Tuesday, April 18, 2017

His Kaleidoscope

 I have a camera application on my phone which has a kaleidoscope filter.  I have recently enjoyed playing with this a great deal mainly because it doesn't take spectacular content to make an incredible picture.  You simply choose the filter, point the camera at anything and an impressive design results.

For example, this is a kaleidoscope picture of a solid colored, lace dress I wore the other day:

 This one is of the monkey grass growing near our front porch:

And this one is simply the contents of my purse:

 Regardless of how plain the content, this filter creates an orderly, and very pretty, design of the objects.

Isn't that reminiscent of the Lord's working in our lives?  He can take tiniest details of our lives --the good, the bad, the pretty and the ugly-- and weave them into a beautiful image with everything lined up as it should and in it's proper place.

It isn't only that He can, He is!

He is currently taking every aspect of our lives and weaving them into a beautiful tapestry.  He includes our joys and fulfillment, the times we were treated unfairly or unjustly, the pains, the sorrows and the things we just don't understand.  When we look back over at our life, we will see that He has used each and every second to make our lives a glorious expression of His grace and mercy, His love and caring.  He is actively working in the lives of each of His trusting children to accomplish this.

So when the pains come, or the troubling moments occur, let us trust Him by faith that every second of our lives is in His hand as He works  in our lives to glorify His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

"My times are in Thy hand. . .Be of good courage, 
and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord."
Psalm 31:15, 24

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Nothing Everyday is Still Nothing

As I type this, my guitar is sitting in its stand close by.  Do not misinterpret the words "my guitar" to mean I am a guitarist.  Having listened to my husband, daughter and son play the guitar beautifully, I am reminded what a novice I am.  

I bought my guitar on November 15th last year.  It was a purchase made after long thought.  The year before I had begun to play the ukulele, which I now describe as a "gateway instrument," since it planted the seed of playing the guitar.  

Gradually I begin to realize I could probably learn to play the guitar -- at least enough for me to have fun -- and possibly begin to understand the fret board.  Having been a piano player since I was thirteen,  I found the concepts of the guitar infinitely more complicated than the "laid out sequentially" piano.

As soon as I purchased the guitar, I began taking lessons online.  My progress was slowed by the fact I simply don't have a great deal of extra time to devote to practicing guitar.  I try to grab what minutes I have and I try to make sure I play at least a little every day.

When making chords on the guitar, one uses the soft tips of the fingers to press down the steel strings, (usually while contorting the fingers into impossible positions).  There has to be enough pressure on the string to change the tone of the string appropriately.  This pressure of soft tissue against hard steel results in callouses being formed on the ends of the fingers.  One thing I have realized is that if I don't play some every day, my fingertips soften up.  Then I must go through the painful process of reforming callouses.

I find that even though my time is limited, I have made progress.   I can now play a few songs and have begun learning to fingerpick, which I enjoy so much more than strumming. I like seeing my accomplishments, even if it takes me longer than most.  A little practice everyday adds up to a lot over time.  Nothing everyday is still nothing.

This is true with our approach to reading the Bible.  We may not think we have time to read the Scriptures every day, but I would say we don't have time NOT to.  Just a small amount of time spent in the Bible every day will add up to so much over days, months and years.  The Lord will hide those words in our hearts and quicken them by the power of His Holy Spirit.  In moments of difficulty, pain or temptation, they will come back to us as inspiration, encouragement and guidance.

In our chapel services at a local nursing facility, we read the Scriptures for five minutes each Sunday as part of the service.  We are now in our third reading of the New Testament and I am the one who primarily does the readings. One of the residents mentioned to me a few weeks ago that there must be very few people who have read the New Testament aloud three times.  She commented that it was a great blessing for them and it must be for me as well.  She is right, I feel quite blessed and honored to read the Bible in our service each week.

If we commit to reading even a little of the Bible every day then, after a chapter here and a chapter there, as time goes by, we will find we have read the Bible through.  Then we can simply begin again.

"Whom shall He teach knowledge? and whom shall He make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.  For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people."  
Isaiah 28: 9-11

"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, 
that I might not sin against Thee." 
Psalm 119:11

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Consuming Disease

Just as there are deadly physical diseases, there are spiritual diseases as well.  Two of the most insidious, and most dangerous, are bitterness and its close cousin, resentment.

We all know bitterness when we encounter it in a culinary sense, it is something that has a harsh, disagreeable taste. We naturally dislike it.  Bitterness of the soul is no different.  It is that characteristic of being cynical, disagreeable and distressed.  Bitterness nurtured leads to resentment and anger.  

There can be few things less glorifying to the Lord in a Christian's life than bitterness and resentment.  In fact, the Apostle Paul spoke directly to this in the book of Ephesians:

 "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:" (Ephesians 4:31).

Here the Apostle Paul gives Christians the admonition to actively put away from us bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, evil speaking and malice.  Then he tells us what should take the place of those characteristics:

"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32.)

Bitterness is like cancer.  It is from the single, tiny cell that huge tumors grow.  Resentment and bitterness eats away at us from the inside, robbing us of our joy and contentment, until finally it consumes us.

The beginning of this disease is so subtle, so easy to miss. . .at first.  Perhaps it begins with the thought that we have been overlooked, taken advantage of or forgotten.  In some way someone or something has not been to us what we think they should be.  

