Rituals and Wrinkles

mirrorIt is 4:19, and I’ve finished the first part of my morning routine: I just swallowed the last drop of my first cup of coffee.

The next item on my morning ritual will be the couple of minutes I spend facing a mirror to examine my wrinkled mug, to apply some shaving cream, and to wield the razor as I shave my whiskers.

When I check the stubble on my face, I often think of Paul’s statement to the church at Corinth: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).”

When you think about it, isn’t life one examination station after another?

  • In your bedroom, do you examine your shirt for wrinkles before you button it up?
  • In the grocery store, do you check the apples to see if they are bruised or too green before you place them in your cart?
  • After you buy something, do you check to make sure you have been given the correct amount of change?

Do you take any time during the day for a spiritual examination?  The Psalmist said: “I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies (Psalm 119:59).”  Are there times when you use God’s Word to iron out the wrinkles of your life?

The methodology of the Psalms was the same message espoused by James (1:21-25):

Lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the

When you use the “perfect law of liberty” as a mirror to examine your life, what do you see?

  • Do you see a reflection of righteousness?
  • Is there an image of personal purity?
  • Do you recognize the features of faithfulness in the face you see?

Let me share a favorite verse that I use as a mirror: Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

When you look into God’s Word, what do you see?

Sensing the Scent of Beauty

beauty seenSome clichés are falsehoods and aren’t worth the price of a vowel on Wheel of Fortune; however, timeless classics like, Beauty is in the eye of the beholder have been cherished for generations.

To be honest, I lack more than just a little sophistication when it comes to appreciating the elegance and splendor of beauty, but even I can appreciate:

Beauty should not be thought of as just a sensory perception of the eye. It can also be a pleasant fragrance that fires the sensory neurons in your schnozzle. 

People like me can identify a canvas that hosts the bright strokes of a Picasso,  but we are more apt to be awed by the sight of a scrumptious slice of apple pie fused with the tantalizing aroma of freshly brewed coffee.  While some of us will never fully appreciate the world of art, there are others who will never savor the delicious bouquet of culinary delights nor the sweet perfume of a rose.

It’s estimated that 2 million people actually stink at smelling. Dysfunctional smellers are found more often among men than women: In one study, nearly 25% of men and 11% of women, ages 60–69, had a smell disorder. This diagnosis falls into four classifications:

  • Anosmia is the complete inability to detect odors.
  • Hyposmia is the diminished ability to detect odors.
  • Parosmia is a change in a person’s ability to distinguish odors.
  • Phantosmia is the bogus illusion of the nose; it is a perceptual false-positive of an odor that isn’t present.

The nasal tone of this post would not be complete, if I failed to mention two smells that are especially pleasing to God:

  • The aroma of your prayers that evoke the smell of golden bowls full of incense in (Revelation 5:8).
  • The aroma of your love that Paul speaks of in the book of Ephesians.

May today be a day to contemplate the beauty that surrounds you, to reflect on the beauty of the Lord our God that is upon you (Psalm 90:17), and to take the words of Thoreau to heart: Behave so the aroma of your actions may enhance the general sweetness of the atmosphere.

Waiting Like Leo

swamp-rat-16Leo was as regular as clockwork.  A few minutes before 3 PM, he would walk into my office, and say:  It’s time to get a cup, are you ready?

While I enjoyed the break and our afternoon conversations, the ride to the coffee shop was a hang-0n-for-your-life experience.  This kind, jovial, old gent evidently had nitro in his DNA because the second the traffic light turned green he morphed into a mixture of three of the all time NHRA greats: Matt Hagan, Don Prudhomme, and Big Daddy Don Gartlis.

Quicker than you could say Folgers, Leo honked his horn, smoked his tires, floor-boarded the gas pedal and raced to the coffee shop—Leo was a better fumer and fretter than he was a patient waiter.

To be truthful, if you’re anything like me, both of us are too much like Leo. We hate to wait at red lights, in lines, or for the 30 seconds it takes for a microwave to do its magic—we’re better at getting up and going than we are at sitting and waiting.

Whatever you do, please don’t put me on hold—elevator music isn’t relaxing; it’s a fight song.

A.W. Tozer (1918-1963) lamented this spirit of busyness because it has diminished our ability to be still and know the Lord.  Tozer said: We are victims of the philosophy of activism tragically misunderstood, and he defined it as an urgent life of getting and spending, going and returning, organizing and promoting, buying and selling, working and playing. Tozer continued: If we are not making plans or working to carry out plans already made we feel that we are failures, that we are sterile, unfruitful eunuchs, parasites on the body of society.

In these stress-filled times, we need to ease up on the throttle and learn to wait on the Lord. David said that he waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry (Psalm 40:1).

