“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me”—Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT).
Photo by Carol Round
In a world of man’s making, we’re overloaded with the sights and sounds of too much. What do I mean? In the name of progress and profit, most people own things our ancestors considered extravagances. We see life through our humanity instead of through spiritual eyes.
My maternal grandfather was a mail carrier in a rural Oklahoma town where owning a car was considered a luxury. Today, most families have at least two, and sometimes more, vehicles parked in the driveway or on the street in front of their houses. Today, we consider it a rite of passage to get a driver’s license at age 16. Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers never learned to drive. Instead, they relied on their husbands to navigate the roadways. When my grandfathers passed away, their wives relied on neighbors for transportation. That’s just how it worked in those days. Neighbors helping neighbors.
In today’s world, many of us don’t even know our neighbors. We no longer sit on our front porches in the evenings, swapping stories and watching our children play until the street lights come on. We’re too tired after a busy day at work. We return home to eat the last meal of the day, sometimes plopped in front of the TV, or afterwards, before we head to bed.
If we seek Him wholeheartedly, especially in the messes of life, we’ll find Him.
In our busyness, however, we miss what’s really important, including daily glimpses of God. Because we’re focused on making a living or rushing our children to ball practices and games or other after-school activities, we’re missing out on God’s best.
When I was a child growing up in the 50s, life was much simpler, allowing my sister and me and other neighborhood children the luxury of spending time outdoors. God’s creation was our playground. We soaked in the sights and sounds of nature, almost daily.
“Children, you show love for others by truly helping them, and not merely by talking about it”—1 John 3:18 (NIV).
To grow in our Christian walk, we must take the lessons learned in the storms of life and put them to work for His kingdom. After the most recent storm in mine, when an EF2 tornado ripped through my neighborhood, I learned what it means to love your neighbor.
After the storm had abated, I assessed the damage through disbelieving eyes. I was overwhelmed. I was thankful my dog and I were unharmed. I was also grateful because the damage could have been more extensive. Then, the outpouring of love from others brought me to tears.
Like others, I wandered into the street to appraise the storm damage and to check on my neighbors. I was in a daze. A neighbor asked if I were okay. I replied, “I think so.”
Then, that same neighbor’s son put his arms around my waist and said, “Carol, don’t worry. It’s going to be all right.”
Others are blessed when you allow them to help you.
The tension released itself in the form of tears as I returned the reassuring hug of a six-year-old. Yes, it was going to be all right.
“Anyone who comes and listens to me and obeys me is like someone who dug down deep and built a house on solid rock. When the flood came and the river rushed against the house, it was built so well that it didn’t even shake”—Luke 6:47-48(CEV).
Wednesday, March 30 began with my usual morning routine: a mug of hot tea and time with Jesus. I was excited about my day, which included lunch in Tulsa with a dear friend, followed by a stop at my real estate agent’s office to sign the contract for the sale of my house. God is leading me on a new adventure—a new chapter in my life. My spirits were soaring. My house had been on the market less than a week and I’d had two full-price offers.
After inking the contract, I returned home to wait for my agent to stop by with the “sold” sign. Forty minutes later, I snapped a photo of her attaching that small metal sign to her real estate one. I wanted to celebrate because now I didn’t have to keep my house in pristine condition for showing. I could take a breath and quit worrying about every dust mote and piece of grass tracked in by my dog.
Before turning to the Lord, I was the poster child for control freaks.
Before the sale, I’d swept, vacuumed and dusted almost every day. While I’d been a meticulous housekeeper in my younger days, keeping my house spotless is not a priority now. When I speak to women’s groups, I love telling them I used to be a Martha, bustling about to make sure everything was in perfect order for guests. However, since committing my life to the Lord, I’m a Mary who wants nothing more than to sit at His feet.
Since Jesus opened the eyes of my heart in 2001, my priorities have changed in other ways. Bible study, prayer and continual spiritual growth have become my goals. Serving Him wherever He calls me is my delight, whether it’s on a mission trip outside the country or in my own backyard. Being obedient to His calling is why I’m packing to move. Through fasting and prayer, I’ve learned to listen for that still, small voice showing me what steps to take in obedience.
