Saturday, November 14, 2015

Remembering Paris

I have wept for Paris again. 

In 1999, we went to Paris for our honeymoon. It is a beautiful city, a romantic city, and I loved it. Four square miles of culture, cafes, and art. And, of course, people. I wept for the people back then. Despite the beauty, there were many sad faces, and I wanted to tell them about the One who could put joy in their hearts. But I did not.

The people were kind to me, patient with the residual of my high school French. They must have heard left-over French before, because we managed to communicate. We roamed all over the city. I was in love, and I fell in love with Paris and her people, as well. 

I still love Paris.

I wept last night when I heard of the violent, vicious acts of terror committed there. Pointless murders of innocents who had not harmed the perpetrators. I grieve for those who died, for those who were wounded, for all those who have been affected by the attacks. 

I grieve for us all. 

When such violence erupts in a city, it affects every one of us. This is not war. This is not even a religious crusade. 

This is wickedness. 

What kind of evil promotes this depraved wickedness? Ultimate evil. ISIS/IS, or whatever they call themselves this week, has claimed responsibility for these murders, these attacks. They celebrate these deaths of unarmed civilians as if it proves their power, their "right". It does not. It only proves the wickedness of their souls.

How can we combat such evil? 

The world will not want to hear the solution, but only Ultimate Good can deal with this kind of evil. 

When faced with an impending Aramean attack, Jehosophat prayed, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You." (2 Chron 20:12) 

When faced with the threat of the Assyrians, Hezekiah prayed, "And now, O Lord our God, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou alone, O Lord, art God." (2 Kings 19:19) 

They were in desperate need of intervention from the Most High God and they knew it.

When those great kings prayed for deliverance from evil, deliverance was given. 

So must we bend our knees and humble our hearts in prayer for deliverance from this great evil that threatens us.

I prayed for the people of Paris last night, and for all those who love Paris. I will continue to pray that their suffering will not be wasted. I pray that the One who created them will heal their broken hearts and that, somehow, great good will come from this.

I did not want to pray for those attackers, but yesterday I spent hours writing of one who had prayed for his attackers and loved his enemies, even though it was hard. 

I did not want to, but I prayed for the terrorists last night.  I had no choice, for Jesus said, "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matt 5:44)

I prayed that this will be the event that breaks ISIS, that God would so convict those who participated in the attacks, whether by planning or doing, that repentance will result. I prayed that such confusion and trouble will compound their efforts that the precise orchestrations of all the evil they attempt will be thwarted from within.

I pray that their sin will be ever before them and their only relief will be in repentance.

This is a battle that will not be won with guns and bombs and strategy. 

It is a battle to be won on our knees. 

We can do more than we know for the people of Paris. We can do more than we realize to fight the terrorists of ISIS. We can do more, but our weapons must be those of humbled hearts, bent knees, and impassioned prayers for the intervention of God. 

We can do more than we know, if we will.

There is much to distract us today, but those who are grieving in Paris will not be distracted. Let us take time to help them. Let us take time to pray.

photo courtesy of
In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links: Grateful Heart: Superheroes and Missions Conference , The Blessings That Were Not,  Loss of PowerGrateful Heart: Veterans, Grateful Heart: Laughter and Grateful Heart: Worldwide Kindness.

The most read posts of the past week: The Grateful Heart: Orchestration of God
#ParisAttacks #Prayers4Paris #TheIslamicState #PowerofPrayer

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Grateful Heart: Worldwide Kindness

Today, November 13, is the World Kindness Day. This day is sponsored by the World Kindness Movement. Dr. Wataru Mori was a Tokyo physician who saw the problems in the world and longed to make a difference. He believed that a "critical mass" of acts of kindness around the world could help to make a "more compassionate and peaceful world." Nearly two decades ago, he convened a series of conferences designed to promote kindness and the "World Kindness Movement" was begun. Now, there are 25 participating nations. 

As part of the World Kindness Movement, a Worldwide day for kindness was established. It is always on November 13. Participants are encouraged to be kind to those around them.

It's an interesting concept, isn't it? I'm grateful for people who are kind and touched by the generosity of spirit that conceived this movement. I wonder, though, if Dr. Mori knew about Ephesians 4:32. "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." 

Had he heard of the Golden Rule? Jesus, in Matthew 7:12, instructed His followers in kindness. "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.

Dr. Mori did not actually start the worldwide kindness movement. That job was accomplished by Jesus. He instructed us to be kind and He expected us to treat others in a good and loving manner.

When I see the discord, strife, fighting, and anger in the world today, I have to wonder what the body of Christ has done about kindness. Are we more concerned about red cups and holiday greetings than being kind to those around us? One day, we will give an account of our lives, and I shudder to think how we will explain the red cup controversy.

For today, let's put down our individual "causes" and pick up the cause of Christ. Let's act like Jesus would have us act, treat others as He would have us treat them, be kind to those who are not.

