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Tears

But while he was still a long way off his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  Luke 15:20

I know the text doesn’t say it but I can only imagine the tears flowing from the father and mother in the story of the prodigal son.  In fact, the King James version says “he fell on his son’s neck” in a dramatic display of joy and love.  Awhile ago, my family brought me to tears of joy with a surprise visit from my daughter, whom I hadn’t seen in months.  I heard the front door open and thinking it was my older daughter I made my way toward the front of the house to tell her hello.  When I realized it was my younger daughter I was overcome with tears and unable to speak.  I stood there sobbing in her arms.

It may seem strange to be thankful to God for tears but without them our world would be so vanilla.  I’ve laughed until I have cried with friends and family.  I’ve cried out to God, thankful for His grace and salvation.  I’ve wept at the birth of my daughters.  And yes, I’ve cried those tears of sorrow, of loss, of anger, of desperation.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5

So often we must weep, live in hard times before we can experience the full glory and blessing of God.  It’s why James tells us we should consider it joy to experience trials.  Because those trials produce good fruit in us.  And that fruit becomes something for us to share.

I have a friend whose 90 year old mother confesses to not remembering the last time, if ever, that she has cried.  What that means is she hasn’t participated fully in the gifts of life.  With each winter season in our lives we are so often rewarded with the spring, a time to bring  us great joys.  I want to go from this life knowing I have cried many tears from laughter, thankfulness, joyous surprise, beautiful surroundings and more.  I heard a Christian teacher say, “If you want the joy of Sunday’s resurrection you must first have the tears of Friday’s crucifixion.”

I’m so very grateful to God for giving us the outward ability to show our emotions.  To show those we love how much we love them, even after they are gone.  I’m looking forward to the day I can cry tears of joy when I see Jesus’ face watching for me from a long way off.  I know that when I get close enough, I will fall into His arms weeping, filled with joy.

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The Midol Woman

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:5

I love watching the British tv show Midsommer Murders.  I’m a detective fan since my young girl days of hiding my Nancy Drew books inside my school desk and sneaking it out when the teacher wasn’t looking.  I pay extra on my Amazon Prime account to get these shows.  Recently however, they’ve added commercials – dropped in at odd places in the show.  One such commercial keeps popping up, show after show, day after day.   It’s for Midol, the pain reducer typically suggested to relieve cramping and pains due to menstruation.  

The commercials themselves are a testament to where we are at in society.  You see, each of the women are portrayed as victims.  Not necessarily of having a period but of having to deal with the pain and therefore their related behavior.  I call them the Midol Women.   One actress states, “If I don’t stop apologizing for my period behavior (apparently she’s quite a bear during this time) then it’ll never stop for future generations.”  Another states, “I’m not going to keep apologizing for being a ‘mad black woman’ just because I’m on my period.”  Period.

The message conveyed is “whatever I’m feeling today the world had better watch out!” And, “don’t make me apologize for what I’m about to unleash!”

Isn’t that the loud and clear message we hear so much today?  I’m not required to keep my mouth in check because (fill in the blank – my truth, my pain, my socioeconomic status, my race, my sexuality, my whatever) but YOU had better keep your mouth in check.  It all creates a bit of a neck whiplash.  And the result? Pain, hurt feelings, swelling pridefulness, torn relationships, violence and more.

James 3:10-11 says, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 

When it’s a Christian acting in this way we get the giant stamp of “hypocrite” placed on, not only us as individuals, but the faith as a whole.  It’d be better to live by the wisdom of the Proverbs.

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.  Proverbs 29:11

This concept has really hit home for me these past few months as I’ve battled constant pain in my ears and head.   I want to lash out at my husband at the end of the day when he’s being, well, just a man.  Normally I could laugh and tease him.   But it takes all the strength and patience out of me each day to not give in to the pain.  So when someone close to me does something annoying, my strength needs to come from somewhere else.   Because my tank is empty.

I don’t want to ruin a beautiful weekend by constantly gripping about how I feel.  I may always feel this way if my doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong.  So I have to ask myself, do I want to be the Midol Woman and demand that everyone around me accept my emotional bombs?  Or do I draw on the strength of God which the apostle Paul wrote when he spoke of his constant thorn in his side (2 Cor 12:7-10)?

Believe me, I want to be cured.  And I don’t like that women must suffer during their periods.  I hate that people, like my mother in law, have to deal with the effects of chemotherapy. Migraines, back pain, knee pain, the list goes on and on.  When we lose sight of who we belong to and what is expected of us we fall prey to being the Midol Woman.  We lose control of our tongue and its ability to “set great forests on fire by a small spark.” (James 3:5)

Dear Christian, we are held to a higher standard than the Midol Women of this world.  And yes, it is okay to be weak and cry.  It’s okay to lose our cool once in a while and have a bad day.  But to say we shouldn’t apologize for lashing out in those weak times is of the flesh and we are called to be better.  God expects us to be better, and most of all to be humble.  The world says it’s ok to rant, rave, slam doors, curse others – as long as it doesn’t happen to you.  God says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)

It’s at our weakest times that our decision to be resolute in our faith is tested.  Not on the good days, not on the days our pain is masked, not on the sun shining days.  No, throughout the Bible we see we are almost sure to be tested on the bad days, the days we want to stay in bed, the days it takes a full tank and we are living on just a quarter.  It’s those days that when people say to me, “God is just a crutch” that I say, “Great, give me two.”

