2014

In the Past Five Days
January 13, 2014

Like many people, I'm struggle with the idea that common courtesy does not exist anymore. And to shamelessly
quote someone else - "there's nothing common about courtesy."

In the past five days, three people promised to call me back with information I needed. The information, I will point
out, was the kind of information they should have known without having to "get back to me" about. Information that
was a big part of their job and not some obscure thing they never use. I'm still waiting!

In the past five days, I've waited on hold the equivalent of 3 hours for seven different businesses who all assured
me, by way of their automated telephone system, that I was a top priority and a valued customer.

In the past five days, I've spent more than 4 hours waiting for my car to be repaired only to find out that the
"service" manager had called my house three hours earlier to let me know my car was ready. I was sitting in their
waiting area not 5 feet from where he stood!

In the past five days, I've waited in line at the grocery store while one frazzled cashier tried to checkout nine people
because everyone else was helping the "self-service" customers.

I was beginning to wonder why God was giving me all these problems. Why I literally was spending every waking
moment waiting and waiting and getting nothing productive done.

But in the past five days, I met several amazing people who were open to the message of God's love because I
was stuck with them in a situation that usually is quite unpleasant - waiting.  

In the past five days, I got to comfort a woman on the other end of the phone who thought no one cared about her.
God had me wait on hold forever so I could connect with this particular customer service rep. God knew I was up to
the challenge of telling her biblical truth that would comfort her. And, both of us were better for it.

Yes, the past five days have been a trial. And, while I thought I was getting nothing "productive" done, God was
well pleased with the work I did for Him. I don't always know why things happen, but I know God has a plan and he
uses us to get his work accomplished.

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What's Love Got to Do With It
February 10, 2014

It's almost Valentine's Day. It's ironic that we put so much emphasis on this single day in the name of love. Love
should be something we give and get every day.

I think about love today in the way Jesus meant it to be. Not just an event where two people get to see the best in
each other, but a day where we should be serving others who rarely or never see love. Instead of going to an
expensive dinner and getting expensive jewelry or flowers to show your love, use the money you ordinarily would
have spent on dinner or flowers to bless someone who rarely gets blessed.

Jesus was always willing to bless others. He didn't usually hand them cash or goods; he usually gave himself in a
way that all the money in the world couldn't buy.

How much do you think it would mean to someone who rarely has a visitor to have you visit them? Do you think
they would remember that kindness longer than you would remember another dinner? What about sitting with a
sick child and reading to him or her? Do you think that time would stay with you longer than the flowers that wilt
longer before the sweet smile on the child's face?

Jesus never asked anyone to qualify for his love. He never asked anyone to take a worthiness test. No one had to
have an appointment to come to him. Jesus scolded those who tried to "earn" his attention. Jesus was available to
everyone who asked. Jesus literally would stop what he was doing to love someone.

Jesus came to visit Martha and Mary's house. Martha was busy being the perfect hostess, while her sister, Mary,
sat at the feet of Jesus and drank in his love. Martha was angry at Mary for not helping her prepare a great meal
for Jesus. Martha was trying to earn his love and approval.

Jesus told Martha that Mary was doing the right thing by stopping work to enjoy his company, instead of trying to
earn his love. When we are truly in the presence of God, we aren't hungry for food - look at Moses who spent 40
days on the mountain with God and took no food with him!

So, do you invite people over to impress them or to love them and enjoy their company? If you feel worn out after
your visitors leave you are probably more worried about your performance than loving your guests. Let's find a
way to love each other today, and use the money we save to bless others tomorrow.

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Life is Complicated
March 10, 2014

Three years ago this month, my mother died. And that same day, I had to move.

Life is complicated. While my mother was dying in Florida, I was in Texas packing to move because my landlord
was unyielding in the need for me to move immediately. So I wasn't there when my mother died. It was both
expected and unexpected. It still bothers me that I wasn't there.

My relationship with my mother was complicated. I thought it would be less complicated as we got older but the
complications just changed.

