The Weary and Wonderful

wonderfulThe older I get the more truth I find in an old cliché—Whatever gets your attention gets you. Some mornings, it’s my aches and pains that get my attention.

I’ve found that when my mind is full of misery, I’m mighty miserly in my praise for God.  Instead of focusing on a sore muscle or a stiff joint, I make it a point to learn from David who contemplated the splendid and wonderful things of God: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well (Psalm 139).

When was the last time you considered how “wonderfully” you are made? Here are three facts to get you started.

  • You are unique: When you were still in your mother’s womb, you developed your fingerprints when you were three months old.
  • You are a person of rhythm: At 80 beats per minute, your heart beats about 4,800 times an hour or 115,200 times a year pumping blood through the 100,000 miles of blood vessels in your body.
  • You are no dimwit. When you are awake, your brain is producing enough electricity to light a lightbulb.

Each of us is unique and have a special purpose in the grand scheme of life as designed by God.

This may be what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he said: We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10); or, as The Voice says, we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives.

Those Who Know

6325259a3ec2cdd15a2b3fbf87cf9de4It happened yesterday; it was one of those bright light moments of fresh comprehension. As I was reading Psalm 9, a verse stood out from the rest like a sunflower in a field of bluebonnets.

The words that caught my attention were a positive affirmation of God’s faithfulness: those who know Your name will put their trust in You.

At certain times and places, God would use a specific name to reveal His character to His people.  Many of the Psalms speak about the nature of God. From the many, I share a few that encourage me to put my trust in God:

  • Psalm 3:3 tells us that God is a shield.
  • Psalm 5:11 where God is seen as a defender of His people.
  • Psalm 13:6 states that God provides for the needs of the faithful.
  • Psalm 19:14 praises God because He gives the strength we need, and He redeems us.
  • Psalm 23:1 reminds us that the Lord is our Shepherd.

Then, there is Psalm 18:2 which is a compendium of God’s attributes. As you begin a new week, I encourage you to think about it today:

I will love You,  O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock  and my fortress  and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Indoor-fins: The Science of Laughter

fish-bowl-small-sizeThe health benefits of laughter were known centuries before recent studies discovered the connection between laughter and endorphins (indoor-fins).

Somewhere around 900 BC, King Solomon assembled his collection of wise and pithy principles for life. Proverbs 17:22 is a good example: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

An article in Forbes does more than just confirm the words of Solomon, it lists six benefits of laughter:

  • Laughter is a potent endorphin releaser.
  • Laughter contagiously forms social bonds.
  • Laughter fosters brain connectivity.
  • Laughter is central to relationships.
  • Laughter has an effect similar to antidepressants.
  • Laughter protects your heart.

If you’ve been sick, down-in-the-dumps, needled by pain or coping with stress, laugh a little and let your brain release the endorphins that will kick-start your immune system, enhance your mood, soothe your pain, and tame your stress.

I hope the words of John McLeod will nudge you in the right direction and put a smile on your face:

Can I give you a handful of laughter

A smidgen of giggles to boot,

A cupful of tease and a comical sneeze

Followed by a hilarious hoot.

A Tribute to Mom

IMG_0539Four years ago today, I walked into my mother’s room and said: “Mom, today is your birthday.  Do you know how old you are?”  She thought for a moment and said: “No Stan, I don’t think I do.” “You’re 101,” I said.  My statement revived her spunky and independent spirit, and she informed me that, “I might not know how old I am, but I know I’m not 101!”

Mom died about a month later form the ravages of Alzheimer’s. Since today is her birthday, I’m re-posting this blog as a tribute to her. . .

Times were tough in 1930. The stock market crash in 1929 had knocked the economic wind out of the United States and left it gasping for survival. Some 1,350 banks would fail and close their doors. The newspaper headlines reported on financial failures as well as world leaders like Mussolini, Stalin, and Herbert Hoover.

Times were tough in 1930. The stock market crash in 1929 had knocked the economic wind out of the United States and left it gasping for survival. Some 1,350 banks would fail and close their doors. The newspaper headlines reported on financial failures as well as world leaders like Mussolini, Stalin, and Herbert Hoover.

At this time in our nation’s history bread was 9 cents a loaf, gas was 10 cents a gallon, and a movie ticket was 35 cents.

