Another Nickel

A while back, I told a story about “a nickel’s worth of grace”. It was end of the month versus end of the money and we were a little short. I prayed for just enough to get by and that a little more would be nice. A check arrived for the exact amount we needed plus five cents, a nickel’s worth of grace. Today, a check showed up in the same amount including the five cents and it took me back to that day when we were in a pinch and the Lord provided. It turns out I learned more than “you asked for a little more, you got a little more; ask bigger next time.” With having a bit of breathing room this time around, I realized the difference had very little to do with my efforts, short of trying to be patient and faithful. Blessings have flowed, thank God, some financially, but mostly in wisdom to make better choices with what I have been entrusted with.

The reminder came at a time when thoughts of previous questionable endeavors began to resurface. “I have learned so much. I could do much better this time.” Similar to the first time around, I prayed for wisdom to discern if this was God’s will or another passing fancy. The answer came in the image of a discarded lottery ticket, dreams of great wealth crumbling under the weight of a nickel and scattered “scratch-off” debris.

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4 – NIV

God’s answer was very clear, “I have delivered you from this, why would you return?

“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” Luke 9:62 NIV

If you have been pulled from the mud, why return to the trenches? Recognize solid ground, wipe your boots and move forward. That nickel, thought at the time as a small blessing, became a beacon to rescued places where I should dwell and find shelter in the Hands of the Almighty.

Be Blessed in Great Measure

 

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Jabez and the Chronicler

The unknown author of the Old Testament books of Chronicles is referred to as the “Chronicler”; sounds like an old school Batman villain. As he recounted the lineage from Judah to David, he chose to pause and highlight a man named Jabez.

“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain’.” 1 Chronicles 4:9-10

His name meant “sorrowful” or “causes pain,” an ominous foretelling of his future, yet Jabez would not settle for that fate. He believed in the power of God and was fervent in prayer, so much, so that he was more respected than his brothers.

“And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.” 1 Chronicles 4:10

The word “indeed” is inserted for the modified Hebrew word for “bless” meaning “intensely blessed”, undoubtedly or blessed in great measure. The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson tells of those immeasurably blessed by repeating this prayer. Though the book was a great success, it rang a bit empty for me as the prayer seems selfish, asking for much more when we already are so richly blessed. This prayer has been treated like a biblical ATM where you mindlessly put in a card, type in a code and money comes out the other end.

In his follow-up book, Beyond Jabez, Wilkinson takes a deeper look into the prayer and his initial concern of its selfish nature. God, in all His wisdom does not answer selfish requests, yet He granted Jabez so there must be more to it. God longs to bless us and does not need our permission to do so; His hand is with us always whether we ask or not. No, this prayer is not some magic incantation; it opens our hearts to the Sovereignty of God and gives us license to dream big and ask big. If offered in faith to bring Glory to God and further His kingdom, blessings will flow like rushing waters.

“You do not have because you do not ask God.”James 4:2

It is not that we do not ask, it is that we do not know how to ask. Jabez boldly approached God and asked for blessings, enlarged territories and not to cause pain as his name suggests. He did not ask specifically for money or fame, but to be blessed, as little or as much as God willed.

Praying boldly has never been my strong suit, as fear of rejection tends to hold me back. Is it more reasonable to ask that my writings touch a million hearts or touch just one heart of one person at the one instant the Holy One chooses? Either outcome would be a phenomenal result of my efforts. So, if I am confident in changing just one heart then why not a million? Perhaps it will take a million to find that certain one. That would be a blessing truly worthy of “indeed.”

Oh Lord, that You would bless me greatly, enlarging my territory, that Your hand would be with me and those I love, that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!

Amen …

 

Cat Tails and Counterweights

Orange and white, perched on a handrail with ring-tail hanging, orange eyes stare with sheer indifference until the food dish rattles. A morning “greeting” makes me wonder how comfortable that could be even as his tail kept him in perfect balance.

Arriving at work, a different kind of big yellow CAT, an excavator, uses its tail end to counterbalance the boom arm where the real work gets done. Both cases are examples of God’s great wisdom and power, brilliant in design and stabilized by physics and faith.