Let us live sieve-like, so that the love of Christ leaks out to all around us in such a way that they are refreshed by our kindness and drawn to the One who is the source of all goodness and love.

In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links: Maggie: Wanting Eye DropsGrateful Heart: Superheroes and Missions Conference , The Blessings That Were Not,  Loss of PowerGrateful Heart: Veterans, and Grateful Heart: Laughter

The most read posts of the past week: The Grateful Heart: Orchestration of God
Want an easy act of kindness? Send a 99 cent e-book to a friend.
Here's the link to The Clay Papers, and here's the link to The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional book). 
#WorldKindnessDay #GoldenRule #JesusChrist #disciple

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Grateful Heart: Laughter

Yesterday, I attended the Veterans' Day ceremony at Toyota. Smiling, waving children from one of the daycare programs entertained with animated singing. They were so cute that we all smiled and laughed, not because they were humorous but because of the joy inherent in the presence of happy, singing children. 

Later, I had a meeting at my accountant's office. I needed to file a report online but didn't know how to access the form to complete it. In just a few minutes, the form was done, fee was paid, and we were finished. We laughed, not because it was humorous, but because it was so much easier than either of us had expected.

When I returned home, the Wonder Dogs were so happy to see me that they ran in circles around me for so long, I thought they might collapse from exhaustion. They tumbled over each other and played like puppies. I laughed again.

I was reading in Genesis 17 today and came to the pivotal passage where God made His covenant with Abram and changed his name to Abraham. He also told 99-year old Abraham that Sarah would bear a son. Abraham "fell on his face and laughed".  (17:17)

All that laughter reminded me of one of my mother's favorite verses. "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine." (Prov.17:22)  

Last year a research article from Loma Linda University offered "proof" that God's word is true. This was a tiny study done on 20 healthy, older adults.  Half the people watched funny videos. The other half sat quietly and talked. Salivary cortisol levels (stress hormone) and a short-term learning test were given at intervals. The cortisol levels went down and both learning and recall improved in the "humor" group.  

I didn't need a study to convince me a good laugh is good for me. For today, I'm grateful for the cleansing, healing power of laughter and thanking God that even the silliness of life can be used for great good. 

Go ahead. Laugh until you feel better. 

photo courtesy of

In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links: Maggie: Eye ProtectionMaggie: Wanting Eye DropsGrateful Heart: Superheroes and Missions Conference , The Blessings That Were Not,  Loss of Power, and Grateful Heart: Veterans.

The most read posts of the past week: The Grateful Heart: Orchestration of God

Here are two more posts on laughter: Blending Laughter and Laughter that Hides Tears.
#laughteristhebestmedicine #laughter #stressrelief #gratefulheart

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Grateful Heart: Veterans

Noah Emerson Lindsey

My daddy was a veteran. He was the most handsome, charming man around. He was smart, and talented, and kind. He had a gentle spirit and the heart of a romantic idealist. When he joined the service and was sent into the battle of World War II, he believed he could make a difference. He would help safeguard our nation and save the world.

He would never have admitted such romantic notions, but he was a patriot at heart. 

I cry when I hear the national anthem and clap when I see a group of soldiers in the airport. I'm the first to admit that I'm a sentimental patriot. My daddy (along with thousands upon thousands of men and women throughout the years) was more than a sentimental patriot. He was the kind of patriot willing to leave blood on the ground because of his convictions.

He was a solder. 

It was World War II and he was in Europe one early morning, the first one awake. He got up to stir the fire and make the coffee. That's the kind of man he was, always the first one to serve. Another soldier awakened and, in those early hours, lost it. He grabbed his gun and started shooting. 

By the time he was subdued, my daddy was on the ground. Shot through the back. The bullet went through his shoulder and out his arm, ripping bone and flesh as it went. It was a painful wound and it took a long time to heal, but it did. He overcame.

He was wounded in service but turned down the Purple Heart because he wasn't wounded in battle. Medals should be saved for those who deserved them most, he thought, not for those wounded at the campfire.

After the war, he was still the nicest man around. Children still loved him. He was still smart and talented and kind. 

He hid it well, but he had sustained wounds to his soul that were much deeper than a bullet's path. They didn't heal as well and, eventually, they would take a toll that was unfathomable. At one time the number one salesman in the nation for his company, he died a migrant orange picker. During the intervening years, drugs would take a toll that was unimaginable.

The toll would be paid by more than a soldier. A wife would be left to fend for two little girls by herself in a time when most wives stayed home. Two little girls would be left fatherless and wondering if someone else they loved would disappear without an explanation. 

My daddy, his wife, his children, and extended families on both sides of their marriage would all be wounded by the madman's bullet before its path was done. The scars would last for decades. 

