Are You Talking to Me?

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bigEarsDog     With three women in the house, my husband has learned to ‘tune out’ much of the daily conversation. He works on the assumption that very little of it pertains to him.  But there are those moments when he suddenly notices that all three of us are staring at him waiting for a response. “Oh,” he says “are you talking to me?” And even if we repeat the question, at this point he has no context for the conversation because he hasn’t been paying attention. Can you blame him? The constant flow of conversation is probably exhausting for someone of his personality.  And even we girls would agree that every word out of our mouths is not necessarily worthy of his attention!

We all probably have times we are not really paying attention when someone is talking. But what about when God is talking? Do we make the same choices? Do we consider it overwhelming and so we just ‘tune out’?

You have to admit, there is a lot to learn about being a Christ follower! With 66 books in the Bible and only one lifetime to study them all, we may think it is a daunting task. And it may be tempting to dive into the ‘love one another’ passages and ignore the ‘be holy as I am holy’ passages. We think we understand love better than holiness.  The problem is if we do not listen because it is hard, we will miss so much of what He wants to tell us.

Unlike we humans, every word from God is worthy of our attention. After all, it is God, JEHOVAH, talking, right? 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Certainly, if it is all God-breathed, it is all worthy of our attention. If we are not being good listeners, we may misunderstand or be easily confused. We may miss the context in which He is communicating, and therefore miss the meaning of the message.

But maybe we are not paying attention simply because we do not realize He is talking to us?

I know I am not alone in this. I am thinking of those times when you are sitting in the pew, the Pastor is speaking, and you can see so clearly  how his teaching applies to so and so. You think to yourself “I hope they are paying attention.” In fact, if they are sitting next to you and you know them well enough, you may even give them a gentle nudge with your elbow. Then  as the message continues, the Spirit suddenly pricks your heart getting your attention and you pause to ask the Lord. “Oh…are you talking to me?

Suddenly confronted with the realization that the God of heaven is speaking to you, to your heart, you stop and turn your full attention to Him.

God is so patient and there is so much He wants to say to us. He told Job  “Pay attention, Job and listen to me; be silent and I will speak.” (Job 33:31) There was no mistaking who God was talking to!  Today He still is constantly communicating through His created world, His Word and His people.  Pay attention, He IS talking to you and me!

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Barking Dogs

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barking dogsIf I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” I Corinthians 13:1 “…enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness” Acts 4:29

It was another beautiful morning for a walk on the trail. Alot of people were out walking their dogs. I guess that’s why I heard so many other dogs barking. You know the type. They make a lot of noise and sound brave as they bark at you from behind their safe fenced in yard. But they have no real impact on what happens on the trail. They are nothing but an amusing and sometimes annoying distraction.

Too often, we (I am including myself in this) are like those barking dogs on the side of the trail. We make a lot of noise from behind the safety of our church walls. We sound brave as we proclaim God’s truth loudly to one another about what is going on outside the walls. But while desperately trying to make our point, we actually make nothing but noise. We have little impact. To the world around us we are just an amusing and sometimes annoying distraction.

I’m not suggesting that we go outside the walls and continue to bark loudly. J I am suggesting we go outside the walls and speak boldly. Boldness and compassion are not mutually exclusive. At least they do not have to be. Our greatest historical heroes were known for being both bold and compassionate. When you think of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, do you think of them as people who minced words? Hardly.  They are known for their bold stands, bold statements, and bold lives. They are also known for their great compassion. They not only spoke of love they loved through their actions.

And then there is Jesus, our precious Savior. Was Jesus compassionate? Immeasurably. Did Jesus boldly proclaim God’s truth? Absolutely. If we are to be like Christ, we must do the same.

We must not be silent. But we must not simply bark loudly behind our safe walls. We should step out on the trail and engage others. We should speak boldly – we need not make apology for the truth of God’s Word. Our lives should mirror our words – the world needs to know we Believe what we say. And we must speak with great compassion, for love is the most eloquent language God has given to man. May we learn to stop our incessant barking, to step out and engage our lost world, and to speak love’s language as we communicate His truth.

Photo credit: Sri Lankan Photos / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

No Small Miracle

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There is no such thing as a small miracle! By definition, a miracle is “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is considered to be divine.” That is big!

As many of you know, our family experienced a miracle a few weeks ago. Jessie, our oldest daughter was in a terrible car accident. I am kind of weary of talking about it. So why write about it? Because we should never grow weary in telling of God’s wonders.

“Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise!” Psalm 79:13

On a sunny afternoon, coming home from working at the church, Jessie was hit broadside on the driver’s side, sent into a spin across the intersection up over the curb with such force she took out a light post which sent her further along into another road sign and still further until she landed in a ditch.

The rescue personnel used the jaws of life to get her out, put her on a backboard and took her to the trauma unit at Round Rock hospital. Just three hours after the crash, she walked out of the hospital!

IMG_2109      Standing at the roadside watching the rescue, I was unaware of the miracle that had taken place. All any of us could see was the carnage of the wreck. The crushed car, the area littered by the huge light pole, the road sign, pieces of the car, broken glass, and emergency vehicles all around. And still my heart was at peace knowing my God is a great God and He is enough.

Then suddenly, there Jessie was, on the stretcher, smiling up at me. No signs of bleeding, no apparent injury other than the neck brace. Hope rose within me.

At the trauma unit there was a lot of hustle and bustle at first when they heard of the seriousness of the crash. Then things slowed down as they marveled at her good condition. The neck brace came off, and they repeatedly checked on her as the adrenalin wore off. She was very sore, but there was not a scratch on her.

The whole time we knew she had just experienced a miracle, a surprising and welcomed event that was not explicable by natural or scientific laws brought to us by the hand of God!

When we saw the car close up, I was struck by how close she came to being crushed by each impact. It was like God had said to the metal around her “You can only come this far.” His  power was displayed through every angle of the crushed car.

Who can understand the mind of God? To know why He performs miracles—when and how He does. But when we experience a miracle, or when we learn of one, it is our job to sing His  praises and tell the story that brings Him glory!

That day will forever be a part of our testimony, but it is not the end of it. Every day He reveals more of Himself to us. And we long to be bold in proclaiming to the world…

“Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them they would be too many to declare!” Psalm 40:5

Are you proclaiming His wonders? I’d love to hear from you about the wonders God has performed in your life!

“The Value of a Single Moment”

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(last in the series of “Living in the Moment”)

 How much value do you place on your time? I realize it is impossible to measure the value of single moment in time. Yet, learning to recognize how precious it is – is an important part of the maturing process.

 A YEAR…

Until recently, every year when January 1st arrived, our family would gather around, with last year’s calendar in hand and reflect on the past year’s events. We talked about all God had brought us through (surgeries, and tests, job changes, deaths of loved ones, financial hardships) and the many blessings He had poured out on us (healing, new jobs, new friends, new ministries).

We took time to learn from the past. Then we set that calendar aside and brought out the new one and with excitement hung it on the wall. The new calendar represented the hope for the future.

 A DAY…

Each little block on the calendar represents a new day, a new day full of choices. A calendar can be helpful with all its little blocks.  But in reality we don’t live our lives in blocks so well defined. Life is more fluid than that. Living in the moment is not about dividing your life into even smaller blocks. It is about discovering the truth that each moment is important because it not only ties into your own past and future, but into the moments of other lives around you. 

A MOMENT!

How valuable is a moment in time? Ask anyone who can look back and say “there, that moment is when my life changed forever.” Are you familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan? A man was beaten and left on the side of the road. Two different men walked past him without helping.  We are not told why they made that choice, but one thing we DO know, they missed a significant moment in time. A moment of opportunity to reach out to someone in need.

And there is the challenge. If time is so precious, what are we to do with our time? Colossians 3:12 says “Therefore, As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. ..” That is quite a to-do list! Think about it, in just a moment of time you can impact a life for good or bad: a kind word vs. a harsh word; an act of compassion vs. an act of aggression; an offer of forgiveness vs. a plan for revenge.

So let’s shake off the preoccupations with the past and the future. Let’s experience the treasure of this moment and all the wonder it holds. Laugh at the silly things you do. Cry when your heart hurts. Sing when His joy bubbles over in you. Praise Him often. Look for ways to show kindness. Touch the lives of others. Take time to listen, really listen, to someone this week. Tell someone about Jesus and what He means to you.

We will experience more joy and we will have an eternal impact on others when we learn to live in the moment. This moment. This is our here and now, let us seek His purpose in it.

The Past: a Nice Place to Visit?