On Friday, June 20th, about halfway through 1930, Buzz Aldrin was born. At the time of his birth, the idea of space flight was just science fiction; however, Aldrin would join Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969; and, they would be the first two people to walk on the moon.

Buzz Aldrin wasn’t the only person born on June 20, 1930. A baby girl, who would never experience his fame and notoriety, was also born. Her family had little money but a lot of love. Her fragile world was shattered a few years later when her mother died. She quit school in the 8th grade because her dad needed her to help work the fields—the fields of a farm he would later be forced to sell.

As a young lady, she married, but heartache found her again. At the age of 35, she became a widow when her husband was killed on the job, and she was left with three young sons. A short time later she married again. Five children came with her new husband. His 5 and her 3 made for a memorable life that could be as harried as it was happy.

When her second husband died, the truth was exposed: She was weaker than any of her family knew. Her cognitive skills were becoming cobwebs; Her sense of direction failed her; and, she was often lost.

 

On Monday of last week, my siblings and I had to stand toe-to-toe with the toughest woman we’ve ever known to break the news: “Mom, you can’t live by yourself any longer—we’re moving you into assisted living.”

 

Mom’s independent spirit has served her well for most of her life. She kept going and remained positive when she had every right to be negative and quit. It’s that same spirit that keeps saying: “I’m not staying here. I’m going home.” But with the next sentence, it’s evident that Alzheimer’s has a befuddling grip on her once vibrant mind and spirit.

 

Buzz Aldrin may have walked on the moon, but he stands in the shadow of my mother, Evelyn Lou Lacy–the girl who was also born June 20, 1930. She’s been a loving and loyal daughter, a faithful wife to two fortunate men, and a sometimes-fearsome force who molded the life of her children.

Thanks for reading this annual tribute that I share to honor the memory of my mother.

More Than Adequate

When Paul was writing his second letter to the church at Corinth, he mentioned his “thorn in the flesh.” Paul said, Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Here are four reasons that God’s grace is just as sufficient for us as it was for Paul:

  1. God is omniscient—He knows everything that can be known; therefore, He knows everything there is to know about you and your needs.
    • Psalm 139:1-3: O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
  2. God is beneficent—He is generous in His love for His children.
    • Psalm 145:15-19: The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
  3. God makes you proficient—He provides the strength I need.
    • Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
  4. God will never leave you deficient—God nurtures those He loves.
    • Isaiah 40:31: But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

As you think about the sufficiency of God’s grace, I encourage you to also give some thought to these words of the Apostle Peter: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature . .2 Peter 1:2-21

Life’s Trials and Trails

pathA person’s path in life will be shaped by the trails he walks and the trials he endures. I’ve walked many trails that have been scenic adventures, and I’ve encountered several trials that were dismal and disappointing.

There will be times in life when nothing makes sense.  The trail will seem too steep to climb and too long to endure. When David experienced a situation like this, he realized that God had already walked where he had never gone and could see what was beyond his vision.

David said: When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path (Psalm 142:3).

The next time you have a tussle with a trial, remember that:

  • God never leads His children down the wrong path
  • You may not know where the path will lead you, but God does.
  • Just because you’re confused, God isn’t confounded.
  • God is present, and He will not abandon you.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

 

Life’s Trails and Trials

pathA person’s path in life can be influenced by the trails he walks and the trials he endures. I’ve walked many trails that have been scenic adventures, and I’ve encountered several trials that were dismal and disappointing.

There will be times in life when nothing makes sense.  The trail will seem too steep to climb and too long to endure. When David experienced a situation like this, he realized that God had already walked where he had never gone and could see what was beyond his vision.

David said: When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path (Psalm 142:3).

The next time you have a tussle with a trial, remember that:

  • God never leads His children down the wrong path
  • You may not know where the path will lead you, but God does.
  • Just because you’re confused, God isn’t confounded.
  • God is present, and He will not abandon you.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Attitude’s Cradle of Forgiveness

ForgivenessWinston Churchill was right when he said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”  For better or worse, your attitude has life-changing potential.

Some people have never looked at life through rose-colored glasses; instead, they seem to be prone to a negative bias. On the other hand, there are some who find the silver-lining in every cloud.  The difference between the two is Churchill’s little thing.

