Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Perfect Centerpiece

I love, love, love whoever it was who invented the marvelous, miraculous FROZEN DINNER. What a genius! I OWE this person. Everyone talks about those fancy ice sculptures. But me? A frozen family-sized lasagna is a thing of beauty to me. Now there’s a centerpiece you can sink your teeth into.

Anytime I can’t decide what to make for dinner, I go straight for the freezer. I open that magic door and find—oh glorious day—someone has already decided! Those days there aren’t enough groceries in the pantry to put together anything besides some kind of noodle/Dorito casserole, I check that freezer—and dinner is done! Some days I just plain don’t want to spend an hour in the kitchen. No problem. In the freezer dinner is already done! If they made it any easier they would be digesting it for me!

I’m embarrassed to admit how much I depend on my freezer for dinner (though I do try to make sure I do all my own digesting, thank you). And my microwave. My beautiful, beautiful microwave. We’ve never needed a dinner bell. The beep of the microwave signals everyone that dinner is ready. And that beep has become like music to my ears.

Even sweeter music to my ears? The sweet, sweet song of salvation! Our redemption is all about and all through Jesus. When he paid our sin debt on the cross, it was finished—in Jesus it’s already done!

Just take a look at how the Amplified Bible expresses Hebrews 7:23-25: “Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; But He holds His priesthood unchangeably, because He lives on forever. Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them.”

Jesus saves to the uttermost. Completely and perfectly. Finally and eternally. Sound the beautiful beep, it’s done! He had already decided before the foundation of the world to redeem his children back to himself. And what he decides to do, he does. We don’t have to stew over our redemption. We only have to accept it and live it out.

But speaking of stew, I just heard the microwave sound the dinner bell. Ah, it’s playing my song. Oh and just so you won’t think I’m totally inept in the kitchen, that special Italian sauce I make is never ever frozen. My special sauce is from a jar.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

On Deadlines and Chicken Suits

I’m working like a maniac trying to finish a book in two weeks—finish writing it, not reading it. If I write from sunup to sun-back-up and stop wasting time with trivial things like eating, drinking and sleeping I might make it—well, probably not alive. Maybe that’s why they call it a “deadline.”

It’s funny, but even at the most overwhelming times as a writer and speaker, I never consider doing anything else. Last week I drove by this guy standing in front of a fast food place. He was waving at people as they drove past. In a chicken suit. And I thought my job could be humbling.

You know, the Lord calls us to do whatever we do as if we were doing it for him. And it’s because we are! Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

That changes how we see deadlines and dehydration. It changes how we respond to flapping around in a chicken suit. It means that neither job is more important or even more fulfilling than the other—because it’s our God who makes what we do valuable.

Of course, I do have to admit I was a little jealous of the chicken guy. With what I do, I hardly ever get to wear feathers.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It'll Curl Your Hair

We’ve never been one of those families that sits around a campfire telling scary stories. Every once in awhile, though, I have to admit I like to frighten my teenage girls with one of the scariest stories I know. And it happened to ME. It’s the story about when I was a little girl…and my mom….gave me…(insert a maniacal “mwah-ah-ah” here)…a HOME PERM. I describe in gory detail how I had to spend several weeks looking like a dandelion, the other cruel children making wishes and blowing on my head. Frightening. Nothing can raise up a fresh batch of goosebumps like a story of evil Frankenstein-ish chemicals and a perm gone bad. What could be scarier than that first look in the mirror? You’re pretty sure you’re so frightened you’re hair is standing on end—but who could tell? After hearing my dandelion story, I honestly think my girls would buy a home lobotomy kit before they would buy a home perm kit.

Didn’t I hear this comment about that bottle of perm solution? “I’d rather have a frontal lobotomy than a bottle in front of me.”

How many people do you know who seem to have found a lobotomy blue light special? So many seem to make every life decision pointedly and purposefully completely opposite what the Lord spells out for us to do in his Word. It’s like mocking his instruction! Now there’s a reason to fear. Proverbs 9:9-12 says, “Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer” (NIV).

Making life choices contrary to the Father’s instruction brings suffering. But choosing to live a life of obedience results in wisdom, blessing and reward. That life of obedience starts with the good kind of fear. Not the hair-curling kind of fear, but a humble, awed reverence for the holy, holy, holy God.

Knowing, fearing and following him might not guarantee every day is a good hair day, but wisdom really does lead to more wisdom. It’s blessing becoming more blessing. The blessings lead right into our ultimate blessing when we’ll see Jesus face to face. There will be no more evil, no more pain, and no more tears. It’s an eternal life full of love and laughter—and none of our heavenly laughter will be that maniacal kind.

