapters. But I cried out to God that night, “God, am I truly doing what you want me to do? I know you slashed that conference fee years ago so I could afford it, but have You changed your mind? And as far as schmoozing publishers and editors at conferences—You know I can’t do it. Am I even a writer? Please show me. I want to be in the center of Your will, whatever that will is.” After another few minutes of groaning and whining to the Lord I drifted to sleep.

And Wednesday morning I didn’t wake up feeling any better.

Sunday evening a writer friend and I were emailing about her new book and she asked, “What did you ever do with that book you were working on when we attended that seminar four years ago?”

She couldn’t see me, but tears rimmed my eyes and I hung my head, ashamed, and typed, “nothing.” And hit send.

Several minutes passed and another email flashed across my screen. “Do you have back-cover copy?”

I replied, “Yes.”

“Do you mind if I send it to my editor?”

My breath caught in my throat and my world stopped. In that second I bowed my head and breathed, “Oh Lord, you did hear me. You are here and You do care.” I wept as a wave of Jesus’ compassion and grace washed over me.

I know many of you reading this blog tonight may be experiencing fierce fiery darts from the enemy of your soul—I’m not good enough. I can’t do this. I don’t know which way to turn. What’s the matter with me?

Bill Gilliam says, “Satan speaks to us in first person singular with a southern accent.” And I can hear all of us agreeing “Amen.” It’s hard to maintain your footing and your focus when barrages strike home over and over again. Yet we motor along that super highway trapped in the crowd, just trying to keep up or out run them.

When God asks us to pull onto that road less traveled, pause in a shady spot, and ask, scream, or sob—“Help me, Lord. I don’t know where I am or what You want me to do. Please show me Your way.”

God knew my needs and He knows your needs. He called me to that place of quiet calm.

That Sunday evening God guided a very special young woman to come alongside to be a conduit and confirmation of His refreshing love and encouragement poured out on me. And I received hope. His hope. I was reminded of His truth, my life is in His hands.

But I wonder how many times I’ve raced down those endless farm roads of life, one thought in mind—getting to my destination. Dried out and dusty, too busy to hear the Spirit’s urging to notice and help someone else struggling in the constant chaos of the freeway and traffic jams of life. Too distracted to invite them to travel with me along the road less traveled. And too tired to care.

Where does Jesus find you today? In need of help or in need of helping? The Word tells us “We have not because we ask not.” And these words apply to whichever situation you find yourself tonight. Talk with the Father. Ask Him. He loves to hear the sound of your voice—even if you’re whining.DSCF6619 030

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6 NASB).

GOD’S SQUAD

This past weekend a group of people watched horrified as a speeding vehicle crashed through barriers and flipped upside down, submerged in the Utah River, with three teenagers inside.

With one spirit, in one accord, this group of people jumped into the turmoil, turned the vehicle right-side-up in the water, and rescued the teens who are reported to be in stable condition.

The event made national news and we celebrate this unified selfless act of saving lives. But isn’t that what Christ called the Church to do—rescue rebellious people from their wrong doings and introduce them to Jesus!DSCF2480

Before the foundation of the world God put in place everything we would need to work in the power of His Holy Spirit to do the work He preordained for each one of us to accomplish. And what better picture could we have than the courageous group from Salt Lake last weekend.

I can’t pick up a car, can you? Of course not, but working together with a single goal and one spirit, these folks saved three disobedient teens from drowning. And that’s our calling—rescuing DSCF3049people from the power of the evil one, wrenching them from the claws of sin, and telling them how Jesus died to save them. Forever.

Ephesians 3:16 tells us every believer, according to the riches of God’s glory, will be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. So Church, let me ask, where’s our power? Has the Spirit changed? Or are we the rebellious ones, speeding through life, giving no thought to how far we’ve catapulted into the enemy’s camp?

Paul implores us to “…walk in a manner worth of the Historic Churches 0018calling with which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3 NIIV).

Well now, that certainly explains our problem, doesn’t it? The Church is called to unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace—Uh oh. Peace in Baptists ranks? Or humble, patient Presbyterians? How about tolerance for one another in love by the Church of God folks? Do I need to continue? Does anyone think there’s going to be a special Southern Baptist section in heaven? Or are Bible Churches going to be given top billing? Of course not. We are all being built-up into one body, in Christ. His body. His bride.