The feline tail is comprised of vertebrae wrapped in muscle, an extension of the spine. When a cat moves a foot, the tail shifts the opposite direction to even out the weight and if a cat falls, he can manipulate the tail to roll himself in mid-air, landing on his feet. In the same way, our faith is an extension of our spine, our strength, our support. If used properly, we can regain balance when falling. Recent good decisions were being overshadowed by the less than ideal, until a series of positive phone calls led me back out of the fog, landing on my feet instead of my backside where I probably belonged; brilliant in design and stabilized by faith.

A cat also uses his tail to communicate: straight when happy, flipping when annoyed, positioned for balance or imbalance, all viable clues if we choose to pay attention. Our “tail of faith” can communicate the Grace of God that balances our moods and our feelings; we just have to make use of the gifts God provides. Eventually, like a cat, our natural instincts will take over allowing our faith to keep us balanced and setting us back on our feet when we stumble.

I pray our instincts kick in sooner than later.
Be Blessed in Great Measure today.

 

I you have been blessed by my scribblings, send me a message, I love to hear good stories. And subscribe so that you will be notified each time my ramblings make it to paper (or this site).

Keep and eye out for the release of my upcoming book Echoes Intertwined, a collection of parables, lessons and God whispers.

Dreamers, Makers and Fixers

“If you are not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”  Eldridge Cleaver

My father never met a problem he did not want to solve, being “part of the solution.” As a teen, he contracted polio, was bedridden, and told he would spend the rest of his shortened life that way, never to walk again. Unfortunately, many of his roommates succumbed to that fate, but his drive and determination would not allow him to settle for failure. With hard work, crutches and a leg brace, he walked out of the hospital. Such strength meant for greater things.

He married a beautiful, strong woman and raised four children, whose talents range from actor, to teacher, to computer scientist. My father achieved his PhD and worked in the early years of the space program, a place designed for dreamers, makers and fixers.

Whether building space suits or houses, he would gather the available research and dive right in, learning and creating as he went. While that same spirit pulses in my veins, some things I just cannot do; if my father had limitations, I never saw them. I can hammer a nail and make a computer work, yet I struggle most with fixing broken hearts. I may weave together a few words with a melody or two, but I only get as far as eyes or ears; I need God to reach the rest of the way. Hard to admit when I “need” to fix everything.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

The “fixer” in me does not let go easily when I need Christ’s power to finish the job, especially when I am drying tears.

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17-18

My father would gather the available research and dive right in. The word of God is truth and the only answers I can surely rely on, so prayer and patience are the tools. Accepting the weakness of my “fixer” efforts is the only way to allow the True Maker to intercede.

Blessed are You, God of Creation. Through your great love and mercy, shelter the broken-hearted in the palm of Your hands. Please grant me the strength to accept my weakness and the patience to anticipate healing in your perfect timing. Lord, I am grateful.

Amen ….

Of Streams and Stones

A cool spring afternoon, the sun shining as a soft breeze meanders across the freshly greened landscape; a perfect day for a stroll, hand in hand with my sweet bride. The path follows a small stream bordered with lush greenery, blooming flowers and small trickling waterfalls. Stopping at a footbridge, we sat listening to water cascading over stones both large and small, relishing this quiet time together.

The water’s surface reflected my wife as the beauty that she is; however, my image was obscured by protruding rocks, honest enough as I am hard headed and a bit dense at times. Sharp edges proved these rocks were recently quarried, as natural river rocks are smoothed by years of passing waters, yet here they stood, various size, shape and color, creating a masterpiece in water and stone.

Limestone is comprised of ancient shells and fossils, creatures who once thrived on an ocean floor, dancing with the ebb and flow of the waves of their day. Compressed by the ravages of time, they have become firm foundations for the places we dwell. I, too, am a product of my forefathers (and mothers), who in every size, shape and color thrived in their day. Solidified by faith in the Mighty Hands of the Creator, they became the foundation of all that I am.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

As with the oddly shaped stones, I have sharp edges as well, being only part of the larger rock face of those who traveled before me. Years of being washed by living waters of faith have softened the rough surfaces with small broken pieces again becoming sediment flowing downstream. Gathering with others, I pray God will form them into foundations for those that will follow.