That’s a thought that almost always leaves me goosebumpy. The good kind of goosebumps—not the chemically inspired kind.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I Swing for Ice Cream

We had an ice cream incident a couple of weeks ago. With two college boys, two high-schoolers and a junior-higher, we have so many ice cream eaters, we buy it in the giant size. It looks more like a washtub than it does an ice cream container. At least it has that handy-dandy red handle.

But for some reason Jordan decided to do some ice cream acrobatics before dessert. Mind you, he’s one of the college boys—and he’s studying math and physics. So I’m not quite sure why the math and physics of it all didn’t occur to him, but he was playing some kind of game with his sister and started swinging the tub by its red handle in a straight-arm ferris-wheel kind of motion. The math and physics came into focus all too clearly when the nearly six-foot boy with the long arm span swung the giant ice cream tub underneath the kitchen light fixture. The flying ice cream knocked the dome cover off and it landed square on Jordan’s head. After knocking a nice knot on his head (which I’m guessing was probably one of those “V-8” math/physics moments), it fell to the floor and shattered into a gazillion glass slivers.

It took him forever to clean up all the glass and by then, I don’t think he even wanted ice cream anymore.

I hate to tell you how many times I’ve caught myself in the same kind of stunt. Not with the big drum of ice cream. But I all too often catch myself forgetting the obvious spiritual truths while I’m totally distracted by the temporary things of the world. Getting caught up in the world’s way of thinking is a sure-fire way to guarantee a head-konking incident in my spiritual future. Those V-8 moments are just a swing away. First John 2:15-17 says, “Don't love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you cannot love the Father. Our foolish pride comes from this world, and so do our selfish desires and our desire to have everything we see. None of this comes from the Father. The world and the desires it causes are disappearing. But if we obey God, we will live forever,” (CEV).

Living in foolish pride and selfish desires? There’s no real joy there—only discontentment and a life that’s fruitless, directionless and unfulfilled. It may even come with a knot on the head. But a life lived with a passionate consciousness of God and a deep desire to walk in obedience brings eternal fruit. It results in sweet satisfaction that doesn’t require the circumstances to be just so-so. It doesn’t require all the world’s frills. And that really is the sweetest way to live!

There’s a sweetness there that doesn’t even require ice cream.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Beat Goes On

My 13-year-old son is quite the musician. He’s a guitarist, a trombonist and a drummer. A drummer…who doesn’t necessarily need a drum. He has a drum set, but his drumming certainly isn’t contained to it. The table is his drum. The sofa is his drum. The wall? Drum. The desk, the chair, his sister? Drum, drum, drum. He was baking cookies with me last week and even the cookie sheet was a drum. Okay, actually that was more of a cymbal—but there was still definite drummage.

Daniel drums without even knowing he’s drumming. It’s the percussion that never ends. The other day I couldn’t stand it any more. My left eye was twitching—on the beat. I said, “Daniel! Could you PLEASE stop percussing for five minutes?”

“Sure,” he said without missing a beat (as it were). Then he looked at his watch.

I wonder how many things I do without thinking. No doubt there are a gajillion annoying habits I’m not aware of that are causing eyes to twitch left and right.

Oh, that the Lord would grow me to the place where there are more things I do without thinking that bless than things I do without thinking that annoy. In 1 Corinthians 12:31, Paul says, “But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.” Then he begins what we call the “love chapter.” Love should be a way of life for those of us who follow Christ. Loving others selflessly should happen as naturally and rhythmically as those tap, tap, taps on the desk—loving almost without having to think about it.

Verses 4-7 in 1 Corinthians 13 tell us what that kind of love looks like: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (NLT).

How important is our sacrificial love for others to our Heavenly Father? We’re told in 1 Corinthians 13:1 that we could speak every language on earth—we could even speak the language of angels. But if we don’t love others, even Angel-eese sounds like a bunch of annoying noise. As a matter of fact, it says that without love, even if I’m speaking the sweetest language there is, “I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” The last thing I want to do is cause a twitch in the eye of the God I love.

I want to love others because I do love him. And I want to love consistently, steadily—without missing a beat.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Stand Up for Jesus

We’ve had revival services going on at our church this week with Ken Freeman (www.kenfreemanministries.com). What a powerful movement of God—awesome!

You gotta love this guy. All the women made sure their husbands were listening when he told us in no uncertain terms that he chips in with the housework. I’m telling you, elbows were flying. Yes, he even vacuums. And lest you think for a second he’s some kind of girly-guy, don’t even—because he told us he had his heart set on a RIDING VACUUM CLEANER.

