29 January 2014

2014: The Light ... Shine Shout Out!

Good Morning,

I pray all is going well for you. I am currently enjoying a day off from work due to inclement weather. But, I will get to that in a moment.

As part of the focus of the 2014: The Light … series, I will periodically be posting a ‘Shine Shout Out’ where I recognize an individual or group of individuals who are shining the light of God in a practical way.

The intent is to vividly portray that there are countless ways to be light of God in a needy world – to demonstrate the love of God and to be a bridge to Jesus for those who are hurting or needful.

Today I give an amazing 2014: The Light ... Shine Shout Out to my sister Toni!

Some of you, from my posts here, have come to understand that my mom is facing many limitations due to several strokes in the summer of 2013. Well, Virginia Beach is currently being hit with approximately 7 inches of snow. And, while this may not be a significant amount of precipitation for places that accustomed to major snowfalls – even a few inches, immobilizes a city like this this.

In anticipation, I decided that I would get a bag together and stay at mom’s to ensure someone was there to make sure she could have meals and her medications. I wanted to be there just in case I would not be able to get there today.

Well, by the time I got off work yesterday, intention had been overtaken by action. My oldest sister Toni had already packed a bag for mom, got her medications and everything she would need for several days and took her to her house. She sent this email to me and my siblings: Winter Storm Alert!!!! Due to impending bad weather, mom will be at my house until further notice.

Now some may say, ‘She is your mom … it is what you should do.’ 

Yet, there are countless things in our world that could or should be done every day ... that never get done.

Since my mom’s physical and medical needs changed last year, my siblings and I have shared the responsibility of taking care of her – administering medications, monitoring vital statistics, buying groceries, cooking meals, doing chores, paying bills and taking her to a mountain of doctor appointments. There is a schedule in place where two of us are at her house every day. In an instant, we transitioned from daughters and son to nurse, caregiver, accountant, hairdresser, physical therapist, driver and nutritionist (just to name a few). We figure if one could take care of four by herself [which my mom did], surely four can take care of one. Even so, it has been a huge adjustment for all four of us.

Yesterday – in a selfless move, Toni proactively anticipated a need and did something purposeful to remedy the situation. Recognizing that we might not all be able to travel the roads to get to mom’s house, she decided to take on the total responsibility for mom’s care for the next few days. Again, it may not seem extraordinary to some. 

However, the entire point of the Shine Shout Out is to recognize and bring attention to the fact that it is not difficult to shine the light of Christ. Yet, at times, it must be intentional. It can be simple and quick, subtle yet meaningful.

My sister shining her light of love, commitment and selflessness warmed the heart of my mom. For this I thank her and commend her for a job well done. Indeed, I extend my recognition to all of my siblings for their continued selfless care of mom and dedication to teamwork. As noted in last week’s post, the shining of God’s light should begin at home, blessing those who are part of your immediate and extended family.

Great Job Toni … keep on shining that light!

25 January 2014

2014: The Light ... At Home

‘… and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ Acts 1:8

Many are well familiar with the commissioning declaration in Acts 1:8. However, in verse four of that same chapter, we find the disciples being commanded to not depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father – The Holy Spirit.

Jesus told them that they would be His witnesses,
And that it would begin right where they were … at home

Yet all too often, it is the home which suffers the most – even among those who have dedicated themselves to being the light in their church, in their workplace and in their communities. Know that you cannot effectively and credibly export what is not first cultivated and established at home.

Noted humanitarian Mother Theresa has been quoted as saying, ‘We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.'

I Timothy 5:8 tells us [when speaking of families caring for widows] that anyone who does not provide for his own household is worse than an infidel.

We must understand – whether physical needs, spiritual needs or emotional needs – the light which emanates from one’s life should first be impacting the ones closest to them. My children would have a tremendously difficult time understanding all the giving that has taken place over the years if I only concentrated my attentions outward. However, my aim has always been to convey – by my words, my actions, my life – that they are my number one priority. So I ask …
  • Do our families get the best part of us or what is left over after work and other obligations?
  • Do they get quality and quantity time?
  • Do they know they are loved?
  • Do we speak the truth in love?
  • Does our commitment to quality and respectful communication extend to the family – or do we raise our voices and use sarcasm?
  • Do we actively strive to block the day’s frustrations from entering our home?
  • Is there an overwhelming feeling of peace in the home?
  • Is dinner special every night or only when there are guests?
  • Are we able to laugh and have fun?
  • Do they know they are loved unconditionally?
  • Do we pray and demonstrate and unyielding and unwavering commitment to the LORD?
  • Do the fruits of the spirit permeate the atmosphere - love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?
  • If our family members were asked to describe us, what words would they use?

Understand, no one will hit the mark every day, in every instancenot at home or anywhere else. However, our heart desire should be to want to give our very best to our loved ones, to be our very best – in Christ – for our loved ones. 

I fail often. Yet I will quickly acknowledge my faults, apologize and work to remedy the situation. It is not a matter of being a perfect, excellent, shining example in every interaction with family. It is, however, a matter of striving for excellence in every interaction.