And that we would continue to be
Blessed in Great Measure

 

I you have been blessed by my scribblings, send me a message, I love to hear good stories. And subscribe so that you will be notified each time my ramblings make it to paper (or this site).

Keep and eye out for the release of my upcoming book Echoes Intertwined, a collection of parables, lessons and God whispers.

Rhythm of Grace

Guitar intro to James Taylor’s You’ve Got a Friend, Elton John’s piano intro to Yellow Brick Road or the driving guitar of DC Talk’s Jesus Freak – rhythms that grab your attention in a few notes. It is a songwriter’s challenge as song skips and channel changes are but a quick button push. It was not as easy when it was on vinyl. It is about finding a rhythm.

Recently, being first to a meeting, my counterpart’s phone lit up and he responded in a “less than Christian” manner. I could sense a pumped up, AC/DC type of guitar riff and he was coming in hot. I whispered “Hosanna” like the crowd two thousand years ago, announcing Jesus as Savior and imploring His help. A quick prayer for all those in the room and the meeting proceeded, concluding with a positive outcome. I had found a rhythm, a rhythm of grace.

“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

Two eyes, two ears, one mouth – use proportionally.

Should a situation come roaring in like the Rolling Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash, retreat to a quiet spot (even if just a corner of your mind) and whisper “Hosanna” acknowledging Jesus as Savior and asking His help. I have found it settles my mind and focuses my thoughts. A rhythm of grace. Even in quiet times, embrace the rhythm and appreciate the calmness of a sunrise, the sweetness of a smile or the dedication of someone struggling but giving all they have.

Share the grace that we have so abundantly been given by our Heavenly Father, for our rhythms will echo through others whether they be of grace or otherwise. There is a rhythm of grace in the giving as well as receiving.

A rhythm of grace, amplified by prayer, will reverberate more clearly when life surrounds you with wind-up-toy monkeys and clashing cymbals. Rhythms can be drumbeats or heartbeats and when the Holy Spirit touches a heart, the rhythm slows to synchronize with the very heartbeat of God.

Take a breath; find the rhythm. As in all things, a simple prayer makes the difference.

 

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Blessings in Pieces

A mosaic at first glance is a random collection of small stones or ceramic shards, but in the hands of an artist with a greater point of view, an intricate image of beauty emerges. A stained glass window is also a mosaic, dark and light, brilliantly colored pieces of glass, arranged by the hands of a master into a stunning masterpiece.

In the midst of beautiful artwork is evidence that we too are mosaics, fashioned by the mighty hands of The Master, the Creator of all things, beauty in grandeur and in the smallest detail.

If we only focus on the our broken pieces scattered across the floor, we fail to see the people God has sent to envelop us in kindness and care, being held together by His grace, blessings in pieces that create a greater good.

Our hearts, too often stained by failures, do not allow light to shine through, either in or out. However,

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

God graciously forgives our sin and remembers them no more, though we as imperfect creatures are not as lucky. Our failures remain in memories as lessons of our stumbles and how God loves us even still. These spots in our past stain our reflection, but just as in church windows, God surrounds those pieces with radiant colors of His mercy and grace held together by His loving hands.

Passions in our lives struggle like flickering candles in an empty church, cold and lifeless. As the sun rises, God’s light shines through stained glass casting a prism of colors into the darkness of our souls, stirring embers, fanning flames, re-energizing our faith. When shadows of evening consume daylight, the love of God creates inner light, shining out in brilliant colors, guiding those who are lost to a place of comfort and care.

I pray God continues to stir our embers as He sees fit, so that we may become beacons of hope and reflections of His great love.

 

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What a Frond We Have in Jesus

“The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! ” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” John 12:12-13

“Fronds” are palm branches that emerge from the crown of the palm tree, an adornment of sorts. I wonder if the crowd that day understood the symbolism. Perhaps. Palm branches have traditionally represented victory since the Israelites’ rescue from the slavery of ancient Egypt. The Lord commanded they celebrate with the Feast of Tabernacles with palm branches.