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The longer we live, the more likely we’ll face another obstacle to living in the moment – instead of living in the future we fall into the trap of living in the past. The past is a nice place to visit, but I would not want to live there!

living_in_the_past_333905        LIVING IN THE PAST

As an American Studies, History/Poli-Sci major, I love reading about people and events in the past. Most of my friends and family find history boring. But I see it as a way to learn about the thread of ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ that led us to where we are today.  I find people have not changed much in terms of their desires and hopes, their struggles and heartaches. Whether we are talking about family heritage, country heritage or spiritual heritage, there is a lot to gain from looking back.

It is important to stay connected to the past, to learn from it, to draw meaning from it. Romans 15:4 says “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

LEARN FROM IT – JUST DON’T LIVE THERE

Understanding our past is important because it affects our identity, our perspective and outlook on life. Even Christ, at the Last Supper, said “do this in remembrance of me”. Remember, remember what happened and why; remember the past, but recognize that God did not intend for us to live there. Listen to Philippians 3:13 “Forgetting what is behind, straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Or perhaps even clearer in Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing NEW thing! Now it springs up do you not perceive it?”

Sometimes we have trouble letting go of the past. Maybe we see the past as a time when life was simple and good and we want to stay there.  Or maybe our failures loom large and cast a shadow over us making it hard to press on.  Or maybe, it is not our failures, but rather the pain someone else has caused us that enslaves us to our past.

Too many of us let ourselves be defined by our past instead of our present. What about the man who finds no joy or purpose in today, but only in reliving his glory days of college football? Or the woman who finds it difficult to be happy because fifteen years earlier she went through a divorce? Or the family who cannot adapt to the changing dynamics as children grow and marry and have children of their own. They want so much for things to stay the same, that they cling to the past at the cost of joy in the present.

Remember that verse in Isaiah? God is looking to do a NEW thing with you. But you will not perceive it if your eyes are focused behind you. We need to shake off the temptation to dwell in the past.

I woke up this morning, into a new day, healing from and celebrating my yesterdays,  planning for tomorrow, but choosing to see the NEW thing God is doing with me today, right now, in this moment of time. I do not want to miss it. A day full of opportunity and hope! “This is the day that the Lord has made!”

Coming soon…”the value of a single moment” the final post of this series!

Live in the Moment

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I am sorry for the long silence.  Life got complicated. But I have been doing a lot of thinking, especially about what it takes to learn to live in the moment. And what obstacles we face in process. Have you ever considered that we face two big obstacles to living in the moment, our hold on the future and our hold on the past? And that those obstacles rob us of our joy? Over the next few days, I’d like to share with you what I have learned.

Look to the future, but Live in the Moment!

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The problem with living in the future:

LIVING IN THE FUTURE THROUGH ANTICIPATION

The young have a way of living in the future through anticipation. You hear them say “I can’t wait until next year when I can do such and such.”  They find it difficult, in fact, to be content in their circumstances because all they can see is what they are missing out on. They cannot wait to be allowed to go to the movies with friends, or drive a car, or go out on their first date. But as each new milestone is reached, they are still unhappy because they are already looking longingly at the next milestone – wishing it was already here. It is not only the really young who suffer from future living. Some more seasoned in life often live in a holding pattern waiting for that one change in finances, or housing, or relationships which will signify the point at which they can truly be happy.

LIVING IN THE FUTURE THROUGH WORRY

There is another kind of ‘living in the future’ that robs us of joy. It is when we spend our days worrying about the trouble tomorrow may bring. We worry about what we will do and how we will cope if certain things happen. We spend so much time living in tomorrow’s troubles that we miss what is happening in the here and now. Jesus himself tells us “Do not worry about tomorrow” (Matt 6:34). It can be hard, but one way to stop worrying about the future is to refocus our time and energy on living fully in our today, to choose to live in this moment.

IT IS GOOD TO HAVE A PLAN

I think it is a good thing to have a plan for the future! But living in the future and planning for the future are two different things. On every page of God’s Word He reveals His plans. Ps. 40:5 says “Many O Lord my God are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them they would be too many to declare.” Jer 29:11 the Lord says “I know the plans that I have for you. Plans for welfare and not calamity. To give you a future and a hope.” By all means, plan for the future and hope for future, just don’t miss out on the significance of today because you live only in anticipation of tomorrow. Don’t miss the joy of today because you are living in the troubles of tomorrow. Live in the fullness of this moment.