We were never as close as we could have been. She didn't understand me. But I understood her all to well. She
was easy to understand when you looked at her in context with her own mother and sister. Mom wanted a stable
life. She needed things under control. She needed to know her life would not be pulled out from under her at any
minute. Her own childhood was unstable from her father's early death and her handicapped older sister's needs,
that took the lion's share of my grandmother's attention.

My grandmother had her own demons with mental illness, causing her to be both overly protective and distant from
my mother. Mom would never admit she had anything but a happy childhood, but the signs were there to the
contrary. A deep soul-hurting sadness was there, written on her face.

Mom and my father had their own problems that caused more instability for her. She suffered silently and
sometimes raged out loud, often on the same day. She had a sadness about her that couldn't be lifted. It affected
me deeply too.

She eventually sought God. She gave herself completely to him, and he gave my mother the comfort she couldn't
get from anyone else. But life is complicated, and Mom chose to deny herself the joys of life out of fear she would
displease God. (By the way, this is not biblical - God loves for you to be happy, just in case you have any doubt
about that). Her self-imposed rules gave her the stability she always wanted but kept the love she craved at an
arm's length.

Mom's death was expected because she had suffered the consequences of a medical mistake for four long years.
By all rights, her life was taken away from her four years earlier. It was unexpected because she chose to be taken
off life support. She chose to give up on life. I will always wonder why she wouldn't wait for me to get there. I would
have waited for her.

Like I said, life is complicated.

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Gas Leak
April 14, 2014

There is a gas leak under the house. The gas company said I'm sitting on a time bomb. So they shut the gas off
yesterday. I had an ice cold shower this morning. I've never been happier that I live in Texas ,where it's basically
well into the 80's by April. At least I was warm the rest of the day.

Eight hours ago, the plumbers showed up to replace the gas lines. Apparently gas is sneaky and it can get
through the teeny, tiny holes in the rusted pipes under this old house. They assured me they would be done by
lunch time, and now they are standing in my kitchen, filthy, smelly and not finished.

They barely got any of the pipes removed, much less replaced. The crawl space under the house is so tight only
the skinniest plumber was able to squeeze under there, and he says it's a tight fit. I wonder how the big one got so
filthy if he can't even get under there. Maybe by Wednesday, next week, they tell me. Seven days! (They don't
work on the weekend) I can't cook, take a warm shower, or heaven help me, use the heat on the off chance the
predicted cold front actually arrives on Sunday.

After they left, I surveyed the ruins at the side of the house. They pulled off half the siding to get under the house.
I took a peek under there to see just how small it was. It's definitely small. My mind goes to that place you don't like
to go to... What if they don't come back? What if I have to live like this forever.

Then God gently nudged me and reminded me that I have it good. I can still use the microwave to cook and heat
up water to bathe, although it will take lots of bowls of hot water to fill the bathtub. And, if that cold front gets here
on Sunday, I have a little space heater (that runs on electricity) so I won't exactly freeze to death.

And, then I crack. I start thanking God for all the things I do have. Clean water (even if it is cold), food, a
microwave, a bed with clean sheets, soap, shampoo, lotion, clean clothes and a safe place to stay. I'm blessed. I'm
so blessed.

Then it hits me like an explosion. The not kind of explosion that might have sent me home to the Lord just a little
too soon. It was actually a lack of an explosion. No gas explosion. God sent the gas company out to investigate
because the meter was over-running. He sent them to save me from a horrible explosion. I wept openly standing
there in the yard, so grateful for God's protection when all I could see was the inconvenience to me. God saved
me and I almost missed it.

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Tick Tock Tick Tock
May 12, 2014

This morning I looked at the clock in my bathroom. It said it was 6:30, but I didn’t panic. I wasn’t late. Hardly!

I bought the clock at Walmart a few years ago. It’s a horrible tomato red and cost $6. It also doesn’t understand
the concept of time. Only when I change the batteries, is the time correct. Over the months, it speeds up a little
each day until the next battery change.

