Don’t live life looking in a mirror

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’”—Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV).

Trying to back out of my friend’s curved driveway, I had to make several attempts to keep from running over several bushes. Even with a dashboard back-up camera, it was a challenge to maneuver my car safely onto the street without doing any damage.

My friend, seated on the passenger side, admitted she wasn’t very good at backing up either. Her solution was to turn her vehicle around in the wide drive so she could leave the premises facing forward.

How often do we navigate life’s challenges, clinging to our mistakes, regretting our choices and failing to move forward because we haven’t released our past to the One who loves us more than life itself? God never meant for us carry that weight.

Holding onto the past

Letting go is one of the hardest things we face. It’s easier for us to hold onto regrets, mistakes, guilt, failures, hurt, fear, anger and worry than to allow God to use them for His glory.

British author C.S. Lewis once said, “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”

Are You a Doubting Thomas?

“Thomas told them, ‘I refuse to believe this unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my fingers into them, and put my hand into his side’”—John 20:25 (GW).

Are you a doubting Thomas? Maybe you’re a believer, but you doubt God could ever love someone like you. Maybe you’ve been ridiculed or bullied, struggling with your self-worth.

As a child, were you told you weren’t good enough? Did you become a performance addict with a need to prove you were likable, lovable and valuable? Do you know you’re not alone, today?

Pastor Chip Ingram says, “Many of us struggle with conceptualizing the enduring, sacrificial, infinite, and unconditional love of our heavenly Father. I think this is because we always try to put God’s love into our own human terms—and our terms always fall far short.

“Our human relationships have conditioned us to measure love by ‘ifs,’ ‘maybes,’ and ‘becauses,’” he adds. “‘I’ll love you if you do this.’ Or, ‘I love you because you did that.’”

Don’t be a part of the Blame Game

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”—Galatians 6:2 (NIV). 

Anger. Disbelief. Grief. Finger pointing. All responses to the February 14 shooting rampage at a Florida high school. Some reports say it’s the 18th incident of gunfire at a school campus since the beginning of 2018. Regardless of the numbers, this week’s column is meant to convict our hearts, including mine.

At this writing, 17 were killed in the rampage and another 13 were injured. Questions abound. Responses reported in and by the media, both traditional and socially, call for more gun control, more assistance for the mentally disturbed and higher levels of school security.

For 30 years, I was a public educator. Beginning my career in 1975, I was naïve enough to believe I could make a difference in all of my students’ lives. Years later, I had a reality check. I couldn’t save everyone; I couldn’t meet every need. Still, I knew I should and could do what I could.

A 19-year-old has confessed to the most recent shooting rampage. News reports paint a picture of a disturbed young man. One of his former teachers said he was a quiet student, a loner. The students familiar with Nikolas Cruz were not surprised by his actions. His attorney has called him a “broken human being.”

Finding Spiritual Lessons in Everyday Living

“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal”—Matthew 6:20 (ESV).

When my phone rang, I hesitated to answer because the caller was unknown. I answered to an urgent voice. “Carol, there’s black smoke coming out of your house near you deck stairs.”

Thanking my next door neighbor’s sister, I hurried out the door. Standing on my deck, I couldn’t see anything to my right or my left.  Returning indoors, I grabbed my cell phone and headed out the front door to seek the source of the smoke. Walking around the exterior on all sides of my house, I still didn’t see anything.

Calling Diane back, I asked, “Where exactly did you see the smoke?”

“Underneath the deck,” she replied.

Running around the side of the house again, I peered over my fence and saw black smoke pouring into the frigid air. Without hesitation, I dialed 911. My heart pounded as I raced back into the house, grabbed my dog, my car keys and my purse. Just as I pulled out of my garage and parked my car out of the way, the city police and fire chief pulled in, followed by a fire truck and an ambulance.

In Search of the Living Water

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life”—John 4:13-14 (NIV).

Plucking the gold paper notice from my door knob, I expected to see an advertisement. Instead, it was a notice from the city. To complete some necessary work on our water lines, the city would be shutting off our water for approximately seven hours the following Monday.

Seven hours seemed like a week. I was frustrated at the thought of the inconvenience. So were my neighbors. We prepared, using containers to hold drinking water and filling up our bathtubs, just in case the work lasted longer than expected.

Monday morning dawned. Stumbling into the bathroom to wash my face, I turned on the tap. Nothing happened. I’d forgotten we wouldn’t have water for most of the day.

Although it was an inconvenience, I was convicted by my attitude when I read a newspaper article that morning about the drought in Cape Town, South Africa. The intense drought in Cape Town began in 2015, bringing the community closer and closer to what is called “Day Zero,” which is the point when the water in the reservoirs will no longer provide safe drinking water. The date for the turn off of all water taps to about 3.2 million people in this community is around April 12.

We take for granted the conveniences in our country. Flip a switch and the lights come on. Turn on the tap and water flows. Hook up a water hose and a sprinkler and the results are a green lawn.

Don’t Forget to Write It Down

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope”—Romans 15:4 (ESV).

A recent Facebook post by a former student of mine led to responses from people of all ages. The post asked the following: “Without saying your age, what is something you remember from your childhood that a younger person would not understand?”

Many of the posts focused on memories before inventions made our life easier and technology ran amuck. There were mentions of telephone party lines, rotary dial phones and phones with cords that stretched across a room. Some mentioned specific stories associated with the history of these obsolete items.

One woman responded to the post with a story of being in labor with her first child. She was trying to call for help via a party line but a young neighbor wouldn’t hang up the phone, in spite of the nervous soon-to-be mother’s pleas.

The Disappearance of Small Town Places

Others in this small community mentioned places no longer in existence. Small restaurants, full-service gas stations, mom and pop grocery stores and other businesses that had closed their doors for various reasons—health, deaths, progress, the economy.

Mentions were made of events native to the local culture. One woman said, “I wasn’t raised here but it sure sounds wonderful! Mayberry USA.”

Another said, “Amazing how many generations of memories that are being shared here.”

God’s Word Paints a Living Picture

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”—Hebrews 4:12 (NIV).

Focused on beginning a new column, I was startled when movement outside my office window distracted me. One, two…no, three deer were running through my yard headed to the wooded ravine behind my house. With white tails pointed upward, the three traveled near my backyard fence where my dog joined the action with his barking.

My description above might depict a country scene. However, I live in a residential neighborhood where red foxes and raccoons also roam. Before a thick forest of trees was leveled to make room for new houses a block west of me, I encountered many deer on my daily walks.

Our walk with the Lord is much like seeing beauty in nature. To encounter the Living God, we need to spend time in scripture each day. Some shy away from the Bible, citing a lack of time or a lack of understanding. It requires commitment, an investment of time and effort, to read and study God’s Word.

His Story is Our Story

Scripture paints a living picture, a story, not just God’s story, but ours as well. The Bible is God’s written word to us, not just a book of do’s and don’ts, but a guidebook to the Christian life.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us the “Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow.”

God’s Word, according to the same scripture, also “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Our words (and actions) create our life’s painting. Do they reflect light or darkness? Do they lift up or tear down? Do they comfort or bring pain?

1 Corinthians 3:1-3, Paul addresses the church’s lack of spiritual growth. “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?”