And we wonder why we’re impotent? We’re so full of ourselves and our own agenda. Proud. Arrogant. Selfish. Self-willed. We’ve got it covered. We’re upside-down in the flood waters of life, deprived of the breath of the Spirit destined for death, ‘til the doctor DSCF2348delivers a tragic diagnosis. ‘Til a husband, wife, or child dies. ‘Til another 9/11 and we come face to face with our mortality and insignificant, hopeless state without God.

We skip across the pages of The Word, grabbing a morsel here, a snack there, yet never pausing to let the wonder and glory of the LORD God Almighty fill our soul. That’s not belief. That’s not faith. That’s pride. No wonder we’re in the mess we’re in. Confused, weak, tossed about with name it and claim it philosophies and countless other deceptions which have captured the minds of the Body and carried our hearts to a pagan land. We are prattling children. Unaware. Fiddling while our family, our neighborhood, our nation burns. Just like in the days of Noah.

Hell is the apparent destination for many I know. Many you know. They don’t know Jesus. But we refuse to grasp the urgency of their DSCF2344peril, to open our eyes to the finality and horror of separation from God forever. We refuse to tell them about what Jesus has done in our lives. Or is there nothing to tell? Do we really care about lost folks? Are we complacent, thinking whew, I’m safe. Too bad about them? Good thing the Salt Lake City folks recognized the teens would die if they didn’t act right then and in one accord.

Jesus gave us one assignment. “Go make disciples.” Like those folks jumped into the river with no thought for their comfort, their safety, their appearance. With a unified voice we must break down those embassies of hell entrenched in every city and town in our nation. And yank those held in the fierce jaws of Satan into the Ark of the Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t save them, God does, but we are responsible for the yanking, telling, loving, and nurturing them to hope and healing in the unity of the Spirit in Christ Jesus.

If we come to our senses, see their danger and ours, and come together in the only Holy Spirit of the Lord, the same power that Historic Churches 0007_edited-1fell at Pentecost will sweep across this nation with purifying wind and fire, saving multitudes, and the Holy Spirit will revive, rejuvenate, and transform the Church.

It’s our choice. Yours and mine—one saved sinner at a time–To repent and walk in a manner worthy of our calling or continue grieving the Spirit of God.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19 NIIV).

My almost three year-old, red-headed, full-of-mischief son giggled, put his head down, and ran lickety-split toward the corner by ourIMG_1499 house and a busy roadway. The noise of traffic ruled screaming stop irrelevant.

I sprinted for the foolish little one and snatched him off his feet just before his foot touched the black asphalt of the dangerous intersection. And I paddled his three-year-old bottom, with my hand, all the way across the lawn and inside our front door!

Was that child abuse? I hoped it was a shock and awe maneuver that would teach him never to run into the road again. And it worked.

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15 IISB).

But in these “Y and Me” generations, is spanking really the issue? Or are far deeper issues driving this controversy?

During the past forty years our nation and its people have DSCF4943experienced an evolving spiritual abortion. A painful ripping away from God’s parameters, leaving us running the highway of life with no boundaries, no rules, no conscience.

We never gave a second glance to consequences or Pandora’s brimming box of angry lies and deception eager to rush in and fill the God void left by our rebellion. We reveled in the new found freedom—If it feels good—do it. Whatever it is. Just like Adam and Eve did in the garden. Until…

In the early 70’s a new way of child-rearing swarmed the nation. Dr. Spock and doctors of the same philosophy wrote numerous books with the notion children should be allowed to express themselves. “Let them draw on the walls,” he touted. “No spanking, just time-outs.” And many free thinking young adults chose to parent in the light of this new found wisdom.

But was it wisdom?

Infiltrated with this feel good-do it brand of education, schools took up the mantra that resulted in the mind games of situation ethics—the situation you’re in determines the ethics you use. And we never recognized the deception digesting our educational system.

My children went through a harrowing year in Longwood, Florida, being exposed to the survival games and magic circle foolishness taking place in our tax payer funded public school. Along with many parents, we filed suit against the school board and had this evil cut out of our system. But it was a nation-wide subterfuge, a rout of God and conscience and morality were tossed out the window.