It’s become a bit of a game for me to remember just how fast it is. Usually around the time it runs 30 minutes fast,
the battery would start to run down, making the clock run slower. But like a lot of things in life, I don’t realize it is
slowing down until it shows the correct time again. But then I’m actually late!

That clock makes me think about how we take certain things for granted. I always assume I have more time, but
suddenly I don’t. We’re like that about God too.

As we go about our day to day business, time flies by. Some days my time with God gets relished to the few
minutes before I drift off to sleep. I believe I’ll spend more time with Him tomorrow. But then another day passes
and I didn’t. I get older every day, so every day I’m that much closer to my own clock stopping.

Isn’t that the point? Isn’t the ultimate reward to spend eternity with God after we die? Then why is it bad to run out
of time?

Because we aren’t here for ourselves. We are here for God and to share Him with as many people as possible.
We can’t do that if we literally don’t know who God is. We can’t be enthusiastic about introducing God to others, if
we barely know Him ourselves. Our relationship with God should be the most important one we have. And, we
need to give God more time before our clock runs down and stops.

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Do Tedious Tasks Have to be Tedious?
June 9, 2014

I spent last weekend trying to cut through a list of tedious tasks that need to be done. I needed to replace a light
bulb that required getting a ladder from the garage and dragging it halfway across the planet to get it to where the
fixture is.

I had to vacuum the car out. I have a dog that sheds like a fiend so the car gets very hairy after he rides with me.
That required a cloudy day, because it’s hot, hot, hot right now and there was no way I was going to climb in an
automobile aquarium in the sun!

I had to sort through a pile of junk mail taller than me. You never know if there’s anything important in there so I go
through it. Unfortunately, most of those important things have “expired” by the time I go through the pile. Like the
$5 gift card that expired the day before I got around to sorting the junk mail. Sigh!

I often wonder why tedious tasks have to be so tedious. And, why do I have to procrastinate so long that they
become even more tedious and annoying because there’s a big list of them by the time I get around to them.

I think most of life is like that. If we put off small things, they bug us and bug us until we are forced to stop doing
important things to take care of them.

It makes sense to just get the ladder and change the light bulb when you see it needs changing rather than to
come home night after night and fumble around in the dark, risking a fatal fall on the steps.

Or to take 30 seconds to open two pieces of junk mail when they come in rather than to wait until it takes three
hours to sort six-months worth of junk mail. I won’t mention how annoying it is to move the junk mail off the counter
so I can get to the toaster!

Today, I’ve decided to embrace the tedious and to view it as a gift from God to slow down from my busy day. I will
find joy in having light on the porch, a hair-free car and an empty counter.

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You Say It's Your Birthday
July 14, 2014

Something happens around this time every year. I get a year older.

When I was younger, my birthday meant more to me. It was a celebration of my entering the world, and everyone
needed to come with armfuls of presents. And, cake. Let's not forget the cake.

As the years have passed, my birthday isn't celebrated in the same way. I still eat cake though. I now use my
birthday as an opportunity to make radical changes in my life.

This year I decided to boldly trust God in all circumstances. No matter how I feel. No matter how scared I am about
a situation. No matter what "bad" news comes my way. No matter what, I will trust God.

I've worked on trust issues most of my time as a Christian. I didn't grow up in an environment where I learned trust
so it has been a real struggle to let go and trust God. It's not that he isn't worthy, because he most assuredly is,
it's because I believed I could handle the things in my life up until I really needed God's help. And then I was willing
to hear what he had to offer.

But the reality is, I never really did that great a job of handling my own life. I just didn't know there was a better
way. I think a lot of people think they have all the answers and can handle things just fine. Until they can't.

We all reach a point in our lives where we need divine intervention to change things, set things right, heal us,
comfort us or bail us out of a mess of our own creation.

