Farewell, My Friend

Becky Done

One of my dearest friends passed away last Tuesday after a battle with cancer. We made an unlikely pair, Becky and me. She was everything I’m not. Extroverted. Set a Martha Stewart dinner table. Laughed easily while glowing with a deep love for others.

When I first met Becky Done, she struck me as kind of syrupy. That sweetness proved to be anything but artificial. Pure, golden honey, this chick. One of the most Christ-like people I’ve ever known.

Interesting thing about honey, this sticky favorite of Winnie-the-Pooh fame also doubles as an ancient wound treatment. Honey actually combines with the body’s fluids to create hydrogen peroxide, keeping the wound bacteria-free. Becky worked wonders with wounds also. Godly counsel, grace-filled hugs, and intercessory prayer came freely. She wasn’t afraid to get in your face too if you needed it, though I never saw judgment. Ever. She raised your game just by being in the room. She loved fiercely and challenged me to do the same.

But she was also a lot of fun. Honey, for all its healing properties, just tastes good. And there’s no flavor like Becky Done. Eyes sparkling, she would giggle and squeeze your arm, laughing over card games, a funny comment, or something silly the grandkids had done. She could throw a shower with little to no effort, or so it seemed, but then, Becky made every occasion a party.

So, when the first diagnosis came, I was shocked, and, truthfully, unable to grasp why God had permitted this as Becky’s daughter had recently battled breast cancer. When Becky’s cancer returned, I was stunned.

Where was God in this?

He was there. Always had been. Never left her for a moment. Now, they’re sharing a laugh, guacamole (a favorite), and some chips. Anyone can sing God’s praises in the good times. To sing them as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death requires the real stuff. A faith-based relationship rooted in God’s Word. Through her battle and in those painful final weeks, Becky never stopped singing His praises. She sings them still, now face to face.

I love you, my friend. Thank you for teaching me to love better, to love deeper, to love stronger. Give Jesus a hug and I’ll see you when it’s my turn.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. Psalm 116:15 NIV

The Top 10 Fears God Never Intended You to Have

The Top 10 Fears God Never Intended You To Have

Here’s a list of the top ten fears, courtesy of ABC News:

  1. Social phobias
  2. Open spaces
  3. Heights
  4. Flying
  5. Enclosed spaces
  6. Insects
  7. Snakes
  8. Dogs
  9. Storms
  10. Needles

Psalm 19:9 (NIV) reads, “The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.” The fear of the LORD is designed to:

Proverbs 29:25 tells us that the fear of man is a snare. Look at the Top Ten list. Number 1? Social phobias: fear of man.

All ten can create emotional paralysis.

Yet according to 1 John 4:16-18, the fear of the LORD isn’t really fear at all. It’s love at its purest level, a love that drives out fear.

Fear of the LORD acknowledges God’s omnis: omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience.

It recognizes who He is and who we are.

It inspires deep gratitude for His mercy and our salvation.

It opens our eyes to the truth.

And calls us to walk in it.

Workout for the Week: Fear of the LORD

Memory Verse: Psalm 19:9 (NIV) “The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.”

Meditation Passage: 1 John 4:16-18

Just Do It: Cultivate a fear of the LORD.

Green Eggs and the Great I Am

Green Eggs and the Great I Am

I love the book Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. Sam I am pesters a poor unsuspecting fellow to try green eggs and ham. Sam hammers the guy with question after question, “Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat them with a fox?”

So I have some questions for you.

If God grew silent and your prayers went unanswered, could you, would you still pray?

If God removed the sense of His presence, could you, would you still worship?

If verses stopped jumping off the page, could you, would you still read God’s word?

If everyone around you talked about God like He spoke audibly, every day, but you don’t hear a thing, could you, would you still listen?

If everyone around you received a prophetic word, and you didn’t, could you, would you still trust that God has a plan for you?

If everyone around you spoke in tongues, and you didn’t, could you, would you still believe your value equals theirs? That you’re not a second-class spiritual citizen?

Could you, would you stand on faith, the word of God, and nothing more?

Could you? Would you?

For the Great I Am, I could. I would.

And many times, I do. You can too.

Workout of the Week: Green Eggs and the Great I Am

Memory Verse: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11 NIV

Meditation Passage: Psalm 23

Just Do It: Stand firm in your faith.