Check back later this week and I will look at the obstacle of ‘living in the past’.

That’s Heaven For Her

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       As the holidays approach, many of us will be missing loved ones. We all grieve in our own way and in our own time. But remembering can also be a sweet time as we reflect on the incredible people we’ve had in our lives. And for some of us it is a time of celebration as we think of them in the presence of the Father. Today I wanted to share a poem that my daughter Stephanie wrote about heaven in “That’s Heaven For Her”.

That’s Heaven For Her
By Stephanie Wucher

From a 2-car carport (driveway)/mobile home that she treated like a mansion – to streets of gold leading to her front door, and a real mansion filled with more beauty (probably purple) than she could ever fathom.

From her church that seats 2,000 where she greats everyone (even strangers) with a mile long smile – to a worship service at the feet of Jesus where her brothers, friends, parents, husband, extended family, and Angels greet HER with a smile.

From choosing to sit by herself on a different row at church so others had room to sit together – to Jesus welcoming her to worship and saying “Here, I saved this space for YOU!”

From hours of prayer every morning for anyone who crossed her path – to nonstop time with Jesus with the worries of the world behind her.

From a hospital room when words could not come from her lips because of a broken body – to choosing not to speak, though she is able, standing in awe of the beauty that surrounds her.

From dear friends and family wearing purple in her honor – to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords welcoming her home adorned with purples more wondrous than her closet.

From heartfelt words of praise and thanks (far too often left unspoken) from people she had touched – to entering the gates of heaven where the God of Creation welcomes her with words of “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Trash and Thanksgiving

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People talk trash in competitive sports and people talk Thanksgiving every November, but how often does someone talk about trash AND thanksgiving? Time to stretch your thanksgiving muscles! 

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good! Psalm 106:1

The air is so still this morning. I can hear the Connally High School drum section practicing on the field miles away as if they were right next door. There is a low grumbling from the construction machinery more than a mile down the road. I can hear the voices of two runners on the trail long before they come into view. What I could not figure out at first was why I was hearing that incessant beeping of a truck backing up. Then I realized it is garbage day and that is the sound of the garbage truck going through our neighborhood. And my heart filled with thanks.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good!

Like you, I have seen many pictures of communities in our world where people live in the midst of  squalor. Maybe you have been on a mission trip and seen it first-hand. What would these people give to have a garbage truck come through once a week to remove the refuse? I remember reading of the early days of our country when the city streets were filled with garbage because no one knew what to do with it. How thankful they were when someone came up with the idea of a garbage collection system! Why am I talking about trash? I’m not. Actually, I’m talking about having a thankful heart. Thank you Lord for the garbage collectors and their trucks!

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good!

If I asked you “What are you thankful for?” most of you would give me wonderful answers about family, friends, homes, and health. I’d like to challenge you to stretch those thanksgiving muscles and take a long look at your life. How many blessings do you look right past because they are so ‘normal’ to you? Like garbage day. Even when life is hard, we have so many blessings. Do the lights come on at your house when you flip the light switch? Does clean water come out of your faucet? Can you do your laundry in a washing machine? Do you have access to medicine for your allergies and pain management? These questions are just the beginning. Take time to give thanks in new ways and for things that normally are overlooked.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good!

On Thanksgiving Day my family writes on slips of paper all we are thankful for and I for one am going to have some interesting slips of paper this year!

Just Passing Through

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I really am enjoying my morning walks lately. The cooler temperatures push me to walk farther and faster. I come home invigorated and still ‘dry’! Every time I step outside I am flooded with a sense of well-being. But along with that also comes some other emotions that have me pondering life.

For example – for some reason the Fall weather triggers more intense memories of my mother and an awareness of her absence.  I deeply miss her, while at the same time celebrating the richness she brought to my life. Maybe it hits harder in the Fall because that’s when she got sick, or maybe it is due to the upcoming holidays, or maybe it is just because Fall makes me think of home. The beautiful pumpkins on my porch, the smell of apple cider, the cool crisp air – all trigger powerful memories of life in New York.  I am very content and extremely happy to be settled here with my incredible family, but this time of year I still long for the beauty and familiarity of a New York autumn.