When we wait, with an expectant hope, in God’s providential care, we find that God will:

  • Offer guidance: Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long (Psalm 25:5)
  • Provide deliverance: We wait for the Lord; he is our deliverer and shield. (Psalms 33:20).
  • Answer prayer: Listen to what I say, Lord! Carefully consider my complaint! Pay attention to my cry for help, my king and my God, for I am praying to you! Lord, in the morning you will hear me; in the morning I will present my case to you and then wait expectantly for an answer (Psalms 5:1-3).
  • Give strength: Those who wait on 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 (Isaiah 40:31).

John Ortberg has commented on the importance of waiting.  Biblically, waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.

Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. ~Isaiah 26:8

The Gratitude List

Like most mornings, I started today with a cup of coffee and my Bible. While I was reading, I thought about God’s wonderful deeds for mankind, and my lack of gratitude:

 

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

~Psalm 107:8-9

This morning I give thanks to these people I’ve never met:

  • Thomas Edison for the light that shines about my head.
  • Benjamin Franklin for the glasses I wear.
  • The Wright brothers and their work in the field of aviation.
  • Charles Babbage, the Father of Computers
  • James Watt for his inventive mind that gave us the steam engine.
  • Alexander Bell who gave the first truly functional telephone.
  • Galileo because his genius improved accuracy of the compass; without which I’d still be lost in the wilderness.
  • Henry Ford and his “moving assembly line” which allowed for the mass production of automobiles.
  • Willis Carrier for the air conditioning that I enjoy during the hot and humid summer days.

Expressing gratitude and giving thanks are themes that run throughout the pages of the Bible. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote: I thank God . . .  as I remember you 2constantly in my prayers night and day (1:3).

I encourage you to mimic Paul: Take some time today to reflect on the past year; express your gratitude, and say thanks to those who have helped you along the way and made your life a little easier.

Goodbye to the Prince, the Princess, and the Greatest

armedandsexyleia-officialpixAmong the many events that have happened during 2016, the most important to some people was the death of the idol they adored; for some it was a singer named Prince, for others it was the death of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and boxing fans had to bid farewell to The Greatest—Muhammad Ali. There was also the death of an author who was less heralded than these whose obituaries were printed in newspapers from the East coast to the West.

While he was well-known in some circles, Jerry Bridges, the author, did not have the notoriety of the Prince and the Princess, but he did know The Greatest One who is greater than any other; and, Bridges had found what proves to be elusive to some—the secret of peace and contentment.

Bridges was a prolific writer who said: “The Bible is full of God’s promises to provide for us spiritually and materially, to never forsake us, to give us peace in times of difficult circumstances, to cause all circumstances to work together for our good, and finally to bring us safely home to glory. Not one of those promises is dependent upon our performance. They are all dependent on the grace of God given to us through Jesus Christ.”

The words of the Princess are a stark contrast to those of Bridges: “I knew better than I knew anything that what happens with stardom, with fame, is it goes away, and it leaves you in a humiliated space (Carrie Fisher 2006).”

Fisher’s assessment on life, reminds me of Solomon’s wisdom: Charm can be deceptive and physical beauty will not last, but a woman who reveres the Lord should be praised above all others. ~Proverbs 31:30

It’s a simple truth that this world offers nothing akin to genuine contentment.  Your health and wealth can vanish in a moment; fame is fickle; and the bright lights of Hollywood and Broadway fade away.

“Real contentment,” Warren Wiersbe said, “must come from within. You and I cannot change or control the world around us, but we can change and control the world within us.”  The “within” that Wiersbe spoke of is “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, and will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

If you’re restless, and feel as though there is a void in your life, I encourage you to give God’s peace a chance.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

NASCAR: Pit Stop Essentials

NASCAR-at-DaytonaA word that elicits a wide range of emotions is NASCAR . Some people shake their head in bewilderment thinking it is a waste of time to watch grown men drive a car in circles.  Then, there are those who froth at the mouth when they hear the rumble of a finely tuned engine that propels a driver down the straightaways in excess of 200 MPH.

Every second the driver spends on pit road is a second that will determine how he finishes the race. In a matter of about 12 seconds, a good pit crew can change tires, top off the fuel tank, and necessary adjustments to race car.

Pit stops are a vital component of every race—even the race of life.  Paul said, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 1:7).  To finish the race, it helps to keep a few principles in mind:

  • Realize your skill-set is limited and you will always need God:
    • I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God with me. ~I Corinthians 15:10
    • Serve with the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ. ~I Peter 4:11
  • Remember those who have helped you and show your appreciation: I thank God for you Christians at Philippi whenever I think of you. My constant prayers for you are a real joy, for they bring back to my mind how we have worked together for the Gospel from the earliest days until now. ~Philippians 1:3
  • Plan for the bumps in the road: Moses chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. ~Hebrews 11:25
  • Set a steady pace, so you can win the race: Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air.  Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified. ~I Corinthians 9:24-27

I’ll close with this thought: To run fast, you need to know when its time to slow down.

