Monday, May 23, 2011

Which Is Better, Cats or Dogs?

Walk down the street asking random people which animal is superior, the dog or the cat, and you are likely to get some strong opinions.  Even owners of both seem to favor one over the other.  I have owned a few dogs and a cat in my life and have discovered that there are valuable lessons to be learned from each one.

Dogs are known for their loyalty.  They stick by their master's side and seem happiest when the master is nearby.  A well-trained dog will come quickly to his master’s call.  He knows that voice and listens for it.  He heeds his master’s every command.  I had a dog that would sit for what seemed like an eternity with a piece of meat on the end of his nose just waiting for me to say “get it!”  That’s the picture of pure adoration and obedience.  That’s what the Lord wants from me.  What a challenging thought.  Do I strain to listen for my Master’s voice?  Then do I obey His commands and find my joy in putting a smile on His face?  

Deuteronomy 10:12 says, And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”  My Master loves me and never asks anything of me that is not for my own good or for His purpose.  He deserves my love and devotion.

That’s what I have learned from my dogs.  Now what about the cats?  Cats, by nature, are very independent and self-serving.  They don’t often come when they are called unless there is something in it for them.  Cat lovers, don’t hate me, but what I have learned from my cat is how NOT to respond to God.   To my shame, I think I tend to be more like my cat.  My cat always seemed to look at me as if she tolerated me being around.  She came to me only when she felt like it and only under her own terms.  If I wanted her to do something I could almost see her thinking about whether or not she wanted to obey… most times she would just turn a cold shoulder.  I shudder to think of the times that I have turned a cold shoulder to God.  I wish I could say that I obey Him constantly without even thinking about what’s in it for me. Too often instead I lay basking in the sun, too lazy to get up, too involved in pleasing myself instead of my Master.  That is what I have learned from my cat.

My question for you today is not which animal do you believe is superior.  My question is, which one do you wish to emulate?  How have you behaved today?  If you have felt more like a cat today, what steps are you going to take toward change?  Seeking forgiveness is a great place to start. 

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on this topic.  Cat lovers and dog lovers alike!
Leave a comment with your ideas of how you can grow in your adoration for your Master, how to hear His voice, or how to learn to respond in obedience.

Disclaimer:  This illustration may be slightly exaggerated for the sake of a good comparison.  I realize that not ALL cats are as self-serving as mine was.  And, it may surprise you to know that I actually enjoyed the twelve plus years that we had with our cat.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I’ve Been Exposed -Part Two

    After reading my previous blog, you may be wondering how God exposes sin to us.  The truth is that He does it in various ways.  Sometimes while reading Scripture a particular phrase or passage may stand out.  Then God tugs ever so gently at the heart with a sense of guilt or shame.  Other times, something a preacher or singer says may remind us of a sin that was recently committed.  On various occasions, God has pointed out to me a sin in someone else’s life and shown me that I am guilty of doing or thinking the same thing.  (I hate that!)  And, of course, there are times when someone notices our sin and straight out confronts us.  Whatever tool God uses, the result is usually the same… guilt, sadness, disappointment, or frustration.  Hopefully repentance comes next, closely followed by renewed peace and joy.  Praise God that “if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong” (I John 1:9)... every time!

      Glancing again at Luke chapter 8 you may notice another sweet verse:  “On the other side of the lake the crowds received Jesus with open arms because they had been waiting for Him.” (Luke 8:40)  That is where I want to be – waiting for Him with open arms, and not pushing Him away.

Are you lacking peace?  Could you be hanging onto some sin and fearing you will be “caught”?  Will you allow God to expose you today, or will you tell Him to “go away”?  Will you dare to pray this prayer that David prayed:

                   “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”  (Psalm 139:23-24, NLT)

Monday, May 16, 2011

I've Been Exposed! It's A Good Thing

     I remember as a teen knowing that smoking was bad for me.  My father had been a smoker and made it well known that he didn’t want me to start that horrible habit.  Still, curiosity got the best of me and I tried it, multiple times.  But I didn’t smoke out in the open. I hid in a wooded area behind the drug store in hopes that Mom and Dad would never find out.  My brother rode by one day and I prayed that he would go away and keep my secret safe.  But he didn’t.  Thankfully, I was caught and the horror of ever being caught again kept me from committing a repeat offense.

      Today I was reading Luke chapter 8 which contains the story of Christ healing a demon-possessed man.  It is interesting to note that the crowd of people who witnessed the healed young man “begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them.”  (Luke 8:37, NLT)  I wondered what it was that caused them such great fear.  Did they fear what they did not understand or were they afraid that Christ would look on them and see their darkest secrets?  Maybe they feared being exposed the same as I had when I glimpsed my brother riding by that fateful day.  With this thought in my mind, I am wondering, do I tell God to "go  away"?