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Our Quarrelsome World

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26

There’s certainly been a lot of “quarreling” the last 20 years in the United States and the world in general.  These last few years have seen a steady rise in conflicts.  Conflicts used to be among countries.  The most troublesome trend seems to be that now more than ever they are among neighbors.  

We live in a world where all bets are off when it comes to social niceties.  One article I read reminds us of some of the following “old fashioned etiquette rules”:

  1. Don’t point
  2. Don’t curse
  3. Dress to impress
  4. Stick to tasteful topics
  5. Cover your mouth when you cough
  6. Avoid private conversations in public

All of those, plus the others I haven’t listed, are to allow for a calm and peaceful and respectful social environment.  But a cell phone video I saw the other day is just one example of how we’ve thrown so many of these out the window.  

The video, taken by a woman shopping at Target, shows an older man following her and pointing at her.   He has a mask on and a sticker stating, “I’m vaccinated.”   His issue with her? She isn’t wearing a mask.  Now, this post is not about the pros and cons of mask wearing. And in this instance wearing a mask was not mandated in that store.  It’s about his approach and her response.  This man had many choices prior to harassing this woman.  If he was really worried about getting sick he could 1) stay home and order on line or 2) avoided being near the woman.  Interestingly enough he didn’t seem to be doing any of his own shopping.  It appeared he was there to “catch” people without a mask.  

What does this have to do with being a Christian?  What does it have to do with being resolute in Christ?  Our choices each and every minute of the day define what type of Christian we have chosen to be.

In our verse today we are reminded to be kind to everyone.  To teach gently without resentment.  We are all most likely familiar with the term being a “Karen.”  That’s someone who is a tattle tell, a modern day Pharisee.  This man was being a Karen.  And he certainly wasn’t succeeding in teaching anyone anything positive.  Yet the new social norms say this is ok.  We are to vilify those with whom we disagree.  We may not all be Westboro Baptist Church members standing outside the funerals of homosexuals with messages of hatred but how many of us in the last year have made disparaging remarks about people who 1) don’t wear a mask or do wear a mask, 2) aren’t vaccinated, 3) voted for a different candidate, 4) don’t like shutdowns or do like shutdowns, and on and on. I’m not talking about private conversations with friends or family members.  I’m talking about in public and social media.  I’ve clicked on people’s profiles who have written horrible things and they proudly state they are Christians.

And the woman?  She wasn’t successful either.  She just kept arguing with the man.  She could’ve 1) smiled and moved on since he wasn’t physically threatening her 2) put a mask on to make him feel better 3) left the store and come back later 4) called security 5) invited him over to talk.   So many choices for both.  But they chose the least peaceful route.

I, myself, have gotten wrapped up in issues and have deleted comments I realized were not in keeping with my desire to walk well in my faith.   And so, I reflect back on that cell phone video taken in Target.  I ask myself which person in that video am I?  The Harasser?  The Victim?  The Bystander?  In fact, I’ve been all three.  But as a follower of Christ, I’m learning He wants something completely different of us.  He wants us to be the peacemaker.  He wants us to do things so different that it shocks people.  Our Jesus–directed actions in this quarrelsome world need to be set apart.

When we get annoyed, outraged, hurt, abused, Jesus tells us to respond differently.   He first wants us to be responsible for our own words and actions (James 3:6).  He then wants us to be gentle, not angry and resentful.  Truth doled out without love will never be received how we intended.  

I picture myself the subtle Karen, rolling my eyes at people wearing two masks as they walk outside at a park and I need to stop and have compassion for their fears.  I imagine myself in a store being spoken to harshly by a customer for not wearing a mask and instead of responding in kind, draw on the Holy Spirit asking for peace.  This isn’t just about these current large issues.  It’s how we respond in all life’s situations.  Do we lash out, with uncontrolled emotions, seeking to justify how we feel?  Or do we use wisdom and compassion to guide us?

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.  James 1:19-20

The temptation is so great to join this new quarrelsome social environment.  It’s easy to blast a comment at someone.  The devil loves an angry Believer.  But if we remember that Jesus stands by our side, we can be resolute in living the Christian life He expects of us.

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Repair My Soul, Oh Lord

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.  Psalm 23:1-3

A couple of ladies in one of my Bible study groups have had workmen at their houses this year.  If you’ve ever had people working on your house you probably have already conjured up the trials and delays you experienced.  It seems inevitable.  So often promises are made and quickly broken from timeframes to costs.  One of these ladies missed Bible study to be at home for a painter, who had not completed the work the day prior.  The next day the painter arrived only to tell her he was going to another job instead and just needed to pick up his ladder.  After multiple delays the painter fired my friend.  Yes, you read that correctly.  After asking him to give her a better idea of the actual timeframe the painter called her up and said he couldn’t work with her!