The Passing of Time

90DC0B4CC6A44E2CA0F4CAE457EE06A3It will usually happen at least once a year, and if you’re fortunate to have several friends, it most likely will appear in the form of a two-word greeting that you hear several times on a single day: “Happy Birthday!”

Frank W. Boreham, an Aussie who died in 1959, had an interesting view on the significance of birthdays. He said, “Birthdays are mere records of time, not registers of distance. They tell me how long I have been on the road, not how far I have traveled.”

Boreham’s words are a challenge to live a life of dedication and discipline like the one Paul spoke of in I Corinthians 9:23-27:

Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize.  Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away.  Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air.  Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

How much time has passed since you first met Jesus, and how far have you traveled in your Christian walk?  If you’re still at the starting blocks, it’s time to start running.  If you’ve stumbled along the way, it’s time to get up and go again.

I encourage you to make the most of your time as you “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).”

 

 

Silence and Solitude

sandsWhen you find yourself a bit frazzled and frayed by the various stressors you encounter each week, where do you go to find solace? Some people find a sanctuary in solitude and silence.

As a business professional, David Haber spends much of his day crunching numbers and wrestling with the stress of financial decisions.  Haber has said, “The biggest challenge as an entrepreneur is how to not get lost in the daily execution, but to take a step back and really think things through. Quiet moments give you the opportunity to reflect and make smarter strategic decisions . . . Finding balance between work and life, and using silence to help me decompress, is an important part of doing my job well.”

Like Haber, I also think quiet moments are beneficial.  These interludes from the hectic pace of the world rejuvenate me when I refocus my attention on God.

Silence and solitude of themselves are mere emptiness that cannot feed a hungry soul. To stave off starvation, your mind needs to be “stayed” on God. The words of Isaiah echo this truth: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You (26:3).”

Here are a few Scriptures to focus on as you try to keep your mind “stayed” or focused on God:

  • Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that am God.”
  • Isaiah 12:2: “Indeed, God is my salvation; I will trust Him and not be afraid, for the Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation.”
  • Philippians 4:6-7: “Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.” ~JB Phillips

I encourage to check your priorities and to reorder your life. At the top of your To-Do List, scribble in: Quiet moment of silence and solitude—be still and know God.

Fireflies At Night

fireflyPeople rarely partner stubbed toes and skinned knees with moments of pleasure . . . unless you’ve been a carefree child who chased the sentinels of light through the darkness of July nights. Even though those carefree days of bare feet and childhood innocence are long gone, I still enjoy the nocturnal dance of fireflies as they flutter across the night sky.

The waltz of the firefly reminds me of an old quote by Beecher:

If I were made a firefly, it would not become me to say: “If God had only made me a star to shine always, then I would shine.” It is my duty, if I am a firefly, to fly and sparkle, and fly and sparkle; not to shut my wings down over my phosphorescent self because God did not make me a sun or a star.

Regardless of person’s station in life, there seems to be a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction.  Solomon commented on this in Proverbs 27:19-20:  Just as water reflects a person’s true face, so the human heart reflects a person’s true character. As Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so the eyes of a person are never satisfied.

From their teenage years forward, people engage in an unending search for that elusive person, place, or thing that will satisfy the desires of their heart. The trivial pursuits of this world’s pleasures will never provide lasting satisfaction; you simply cannot find fulfillment in empty promises

Lasting peace and satisfaction is not found in the creation, but in the Creator:

  • Jesus said: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
  • God satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul is filled with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
  • Notice the promise of Psalm 16:11: God You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.

The next time you see a firefly at night, pause and think about what it means to be content in and satisfied through Jesus.  When you do this, it might help to reflect on these words of Paul:

 I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles. ~Philippians 4 (The Message)

Born to be…?

Born-in-the-USATattoos, bumper stickers, and marketing programs are noted for their catchy slogans.  Some of these serve as a life motto, and they are original, or they are borrowed from movies, songs, or some other source.  Two that come to mind are Born to Be Wild and Born in the USA.

Among these inky statements, there is a third and lesser known phrase: Born to Lose. Before statements like this appear as a tattoo on a person’s arm or as a proclamation on a bumper, they were deposited in the memory banks of the brain long ago.

Born to lose is a concept that is foreign to biblical thinking.  Each of us are born with the potential to become: “As many as received Him [Jesus], to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).”

Don’t limit yourself with negative thinking, realize that in Christ, God has given you the power to become His new creation:” if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).”