      I suspect that we all have things we like to keep hidden… skeletons in the closet, so to speak.  One of my children likes to hide in his closet when he knows he has done wrong.  I sometimes hear his little voice from within the closet say, “Leave me alone.”   In the same way we adults sometimes hide our faces or duck around corners to avoid seeing people who have exposed us.  I know I have.  Many even quit their jobs or move away just to avoid facing their failures.  I don’t like to admit when I have done wrong.  Yet when Christ came into my life, He began to expose my hidden secrets.  See, God specializes in revealing the sins that weight us down.  His purpose in revealing our sin is to heal us and give us peace, the kind of peace that you get when you know you have been forgiven.  Did you ever get caught in a string of lies and find, to your surprise, that you were relieved when someone exposed you?   That’s what I’m talking about.  That very moment of relief is a glimpse of what it is like to have God’s peace.  When we try to hide our sin, or guard it and tell God to ‘go away’, then we throw away any chance of knowing His peace. 

Psalm 32: 2-5
Blessed is the one
   whose sin the LORD does not count against them
   and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent,
   my bones wasted away... 

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
   and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
   my transgressions to the LORD.”
And you forgave
   the guilt of my sin.

Maybe today is the day you will allow God to expose your secrets and give you peace.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pests -Here They Come!

This season Middle Tennessee is due for a bumper crop of 13-year cicada.  They are coming out of the ground as I write this.  Yuck!  I didn't live in this area thirteen years ago.  These pests are said to be extremely loud and bothersome.  I'm picturing a scene like Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."  I hope I'm wrong. According to entomologist Dr. Frank Hale “in some locales, the sound may seem deafening.”  This expert recommends earplugs.  (for more information, see

Thankfully, cicada are not harmful to humans, but there is another pest that is sometimes equally annoying and, sadly, very harmful.  I’m talking about gossips.  We all know the type.  I’m chuckling right now as I remember the scene from “The Music Man” when a bunch of old biddies sing “pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little, cheep cheep cheep, peck a lot, peck a little more…”  A funny scene in its context, but not so funny to the one who is being “pecked”.  Without a doubt, gossip is harmful.  Maybe you have been the object of gossip at one time or another.  Rumors spread, true or untrue, and people begin to look at you funny or avoid you.  Not fun.  Reputations have been ruined over gossip.  Ironically, the reputation of the gossiper can be equally ruined.  That’s justice for you.  No one trusts a known gossip.

We know that God hates gossip.  Paul couples it with “every kind of wickedness” in Romans 1:29.  God also warns us about it at least seven different times in the book of  Proverbs.   Truthfully, I don’t believe anyone wants to be identified as a gossip.  The trouble is that gossip is too easy.  Anyone with two ears and a tongue who spends time with people is susceptible.  I’ve had long conversations with people about what is considered gossip.  Does it only involve untruths?  No.  You CAN gossip about someone and be telling the truth.  Ever hear someone gossip about two people who are having an affair?  True, and very damaging.  Does gossip only involve slander?  Can you gossip about someone in a positive way?  This is a tough one.  If the information shared is personal in nature, I believe it is gossip.  Maybe Mary doesn’t want the world to know she had cancer, even though she is a walking testimony of God’s healing.  The question becomes, when you hear information about someone else, what do you do with it?  Can they trust you?  And when you are tempted to share their story, what is your motive?  Have you cleared it with the person involved before you opened you mouth? (Incidently, posting on the internet counts as opening your mouth.)  I think these are great questions to ask yourself when you are tempted to talk about someone other than yourself.  Call it a litmus test.  I wish that I could say that I have never gossiped, but I can’t.  And I have lost someone’s trust at least once because of it.  For this very reason I challenge you with the same challenge God has given me:  watch your tongue!  James says that the tongue is “like a flame of fire” that “can ruin your whole life” (James 3:6), not to mention what it can do to others around you.  That is a story for another time. 

Next time you hear the noise of the cicada, let it remind you that there is a time to keep silent.

Proverbs 11:13
”A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.”

Proverbs 16:28
”A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.”

Proverbs 17:4
”Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip; liars pay close attention to slander.”

Proverbs 20:19
”A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers.”

Proverbs 25:10
”Others may accuse you of gossip, and you will never regain your good reputation.”

Proverbs 25:23
”As surely as a north wind brings rain, so a gossiping tongue causes anger!”

Proverbs 26:20
”Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.”

