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.
The word “selfie” gained international recognition in 2013 when it was named the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year. Their definition follows: “A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”
Selfies abound on social media, especially Facebook. Although the younger generation is more likely to post self-portraits, I’ve seen others, from their 50s on up, post photos, not of their faces necessarily, but of wounds they’ve accrued through accidents or after surgery.
The first “selfie,” according to different websites I checked out, was posted on Facebook by a 22-year-old Australian man who had suffered a busted lip after tripping and falling face-first at a party. The man apologized for the somewhat blurry photo of his lower lip when he said, “Sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”
Two words in his statement jumped out at me when I read the story—focus and selfie. Looking at these two words through spiritual eyes, we are reminded through various scriptures not to focus on ourselves, but God and others.
Grumbling, I cracked the shell of another hard-boiled egg. Just like the others, it spidered into a web of tiny cracks, meaning I’d be dislodging tiny pieces of the shell while risking the tearing of the white part of the egg.
While making a dozen deviled eggs doesn’t bother me, I’d been asked to make three dozen for our large family Thanksgiving gathering. Attending would be in-laws, cousins and a host of aunts, uncles and grandparents.
My history with deviled eggs
I knew my history with making deviled eggs. They might taste good, but their appearance wouldn’t win a culinary beauty contest. Since this was the first time for me to attempt this many eggs, I looked on the Internet two days before Thanksgiving for instructions to make the hard-boiled eggs easier to peel. I’d heard of different methods but couldn’t recall any.
Overwhelmed by my overstuffed closet recently, I felt the need to purge and organize. It was time to rid my life of clothing, shoes and purses and anything else hiding in the deep recesses of my walk-in that didn’t add anything to my life. Did you notice the irony here?
I needed less to add more, not more stuff, but to embrace the orderliness of a life filled with God and not more possessions. As I finished removing outdated clothing or items I’d bought on sale and had rarely worn, I wondered why we allow ourselves to accumulate so much. Why do we treasure things and not the life we’ve been given?
The acquisition of stuff doesn’t add anything to our lives. If anything, it detracts us from the joy-filled life we should be living. What do I mean? Each piece of clothing, each knick-knack on our shelves, each gadget we purchase, each new electronic device we embrace requires time and maintenance. The things we own can end up owning us.
But it’s not just material things we cling to. We clutch grudges and anger to our chests as if we were a selfish child refusing to share a favorite toy.
Do you think it pleases our Heavenly Father when we spend more time on our cell phones than we do in scripture? Think about it this way. Does it please you when others ignore you because they’re too busy answering text messages, posting on Facebook or Instagram or answering emails on their electronic devices?
Well-known author and Bible teacher Beth Moore puts it this way: “Our devices have become our vices. We’ve lost the art of reading and meditating on the Word.
“Our cell phones have become an addiction,” she adds. “While they are supposed to connect us, we’ve become disconnected. We are the body of Christ, but we are living disembodied lives.”
Recently, I attended Beth’s yearly simulcast. Focusing on Colossians 1:1-2:9, she talked about what pleases God.
In Chapter 1, verses 10-12, the Apostle Paul writes, “Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.”
In 1950, the small town of Wetumka, Okla. was scammed by a visitor who claimed to be the advance man for a traveling circus. According to reports, the visitor was blessed with a silver tongue and sweet talked the townspeople into preparing for the upcoming visit.
In preparation for the supposed visit, a hotel bought 20 new mattresses for rooms reserved for the performers by the scammer. Another town member made arrangements for a hay shipment to feed the circus elephants. To feed people who would be coming to town to attend the circus, a grocery store owner ordered 100 pounds of hot dogs.
The con man was even granted complimentary room and board while in town. But, after filling his belly and his pockets with the advertising money he’d collected from local merchants, he disappeared.
Of course, the circus never came to town. However, the red-faced townspeople turned the hoax into an opportunity and 67 years later, Sucker Day is still celebrated as a festival with a parade, live music, street vendors, a carnival and competitions. You might say they took lemons and turned them into lemonade.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”—Galatians 5:1 (NIV).
To most Americans, the word freedom connotes images of the American flag. We associate July 4 with the freedoms we’ve been granted by the U.S. Constitution. We celebrate our country’s independence with fireworks and parades.
According to dictionary.com, freedom means “the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.”
Physical freedom is denied those locked behind prison walls. But those who have discovered a relationship with Jesus while in prison will tell you they are, indeed, now free, in spite of the iron bars they peer through each day.
Only Christ can set us free.
Found throughout the Bible, the word, “freedom,” is familiar to those who’ve read God’s Holy Word. John 8:32 says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
In an article by Roger Olson, he writes, “Unfortunately, two very different ideas of freedom get confused in many people’s minds. The biblical idea of freedom is different from, but easily confused with, the cultural value of the same name. And neither one is the same as “free will.” It can be confusing to the average Christian who wants to know what “real freedom” is. Is it having choices? Is it lack of coercion and constraint? Is it being able to do whatever you want? In what sense does Christ set us free, and how is that different from what Madison Avenue and Hollywood promise?