It's ironic that I find people who say they don't need God so annoying. I was just like that. I want to shake them and
tell them to wake up before it's too late. To drop the act and admit that they go home at night and feel lonely, sad
and lost, just like the rest of us. To admit that they need to let go and trust someone else.

I read an interesting statistic a long time ago, from an atheist organization, that said atheists live longer than
Christians because they aren't stressed about Heaven and Hell. I don't know if there was any real "science" behind
that statement, but I do know it rings true because I know God's character. But not for the reason the atheists think.

It makes sense because God would give an atheist more time to come to their senses because he doesn't want
anyone "to perish for lack of knowledge" about Jesus.

So on my birthday, I will rejoice that I can go anytime into God's presence, where there's no sickness, pain, sorrow
or lack of any good thing. Whereas, my atheist friends will still need years and years and years to learn to trust
God. I pray it comes before they reach a point where the candles on their cakes don't require a call to the fire
department.

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On a Leash
August 11, 2014

My dog ran after a squirrel yesterday. It's something he does nearly every morning. If there's a squirrel in the tree,
he'll dance around the tree for hours if I let him.

But yesterday morning, I didn't want to let him. I needed to be somewhere so I called him to come in. He refused.
Not only did he refuse, he ran away. But first, he looked hard at me, and than willfully and purposefully, ran the
other direction.

I yelled at him to stop. To come. To stop now. To get his hairy fanny back here right now. He kept running.

He stopped when he reached a man with a big black dog. The man was not happy with my crazy dog running
around him. So he yelled at my dog; tried to kick him; then he yelled at me! My dog barked. His dog barked. They
became tangled up in the leash. More kicking at my dog. More yelling at me.

When my dog finally left them alone, he ran off again. When I caught him, I snapped the leash on him vowing
never to let him chase squirrels again. The nerve of him. How dare he defy me!

I fumed all the way home. Frequently, throwing him a "you are never coming off this leash for the rest of your life"
look. Just before I got home, I asked him to forgive me.

It occurred to me, this is how God feels about me when I'm being disobedient.

When I'm obedient, God gives me freedom to chase squirrels (and the other things I want to do). But when I start
defying God, he also yanks me back, snaps on the leash and sometimes even shortens it. He'll force me to walk
close to him until I learn whatever it is he wants me to learn.

Sometimes I have to be on the leash a long time, not because God is mean or wants to make me unhappy, but
because I'm not listening to him. When I call my dog, I expect him to come. When he doesn't, I have to spend time
retraining him to remind him who is the master.

As his master, I know the road has cars that can hit him, the ditch has snakes that can bite him, and certain people
are afraid of him. I lovingly steer him away from these hazards without having to give him a long explanation about
why he should stay out of the road or away from a snake. He usually just yields to my gentle commands.

We should be like that with our Master (Jesus). He gently guides us all day long around things that can hurt us.
We have to be open to his leading us.

So this morning, I let my dog chase his beloved squirrels. His joy was complete as he chased them until his tongue
dragged on the ground. He came when I called him too. The leash works.

God won't keep us leashed long either. He loves us too much. He knows how much we love to chase squirrels too!

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What are You Looking At?
September 8, 2014

Ever looked at someone and had them give you that “what are you looking at" look?

I think we have all experienced this at one time or another. I remember one time when I was in my early 20’s,
driving through a downtown area I was unfamiliar with, and stopping at a corner to see if I could figure out which
direction led back to the freeway. I made eye contact with an angry young woman standing on the sidewalk. I could
tell from her countenance and appearance that she was not an office worker or tourist, but a prostitute. She gave
me the “what are you looking at" look and then started stalking towards my car.

Fear swept over me. I looked away and pulled out. I heard her yelling obscenities behind me. I wanted to look back
but was afraid I would find her sitting in the back seat of my car!

So what keeps us from being all we want to be? The same thing I felt in that intersection.

Fear.  Fear is what keeps people from doing what they want to do. Fear keeps people from moving into what God
has for them.

