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 As I finished removing outdated clothing or items I’d bought on sale and had rarely worn, I wondered why we allow ourselves to accumulate so much.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.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Do you remember this childhood taunt? I do. And, I remember chanting it to neighborhood kids when we were fighting. Later, we’d make up.
If you examine this childish saying, you’ll realize how untrue it is. Bones heal with the help of medical care and time. Hurtful words can leave unseen scars forever.
Words wield more power than we realize. They reveal what’s in our hearts. But, our tongues can be the most difficult thing to control. Hurtful words can leave us with regrets.
Pastor Tony Evans says, “A formidable power dwells within each of us. This power has changed the course of nations. It is capable of starting and ending wars. And it has made men rich and women famous. It has the means to commend or corrupt—to bless or to blame. It is the power of the tongue.”
photo by Carol Round
Summer flowers have died. Leaves are changing colors. Life goes on.
Seasons change in our lives. We experience cycles of trials and calm. Life goes on.
Many affected by the destruction of nature’s wrath this year are still struggling. But life goes on. Even then, we sometimes forget to recognize the extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary—and life goes on.
Sometimes we’re reminded of God’s extraordinary in the midst of our ordinary. A friend’s relative lost his home last spring in a Missouri tornado. Six months later, through the efforts of his small church family, he is almost ready to move into a newly constructed house. While funds for the construction have dwindled at times, leaving the crew wondering if they’d ever be able to complete the project, God has shown up in the midst of their uncertainty to reveal how much He cares for His children.
In a moment of divine intervention at an Arkansas baseball game, the leader of the construction crew met a stranger. During their conversation, he told her of the church’s efforts to finish the house. This woman was not just any stranger, but was from a neighboring Missouri town and was part of a church seeking to help tornado victims.
Walking outside is one of my favorite forms of daily exercise. For me, it’s also a time to get away from my writing commitments and rejoin the world. Writing is a solitary occupation.
Getting out in nature is a reminder of how blessed I am. Walking through the winding hills of my neighborhood and pausing to watch the geese living on our lake, I remember how much God loves us. His creation refreshes me. I thank Him for eyes that see and ears that hear. I thank Him for the gentle breeze that ruffles my hair and cools my skin.
How easily we can become complacent in our Christian walk if we don’t ask Him to renew us. In Psalm 51:12, the psalmist writes, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.”
If we aren’t intentional about our faith walk, our spiritual energy wanes. If we don’t spend time meditating on scripture, praying, worshipping and fellowshipping with others, we lose the desire to please God. We forget the blessings He has poured out on us. We forsake His commands. We become enmeshed in a secular world that continually draws us away from His goodness.
Romans 12:2 reminds us about not conforming to the pattern of this world, but “to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
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.
Newspaper photos, social media posts and live TV coverage depicted the devastation. Those viewing the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Harvey could only imagine what the Texas victims were experiencing. For those of us who have experienced the aftermath of a hurricane, the reality is familiar.
However, anyone who has either viewed or experienced a disaster like this is familiar with the sacrifices of those who respond to the call for help. As responders poured into the southeastern Texas areas hardest hit, I marveled once again, not only at the sight of trained rescue workers, but the volunteers who leave their jobs, homes and family to provide assistance to those affected by the flooding.
Stories continue to reveal those moments when all hope seemed lost. Then, someone who refused to give up, showed up and answered the call for help.
I listened to TV coverage as victims and rescuers were interviewed. One man, a volunteer rescuer, paraphrased 1 John 3:17, which states, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”