A Dragon in the Mix

A Dragon in the Mix

Have you included the dragon in your calculations?

He’s near, you know, roaming, searching. (1 Peter 5:8)

Train this dragon? Forget it. He’s not interested in serving. He’s out to get you—in any way he can.

Compromise.

Rationalize.

Desensitize.

He’ll steal your blessings, kill your desire for God, and destroy your family. (John 10:10)

Clever.

Subtle.

Crafty.

He looks for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

He sifts you like wheat. (Luke 22:31)

He masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Cor. 11:14)

He rules the kingdom of the air, twisting words as they travel from one to another. (Eph. 2:2)

He is an, no, the ancient evil.

On your own, you don’t stand a chance against him or his tribe.

But you serve the dragon slayer. Daniel 2:22 (NIV) says, “He [God] reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells in him.”

Hidden things.

Masked ones.

Dark beings.

God knows where Satan lives and exposes the dragon for what he is. A liar and a murderer. (John 8:42-47)

His fate has been determined. (Rev. 20:10)

But until then . . . have you included the dragon in your calculations?

Workout of the Week: A Dragon in the Mix

Memory Verse: Chose one from above.

Meditation Passage: Rev. 20:7-10

Just Do It: Calculate your plans with the dragon in mind.

Faith, Not Immunity

Faith, Not Immunity

The air crackled with shekinah glory. The faint scent of frankincense spun through the whirlwind. A fiery chariot rumbled behind a pair of flaming steeds, burning an image in Elisha’s brain he would never forget as he watched Elijah depart. Depart, because, like Enoch, Elijah didn’t die. One minute, Elijah walked beside his successor. The next, he was gone, leaving Elisha with a bitter grief, an ownerless cloak, and a new calling.

Now, Elisha’s turn had come. Having inherited a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, surely his departure would be even more spectacular.

Except it wasn’t.

He got sick. And died.

 “Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died.” (2 Kings 13:14 NIV)

What?

I have a list in my prayer journal of dear friends struggling with illnesses.

Some life-threatening.

All life-impacting.

And I blink my eyes, throw up my hands, and ask why? Because somewhere the lie has crept in that spiritual brownie points give us immunity from the hell of a fallen world.

Yet I get a check in my spirit every time I chase an “experience” of God.

Habakkuk tells us “the righteous will live by his faith.” (Hab. 2:4) And the righteous still do. Faith that trusts God’s word:

  • “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
  • “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3)
  • I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
  • And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
  • “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
  • “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”  (Romans 8:35)

Why does God chart the paths He does? Only He knows, but His word declares He loves us deeply.

In spite of our sin.

In spite of the fallen world.

In spite of sickness and death.

So when Elijah greeted Elisha in heaven with a “What took you so long?”, Elisha just grinned, happy to be there, even without the chariot ride.

Workout of the Week: Faith, Not Immunity

Memory Verse:  “Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died.” 2 Kings 13:14

Meditation Passage: 2 Kings 2:7-15

Just Do It: Believe what He says.

 

Dynasty, Doubt, and Destruction

Dynasty, Doubt, and Destruction

“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” 2 Samuel 7:16 NIV

God made this promise to David.

But did you know God made a very similar promise to Jeroboam?

David’s son, Solomon, followed other gods as his wives turned his heart from Yahweh (1 Kings 11:27-39). Jeroboam served Solomon as one of his officials. God planned to split the kingdom and sent the prophet Ahijah to Jeroboam. Ahijah ripped his cloak into twelve pieces. He offered ten tribes to Jeroboam but reserved Judah for Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.

We’ll pick it up in 1 Kings 11:37-39:

However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. I will humble David’s descendants because of this, but not forever.

Folks, that’s no chicken feed.

But the ten pieces of cloak in Jeroboam’s hand wasn’t enough. Fear lingered in his mouth like a bad aftertaste and Jeroboam wavered. All Israel traveled back to Jerusalem for the feasts: Passover, Trumpets, and others. Jeroboam feared the tribes would follow Rehoboam again and he would be killed. (1 Kings 12:26-27)

Jeroboam had options: figure it out or take his concerns to God.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” 

Jeroboam needed to read it. Instead, he made two golden calves. (Sound familiar? This won’t end well.) The smelting fumes must have been incense to Satan’s nose. Jeroboam placed one in Dan and one in Bethel so the people would no longer travel to Jerusalem.