Once the spark of bitterness has begun, the tiny cell, like cancer, does not stay tiny for long.  Soon anger and clamour, evil speaking and malice join it and the bitterness grows.  As it becomes bigger in us we begin to share our mistreatment, and how we feel about it, to everyone who will listen.  Rarely does a bitter person keep silent.  Soon the whole body is consumed, the mind constantly fomenting against the person who has so ill-used us.

I remember when our mother was first diagnosed with cancer.  My brother sought out the advice of a friend of his who was an oncologist.  He explained our mother had lung cancer with a metastasis to the brain.  His friend told him, forthrightly, that our mother had cancer everywhere.  "She has cancer in her whole body, it just hasn't formed tumors everywhere yet."  While the words were difficult to hear, the truth of them was something we needed to know.

The same can be said for bitterness.  Once allowed to flourish, it is everywhere in us.

I know a person who is totally consumed with bitterness.  It rules this person's life and has become their focus.  I was myself headed down that road at one point in  my life.  Nothing could satisfy me, I was displeased and disagreeable.  Somehow, at some point, the Holy Spirit enlivened the words of Ephesians 4:31 and 32 and showed me what I was becoming.  I resolved to allow the Lord to eradicate the bitterness in me as I made the choice to consciously reject it and put it away, as the Apostle Paul admonished.

There are times still, the temptation to harbor bitterness comes my way.  We have enemies who will whisper the deadly thoughts in our minds hoping the seed will take root.  It is then we must, by faith in the power of Christ who lives in us, turn from those thoughts and choose the thoughts of forgiveness, mercy and tenderness.  

Indeed, how can we who have been forgiven so much refuse to grant forgiveness to others?  We must make the choice to guard our hearts from the bitterness which can so easily take root, and also to be "determined to be pleased," as was said of one of my favorite literary characters.  We must choose to pour out tenderness and forgiveness to all those around us just as our Lord so willingly poured out forgiveness and tenderness to us.


"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:  Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled."

Hebrews 12:14,15

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Summer's Comin'

Today, as usual, we walked along the streets of our city in preparation for an upcoming hike.  The weather was not unpleasant, but the longer we walked, the higher the sun was in the sky and the warmer it got.  It reminded us both that summer's coming.  It won't be long until I will add ice to my water reservoir in an attempt to stay cool.  A cold towel will help with that as well.

Often in the summer when we walk we will discuss the heat and we mention the fact that if it were 30° outside during the summer we would really be concerned.  For it to be 80°, 90° or even 100° at our latitude and longitude is completely normal during the summer.

By the same token, as Christians, we should not be surprised when the world does not accept the message we have to share, or when it hurls insults and threats against us.  We should not be surprised when evil flourishes, but the world attempts to extinguish good.  Our Lord told us it would be so:

"He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the Light, neither cometh to the Light, lest his deeds should be reproved."  John 3:18-20

As those who have the living Light of the World residing in us, that Light will always expose the evil of the darkness. Evil always tries to present itself as a false light, a false truth.  Let us not be afraid of letting the True Light within us shine for all to see.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
 Matthew 5:16

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Pain in a Syringe

It was such a small needle, yet I knew it would bring big pain.

Yesterday I went to the orthopedic surgeon concerning pain I have been having in the base of my left thumb.  I think it started last fall and I had hoped it would get better but it has only gotten worse, to the point it has begun to affect my ability to do my job.  My own research led me to believe I have basal thumb arthritis.  My doctor confirmed my suspicions and we discussed the various treatment modalities from simple medications to surgery.

We decided upon a course in the middle, a corticosteroid injection into the affected joint.  Now my doctor has injected my joints before.  Once a shoulder and twice when I had tennis elbow. (No, I don't play tennis.)  I recall all the injections being relatively painful and I tried to steel myself for the pain.

Only the injection didn't hurt.

In fact, the shot itself was fairly painless, as shots go.  His nurse sprayed a cold, "numbing" spray on my skin as he injected me and the lidocaine he included with the steroid kept me comfortable for a couple of hours.  Then it wore off.

The rest of the night by arm hurt all the way from my fingertips to my elbow.  Even today as I type this, my thumb is painful and sore.  But I know that soon the pain should go away and I will feel as if I have had a miracle cure.

It is ironic to me that such a small needle and a small amount of medication could produce so much pain (I am not in the "miracle cure" stage yet, so I'll save that for another post.)  I was willing to go through this painful procedure because I knew from experience it would eventually bring relief.  When my doctor injected my elbow, once the pain of the shot itself was gone, it was blessed relief.  He told me it would be that way and now, from experience, I know it to be true.

There are so many times we go through painful situations in our lives, some we can foresee ahead of time and others that catch us by surprise.  Sometimes, like this injection, the painful thing is actually intended to make us better.  Indeed, God uses all things in our lives to conform us to the image of His Son.

 "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." Romans 8:28,29.

All things. . .the good and the bad,  the pleasures and the pains.  All things God uses according to His purpose.  And that purpose is one thing, to make us more like His Son. 

 Now, I don't know about you, but I am a far way away from being like Christ.  It will take a lot of "all things" to get me there -- including this steroid shot, and the arthritis that led me to get the shot.  All of these, everything, becomes a tool in the hands of the Lord.  Is there a difficulty in our lives right now?  It is one of those "all things."  Is there a pain we are called to bear?  It is one of those "all things."  Is there a disappointment weighing down our hearts?  It is one of those "all things."

  When we begin to see our lives in this light, then we can begin to approach both the good and the bad as the Apostle Paul did:

"And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."
2 Corinthians 12: 9, 10