“On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees —and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.” Leviticus 23:40

They shouted, “Hosanna!” which in Aramaic meant “Savior” and laid victory branches before Him. They repeated the chant when Jesus cleared the temple as if to say, “Finally! our Savior has come!” The shouts were of praise but political as well as the people now have a champion who would save them from the harsh rule of Roman soldiers and the religious elite. Little did they know how right they were.

In Hebrew and Greek, “Hosanna” meant “help us” or “please save us”, not only proclaiming that Jesus has the power to save, but also a cry for saving. The rulers of that time needed to kill Jesus to remove the threat to their authority. In modern times, we have many who are making decisions, supposedly on our behalf, trying to do the same, seeing Jesus as a threat to their authority. This is when “Hosanna” is needed most.

When we gather on Palm Sunday, waving palm fronds singing “Hosanna in the Highest,” keep in mind that it is prayer, praise and petition, cries for help and shouts of victory, whether realized or yet to come. Welcome Jesus’ triumphant entry with open hearts waving fronds of praise for all He has done and the victory He has won, not just one Sunday morning in the springtime, but all the time.

Hosanna!

His Namesake

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3

His name’s sake” reads as if God does these things to make Himself look good, but God does not seek approval of the opinions of mortal men. Pride and vanity are human characteristics and certainly do not apply to the only One who truly deserves praise for all He is and all He has done.

The Hebrew word for “sake” means “purpose” or “on account of” so “His name’s sake” translates as “because of His name” and God’s name represents all He is. “Name’s sake” eventually became the word “namesake” meaning being named after another, usually referring to a father and his son and as a child of God, I am His “namesake”.

I often wonder why He loves me as much as He does, why He forgives my failures, why He always provides and why He leads me in the path of righteousness – not for His glory, nor the sake of His name, but because of His nature and immeasurable love for His creation. I do not understand it, cannot earn it, certainly do not deserve it; however, God is love; He just is.

“Therefore, we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:16

As “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness,” these paths may bring well-deserved glory to His name and in doing so, to Himself, but I do not believe that is His intent. He longs to cultivate a closeness to us, as sheep know the sound of their Shepherd’s voice; following in a sense of safety, knowing green pastures and cool waters await.

“Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:5-6

Amen

Eyes of Heaven

I have seen glimpses of Jesus in other’s faces, heard angels singing in other’s voices and a nurse named Ava Maria once tended to my brother. All touches of heaven, but face to face? That had escaped me until today.

The morning was spent celebrating a milestone of a life in ministry, yet in the midst of tearful stories and notes of appreciation, I found myself somewhat convicted of how my energy had been spent, talents on the sidelines and time wasted. Along with cookies and punch, there was a bitter pill to swallow.

Continuing to lunch, we were attended to by a young lady with soft eyes and a gentle smile, whose name tag read “Heaven.” I asked if that was truly her name wondering if it was pronounced differently. I said I had met “Angels” and “Jesus-es,” but “Heaven” was a first for me, what a beautiful name. However, I realized I had met heaven before, just not face to face.

My mother recently passed into the “real Heaven” and I was inundated with stories of how she touched lives in just being Joyce (or Re-Joyce as she would say). I have received words of gratitude for a song or a story that tugged at heartstrings and undeserving credit for imparting wisdom granted to me by God, and a life spent struggling to pursue His will for me and His will for others through me.

It would take more than fingers and toes to count the times I have missed a calling and thanks be to God, He forgives my sins and remembers them no more.

“No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord . “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:34

The first step in overcoming your failings is to acknowledge they exist. While being dragged by those of my own, a glimpse into the eyes of heaven showed that there have been many steps forward as well as backwards. The difference is how I direct my focus; even more so when I stumble. I choose to look ahead toward the path God has laid before me and pray there are less missteps than those on solid ground, to see the eyes of heaven once again.

Be Blessed in Great Measure