When Rowe v. Wade became the law of the land we allowed DSCF2692the most awful form of child abuse to become the law of the land. Moms and Dads could legally kill their babies in the womb. And kill we have, to the tune of fifty-five million innocent babies. For years. Never realizing, at the moment of legalization, the soul of our nation underwent a massive spiritual abortion. An abortion from which we are hemorrhaging—bleeding out—and will die.

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…” (Psalm 127:3-5a IISB).

So is it any wonder we have scores of children, abused by parents who consider them a nuisance, not a gift from God. And why should they? These parents have no use for God or His Word.

Truth of the matter is, these parents need a good spanking. A spanking which they never received because the fad of the day said, “Let the little darlings express themselves.” And they’re still venting their own consequences of deception.

Our highways have lane laws, speed sanctions, and all kinds of other rules meant to keep us safe while zipping down the highway at 80DSCF4890 mph. But if one car fails to obey the laws of the road a catastrophic-life-claiming crash will surely occur.

Nationally we reject God’s laws for life, then wring our hands over the calamity of consequences this violation brings upon our land, our families and our lives. We have come full circle and are now left holding our frustration, our anger, our rebellion, and we have no place to go.
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The world is exploding around us and the feel good lie isn’t working. We’re left with the ashes of broken relationships, and the reality of our unquenchable anger, frustration, and fear. So to spank or not isn’t the real question, is it?

That afternoon so long ago, as I held my sobbing child on my lap, file1691345353992pondering how different the outcome might have been, I cried with him.

On the hillside overlooking Jerusalem two thousand plus years ago Jesus cried. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it” (Luke 13:34 IISB).

I’m sure He looked down through the ages and saw the horrible consequences of my sin and your sin, and knew that’s why He had to die.

If you’re His child, you’ve been to the cross and your name isDSCF4892 inscribed on His hand and you have access to God’s Throne for forgiveness and mercy. If you’re not yet His child, there’s still room on His hand and at the cross just for you.

DSCF2349So shouldn’t the real question be, “Where do we go from here?” And the only true answer is, “To the cross or to God’s Throne pleading for His mercy and grace or for the salvation, healing, and transformation only He can give.”

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:5-6 IISB).

Next week we’ll talk more about this when I write Citizens, Christians, Coward – Can’t I Be All Three?

YOU’RE WHAT?

“Angry?”

“Me, angry?”

My face heated and my heart twisted. “Well, yes… I have a temper, but my Dad had a temper too. Don’t we all?” My spirit squirmed.

I focused on the lane stripes zipping by on the black-top. Tension from my heart slipped to my foot and I shoved the gas pedal to theDSCF6475 floor, but Dr. Ravi Zacharias’s words echoed in my head. I always listen to him on my way home from Longview. This morning he related difficult relationships in his family when he grew up in New Delhi, India.

His father was a well-know man in their city. A man held in high esteem by many, but a man with a horrible temper. Dr. Zacharias told about an evening his father’s temper had exploded, causing great discomfort and misery for his wife and children. But what pierced my heart was his mother’s reaction.

Dr. Zacharias, then a teen, suggested they go to a neighbor for help. But his mother said no. Her husband’s reputation would be harmed. She chose to be quiet and endure the discomfort. He repeated an old Indian saying his mother lived by.

“When your basket is bumped, what spills out defines your character.”

These words shot an arsenal of conviction into my heart. What comes out of me when I’m bumped? My mind shifted gears to a few DSCF6482days before. I had been bumped and what spilled out of me was oxygen-deprived-pond-scum that grew in dark isolated corners of my heart—toxic waste.

Oh, I’m usually fine when everything goes according to plan. When I feel good. When there’s enough of me to go around. When life is smooth and pleasant and you do things my way. But what are the mathematical odds for that being a consistent way of life?

So on that super highway at 80 mph, I faced, admitted, and confessed—I have anger issues.

Oh, that’s a too politically correct confession to leave staring at you and me on this page.

I’m angry! There. I admitted it.

Not the screaming, yelling in-the-moment rage. No. But the deep caustic kind that eats rust when expectations and reality are too far apart, leaving me frustrated with unrealistic expectations which lodge in my heart to grate, grind, and grab my peace.

So I pulled into the slow lane, turned the radio off, and asked God to show me exactly what He wanted me to know—something I should never do unless I’m ready to hear. And show He did. In HD. It was and is still painful.