God sent a prophet, but his warning went unheeded—which brings us to this verse:

“And this event became sin to the house of Jeroboam, even to blot it out and destroy it from off the face of the earth.” 1 Kings 13:34 

Jeroboam’s sin of idolatry rippled through Israel until the exile. Not one king of Israel followed God during the divided kingdom era.

Not one.

Do you have a pet sin? One that began when you relied on your own understanding instead of trusting what God said? God will deal with our doubts, but we must take them to Him.

Workout of the Week: Dynasty, Doubt, and Destruction

Memory Verse: “And this event became sin to the house of Jeroboam, even to blot it out and destroy it from off the face of the earth.” 1 Kings 13:34 NIV

Meditation Passage: 1 Kings 11:29-39

Just Do It: Bring your doubt to God.

Praise Looks Good on You

Praise Looks Good on You

Makeup, manicures, and merchandise. We spend a lot of time and money to look our best.

Praise is becoming to the upright. Psalm 33:1 NIV

The word “becoming” carries several connotations.

  • Attractive: Causing someone to look attractive, having a flattering effect. Praise, gratitude, and contentment attract the same temper. Really, who needs more frown lines? The Holy Spirit offers “a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3 NIV) Its sweetness counters the bitterness of hurt, reminding me of the loyal Ruth contrasted with a Naomi consumed by loss (Ruth).
  • Appropriate: Suitable for a particular person in a certain situation. Ephesians 5:19-20 reads, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Music lightens our hearts. An aroma of worship diffuses the sulphurous fumes of the enemy. I’m reminded of Hannah’s prayerful song in 1 Samuel 2 when she dedicates her son for God’s service in the presence of her rival.
  • Assimilate: To begin to acquire a certain characteristic, to have a specified quality. Paul said, “if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.” (Phil. 4:8-9) I think of Mary and Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-80). Praise came in spite of challenges and colored much of what each woman did.

You don’t have to be a supermodel to look good in praise. It flatters everyone. Try it on this season.

Workout for the Week: Praise Looks Good on You

Memory Verse: Praise is becoming to the upright. Psalm 33:1 NIV

Meditation Passage: Philippians 4:8-9

Just Do It: Try it on.

Greatness in Gentleness

Gentle Greatness

Blows hammered shields. Clouds hurled hailstones. God’s voice thundered. Eyes watered from the haze of smoke as fire fed on everything in sight. Sweat, blood, and rain wet the lips of warriors as cherubim soared overhead.

Powerful imagery pours forth from Psalm 18 as David recounts the LORD’s rescue, His battle training, and David’s ultimate victory.

Then David tucks in verse 35. I’ll give you several versions for comparison:

  • NIV: “ . . . you stoop down to make me great.”
  • NRSV: “ . . . your help has made me great.”
  • NASB: “And Thy gentleness has made me great.”

Gentleness? This jarred me like the scratching of a needle on an old LP.

David presents a picture of God humbly giving of Himself to help His servant, David.

Chew on that for a minute.

God.

The Rock and Shield of verse 2.

The God with smoke coming from His nostrils and fire from His mouth in verse 8.

The One shooting arrows and scattering the enemy in verse 14.

Stoops to give His creature a moment of greatness.

He could’ve simply sent help. One angel. Maybe two.

God made Himself available. A personal assist from the LORD of hosts.

Gulp. I think we’re supposed to copy this one.

Jesus said, “ . . . for I am gentle and humble in heart.” (Matthew 11:29 NIV) Paul chimed in, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” (Philippians 4:5)

As you train this week, consider three things:

  1. Perhaps that true strength operates best from a position of gentleness and humility?
  2. Note, too, that Psalm 18 has three parts: God’s rescue of David, God’s training of David, and David’s victory. The chapter pivots on God’s training, and specifically verse 35. Apart from God’s help/gentleness, David’s victory doesn’t happen.
  3. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV) Gentleness, a fruit of the Spirit, reflects God’s character.

Look for opportunities this week to train your gentleness. Who would God have you make great? Your spouse? Your kids? Your boss? What would God have you do? How can you stoop? Help? Exhibit gentleness? What must shift to make way for humility?

