Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gift Recycling?

Does anyone else still have Christmas gifts that have never been used—gifts from Christmas 1983? It’s a little guilt inflicting, isn’t it? Would any of us admit to Chia heads that remain fuzzless? How about salad shooters that have yet to launch a single veggie?

Not to add more guilt or anything, but who among us would dare admit how many of our furless pottery heads and dead vegetable bazookas we’ve slyly slipped into the garage sale bag? If you’re a Chia lover or you have a need for a salad bomber, try making the rounds to a few garage sales as soon as summer hits. If nothing else, you could snatch up Chia-shooters galore to give away next Christmas. Some people skip the garage sale middle man and recycle their own unused gifts the next year.

Keep in mind that gift recycling can get a little tricky. I have a friend who this year received from her mother-in-law the same Clapper she bought for her recycler-in-law the year before. Imagine a Clapper that’s been mailed across the country. Twice. That we know of! I think the thing may have more frequent flyer miles than I do! It’s the Clapper heard round the world.

Still, there really are gifts that are at their absolute best when they’re recycled. Each one of us has received a gift of ministry. First Peter 4:10 doesn’t leave a single one of us out when it says, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (NKJV). Each one of us! When we’re not recycling those gifts the Father has given us, using them to minister to others, we’re not being good stewards of his grace. It’s eternally more wasteful than any hairless Chia.

Let’s finish out the year in service to him. What a great ending. Even better than “clap off”!



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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Keep the Ball Rolling

I went to exercise class the other day and the teacher had us use those giant balls as part of our workout. I was on a roll. But it was definitely NOT a good roll. I could tell I was getting on the nerves of the gal next to me about the third or fourth time I all but mowed the poor thing over.

The giant ball thingy had a mind of its own. It seemed determined to escape my grasp. Or maybe the ball was trying to start a fight. Not only did it keep getting away from me, but I think I heard it snickering that third time it smacked the lady exercising beside me. It got her right upside her cute little head band. I was a little worried that if this giant ball didn’t beat the tar out of me, cute sweat-band-girl would.

We were supposed to lie on the ball, belly-down with our palms on the floor in front, then work our way out so that just our legs were balancing on the ball. I would get about to the thighs and then have to scramble and sprint after my ball. I don’t know what everyone got so upset about. It’s not like I was TRYING to bowl all their water bottles over. Isn’t that what the caps are for?

The instructor said something interesting during one of my scrambles. She said that when our body’s core is strong, we have good balance. Let’s face it, my inner core is pretty pathetic. There are muscles in there, I’m sure, but they’re so buried under all those layers of doughnuts and cheesy nachos that I’m doubting I’ll ever find them.

I want it to be different in the spiritual heart of who I am. I want to be strong at the core of everything that makes me tick. When life seems all out of balance and I’m rolling this way and that, the first thing I need to ask myself is, “how’s my core?”

What is it that makes a solid spiritual core? It’s a life lived in surrender and obedience. Galatians 5:22-23 in The Message says, “But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard--things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”

Hmmm, “direct our energies wisely,” eh? Maybe a strong physical core and a strong spiritual core are more related than I think. I’ll keep up the exercise in both—“keep the ball rolling,” as it were. And maybe I can get to a place where I walk into the exercise class without everyone grabbing their water bottles.



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Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Sweet Life at Bread Co.

I’ve written most of my last couple of books at Panera/St. Louis Bread Co./Atlanta Bread Co....whichever. Pick a name. I’d complain about the fact that the place has too many names, but I’m just too tickled with the free wifi and the way good sandwiches. And the coffee. Oh baby, the coffee. I think I can usually finish one full chapter per strong cup. It’s strong enough coffee that the chapters are all one sentence and they don’t have any punctuation, but still.

Anyway, I do a lot of writing there. This week I walked in, sniffed, and said to myself, “Mmm, smells like a book deadline in here.” I shared that with a writer friend and he said he figured I must go to a different Panera than he does. He said the one he goes to smells like procrastination. Yeah, been there, smelled that.

It’s easy to get pulled in to that smell of procrastination. Why do today what you can put off until someone bugs you about it?

But when it comes to spiritual disciplines, those we just don’t want to put off. Can’t put off obedience. Delayed obedience is really just plain ol’ disobedience. And that leads to a purposeless, fruitless, lackluster life. No amount of even the strongest coffee can perk it up.

So I’m shooting for staying tuned in to God’s word and following Christ wholeheartedly. Anybody smell that? Smells like the sweet life.