I didn’t want to mention it to Ken, but I’ve noticed that guys very often have a different idea of house-cleaning than we women do. At my place, when company is coming and we’re in a total lather trying to get our house in order (admit it—most of you only clean when company is coming, too), my hubby and I tend to have a completely different cleaning strategy. I start with the family room. He starts with the GARAGE. Our dinner guests will go nowhere near our garage, mind you, but Richie will make sure it’s clean. After all, how could we possibly have a nice evening with friends if his screwdrivers are out of order?

One thing that’s especially encouraging about revival services is that the Lord uses them to rally us and to remind us that we, the church, should always have the same strategy. Loving Jesus passionately, serving him wholeheartedly, sharing him faithfully—those are the strategies that help us make sure we’re standing up for all the right things. We reminded to be suited up and ready to do whatever it takes to stand against evil and to stand up for Christ. Ephesians 6:11 offers a charge: “Put on God's whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil” (AMP).

That's where victory is: standing against every evil strategy, standing up for Christ!

Even if we’re eventually sitting down to vacuum.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Manna Mania

Have you ever wondered if the Israelites ever tried to get clever with their manna? God provided them with wonderful food daily. But I do remember reading that they got a little whiny about eating the same thing every day. I can picture them moaning, “Oh, the hu-manna-ty”—even though the manna was sweet and tasty. Exodus 16:31 says “it tasted like honey wafers” (NLT). Sounds like dessert to me.
I wonder if they ever tried to get creative. Maybe they tried new recipes. Mannawiches, maybe?

What if they got even more clever and made it into a loaf, then added berries? Wouldn’t that make “Berry Manna-loaf”? Would eating too much of it cause them to sing mellow songs and consider music and passion always the fashion? Perhaps they could’ve kept that Entertainer theme and created a traveling restaurant that specialized in adding other fruit. They could’ve called it the “Copacabana-banana-manna CafĂ©.”

Or maybe they were just too busy whining to get creative. I would make fun of them for it, but I’m afraid there are too many times I ask God to provide and then take it for granted when he does. Or worse, I complain about the way he does it. How embarrassing to still be so quick to be full of myself instead of being full of him.

I’m so thankful our God is a God of mercy. He demonstrated it again and again with the whining Israelites. Psalm 78: tells us, “They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the desert?’ Yet he gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; he rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of heaven. Men ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat. They ate till they had more than enough, for he had given them what they craved. In spite of all this, they kept on sinning; in spite of his wonders, they did not believe. Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities.” (verses 18-19, 23-25, 30, 32, 38a, NIV).

His mercy still shows up in our every whiny inadequacy today. Even after I’ve been too shallow and full of self to recognize him and thank him, he graciously shows me mercy. And he’s faithful to continually remind me to recognize him and to thank him and to crave his presence more than anything else. What a mighty, merciful God we serve!

I think my lunchtime prayer might be a little different today. It’s very likely to be fuller than usual of thanks and praise to the merciful God who provides. And I want to crave him more than I crave lunch.

Speaking of cravings, I think I might have to find some banana bread for a lunchtime dessert. Sounds extra good for some reason.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Coffee Accessorizing

Remember the days when you could order a cup of coffee in four syllables? A cup of coffee was a “cup of coffee.” That’s it. These days, coffee has been accessorized to triple its original syllablage. Or even more.

Being the accessory overachiever that I am (if only you could see these ear rings), I’m pretty excited about coffees that can be accessorized and enhanced until they’re hardly coffee anymore. I love a shot of this flavor and a dollop of that topping. Sprinkles? Sure. I just have to remember when I get up to the cash register that every syllable is about another quarter to 50 cents. A six-dollar cup of coffee? I tell you, I can do it.

Adding this, adding that—it may be expensive in a cup of coffee, but it can be a great life-thing. 2 Peter 1:5-8 says “Do your best to improve your faith. You can do this by adding goodness, understanding, self-control, patience, devotion to God, concern for others, and love. If you keep growing in this way, it will show that what you know about our Lord Jesus Christ has made your lives useful and meaningful” (CEV).

Now there’s a list of worthwhile syllables we can add! We’re called to keep adding more and more character syllables to our lives. And what happens when we add goodness, understanding, self-control, patience, devotion to God, concern for others and love? We show that Christ makes a difference in our lives. We give a testimony with our lives that life in Jesus makes us useful and gives life meaning. Let’s stay alert when it comes to adding those wonderfully worthwhile things to our lives.

Hey, I think I might just stay alert with a Grande Espresso Mocha Carmel Macchiato with extra foam and chocolate sprinkles!