When we look at things from the perspective of our own strength, talents and skills, we become afraid. If we had to
wait until we have acquired all the talents and resources we need to succeed, we may not live to see it. So we do
the next best thing – nothing – because to do something we aren’t prepared for would bring more fear. What would
we do if we failed? How would we pay our bills? What would our friends and family say?

Fear is the opposite of Faith. If you believe what God says in the Bible is true, then you have faith. If you believe it,
but doubt it applies to you, you have fear.

Or if you believe only the parts that “make sense” to you, you have fear. Faith is believing everything God says is
true, even if we can't understand it. Faith is believing God will show up when we start moving into what we want
from life. Faith is starting something we aren’t prepared for because we trust God to guide us and sustain us. Faith
is leaving your job in a bad economy to start your own business because you know God will provide for you.

Fear comes from believing too much in what the world around us is doing. Too much in our own senses. Too much
in what others say about us.

How can you be calm and confident when you listen to the talking heads telling you we’re doomed all the time. The
news is full of talk about our economy being the worst it has been since the Great Depression. Our government is
going under, unable to pay its bills, which will leave senior citizens, small children and puppies starving in the
streets (that will no doubt have big pot holes)!

Fear is easy. It comes at you whether you want it or not from the internet, television, radio, magazines and from
other people. Luckily the Bible says, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear or timidity, but of power, love and
self-discipline." (2 Timothy 1:7)

Faith is believing in things you can’t see, touch, hear or sense in the physical (or natural) world. Faith always takes
more guts than fear!

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Second to One
October 13, 2014

Single people are still considered to be second class citizens. Hotels and cruise ships still inflict the dreaded
"single penalty" if someone wants to travel solo. The tax system favors joint filing  over single filing. Single people
carry a proportionately larger burden when it comes to housing costs because it all falls on one instead of two.
Singles are virtually ignored by the churches who  favor couples and families? Six weeks of how to have a happy
marriage, anyone? Even the singles group at church is run by a married couple who continually "encourages"
singles that  they'll find someone soon.

Doesn't everyone start out single?

When I was in my early 20’s all my friends would “poor baby” me about not being married. When I reached my 30’
s, everyone assumed I was married with children. In my 40’s, everyone assumed I was divorced with children. In my
50’s, I’m hailed as “smart” for never marrying or having children!

While I can appreciate everyone’s slanted view of how my life should unfold, I love being single. Being single is not
a curse or something to feel bad about.

To prove it, I compiled a top 10 list for anyone feeling bad about being single:

1)  No one messes up the house when you’re gone.
2)  You can leave dishes in the sink and no one makes you feel guilty about it.
3)  You can stay in your pajamas all day if you feel like it.
4)  No one eats the last cookie or makes you buy ice cream you don’t like.
5)  You can watch “The Day the Earth Stood Still” every night if you feel like it.
6)  There’s more time to volunteer, run, sleep, read or whatever you like to do.
7)  You can have people outside of your own family as friends.
8)  Your dog (or cat) can sleep in the bed with you and no one complains.
9)  You have more time to serve, pray, worship and read the Bible.
10)  You can go to a pastor to end your singleness, instead of a lawyer to end your marriage.

Jesus and many of the apostles were unmarried. The apostle Paul (who was not married) wrote: “I want you to be
free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to
please him.”  (1 Corinthians 7:32)

So if being single is pleasing to the Lord, how did things become so twisted that single people are minimized in our
society?

A married friend says it’s because married people are miserable and want everyone else to suffer along with them,
so they systematically lie so singles will think marriage makes people happy. And those same friends get divorced
right after you get married!

I’m going with Apostle Paul on this one. Being single removes an obstacle between you and God. The time you are
single is an amazing gift from God that brings you into closer fellowship with Jesus. We’re supposed to be Jesus’
bride, not Hank’s or Stanley’s bride.

Note: I am not saying don't get married because you need to be married if you are going to have children. They
need the protection and care of both a father and mother. And do it in the right order - date first, get married, have
sex and then children.