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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Microwave Stalactites

I opened the door to the microwave to reheat my coffee a few mornings ago, then realized I just didn’t want to put it in there. Ew. Before the coffee was going in, somebody was going to have to clean out that microwave. It looked like someone had a tiny little ticker tape parade. So much food-confetti, so little space. Worst of all, there were a couple of spaghetti sauce stalactites in there. I like my coffee with lots of sweetener and plenty of creamer. But call me picky, I like it completely without spaghetti sauce drippings.

And speaking of “picky,” I thought I might actually need a pickaxe to get to the root of some of those stalactites. Do they make a microwave cleaner that has dynamite as its main component?

Life can be a little like my microwave. Anytime I’m wondering why it doesn’t taste as sweet, I really have to look at what I might be hanging onto, stalactite-style. Hanging onto self-centeredness, bitterness, laziness--any of those kinds of things--will zap the deliciousness right out of life.

First Peter 2:1-2 gives us a big, ugly list and then tells us that making God’s Word a central part of our lives can help us get rid of everything ugly that might be hanging around in there. “So be done with every trace of wickedness, depravity, malignity and all deceit and insincerity, pretense, hypocrisy and grudges, envy, jealousy and slander and evil speaking of every kind. Like newborn babies you should crave, thirst for, earnestly desire, the pure, unadulterated spiritual milk, that by it you may be nurtured and grow unto completed salvation” (AMP).

Before I can grab onto what the Lord wants me to do, and the satisfaction and joy that comes with fruitfulness, I have to let go of sin and selfishness and hang on tight to the instruction of his word.

So I’m determining to let go of everything stalactite-ish today. Even if it does take a stick or two of dynamite.



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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You Think You've Had Bad Hair Days?

Have you ever had one of those weird hair mornings? You wake up (at least half-way) and scratch your rib cage as you stagger toward your bedroom door. But before you reach the door, you inadvertently catch a glimpse of something extremely disturbing. It’s the mirror—and in it you find some strange-looking person who could not possibly be you. No, you would never let your hair look like that.

You begin the thought, “There’s not enough hair gel in this hemisphere...” but then just sigh to yourself and think, “Oh well, symmetry isn’t everything.”

As disturbing as an asymmetrical hair day might be, Samson’s by far topped them all in the 16th chapter of Judges. But it wasn’t Samson’s haircut that made it a bad hair day. The “no haircut rule” was part of the vow he made to God. There was no muscle in Samson’s hair. It was his special dedication to the Lord that had given him strength. And it was his disobedience that zapped it. He had lost his devotion to God. As a matter of fact, he had traded it. He was more devoted to Delilah than he was to his God.

Samson’s lack of devotion to God and his choice to sin blinded him to spiritual things. Verse 20 has to be one of the saddest statements ever recorded: “But he did not know that the LORD had left him.”

Anytime we let our devotion to the Father slip away, we find our lives off-balance, asymmetrical—weak and disconnected from spiritual things. Staying committed to the Lord results in a life of real and lasting strength. And his strength is bigger than our biggest weakness. Though Samson suffered huge moral failure, he is still listed among the faithful in Hebrews 11:32-33. The passage speaks of one “whose weakness was turned to strength.” Only the strength of God can do that. And he deserves our wholehearted devotion with every spiritual muscle!

Hair muscle doesn’t count.



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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trick or Treat



Entering into October—that time of year where we have to endure all the ugly zombies, goblins and everything ooky and evil on just about every aisle of the grocery store. And some of the stuff has been there since August. Ew.

You know what makes this time of year tolerable, don’t you? It’s the anticipation of dipping into the kids’ Halloween candy buckets for months to come. Some parents admit it. Some hide it. But let’s face it, we’re all dippers. Some little dippers. Some big dippers. All dippers.

The “trick” part of the “trick or treat” comes in January when we can no longer touch our toes. Or SEE our toes. Dirty trick for those treats to play.

Celebrating chocolate is one thing. I’m all over that. But celebrating evil? That’s not for us. God’s word tells us to stay away from everything wicked. We can celebrate the Light Jesus brings into all this darkness. That’s an even better celebration than the celebration of chocolate.

Besides, I’m afraid one of these days I’ll get so into celebrating the treats that I’ll have on two different shoes…and never know it. Dirty trick.



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Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Zamboni of My Ownie


My minivan has been running a little funky this week. So I decided maybe we should consider trading it in. And I’m thinking it’s time to go with something totally different. Like maybe a…ZAMBONI. See, now that would be fun. Who doesn’t love a convertible? And I’ve heard they go from 0 to 60 in, what, three months? I’m not sure what kind of mileage they get on the highway, but I’m guessing there’s not a safer vehicle out there. In an accident with even one of those heavy-duty luxury cars, the Zamboni still wins. In an accident with a compact? The compact is “compacter.” Icy roads? So not a problem.