Ultimately, as we tend to the light in our hearts and in our homes, we will realize that the task of shining a light for others is significantly eased. Rather than searching for opportunities to shine the light of Christ, we will find people curiously drawn to the light of love which floods every area of our lives.

2014: The Light … keep it shining … start at home

May God Bless You Abundantly … Have a Great Week!

18 January 2014

2014:The Light ... Keep it Lit!

Good Morning!

I pray you all had a wonderful week. This week was an adjustment for me, getting back into school. I started with eagerness and full energy on Monday. However, I somehow found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed last night: rushing home from work, reading, posting an assignment and knowing that I had to get over to Mom’s to make sure she had dinner and her evening medications. Yet, it all got done … Praise the LORD!

Last week, I noted that I would touch on the light in several areas including: individually, in our homes and in our local church. The thought was nice but a bit overambitious as all cannot possibly be covered (with any sense of meaningfulness) in one post. Therefore, we begin with our individual light – at least in part.

Last February, I wrote a post entitled Trusted ... with the flame, in the flame. In it, I discussed (in part) the inward flame – our passion for the LORD – which must be kept lit eternally. Today, we springboard from that thought …

'The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it.  The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.' Leviticus 6:12-13

No longer is a flame tended to on a physical altar. Yet there remains an altar of the heart in each one of us – we who have become the dwelling place for the Spirit of the LORD. And it is this altar which must be tended to daily.

The truth of the matter is –
We do not always feel like being the light or shining a light.

Yet His charge remains unchanged –
'The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out.'

As noted last week, We cannot shine and outward light if the inward light is not constantly attended to and blazing bright.’

There is no joy to offer a sorrowful soul – if there is no joy inside
There is no hope to share with the discouraged – if hope is not alive inside
There is no peace to carry into chaos – if one is swallowed up with anxiety
There is no courage to demonstrate outwardly – if fear consumes the heart inwardly

So, how do we keep the fire, the flame, the light burning bright in our own lives? It requires commitment and discipline – it must be intentional.

Notice that our leading verse makes no mention of the priest praying for the flame to remain lit. Please do not misunderstand my point. I am not in any way diminishing the need or significance of prayer. However, there are times when we are called to pray, times when we are called to do – and times when we are called to pray and do. And, when it comes to the light and love of Christ being formed in us - so that it can shine outward - we must be doers. There is no quick-and-easy method to discipleship … it requires discipline!

The priest had to add fuel to the fire and arrange the offering

We have become both priest and offering ...

Romans 12:1-5 NKJV – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.' 

The Message Version of that same verse says it this way:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it.

So – how do we keep the light lit?

Spend time in His presence praying and meditating, singing and thanking. It may sound clich̩ but everything we need is truly found in the presence of God. He inhabits the praises of His people and fills the temple with His glory. Again, we are that temple. When He is present in our lives, the magnificence of His presence fills every area and pushes out anything that is not like Him. Fearful? Get in His presence РHe is love and perfect love casts out fear. Anxious? He is peace and fills our lives with peace as we spend time in His presence. It is impossible to be fully present with God and to be consumed with worry at the same time.

Read His Word daily – even if only one verse. Pray daily – even if only one phrase. Apply daily what you have learned – even if only in one instance. Give thanks daily –for every ‘small’ blessing. You will find that 'doing' becomes your inspiration to do more. Beginning is crucial and consistency is key. A beautiful song begins with one note and it is never heard unless someone takes the time to practice and play.

Commit to being His witness, even more than doing His witnessing. I heard someone once say, ‘You are the only Bible most people will ever read.’ This does not negate the need to share the Word verbally, but emphasizes the need for our lives to be consistent with our words and with His Word. This is a tremendous charge. Yet we truly do have opportunities to shine the light and demonstrate His love practically – if we will seize those opportunities, every day, in every way.

2014: The Light … Keep It Lit!

Have a Tremendously Blessed Week!

11 January 2014

2014: The Light ... The Need

Good Morning! 

Praying you all had a wonderful week. I set my mind to thoroughly enjoy this last week of winter break. And, alas – after a full month off, school starts back Monday. I am excited though … this semester will be much more manageable than the last. I had a great coffee night with my best friend yesterday and I am ready to hit the ground running. With that in mind, here is the second of our 2014: The Light posts. 

And the focus for today? The Need …

… the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.’ John 3:19

Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil –

One of the things I love about the Bible is its unchanging relevance. No matter the culture, despite socio-economic status, regardless of race or gender and transcending boundaries of time and space – the Bible is every bit as applicable today as it was the day it was written.

‘The entirety of Your Word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.’ Psalm 119:160

The whole of His Word is true and accurate –

We need only look at some of the topics that generated headlines for the first two weeks of this year to realize the desperate conditions of our generation: legalization of marijuana, child endangerment, random violence, murder, government scandal, sexual assaults, data-integrity breaches, persecution and martyrdom - just to name a few.