Today is Veterans' Day. It is more than a day to wave the flag and sing the National Anthem. It is more than wearing red, white, and blue, or hanging bunting on the walls. It is a day to remember their sacrifice and honor our soldiers for their service to us, to our country. 

It should be a day, too, to remember that our veterans' sacrifice did not end with their discharge papers. The horrors of war were imprinted on their hearts and minds. Those horrors will not easily be erased. Those who served still serve and, for some, the battle rages on, even years after the last gun has sounded. 

Be kind to all the veterans you meet. The war they fought was bigger than you know. Lasted longer than you could imagine. Cost them more than you would have ever wanted to pay. 

Be gentle with their families. They, too, have paid a terrible price. Many will pay the price for the rest of their lives as they struggle alongside their soldiers to overcome the wounds war has caused.

Be more than kind. Support our veterans and those now in service, with your cards, and letters, and emails, and (most of all) with your prayers. Pray for safety of body, mind, and spirit. Pray that the destruction of the enemy would be limited, that our soldiers would both persevere through and overcome all the evil the encounter. Pray for healing of body, mind, and spirit.

On this Veterans' Day, my heart is full of gratitude for their service and their sacrifice. Even more than gratitude, though, my heart is full of sorrow for the price they have paid in the battle against the tyranny of this world. 

I give you honor, Veterans. I give you thanks. 

If I could, I would also give you peace.

In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links:  The Grateful Heart: Avoiding DistractionMaggie: Eye ProtectionMaggie: Wanting Eye DropsGrateful Heart: Superheroes and Missions Conference , The Blessings That Were Not, and Loss of Power.

The most read posts of the past week: The Grateful Heart: Orchestration of God

#VeteransDay #Veterans #PTSD #thankyouforyourservice

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Loss of Power

"You got the power off?" Sam said from the patio. "What power?" I asked. "Any power. You don't have any power at the barn. I thought you turned it off." A long and very confusing conversation followed as I tried to understand what it was he thought I had done. Finally, I did the only thing that made any sense. I went to see for myself. 

At the barn, Sam and I investigated. The fuses were fine but the lights (and the freezer) were all off. For the first time in 25 years, I realized that I had no idea how or where electricity entered the barn. Sam assured me it came under ground from the pump house, so we headed back to see. Fuses were fine there, too. 

There was nothing else to do but call John the Builder. He came right over, investigated thoroughly, and found the problem. It turned out that two wires had done something they shouldn't (that's my interpretation, not John's explanation) and shorted out. When they shorted out, something else was messed up.  

If that is about as clear as mud, it's because that's how it looks to me, too. The errant wires and their burned out shenanigans have resulted in a total loss of power in my barn. It turns out that the whole mess needs to replaced with a new breaker box. 

It seems odd to me that two wires so far removed from the barn can result in such a loss of power, but they have, and the only solution is to remove the mess and start fresh. It seems odd, but I don't guess it is. I've had that same problem in my own life a few times. Perhaps you have, too. It all starts with one little error in judgment, one bad decision, and the next thing you know, things have snowballed out of control and there is a total mess. It seems like all the power in your life is gone. When that happens, you can stumble along trying to figure out what went wrong or you can just go to The Expert. The writer of Hebrews knew something about this, and he had clearly found the solution in Christ alone. 

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 NASB)

When we have a mess and a resulting loss of power in our lives, the only sensible thing to do is approach the throne of grace, confess our need and our failure, and receive the mercy and grace God is so willing to give. It's not just the only sensible thing to do, it's the only thing to do. The good news is that we can count on not just mercy, not just grace, but also help in time of need.  With all that, a restoration of power can't be far behind. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Grateful Heart: Accepting the Blame

I'm still reading in Genesis and finding more than I wanted. The lesson today slashed right to my heart, so I'm sharing it. 

You probably remember the story of Abram and Sarai and Ishmael. The short version is that God promised Abram he would have a son. He and his wife waited well past the childbearing years, but still no son.

She did what I might have done. She gathered data, interpreted it, and, on the basis of her faulty interpretation, she made a plan. God had promised Abram a son. Sarai was too old to be a mother. She would provide a mother to take her place so Abram could have a son. Her decision made an odd kind of sense to her, and Sarai thought she was doing a good and noble thing. 

God had a plan that required the situation to be utterly impossible for the greatest effect. 

Sarai blew it. After the child was born, there was chaos, and disrespect, and grief in their home.

What happens next is what a fair number of us would likely do. 

Sarai did not say, "Wow, Abram, I have made a mess with my foolish choice. How can we make this better?" She did not say, "I'm so sorry for my error." No. Sarai, once again, took matters into her own hands. She yelled at her husband and blamed him and the maid for the consequences of her own decision. (Genesis 16)

Her failure to accept her share of the blame made the situation worse instead of better. 