Sunday, May 8, 2011

To All The Haters of Mother’s Day

      Mother’s Day can be a source of pain for many.  I’ve always loved Mother’s Day because I have been blessed with a beautiful mother and best friend.  I thank God for her everyday.  But this Mother’s Day I have become keenly aware of people who dread this very day because their mothers are no longer with them or because their mothers were not exactly loving and supportive.  Let me say that I cannot begin to feel their pain.  However, as I was praying for a family this morning who lost their dear mother this Spring, I was brought back to the title of this blog, “Finding the Joy”.  Finding the joy in life is easy when things are going well.  We can see the smiles on our childrens’ faces,  the beauty in a rainbow, and the melody of a well orchestrated concerto.  It is when things are not going as we had hoped or planned that our sources of joy seem to disappear.  In truth, they are still out there, but in our sadness we stop looking for them.  James 1:2 says that “when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”  Does this verse mean that God wants us to put a smile on our face and “fake it ‘til we make it?”  Not really.  What it does mean is that with every sadness there is an opportunity to find some joy.  If you are missing a loved one today, spend the day remembering and cherishing the moments you had with that loved one while she was here.  Thankfulness is tremendous medicine for depression! 

     On this Mother’s Day I would like to leave you with a thought that blessed me this morning in church.  This thought came from a song that the choir sang called “Orphans of God” by Joel Lindsey and Twila LeBar.  I remember a dear friend confiding in me that after her mother and father had both passed she felt like an orphan.  Maybe you feel like that today.  If there is no other source of joy for you today, find your joy in this… “There are no ophans of God!”  He never leaves his children alone.

Who here among us has not been broken?
Who here among us is without guilt or pain?
So oft abandoned by our transgressions,
If such a thing as grace exists, then grace was made for lives like this.

There are no strangers,  There are no outcasts,
There are no orphans of God.
So many fallen , but hallelujah,
There are no orphans of God.

Come ye unwanted and find affection.
Come all ye weary, come and lay down your head.
Come ye unworthy, you are my brother.
If such a thing as grace exists, then grace was made for lives like this!

There are no strangers,  There are no outcasts,
There are no orphans of God.
So many fallen , but hallelujah,
There are no orphans of God.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Excuses, Excuses

I have a confession to make.  I may be the queen of excuses. 

-         The laundry didn’t get done because my son made a mess playing with Playdough.
-         Supper didn’t get made because there was a huge line at the grocery store.
-         There’s no money in the account because the blender broke and gas prices went up again.
-         My Bible sat unopened today because a certain someone called with a problem.

Do you notice a pattern here?  Specifically, there is an absence of one little pronoun, “I”.  It's really not so surprising.  That’s the thing about excuses,  they always place the blame somewhere else.  They are another way of saying, “It’s not my fault.”  But is it?  The answer lies in the reason behind the excuse.

According to The World English Dictionary an excuse is made “in defense of some fault or as a reason for not fulfilling an obligation.”  Can that reason be factual?  Yes.  Can it be avoidable?  Sometimes.  And for that reason, an excuse is not always a bad thing.  For example, missing school or work because of an illness is unavoidable and certainly not considered wrong.  However, being late to school or work because you didn’t set your alarm clock is avoidable and frowned upon.  In the end, I’d rather not be known as one who is always making excuses especially when I know that there is a God above who sees my motives and knows when I’m simply making poor choices.  Case in point, excuse number 4 above.  How hard is it to sit down and read my Bible for ten minutes without answering the phone?  Even if there is an emergency, I bet that I could find another ten minutes somewhere in my day to give to God.  Similarly, excuse number two could have been completely avoided if I had left the house an hour earlier. 

It seems that excuses most often come into play when I don’t want to own up to my own failure.  It’s really just a form of justification.  I know I’m not alone in this.  In fact, check out this story in Luke chapter 10.  A religious man encounters Jesus.  When Jesus affirms that the man ought to love God with his whole heart and love his neighbor as he loves himself, the man “wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, ‘And, who is my neighbor?’”  Jesus wisely discerns that this man wants to excuse his lack of love for certain people and tells him the story of the good Samaritan.  Jesus knew that Jews hated Samaritans and he made this particular Jew admit that the Samaritan was his "neighbor".  What a perfect story to show this “religious” man that God would not accept his justification. 
Likewise, He is not going to accept mine. 

Proverbs 16:2
"People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives."

Proverbs 21:2
"People may be right in their own eyes,but the Lord examines their heart."

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden Is Dead

I had mixed emotions about the news that is plastered all over the internet this morning.  Then I read a very well thought out blog on the matter.
This woman put words to my thoughts, so the best I can do is lead you to her post.

This IS a day of VICTORY.
It is also a day of prayer for the many who have been lead astray.