There is a true need for light in this world

However, we do not have to look to the headlines to identify this need
We need simply to examine our own lives

Luke 6:42 asks a pointed question and offers unfiltered commentary and rebuke: ‘Or how can you say to your brother, Brother, allow me to take out the speck that is in your eye, when you yourself do not see the beam that is in your own eye? You actor (pretender, hypocrite)! First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.’

You see, the first step in being able to shine a light –
Is combating the darkness in our own lives

‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ Rom. 3:23

Further –

‘the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.' Galatians 5:19-21

Of course, there are some who will look at that list and self-righteously declare: ‘I do not engage in any of those practices!’

Yet, as we discussed last week, II Timothy 3:1-5 tells us, ‘in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” [Italics and bold print, my emphasis]

This word is for everyone - those inside the church and those outside; saved and unsaved. Therefore we must all take the time to honestly evaluate our lives, our hearts, our intentions.

What do we pray for?
Who do we pray for?
Do we forgive … and how long does it take?
Do we think of others, at all?
Do we possess the same giving nature that God has?
Why do we do what we do?
What is our standard in life?
Do we read His Word … to examine ourselves?

God’s word is alive and working and is sharper than a double-edged sword. It cuts all the way into us, where the soul and the spirit are joined, to the center of our joints and bones. And it judges the thoughts and feelings in our hearts. Nothing in all the world can be hidden from God. Everything is clear and lies open before Him, and to Him we must explain the way we have lived.' Hebrews 4:12-13 NCV

Do we truly think about our own actions?
And, are we determined to become more and more like Him?

Take some time this week to pray and truly reflect on … you
Ask God to show you, through His Word, who you are … and who you need to become

We cannot shine an outward light if the inward light is not constantly attended to and blazing bright

Next week, we will be looking at some ways to focus on the light: individually, in your home and in your local church.

Praying you have an abundantly blessed week!

04 January 2014

2014: The Light

Happy New Year again, this first weekend of 2014!

This year I am going to attempt to maintain a better balance between all of my responsibilities and interests. As part of that balance, I will be refocusing some of my attentions here. And the press on my heart for this year ... 2014: The Light
  • The light Who is Jesus Christ
  • The light which is so desperately needed in dark times
  • The light that we as Christians have been called to be

When we look in Scripture, John 8:12, we see Jesus testifying of Himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

That is true encouragement for these dark times which have engulfed the earth. II Timothy 3:1-5 tells us, ‘in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.'

Yet, there is a comfort in knowing that we do not have to be consumed by the darkness. Rather, we have the ability to walk in the light and, to not just walk in the light but to carry that light within us and to others through the power of His Holy Spirit.

Matthew chapter five tells us that, “You are the light of the world”

The implication, is that we are to shine as beacons of light, like a lighthouse in the darkness shining the way for those who are navigating their way through the murky situations of life – doing our part to ensure they safely reach home.

There is a quote which so aptly captures the role of a believer as a lighthouse and beacon of hope. It notes, “I can think of no other edifice constructed by man as altruistic as a lighthouse. They were built only to serve." - George Bernard Shaw

Likewise, we are built only to serve …
Only, we are not constructed by the hands of men. In Jeremiah 1:5, the LORD speaks and declares, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.  Before you were born, I set you apart and appointed you as My prophet to the nations.'

The call to be the light is not a glamorous one. It is a selfless call, often lonely and long enduring. It is in many respects a thankless position and is frequently overlooked. However, it is incredibly important and its impact is far-reaching, adding value to the lives of those who benefit from it … even if they are unaware of how it is blessing them.

It is not a difficult job –
Yet, it is a job which will require your steadfast commitment. You may fulfill that call by rising early in the morning and praying for those that will never know of your care, concern and sacrifice. You may fulfill the call by being a dedicated and loving mom and wife or by leading your household in godliness. You may shine the light with your extended family, in your school or in your place of business. You may be able to answer the call for light on the game field or in the local coffee house. In every sector of life there exists opportunities to shine the light of Christ into dark situations and circumstances.

So remember –
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.' Matthew 5:14-16. 

I am excited about this year!
I am expecting great things and am certain it will be a year of tremendous spiritual growth, opportunities to be a meaningful light in the world and unexpected blessing. Have a blessed day. Here is a great song by Josh Wilson to get your morning going … 

Pushing Back the Dark

01 January 2014

New Year Greetings ...

Happy New Year!

Praying that blessings are already unfolding in your life
I have not written in quite some time…

2013 was not a kind year –
Not that I do not have many things to be thankful for …
Yet, there were tremendous challenges on nearly every front:
Spiritual, family, health, financial, relational, professional and educational

Even so, I focus my attentions today on the sentiments of the Apostle Paul:
“… forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.” Philippians 3:13-14

2014 is going to be a great year!

Looking forward to all the amazing opportunities for growth,
Praying that you and yours will be abundantly blessed in every area.

Happy New Year and God Bless!