I do that sometimes. I want my mess to be the result of someone else's poor decisions. I tell myself "I made the best decision I knew to make", as if God would not have told me His will if I'd waited. When I refuse to accept responsibility for my error, my sin, I rob myself of the sweet balm that comes from confession and cleansing.

David found that there was not only relief, but power, in acknowledging his error and accepting the blame. "I know my transgressions," he admitted, but he didn't stop there. "Purify me... create in me a clean heart." (Psalm 51) David's confession didn't prevent consequences for his bad decision, but it made those consequences much easier to bear. Confession restored his relationship with God, and it was the first step through the mess he'd made. 

Let's not forget that the forgiveness of God is one of the greatest blessings we can enjoy. It is only possible, however, if we are willing to confess our sins and receive His cleansing. For today, let's look at the difficult situations in our lives, acknowledge our errors, and turn to the only One who can wash us white as snow. 

The good news is that God's supply of forgiveness, cleansing, and redemption never runs out. I've confessed a mountain of sin over the years, and, despite my best efforts, will likely have another mountain to confess before my life is done. 

Today, I'm giving thanks for the river of God's forgiveness, cleansing, and redemption that never runs dry, no matter how big a mess I make. 

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links:  The Grateful Heart: Orchestration of GodThe Grateful Heart: Avoiding DistractionMaggie: Eye ProtectionMaggie: Wanting Eye DropsGrateful Heart: Superheroes and Missions Conference and The Blessings That Were Not

The most read posts of the past week: The Grateful Heart: Orchestration of God
#forgiveness #repentance #Jesus #itwasmyfault #imsorry   photo courtesy of

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Blessings that Were Not

It has been my routine for years to start in Genesis, work my way through the Bible, then go back to the start. When I arrived at Dr. Luke's book, I camped out for so long that all the other books seemed to fade. I'm still in Luke, but I've recently decided to return to the straight-through work, too.

Today, I came to the story in Genesis 12 about Abram's journey. You know this story, but for a quick review Abram and his wife Sarai were living in Haram. Abram was a young seventy-five years old, and up for adventure. God told him to go on a journey to a new place.

I'm doubtful I'd have gone on this journey, but Abram was made of better stuff than me. He loaded up everything he owned and all his servants and livestock and headed out.

"Where are we going?" Sarai probably asked.

"I don't know, but God will tell us when we get there," her husband likely reassured her.

This seems a wild way to make a move, but Abram and Sarai went. The only assurance they had was the word of God that there was, indeed, a destination at the end of the journey.

Off they went. The journey was smooth at the start. They had lovely mountaintop worship time. Plenty of food and water. On the way to the Negev, they encountered serious trouble.

Abram and Sarai (and all their servants) encountered a famine. Famine is not the same as a crop failure. Famine is the severe scarcity of food that comes after widespread crop failure. If it had just been Abram, perhaps he would have tried to scrounge enough to get by. Abram, however, was responsible for feeding more mouths than his own. 

Abram did what most of us would do. He did a little research, found that food was available in Egypt, and headed to Egypt for a little sojourn. It probably seemed like a perfectly sensible approach. He could resume his journey when the famine was over.

After he arrived in Egypt, he prospered. We might see the increase in livestock and prosperity and say, "Look how God has blessed Abram in Egypt. It was a good thing he's done." 

We would be wrong. It was not God's blessing at all.

God didn't tell Abram to stop in Egypt. God told him to keep moving.

Abram appeared to prosper but Sarai was placed in grave danger and the house of Pharaoh encountered severe plagues because of Abram's decision. 

When Jesus said that a man's life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions, this is one of the situations to which he was referring. Disobedience to God can be accompanied by wealth, but wealth and the blessing of God are not always synonymous. 

It is far better to encounter a severe famine than disobey God to avoid the physical famine and end up with famine of the soul. Hard times are just that. Hard. When they are a part of the journey of obedience, however, God is there. His promises hold true. He will provide. 

When our journey of obedience leads us to a time of hardship, it is critical that we persevere, for God will lead us through it. He will bless us in it, but it may not look like blessing to the rest of the world.

Let us hold on to the promises God has given. Let us take our eyes off the world's accumulation of stuff and recognize that the blessings of God are sometimes intangible, but no less real than a pile of silver and gold.

The Apostle Peter understood this truth. He encountered a lame man and said powerful words. "I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene - walk!" And the lame man walked. (Acts 3:6 nasb)

When we have Jesus, we have more than enough. 

In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links: The Grateful Heart: Predawn StillnessThe Grateful Heart: Orchestration of GodThe Grateful Heart: Avoiding DistractionMaggie: Eye ProtectionMaggie: Wanting Eye Drops, and Grateful Heart: Superheroes and Missions Conference.

The most read posts of the past week: The Grateful Heart: Orchestration of God
#blessings #JesusChrist #famine #journeyofobedience