Month: April 2011

Aroma of Heaven

Driving in to work recently, I found I was not really looking forward to the day. I like my job, but there are so many things I want and need to be doing at home that I couldn’t shake the feeling that my time would be better served there.

It didn’t help that I was caught in the infamous Highway 280 traffic. (Well, it’s infamous if you live here in Birmingham.) Three lanes of bumper to bumper traffic going nowhere fast. As I sat in traffic, idling away four dollar a gallon gasoline, I got a whiff of something wonderful. I immediately knew what it was, and it brought a great big smile to my face.

I looked over to the roadside and saw it. It was literally a wall of honeysuckle. I am almost certain that the aroma of honeysuckle will be wafting through heaven when I get there. It is just such a heavenly smell, isn’t it?

Immediately, I thought, “Wow, Thanks God for providing that little piece of heaven for me this morning.” I really needed it. Right on schedule, God was there to provide.

I thought of that honeysuckle throughout the day, and how God provides for me in wonderful ways. As the day wore on I thought of something else, but the aroma of it wasn’t nearly so pleasing.

I was reminded particularly of the way Paul started out his letter to the Romans. He identified himself as “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus.”. So what’s a bondservant?

On its basic level a bondservant is simply following your master to the complete disregard of your own will, emotions, desires.

I began to think of all the times I treated Christ as though he were my bondservant rather than the other way around. I behave as though Jesus is my personal assistant whose job it is to see to it that I have all my needs met and all my desires granted.

“Dear God, bless and keep my children. Guard their goings and comings.”

“Dear God, Help my husband to find the favor of men and help him uphold the calling you have on his life.”

“Sweet Jesus, please let them have these shoes in my size!”

“Dear God, grant this wish and that want, and do it quickly, Lord. I need you now!”

The realization of it all came upon me like a Looney Toons anvil right between the eyes. How often in this relationship I have with Jesus do I expect to be the one served? The truth wasn’t pretty. It’s quite often.

Like a loving father, God loves to bless his children. I don’t think it’s wrong of us to ask Him to meet our needs and even grant some of our wants. I love it when I can do that for my own children. How much more, then, does it thrill him to do it for me?

But when the child begins to expect- and even demand- those needs be met and wishes granted, it steals a bit of the joy from the giving parent.

Parents sacrifice so that their kids can have things. God sacrificed, too, so that I could be in right relationship with Him again. It was a great sacrifice. One I can hardly fathom. I pray that I won’t soon forget who is the Master and who is the bondservant. I utter with my mouth that I want to live my life to serve him, but I think I need to work on my attitude and actions matching up with what I say. If I am honest, I spend far too much time serving myself and expecting Him to do the same.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Proximity is Everything

Just ask anyone working in Real Estate and they will tell you the most important thing to consider is location, location, location.

I’ve taken a few days off from writing to move. Packing boxes, moving boxes and finding new places for all the things in the boxes can take up a girl’s time. My family is now, once again, in a new location. I love my new house, and as we continue to work on it, I love it more all the time. The house was not quite ready for us to move when we did so there are still so many renovations to complete, but we’re getting there…Slowly.

We had barely been in the new house a day when the doorbell rang.
I found the sound strange. You see, we moved from a garden home community to a house that really has no neighbors. Now, we are the only house on our street. Ironically, I can count on one hand the number of times our doorbell rang when our neighbors were mere feet away, yet now that we live on a deserted street our bell was ringing. Hmm. Well I did what most normal people do when their doorbell rings, I went to the door. There stood a little boy. He was about my youngest son’s age.

I said, “Hello”. He asked, “Can Evan come out and play?” I answered his question with one of my own. “Who are you?

“I’m Jimmy”.

His name wasn’t really Jimmy. I’m changing his name to protect the innocent. While he is not a fictional character, any resemblance he may have to your son is completely coincidental.

I said, “Well, hi Jimmy. How do you know Evan?” He told me that he knew Evan from school, and that they were great friends. Hmmm. I hadn’t heard my son ever mention a “Jimmy” before, but I pressed on. I asked him who is teacher was and where he lived. He had a different teacher than Evan, but perhaps they had met on the playground. He lived up on the next street where civilization resumed. Jimmy had survived my little interrogation and stood there waiting to see if I would allow him to play with Evan. I did.

Later, I asked Evan if Jimmy was a nice boy, and if they really were friends. Evan told me that they were not really friends at all, and that Jimmy was “sometimes nice and sometimes not nice.” I told Evan that he could play with Jimmy only when he was sometimes nice.

When you are ten, proximity is everything. All of a sudden, in Jimmy’s mind, Evan was to be his new best friend down the street. It didn’t matter that they had not really connected at all before then. Things are different when you live close by. Location, location, location.

This Sunday we will celebrate Easter. It’s a great day in the lives of Christians everywhere. It’s the day God looked at Satan and said, “Psych!”

Yep, Satan thought he had won the victory, only to find he, the Deceiver, had been had. Jesus died, but He didn’t stay dead. With a motion of His hand, a word spoken, or a thought in His mind, God raised Jesus to life again, once and for all settling my account and yours. Our sin debt paid in full.

Jesus suffered and conquered a brutal death so that we could live in right relationship with the Father now and forevermore.

As we celebrate the most significant event in human history, let’s draw near to the Father. It’s because of Christ’s sacrifice that we even have such access to Him.

This Easter, let’s remember that proximity is everything.

Defending Jesus…

I was driving home from work recently and listening to a popular local radio show. That day the hosts were up in arms about a story in the news. It was about a city (I missed which one) that had decided to change the name of this year’s annual Easter egg hunt.

Because it was a community event, sponsored by the local government, the city officials had decided they should call this year’s event the Spring egg hunt. This was someone’s idea of keeping church and state separate. I know, the founding fathers were rolling over in their graves. I get that.