Thank goodness when we need work done on our hearts and minds God is a much more trustworthy repairman!  Today I praise God for refreshing us, for fixing our missteps, for repairing our souls.

I was recently talking with a friend about forgiveness.  And what came out of that was the need not only to forgive but to ask God to help repair our hearts and minds of all the negative associated emotions.  Forgiveness is not an easy task when we’ve been hurt, abused, taken advantage of, or even when things or people are taken from us.  And so, we give it to God to help us forgive.  I wonder however, how often when we forgive others do we have a residual bitterness or pain or guilt left in us?  I find this is often the case for me when it comes to having to forgive myself.  When something triggers a bad memory I cringe a bit and that demon called “guilt” or “shame” wants to raise it’s ugly head. 

God doesn’t want us to just forgive but to live a life of forgiveness – a life free from that guilt and shame and bitterness.  All of it. Not one single tiny pocket of it left in our hearts.

Psalm 51 has so many great prayers to God for restoration and healing.  Here’s a couple:

Verse 2:  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Verse 7: Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Verse 12 — Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

God has a 1-800-Repairman hotline.  He not only answers 24/7 He jumps into action when needed.  It’s time to ask God to completely remove those the negative emotions from our past.  To be completely renewed.  To be completely healed.

A Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin again after each stumble – because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time.

C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity

Isn’t God so loving, so unique in this trait?  He lives as our own mini-repairman right in our souls.  We don’t need to wait for the next appointment (in 3 weeks) or be disappointed when he doesn’t show up.  All we need to do is ask God to fix us.  And even if we aren’t sure exactly what the problem is, if we ask him to make a diagnosis He will – free of charge.  

I know that I will mess up and break some things in my life.  I also know that when I gave my life over to Christ I got a lifetime warranty.  All repairs covered upon asking.


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35,000 Decisions

…yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 
Habakkuk 3:18

According to Psychology Today we make an average of 35,000 decisions each day.  That’s about 2,000 decisions per waking hour.  I remember when I was working as a public relations and marketing executive at a mid-sized company.  At the end of each day I felt exhausted.  I couldn’t even think about what to make for dinner.  I realized at some point I had decision-making fatigue.

So many of our decisions are ones we don’t really think much about – if we are going to get up and go to work, if we are going to brush our teeth before leaving the house, if we are going to get dressed.  We just sort of do them out of habit or necessity.  

But what about our faith lives?  How many of us have, along our journey, made the decision to fade away from our faith?  Not realizing we’ve made a decision to shut out God.  For some people, because of issues at their church or maybe a difficult time in their life they actually made a conscious decision to completely turn away.

There are basically three types of people shown in the Bible.  First there is the nonspiritual person who has not accepted God at all.  Second there is the person who has accepted Jesus as their savior but still lives by the world’s expectations. And third is what is considered a “mature believer.”  This person learns to do the will of God no matter how he/she feels or how difficult it is.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  
1 Corinthians 13:11

This is where the term “baby Christian” arises.  It’s the second type person described.  Picture how a baby lives its life.  Crying and throwing a tantrum when things get uncomfortable.  Babies are very self-focused people.  They don’t care if you haven’t slept all night or exhausted from a long day at work.  They want, they need, they demand.  If they don’t get it, they aren’t happy.  They live off feelings and wants and needs.  It may sound harsh, but how many of us are living our Christian lives this way?

No matter what level we are on, we should want to grow , but if we find we are still in the baby stage of Christianity, we should certainly make a commitment to God to start working with His Holy Spirit toward maturity.  

Joyce Meyer, Change Your Words, Change Your Life

That’s why I like the verse from Habakkuk today.  Prior to verse 18 the prophet lists all the things that are going wrong – the fig tree isn’t budding, there’s no grapes, the olive crop is failing, and there’s no livestock.  Yet he will rejoice.  

Great faith is maturing faith. Great faith is growing faith. And great faith is becoming stronger and great faith is standing on the truth of the Word of God. Not feelings, not other people’s opinions, not the past, great faith stands on the truth of the Word of God. Here’s what God is saying. And the focus is on God. Great faith is always focused on God. 

Charles Stanley

And growing faith means choosing to be faithful. We humans don’t tend to like to be the cause of our problems. We want our lack of commitment to God to be about something that happened to us, an absence of the right feelings, or because of the world’s demands. But it’s really about where we have placed so many of our 35,000 decisions. In how many of them did we even consider God’s desires for us?

When you feel like quitting or running away, remember that you can’t run away from your troubles and you can’t run away from yourself. The solution is not running away; it’s running to. It’s running to the throne of grace and finding grace to help in time of need.

Warren W. Wiersbe, Prayer, Praise & Promises: A Daily Walk Through the Psalms

Take the time today to consider your decision making and how it relates to your commitment to God.  Sometimes we are tasked to just decide to run to Him – not waiting for a feeling or some grand emotion to well up inside us.  If we can make the decision to get up and go to work today or the decision to do the laundry or get the kids off to school we can make the decision to open our Bible. We can make the decision to have a conversation with Jesus. 

Most of the 35,000 decisions we make today will be for the world of the flesh.  How many can we carve out to be the ones that matter for all of eternity?