Thursday, November 24, 2016

For years I participated in a church Thanksgiving meal donation. Bags and bags of groceries were collected, sorted, and distributed and many area families benefited and counted on those donations to make ends meet. I loved the privilege of helping to provide the meals and I always, always felt like I was the one who was the most grateful at the end of the pickup night. 

But now I am in a new church home and am serving and blessing in a different way. No less beneficial to the community, no less God-honoring, but different. And this year I felt just a twinge of greed as I assembled two kinds of potatoes, two kinds of stuffing, and gazed on an entire table devoted to breads, pies, and cakes. Our dining room table groaned under plates filled to overflowing and murmurs of "pass the butter" and "did you miss the green beans?" went around the perimeter like the aroma of the turkey. 

I cringed when I went back for seconds. I felt so greedy. "Lord, am I selfish with my blessings? " I asked myself. 

And then I looked around. 

On one end of the table an infant snuggled in the safety of her mother's arms. 
Young men made sure everyone was able to navigate the crowded room.  
Sisters shared a look of satisfaction, knowing everything looked as good as it tasted. 
And a son made sure his mother knew just how special her cornbread dressing was to him. 

Yes, we had plenty to eat for Thanksgiving. But we also had plenty of love. Plenty of joy. And plenty of gratitude. 

Don't be afraid to make memories with your family and with those who seem like family. Time spent around the table is fleeting- but the memories last forever. Invest. Unite. Bless. It's worth the effort. 

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Strength in Your Role

I like a good object lesson. I like to observe something and then allow my over-active imagination and my sometimes-silly brain to interpret a message about it. I'm not one who believes there is a lesson in everything, but I do know that sometimes I see things that make me think. 
It happened in the bathroom the other day. 
Yes, the bathroom. 

Toilet paper. Everyone knows about it. Uses it. Needs it. It's one of the items we purchase on a regular basis yet we hope it will not require an announced price check at the register. The first TV ads for toilet paper that I remember were of Mr Whiffle and "Please don't squeeze the Charmin." Those ads were a huge hit and one of the phrases that was added to our household lexicon. There are tons of brands and types. When I was a kid, toilet paper came in all kinds of colors to match your bathroom decor. Remember that? You'd go to someone's house and, if you needed to..."go," there would be the bathroom done in seahorses and lo and behold, their paper would be blue. Growing up my mom's best friend and neighbor had her bathroom all in pink-- complete with pink paper. (And, on the back of the toilet, sat a little plastic doll with a crocheted skirt and under it was, you guessed it, a spare roll of pink toilet paper) For a while it was also scented, but I think that proved to be a bad idea. Now we're all white but with lots of claims of being the softest and the most...comfortable and efficient. 

Another claim that the manufacturers of toilet paper make is that it's strong. All of them say that their's is the best-  the strongest, the most on a roll, the one that works better than all of the others. They've used all kinds of examples in showing us the power of this paper, this tissue, and it's all kind of ridiculous.

So recently I had an experience with a roll of tp that left me thinking. You see, it was in a public restroom. The company obviously didn't want to have to change rolls very often so they were using the giant-sized roll; I mean this roll of paper had to be over a foot in diameter. I'm sure, in theory, that was a great idea - fewer employee hours spent changing rolls equals more time doing other important tasks. Except for one flaw: cheap paper. The paper was so thin and weak that it would tear off in tiny bits and wasn't anywhere near effective. Paper was all over the floor and someone was going to have to come in and clean it all up. It simply wasn't strong enough to support moving the roll along. Had the paper been thicker, and the seams between the squares a little closer, the roll would turn efficiently and the problem would be solved. As it was, I needed to help it along and that defeated the purpose of their attempt at saving paper. 

In contrast, (I know a few of you are cringing by now. Stay with me.) I was pleasantly surprised while on a trip a few weeks ago. A visit to a rest area impressed me by the strong, efficient paper in their toilet. That paper was just the right size and strength for the roll. You didn't get any waste or any little pieces of it tearing randomly from the rest of the paper. Harmony.