As Christians, the radio hosts had climbed onto their soapbox and launched into a tirade over this latest development. They suggested that a private party pay for the event and then only let Christians participate. This was said a bit tongue in cheek, but still.

I remember when Christians bemoaned when Jesus was kicked out of the schools. I grew up with Bible readings and a prayer to start of each school day. Every morning, someone picked out a verse, and one of the students read it…. It was from the King James Version of the Bible, and since, at nine, I didn’t really speak the King’s English, it was mostly lost on me. I can’t recall a single prayer the teacher prayed either. So while the thought of starting each day that way is a nice one, I’m not sure what was really accomplished. I’m not much on standing on top of principle if the substance isn’t there. But no matter, really, because they ushered Jesus out the front door before I reached junior high. It was about that time that “Christmas” parties at school became “Winter” parties.

Not too many years ago, again Christians got all in a dither when, at Christmastime, Target stores stopped allowing their employees to wish customers a “Merry Christmas”. Instead, they were told to merely wish everyone “Happy Holidays”. Some really adamant folks would respond to this “hollow” wish with a frown and a resounding “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” Sheesh.

Back to the radio show… As I listened to the dialog about the egg hunt something occurred to me. Somehow, I don’t really think Jesus will mind being taken out of the egg hunt. Really, I don’t. Egg hunts are not about Him anyway. In any regard. Not one. Now I am not anti-Easter egg hunts. I think they are great fun for kids and parents.

We once put on a community egg hunt to help get the word out about a new church in town. We made eight-foot egg-shaped signs with the details of the hunt painted on them, posted them around town, and were blown away when over two thousand kids showed up. Only we talked to each and every family about the new church, and while they waited for the event to start, they were able to watch a great video all about the person of Christ and His great sacrifice for them. It was the single best day in kid’s ministry for me.

And I’m going out on a limb here to say that I don’t even think He got all up in arms when Bible readings and daily prayer left the schools. Hang with me here. I am going somewhere with all of this.

And what about those Target employees with their hearty “Happy Holidays!” wishes? Have you seen how commercial the Christmas season has gotten? The only Jesus you see out there is usually the plastic ones they sell in the garden department.

No, I think Jesus probably breathed a sigh of relief when He was ushered out of these things. If we are not careful, these things become routine and empty. An Easter egg hunt does nothing to point to the cross of Christ. A “Merry Christmas” rarely evokes feelings of awe over the King coming to Earth as a baby to save us. And daily, empty rituals of Bible readings and prayer likely sadden Him whether they are in our homes, or in our schools.

No, I think Jesus would rather be in the hearts of those children, rather than in their egg hunt. I think he’d rather be in their hearts, than in their schools. And I think he’d rather be in people’s hearts than in their holiday greetings.

For you see, if He is in their hearts, then He will be in their events, schools, and holiday celebrations as well. Just try to keep Him out. As Christians, we tend to be really good at getting ourselves all worked up defending Jesus when we think He’s been offended.

Remember when Peter drew his sword in the Garden and lobbed off that soldier’s ear? Jesus didn’t get all gushy and appreciative. No, he repaired the damage His follower did, and told Peter in no uncertain terms that He could take care of Himself.

It’s not that I think He doesn’t appreciate the sentiment, but Jesus conquered death, He doesn’t need us to defend Him. He wants us to give Him away. To our neighbors and their kids, to our families, friends, co-workers and softball teammates. Let Him use you to share His love for them. Let’s not leave a trail of ears on the ground He has to repair.

Painting Shirt

I have spent the last few days painting walls at my new house. I really love to paint the walls with new paint when we buy a house. Over the years I have found it just really helps the house feel like my home. The colors the previous owner had might not be all that bad, but I didn’t choose them. As I paint away old scuffs and scrapes on the walls, I am saying goodbye to the old and hello to the new. Newly painted walls just feel so fresh and clean. It’s like a new start.

I have a painting shirt that I have had forever. I pull it on whenever it’s time to paint anything. It’s nothing fancy. It’s an old shirt of Matthew’s. It’s denim, button up and comfy. There’s a smudge from every wall I’ve ever painted on it. I can look at that shirt and see the yellow I painted my daughter’s nursery. I can see the red I once chose for my kitchen. I see the green that was my son’s room years ago. There’s a blue smear on the back from when I was painting my second son’s room and backed into the wall accidentally.

Every stage of my adult life is on that shirt. Every house we’ve lived in, every room in which we’ve been a family. I’ve added some more smears this week. There’s some purple now. My daughter chose purple for her room… I’m talking eggplant. Then there’s bright blue now from my youngest son’s new room. I’ll add some more today, no doubt. I am excited for the new memories that this new home will bring to my family. As we have all worked together to turn this house into our home, I am thankful for many already.

We all carry stains and smudges from past experiences. Some good, some not. My shirt is a product of all my house-painting experiences. I have heard it said that we are the sum total of all our life experiences. I suppose that is true. But we are more than that. As followers of Christ we have been made new. Our shirts are clean. Brand new… “smudgless”. We are not held captive any longer by past mistakes. That’s one of the best benefits of being a child of the Father and accepting His grace and mercy. He remakes us. He looks at the sloppy mess we’ve made out of ourselves and washes us clean. And not just once. He’ll do it over and over again. Just like a freshly painted wall with no scuffs or bumps.

I’m off for another day of painting. I am tired, and oh so sore. (It’s been a while since I had to dig out the painting shirt.) But I am energized and looking forward to making new the walls in my house. I hope you will be energized and look forward to how the Lord will make you new today.

Take a minute and listen to my new favorite song… It’s Tenth Avenue North… It’ll be worth your time!