This is even true with the way people read the Bible.  Some people are more apt to see a negative theme when a verse is every bit as ripe with a positive principle.

A case in point is the New Testament principle of sowing and reaping. Stated in a few words it says that you will reap what you sow. Far too many people try to put just a negative emphasis on this passage when it is positively pregnant with potential.

Newton’s cradle is a good demonstration of the principle of sowing and reaping.  Newton posited that “action and reaction are equal and opposite.”  When one ball is released (action), a ball from the opposite side swings out in equal distance (reaction).

Jesus used this principle in a discussion of forgiveness:  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).

How much different would your world be if you retrained your attitude to focus instead of the negative?

I encourage you to begin this week by sowing the positive seeds of kindness and giving the gift of forgiveness to those who have wounded you.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

What is it that lies within you?  It’s your attitude and the potential to love others as Christ loves you.  I encourage you to give some thought to Paul’s exhortation to the church at Rome:

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good (The Message).

The Silhoutte of Truth

basketballLike many other sports fans, I spent much of last weekend in front of a TV watching college basketball. While I’m happy that four of the teams in the Sweet Sixteen are from the Big 12, I’m disappointed that Wichita State was knocked out of the tournament in the first round.

It was either the success of Kansas and Kansas State or the failure of WSU that reminded me of coach John Wooden. The coach was a man of character and wise words, and he once said: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

Wooden’s words remind me of the self-portrait Paul painted in Philippians: If it were right to have such confidence, I could certainly have it, and if any of these men thinks he has grounds for such confidence I can assure him I have more. I was born a true Jew, I was circumcised on the eighth day, I was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, I was, in fact, a full-blooded Jew. As far as keeping the Law is concerned I was a Pharisee, and you can judge my enthusiasm for the Jewish faith by my active persecution of the Church. As far as the Law’s righteousness is concerned, I don’t think anyone could have found fault with me (Philippians 3:4-6).

As a Pharisee Paul thought he knew it all, but when he met Jesus he underwent a life-changing transformation: But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith.  My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead (Philippians 3:7-11).

Let me paraphrase the verses above in just a few words: I got rid of my worthless-self-righteous-know-it-all attitude so I could know Jesus.

Stephen Covey said that “In the last analysis, what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.”  The “what-we-are” communication of Paul, was the harsh restrictive, and punitive mindset of the Old Testament.  Paul knew the nitty-gritty essence of what it took to be a Pharisee, but he didn’t have an itty-bitty speck of “what-we-are” grace. Paul was a know-it-all theologian, and at his core, he would abhor the grace-themed principles of Christianity.

Paul’s pace was slowed on the Damascus Road, when he had a personal encounter with Jesus. Up to this point in his life, Paul had tried to find fullness in a silhouette of truth. When he met the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Paul couldn’t ignore the majestic mercy and the grace galore that Jesus offers.

The arrogance of what Paul was, was quickly overshadowed by the eloquence of what he became. He became a Christian of significance because he was not content to just talk-it-up.  He knew he needed to live-it-out.

The Covey quote I shared earlier seems to be based on the teaching of John: “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  If “what we are” determines the effectiveness of what we say, how influential is your life?

Beat-up and Worn-down?

stressedAre there times in your life when you can’t seem to shake the petty frustrations of the day, and you plop in your chair feeling beat-up, worn-down, and thoroughly annoyed?

I never want these moments to become marathons, so I try to get a grip on my gripes by redirecting my attention. I do this by thinking less about my perceived misery and more on the character and promises of God.

A passage of Scripture that picks me up when I’m feeling down is Psalm 136. It’s a reflection on God’s mercy or the “steadfast love of God.”

The first three verses of this Psalm begin will a call to give thanks to God and each of its twenty-six verses reminds us that God’s mercy endures forever.

This Psalm is a diary of some of the defining moments in history when God intervened in an awesome display of His power:

  • The power of God is seen in His creative acts (136:5-9).
  • The power of God is seen in His faithful deliverance of His people (136:10-15).

The last four verses of this Psalm can strengthen your resolve when you realize that you are never beyond the reach of God, and He will remember you (136:23), rescue you (136:24), and He will restore you through His steadfast love endures forever (136:26).