By now you're either seeing how I am applying this to life or you are getting very uncomfortable. Either way, at least you're still reading. Here's my point:

Are you strong enough for your roll (role)? Are you ready for the role that you play in life? In service? Because it isn't playing-- it's work. And because it's going to take some strength for the Big Role. If you are so weak that all people are getting are the bits, then you are not ready to be effective and you need to be made stronger. How do we do that? Just like the paper on the roll, we need more substance. We need, in our case. more of Jesus. We must spend time investing in ourselves by reading God's Word and praying for Him to grow and mature us. We need to study and to be still and listen to Him as He speaks. We need to surround ourselves with godly women who will speak Truth to us on a regular basis. All these things develop who we are spiritually. In addition to our inward work, we must also grow outwardly. We have to develop healthy friendships and bonds that will strengthen us and provide us with the accountability that we require. 

We all have roles in this life. We all need to be strong in the Lord and strong for each other. This kingdom work isn't easy and the enemy is just waiting for us to allow him into our lives and into our work. We need to be thick enough that he cannot pierce us. We need to have our arms locked so that when we are needed, we're strong enough to support our role. Get me? I hope you do, because you don't even want me to get started about 1-ply versus 2! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Whom do you serve? Simple question, really. Not necessarily one with the simplest of answers. For those of us who have called out the Name of Jesus as Savior, it's a question that carries a lot of weight. I'd better get it right-- not for fear of punishment -- but fear that I may miss glorifying the only One Who deserves my love and devotion. 

So I ask again, "Whom are you serving?" Are you waking up in the morning with a desire to fulfill God's calling on your life? Are you ready to do whatever He asks of you at any given time and in any circumstance? Are you totally and unashamedly His?

Are you? 

Or are you someone else's? Family, kids, work, church (yes, I said church) all compete for first place in our lives. Where does Jesus fit in? 

No amount of money, no amount of fame, no amount of love, however sincere it may seem, is worth more than a right relationship with God. 

I am going to be very honest and very real for the rest of this blog. Get some coffee, some leftover Halloween candy, a tissue-- whatever you need to settle in with. (I like to think of someone holding a puppy or a kitty- that makes me happy) Here we go.

Your husband does not come before your relationship with God. 

Your children do not come before your relationship with God. 

Your pastor does not come before your relationship with God.

Your job does not come before your relationship with God. 

The altar decorations, the small group snacks, the shoe boxes, the committee position, the church council, the choir, the preschool schedule, the keys to the supply closet, the color of paint in the bathroom and the kind of soap in the dispensers, the kitchen-- yes, the KITCHEN and everything in it -- where they put the ladles, the serving platters, the leftover desserts from the last fellowship do not matter more than your relationship with the living God of the Universe. 

Nothing, nothing, NOTHING is worth more than the Savior who thought of you and me when He was being brutalized, humiliated, tortured, and nailed to a cross. 

At some point we have wandered astray and we have allowed social agendas, micro-managing leaders, and pathetic power-positions to get in our heads and go to our heads and turn us so far away from the Truth that we are willing to sacrifice not ourselves for His kingdom but His kingdom for our pleasure. We would rather debate the placement of a fake flower arrangement than speak Truth to a lost soul. We pass up opportunities to minister to our community because we may have to actually be in the community. We shy away from the difficult questions and say the words people want to hear instead of what they need to hear. 

We allow leaders to have more influence on us than Jesus Christ and His Word. I have said this before in this blog (and face-to-face with many of the people I love): No one will be standing with you when you stand before God. You choose whom you serve and you choose whom you follow. Friends, we not only need to hear what words our leaders (Bible teachers, speakers, pastors) are speaking; we must look at their actions. And if we don't see both align with Scripture, we must reject them. 

We hide behind those who say they know more than we do about Biblical doctrine because they have done their own "research" and they've talked with famous people who obviously know best. They understand words better than we do, I guess, especially when it makes people happy and doesn't exclude anyone. They treat us as though we're all unable to ask for wisdom, no matter how much James said we are.  So we shift like sand in the desert and move to whatever direction the wind is blowing. And all the time God is grieving because we have accepted everything else as gospel. And we have totally ignored Him. 

Take a minute, please. Take several, actually. Get alone and quiet with your God. Tell Him how much you love Him. Thank Him for His Son and for His Word and for the Holy Spirit. Confess your sin of allowing so many others to cut in line ahead of Him. Ask Him for forgiveness and for wisdom and discernment for your life-- ask for the power to see through the enemy's trick of making things sound so right and feel so...inclusive.  Commit to reading His Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal its treasures to you. And then answer the question, "Whom do you serve?" 

Why I Choose to be Southern Baptist

These have been tough days for those of us who call ourselves “Southern Baptists.” I won’t go into all the details. I don't think it’s S...