While living in New York, I met a young woman from Arizona. She often complained that she could not see the sky because of all the trees.  I thought what an odd thing to say. You could always look up and see the sky. And who would complain about all the magnificent tree lined roads and lanes? Then I moved to Texas and experienced the wide open sky. And I realized that for her, the trees blocked her view of the beauty and familiarity of home.  I understand that better now. Unfortunately, she never embraced the new beauty before her, never put out effort to adjust, was perpetually miserable, and eventually left. She took the sense of ‘just passing through’ to mean she did not need to invest herself in present circumstances or people.

Some of you may remember an old television show called “The Fugitive”. The lead character was on the run and in each episode he moved to a new town.  And even though he was ‘just passing through’, he invested in the lives of those around him. He befriended and helped them in the midst of his own turmoil.  He cared enough to make his current world a better place at risk to himself and at the cost of difficult goodbyes. It is just a tv show of course. But it paints an exaggerated picture for us as to our own choices.

We all are ‘just passing through’ in some way or other.  Remember the old song with line “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through”? We can, like my Arizona friend, be indifferent to our present world, miserable because life is not comfortable, refusing to embrace the new, or try to change what is wrong. We can keep people at a distance afraid to get close because of how hard goodbyes are.  Or we can courageously choose to say “I know I am only passing through, but while I am here…”

When I moved to Texas many years ago, I determined to embrace the beauty Texas had to offer, to give everything I had to adjusting to my new environment, and to make a life for myself here. I am so thankful I did that!  Throughout my life I have been equally determined to bond with those around me despite the difficult goodbyes that come. And goodbyes are very difficult for me, I cry…a lot. But I am richer for each relationship I’ve invested in. My hope is that their lives are richer too.

Sometimes as Christians, we are a bit too casual with our attitude of ‘just passing through’ this world. We are surrounded by opportunities to impact our world.  And somehow, the Fall weather, memories of my mom and NY, and a girl from Arizona have me pondering how important it is to invest in people, to bring joy to others and to bring change where it is needed.

I know I am only passing through, but while I am here…

Hope vs. Folly

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Fall is my favorite time of year. But those feelings stem from fond memories of growing up in New York.  I treasured those months of cool temperatures and beautiful colors bursting on the trees. In Texas, Fall is…well…disappointing, with warm days and dull brown leaves.  But the beauty of the Fall season will have to wait for another blog. Today I want to talk about the hope Fall can bring.

When we moved into our home over 20 years ago, there was tall Sycamore tree in the front yard. We wanted more shade, so when our first daughter was two we planted a Red Bud in her honor.  Unfortunately, not long after that the Sycamore tree died.  We decided to plant a Live Oak nearby in honor of our second daughter. But both the Red Bud and Live Oak eventually grew sick and died also.

My theory was that there was a layer of limestone under our yard hindering the trees from sending roots down deep enough to survive the Texas heat and droughts. My husband had different ideas. He asked for a Burr Oak for his birthday this month. His mother was able to find a nice one.

When my husband first suggested the idea, I thought of that conversation that goes “How do you define insanity? It’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Obviously I did not think he was insane, but I did wonder at the wisdom of planting another tree. It seemed pointless given our front yard history. I mean it seemed more like a burial ground for trees rather than a place where they could thrive. Folly. I did not want him to get his hopes up. But after all, it is his birthday and he wants a tree. The nursery said Fall is the time for planting trees, so they came and planted it last Saturday, the first day of Autumn.

Glenn is not ready to give up. He is full of hope. He believes that the right tree planted in the right spot and given the right care will not just survive, but will indeed thrive in our yard. He sees the potential of this young five foot tree now standing in its new home. He talks about the wonderful shade it will bring. He tells me that I will have an abundance of large acorns to remind me of New York.  He talks as if it is a certainty that this tree will grow big and strong. Hope.

And that is the real issue here for me. It is not a matter of whether or not the tree ultimately survives. Though I believe now it will. It is a matter of possibilities, of never giving up, of knowing that some things come hard. I think for Glenn it may be just a tree. But for me, it is now a living representation of hope.  Guess who is going out each day to water it, check its leaves, and pray over it? I can’t help myself. Each time I pass the tree I think not only of the hope of life in my front yard, but of the hope I have in Christ and the love He has for me. I consider how amazing it is that God sees my potential and that He never gives up on me.  He chooses the right place to plant me and meets my needs as He encourages me to grow strong and faithful.  I love that little tree, my heart is tied to it now. I imagine a time when it is big and strong and I tell the story of the day it was planted and Hope was rekindled.