“So be very careful how you live. Do not live like people who aren’t wise. Live like people who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity. The days are evil”— Ephesians 5:15-16(NIRV).
Have you ever sat in a public place quietly observing others? Maybe it was at a mall or a park. Maybe it was while waiting at the doctor’s office for your appointment where you found yourself listening to the words of those around you, watching their actions and even judging their appearance. I know I’m guilty.
However, have you ever thought about the reverse? What if others are watching and listening to you? Would they see Jesus in you if they did?
Have you forgotten you represent Jesus Christ in this world?
Read and reflect on the following questions and then answer the previous one
- If someone had observed me throughout the day today, would they know I was a Christian without having to ask me?
- Where is God on my priority list?
- Am I serious about my faith or is it just a game I play to make myself feel better?
- Do I act the same way when I’m at church as when I’m with other friends or with my family?
- Am I willing to make sacrifices in order to grow in my relationship with God?
- Do I take time every day to consider the love of God, to remember what Jesus has done for me?
- Am I willing to follow Christ and live out my faith even when it costs me something?
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost”— Luke 19:10 (NIV).
While scanning a list of titles on Amazon, I stopped to read the summary of a book titled “The Selfish Guide to Success: How To Use The Power Of Momentum To Change Your Life And Put The Focus Back On You.”
Before I read the summary, I knew it was not a book I would purchase. The title says it all. However, the hype used by the author to attract buyers was what I expected. Here is just a portion of the description:
· Why is it so hard to find success with long-term goals? Again, and again, your dreams come up short. No matter how hard you work, it feels like you’re never where you want to be. Never where you deserve to be.
· The problem isn’t you. You fail because you’re not putting enough focus on you. We live in a world where we are expected to constantly worry about others. It’s no wonder we feel stuck.
· Understand how to pay yourself first. It’s in your DNA. Don’t ignore it, exploit it! Shape your willpower. I’ll teach you how to fully recharge and make the most of your energy each day. Tips and tricks to show you how to bounce-back from bad days, and how you can stop them before they get out of control. This guide contains powerful selfish techniques to help you bust out of any slump.
God defines success differently.
Yes, I know the book wasn’t written from a Christian perspective, but does that sound like anything Jesus would say or do? Hardly. In today’s society, success is defined in terms of achieving goals, acquiring wealth and having prestige, favor, status and power. For most, the definition of success is equated with the “here and now” of this life.
“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross”— Philippians 2:6-8(NLT).
I can recall the day as if were just yesterday. Almost 15 years ago, an emptiness I couldn’t explain began chipping away at my heart. I was in my late 40s. I was lost and even if I didn’t know it, God did. He wouldn’t give up on me.
On a sunny October afternoon, I prayed aloud for the very first time. My simple prayer was, “God, help me. I need some direction in my life.” Since that day, I have been on a journey, a quest you might say, to know my Savior and Lord more deeply, to understand God’s will for my life and to use my gifts for His glory.
Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.
Trying to fully comprehend the sacrifice that Christ made for mankind is mind-boggling, sometimes even for those who believe. Still more breath-taking is what happened three days after his cruel death on the cross.
For those who doubt, I wonder where or in whom they place their hope. Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias says, “Outside of the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no hope in this world. That cross and resurrection at the core of the Gospel is the only hope for humanity.”
Although it’s been over 30 years when I thought my youngest son was lost at the Tulsa State Fair, I can still recall the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. We were with relatives and our extended family had drifted into two groups. While we were browsing booths, I became aware Clint was missing from our group. Instead, without my permission, he had moved ahead with the others.
Eventually, my son was found safe in the arms of his father, but not before I had panicked and sought the assistance of a police officer, who then alerted other officers to my son’s absence. However, I’ve never forgotten the feeling of hopelessness that enveloped me in that moment.
Many in the world live with a sense of hopelessness every day.
Recently, a friend shared with me a sermon she’d heard about being lost. The pastor referenced a program called “Hug-a-Tree and Survive,” which teaches children how to survive if they are ever lost in the woods. The survival program was developed following the 1981 search for a young boy, Jimmy Beveridge. The youngster had become separated from his family while in the woods. Instead of remaining in one place where rescuers could find him, the nine-year-old had wandered aimlessly trying to find his way out. Searchers found the boy’s body five days later.