Sometimes going outside the norm is good. It’s okay to have the courage to step outside our comfort zone and go against what society says is the standard. 1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Be alert. Continue strong in the faith. Have courage, and be strong” (NCV). We need to courageously obey the call of God—whether he calls us to a subcompact, or a TANK.

Winter, spring, summer or fall, there’s no better way to live than in obedience to his call.

The Zamboni? A bit of a different season-related story there. Winter? We’re okay. Spring, summer and fall? Problem.



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Friday, September 11, 2009

Sneeze-quake


I was born in Texas. We’re mostly big sneezers there. It’s widely accepted that Texans do everything bigger. No wimpy little “achoo.” No, my sneeze comes out in sort of a “Yah-hoo!” It could hardly get more Texan than that—unless maybe I roped and branded it. And it’s a real reverberater. It makes everyone within about a quarter-mile radius have ringing ears for an hour. My husband says my sneeze registers 8.7 on the Richter scale. He’s exaggerating, of course. Even if it does register it’s probably barely a 4.

But to top it all off, my husband also tells me I always sneeze in nines. I think it’s a little weird that he counts. But then maybe it’s a little like counting down a missile launch. Except that it’s really missile launch times nine. That’s a lot of ear-ringing. You know, reverberation is not always a good thing.

Here’s hoping we can add even more decibels in proclaiming the message of Christ to a hopeless world. We have the message they need. That’s hope that’s worth yahooing about. Hope not just times nine—hope times infinity.

So what do you say? How about we do some big honkin’, Texas-sized reverberating!



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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Cellulite. Bubble Wrap. Same Thing.

Have I mentioned that I have perfect thighs? Perfect, I tell you. So to keep them in mint condition, I’ve covered them with this protective layer of cellulite. Kind of like bubble wrap. As a matter of fact, it even looks kind of like bubble wrap.

Hey, you can’t pay enough for this kind of protection. Though come to think of it, I’m rather “heavily” invested.

But my Heavenly Father? He provides a holy bubble wrap. It’s not just for the thighs. It’s for the life. Psalm 32:7 says, "Thou art my hiding place; Thou shalt preserve me from trouble; Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance."

Even when troubles come, we can rest in knowing that our God ultimately preserves us. Our soul is wrapped up in the most complete, eternally bubble-wrapped way. When we’re tuned in to him, we can remember that protection—and we can hear that sweet song of preservation that surrounds us like the warmest, most comfy blanket.

The sweet sounds of the songs of deliverance? They’re sweeter than the sound of popping bubble wrap any old day.



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Friday, July 24, 2009

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 even more alert with a Grande Espresso Mocha Carmel Macchiato with extra foam and chocolate sprinkles!



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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wedgie Tales

My 16-year-old is the youngest of five kids. That means that he’s suffered a lot of wedgies through the years. But hey, I figure that’ll give him stories he can tell his kids. Some parents tell their children about walking to and from school in the 12-foot snow—uphill both ways. Daniel will be able to tell his children that he spent a few years suffering through underwear with no waistbands. My friend Janet said he could call his stories “Wedgie Tales.”

It’s a good reminder that tough situations, like waistbands, come and go. The question is, how will we respond? Will we allow difficulties to strengthen us? Will we rest in our Heavenly Father’s presence, seeing life from his eternal perspective? Or will we try to squirm through on our own, pouting all along the way? Stories of grace under pressure are so much more fun to pass on to our children. Those stories will even answer a lot of their questions about life and how we should live it.

In the Amplified version of 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 we read, “Therefore we do not become discouraged, utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear. Though the outer man is progressively decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being progressively renewed day after day. For our light, momentary affliction, this slight distress of the passing hour, is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory, beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!”

Waistbands? Here today, wedgied away tomorrow. But we’re to be focused on the things that are eternal—the unseen blessedness that never ceases. Verse 18 says, “Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal, brief and fleeting, but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting,” 2 Corinthians 4:18, AMP.

I’m fighting the urge to mention the fact that it says that visible things are “brief.” The invisible? Everlasting! Not ever-elastic. But deathless and everlasting, for sure. And ultimately, in our own personal “everlasting,” every question in this life—every why—will be answered.

Of course, there’s still one question left hanging at present: Would you call a person with no waistbands left a “Wedge-etarian”?



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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cocoa Puff Jewelry

Have I told you about the bracelet I once had? It was one of those pieces of jewelry that you get especially attached to. I hadn’t worn it for a few weeks, then one morning I went to put it on, and found that it was so not what it had been before. Gold tone? Not anymore. It had turned all brownish with these leprosy-looking bronzy splotches.

Yeah, I know. I probably don’t have to tell you it wasn’t one of your higher-end bracelets to begin with. But honestly, I could’ve strung Cocoa Puffs together and it would’ve looked better than this thing. Okay, so it probably would’ve stayed crunchy even in milk…but still. It’s just so sad when a good bracelet goes bad.