My response to trouble, difficult situations, and conversations in the past has been to back the offender in a corner and verbally slice and dice, using words that twist the situation to my point of view so I end up the victor. Talking rather than listening. In other words, controlling the moment so I win—you lose.

Why? Because like you, I’ve grown up in a world where we are made to think success is based solely on money, power, and status. That’s a bold-faced lie and a wrong definition of success. But we’ve been indoctrinated to live in this fast and furious lane of life. Too much to do. No time to accomplish. Zero dependence on God and total dependence on self. A recipe for disaster, doomed to end in divorce court, criminal court, and/or counseling.

All because we’ve pushed God to the background, neglected His Word, and wedged ourselves in the driver’s seat.

Don’t look down your nose at me and say, “Well I go to church every Sunday. I pray and read God’s Word when I can.” Yep. So do I, and yet, how long are we out of church on Sunday before someone bumps us and we spew? If not on the outside, in those creepy-heart-corners to acidify along with the long list of offenses already stored there—waiting for a prime-time moment to slosh out with the next bump.

This past week I’ve come to understand the most dangerous type of anger is anger that hides, seethes, corrodes and turns into bitterness.

My younger brother was given the privilege of going to college. Didn’t know it at the time, but we were poor, and you know boys needed the education…blah, blah, blah. He didn’t make it through the first year and I was angry. Angry at him, angry with my folks, just plain angry. Even typing this account I feel my face heat. For years I held onto this anger. Nursed it, and reveled in self-pity and excused my faults. And all these years our relationship traveled a rocky road. But in His sovereignty, God allows situations in the lives of His children to wake us up and teach us, but how many times do we choose a tantrum rather than deal with the source of the anger?

We’ve birthed several generations of angry kids because we excuse behavior, lie to ourselves, and become mannequins of one another. WeDSCF6490 are an angry people. Devoid of humility, forgiveness, and thankfulness. Captured in self-deception and pride. And it’s contagious.

There have been moments of abject shame this past week dredging up and naming the well-kept bombing ranges of anger in my life. Scars from childhood. A broken marriage. Emotional damage I caused my children. The pain of broken relationships. Secondary losses occurring after our daughter died. All tucked away and allowed to fester. But this morning, as He always does, God led me to Ephesians 1:3.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

To the best of my understanding God’s Word said:

God has given me every spiritual blessing in heaven in Christ. Everything I need to live life in Him. I’m good to go! He has given me the ability to exhibit all the fruit of the Spirit. And He says, “The fruit of the Spirit is…” Not the fruits are…I don’t get to pick and choose. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Gentleness. Goodness. Faith. Meekness. Temperance. But I must desire them. I must seek after and choose to learn to use what He has already given me. I am responsible, with the help of the Spirit, to pin-point areas of sin in my life, confess them, and turn away, because He has put my sins behind His back. They are gone forever. He promised.

One of the reasons anger seeds flourished in my heart are the psycho-buzz-words—unrealistic expectations. The truth is the distance between my reality and my expectations determined the size, meter, depth, and manifestation of my next explosion.
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Another person cannot fulfill my expectations, meet my needs, or satisfy my longings. The reality is everything I need and long for can only be achieved through a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. All other relationships tempt me to latch onto unrealistic expectations which are Satan’s yellow-brick-breeding-ground for anger.
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God the Father instructs me, learn to do what is pleasing to the Lord. Then anger won’t be an overwhelming struggle. God issued the edict—I don’t have to stay bound in chains of hateful aggression. Not if I use the power He’s already given to name and forsake the sin. But I’ve often chosen to disobey Him and have grieved His Spirit.

“Be angry, and yet do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil and opportunity”(Ephesians 4:26-27 NAS).

Does that mean we’re going to be perfect all the time? No, not in this lifetime, but remember the words God used, “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” God knows my heart. And my heart desires to crucify the anger I’ve allowed to reside in me. To live each day in a manner demonstrating to others what God has done in my life and invite them to come, taste, and see that the Lord is good.

What’s the desire of your heart? Is Jesus your reality? Next time you’re bumped what will spill out of your heart, somersault off your tongue, and pollute all those within your sphere of influence? Or will you choose to run to God’s mercy seat for “help and hope in time of need?” But the decision must be made each day—before the explosion occurs. Daniel “purposed in his heart” before the meal was served, he would not taste defiling food from a pagan king. Will you?

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