Make another great today with your gentleness.

Workout of the Week: Greatness in Gentleness

Memory Verse: Psalm 18:35 (NASB) “And Thy gentleness has made me great.”

Meditation Passage: Psalm 18

Just Do It: Stoop down to make someone great today.

Who’s Listening—to You?

Who's Listening--To You?

“Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.” 1 Kings 4:34 NIV

Wisdom. When we hear the word, we think of Solomon, even today.

As ruler of Israel, he’d earned a voice in world affairs. God’s gift of wisdom elevated him to a higher platform as ambassadors flocked to see him in action.

Platform. A voice in the public square. Some, like Solomon, have a global platform; others speak to a smaller audience. But a small audience listens just as attentively as a large one and the impact loses nothing for the individual who leaves changed.

God appears to precious few of us asking what gift we desire. So, how do we identify our giftings?

In Plain Sight: People saw wisdom in Solomon. What do people see in you? Computer skills? The best pie on the block? A compassionate heart?

Word of Mouth: People know a good thing when they see it and they love to share. What are you the go-to person for?

Listen Up: We respect those with knowledge or experience we lack. We come expectantly like the ambassadors came to Solomon. Who comes to you ready to listen?

When God gifts someone, others will be drawn to him.

Not that Solomon hit every ambassador with a presentation of the gospel and an altar call, but the king could share his story. And so can we. As you train this week:

  • Identify your gifting(s).
  • Examine the platform God’s given you.
  • Speak to those who have come to listen.
  • Don’t forget the Gift-Giver.

Nail your spiritual workouts this week and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: Who’s Listening—to You?

Memory Verse: “Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.” 1 Kings 4:34 NIV

Meditation Passage: 1 Corinthians 12: 27-31

Just Do It: Practice your giftings.

 

God’s Servant, God’s Splendor

God's Servant, God's Splendor

“ ‘Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you,’ declares the LORD God.” (Ezekiel 16:14 NASB)

I believe God calls. Specifically.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

It sounds humble to say, “No, not me. I could never do ________.”

And we’ve heard the clichés. God equips the called. Blah, blah, blah.

Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, speaks to the artist:

If the work comes to the artist and says, “Here I am, serve me,” then the job of the artist, great or small, is to serve. The amount of the artist’s talent is not what it’s about. . . . Over the years I have come to recognize that the work often knows more than I do . . . The great artists . . . collaborate with the work, but for most of us, it is our great privilege to be its servant. When the artist is truly the servant of the work, the work is better than the artist.” (Walking on Water, p. 13-14)

I believe this is true not only for the arts, but also for any work to which we may be called. I think we must consider three things:

Are we willing to serve? When God called me to write professionally, I had no idea what that meant or where God was going with it. (Still don’t know this one.)

But the calling was clear. I am accountable to the One who called and “No” was never an option.

The more mundane callings of helpmate and mother were less clear to me and my inability to see those as callings greatly affected my attitude and the quality of my work.

Are we willing to work? We don’t step into God’s calling like working the concession stand at the middle school football game.

It requires training, commitment, and practice.

It requires work.

But it’s work He has prepared for you to do.

Are we willing to give God credit? In Ezekiel, God declares Israel’s beauty came from His splendor, which God chose to share. As God bestowed His splendor on Israel, He perfected her beauty.

As an artist, I’ve seen God seize a piece and elevate its writing beyond my level of craft. It left me humbled and awestruck. My hands trembled knowing holiness had touched that piece.

It happens outside the fine arts too. In the workplace. In the home. In the classroom. Will we give God credit when He chooses to work through us or will we claim it and rob Him of His glory?

God calls. Sometimes clearly and specifically. Sometimes through circumstance. Yet always He stands ready to lift the work from an ordinary, earthly level to an extraordinary, heavenly one.

Do you recognize the calling?

Can you appreciate the call to the mundane as well as the skill-specific calling?

Are you willing?

Are you ready to work?

When His fingerprints coat the finished product, will you give Him the glory?

Don’t miss out. Answer the call.

Workout of the Week: God’s Servant, God’s Splendor

Memory Verse: Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Meditation Passage: “ ‘Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you,’ declares the LORD God.” (Ezekiel 16:14 NASB)

Just Do It: Answer the call.