Life changes faster than the cheapest jewelry. But some things always remain the same:
*God is on the throne.
*If we know Christ, our eternity is sure.
*And there is grace for every disappointment. Bracelet disappointments—and the big disappointments, too. There’s a lot of comfort there.

I’d chat more, but I’m kind of hungry for Cocoa Puffs. Weird.



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Monday, April 13, 2009

Only Passing Through

I’m one of those take-no-risks kind of drivers. I’m just warning you, it can be really annoying to get behind me on one of those two-lane roads. I hate to pass on those little roads, no matter how much good, clear road I have ahead of me.

The other day, I was behind a slow-moving vehicle. It was one of those pieces of farm machinery that had machete-looking things poking out the side. No way I was passing that thing. I had enough road ahead to land a small plane and I still wouldn’t go around. It didn’t get embarrassing until someone passed me and the machete-machine in the same go-round, and I realized the vehicle passing us was carrying a prefab home.

I decided to just let it remind me that this world is not my home—prefab or otherwise. No need to get too comfy here. We’re only passing through (though that may take longer on certain roads).

1 Peter 1:17 says, “And if you call upon Him as your Father Who judges each one impartially according to what he does, then you should conduct yourselves with true reverence throughout the time of your temporary residence on the earth, whether long or short,” (AMP). The long and the short of it is that this truly is a temporary residence. Living out holiness, conducting ourselves with “true reverence”—that’s the right road at every speed.

And hey, Sunday is the first day of the week—the day Jesus rose from the dead—the day we set aside for special worship. So I think I’ll just decide to be flattered when someone calls me a Sunday driver!



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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Look What’s Popping Up

Weird things keep popping up out of my toaster. A banana split? Didn’t see that coming. But did you know that Pop-tarts now come in flavors like “Chocolate Banana Split”? No kidding. Even “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.” My teens love them but my adult taste buds haven’t been any too impressed.

The real question is: Is there really any way to make a cookie-covered toaster-breakfast taste like a chocolate banana split? Personally, I’d rather have the chocolate banana split for breakfast instead. Why not go with the real thing?

Surprising things are always going to be popping up in our lives. The real question this time is: How will we respond? In grace with faith? Or in grousing, pouting and foot-stomping?

When the heat is on, I want to pop up by faith in his grace. In the faithiest, graciest, tastiest way. Our Heavenly Father gives us everything we need to respond well by his Holy Spirit. As a matter of fact, if we’ll allow him to, he’ll respond for us. And through us.

There’s no substitute. No self-help program or book. No amount of self-discipline. Only through the Real Thing—the Holy Spirit of God—can we respond well when our feet are put to the fire.

Try it any other way and we’re totally toast.



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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Author, Author

I heard someone say that 86% of Americans want to write a book. That surprised me. Although maybe I shouldn't be all that surprised, since I've heard that most people see writing a book as an adventure. I think I have a little adventure perspective to offer—though actually I guess only 86% of you need to read it.

I’ve written seven books now so I’m starting to learn a few things about the adventure. Let’s think about it. Your average action/adventure/spy/hero-type person who's at work saving the world can show you the scars from their whip marks, holes from a gunshot wound or two and maybe the disfiguring marks from where they got run over by a tank. Writers? We get to show people the scar from our carpel tunnel surgery. They get car chases. We get to tell people about that time one of the wheels feel off the office chair.

I guess it’s really all in how you look at it. When it comes to the Big Book (notice the capital "B’s"), there’s only one right way to look at it, and that’s with a desire to learn from it and to do what it says. Psalm 119:12-16 says, “Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”

God’s Word. That’s where we find real life perspective. And okay, so we may never learn those fancy whip moves or win a shoot-out or tackle a tank—or whatever. But that whole saving the world thing? The One who wrote the book tells us that Jesus already has that one covered anyway!



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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Why Did the Checkbook Cross the Road?

I’m forever running into “little surprises” my kids have stuffed in my purse when I’m not looking. One time I was trying to whip out my checkbook at the grocery store, and instead, I whipped out a rubber chicken. Can’t you just hear the checker: Will that be cash, check or chicken? Surprise!

The Lord has better surprises. Every time we whip out his Word with a deep desire to let him influence our lives, he surprises us with exactly what we need to begin to think as he thinks and everything we need to live in a way that honors and pleases him—everything we need for holy living. 2 Peter 1:3 makes it clear: "As we know Jesus better, His divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive His own glory and goodness!"

How glorious it is to be called to know him better and to know his glory and goodness personally. And keep in mind that it’s all absolutely free. You don’t even have to charge it to your chicken!



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