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But I Don't Want To
November 10, 2014

I confess. Sometimes I don't want to. I don't want to be a grown up. I don't want to do my taxes or fill out insurance
forms. I don't want to read anymore boring things that say I understand the terms of use for the endless software
updates I don't want either.

I admit it. I don't want to clean the toilet, or wash the dog, or scrape the bird poop off the car after I park under a
tree. Sometimes I wonder just what would happen if I stopped doing all the things I don't want to do.

Would the world come to a complete halt? Would someone halfway around the world fall into a well because I
didn't get the trash out on trash day? Would I be causing the world to spin off its axis if I ran the opposite way
everyone else is going on the track at the high school? What if I cut in line at the grocery store instead of waiting?
What if I decided I didn't want to shave my legs ever again, would I be banned from all the finer things in life?

Obviously, we have rules. We have to have them in order to get along. I'm not saying we should live in chaos, but
haven't we gotten a little rule crazy?

Even in biblical days, the people asked God to give them rules. So he did. He gave them the Ten Commandments.
And before Moses even got them down the mountain, the people broke several of them. Which of course caused
Moses to lose his temper and break the rules too. He smashed the stone tablets in a hissy fit to end all hissy fits.
But that didn't teach Moses or the people anything about trying to keep rules; it made Moses march back up the
mountain to get another copy of the rules!

Today we have more rules than we could possibly follow. There are so many laws that most people don't know
about most of them until they break them. And people are still screaming, "there ought to be a law." There
probably already is a law.

So why are rules such a problem for us. Very simply, because we aren't supposed to live under the law. It says
that right in the Bible (more than once too). God sent Jesus to teach us that love is "the law." The only law God
wants us to keep is: Love God with all your heart, and He will teach you to love others, and when you love others,
you won't do anything to hurt others or yourself, so you don't need any other law. Would you kill or steal from
someone you truly loved?

We aren't nearly as good as we think we are either. Every one of us has broken at least one of the Ten
Commandments at one time or another. We usually break the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 9th and 10th. But Jesus
released us from the law through his death, and into forgiveness instead, so we are free from God's punishment
for rule breaking. How cool is that?

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Sometimes It's Better to Receive
December 8, 2014

I ran into an acquaintance today. As we chatted he revealed that his three daughters buy him gifts and sent him
plane tickets to visit them out of state. He was mad at them for doing it.

He was a single parent. He didn’t have much education and drove a delivery truck his whole life. He taught his girls
to be strong women and to make their own way in the world. He didn’t want them to be left unprepared for a tough
situation like raising kids alone. He wanted them to be able to support themselves. It was something he worried
about for years. He instilled great values into his girls. Each one is financially independent and makes more money
than he’s ever seen in his life. He brags about them all the time. He is proud that they don’t need anyone to
financially support them. Two of them are married and are the primary breadwinners. Most parents would be
thrilled with this kind of success in their children.

The reason he turns away his girls’ gifts is because he doesn’t want them to “waste” their money on him. He
prefers not to visit them rather than, as he says, “take away” from them. He is retired now and only draws social
security, which often leaves him short of cash for necessities.

He won’t accept their gifts because “a parent doesn’t take from their child,” he said.

“But you aren’t taking it,” I said. “They are giving it to you.”

He was adamant that he would never take a gift from them.

“Even on your birthday or at Christmas,” I pressed.

“No,” he said. “That’s their money. I can’t expect them to give it to me.”

“But they are giving it freely to you,” I said.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s the same thing.”

I finally gave up. I knew it was pointless to argue with him. He clearly believed it was a sign of weakness for him to
take charity from his girls.

The Bible says it’s better to give than receive, but it also says we are to receive God’s blessings. My friend blessed
his children while they were growing up with his own selfless sacrifice. He made sure they had everything they
needed, including his time. He did a great job teaching them to be generous, except he never learned that
generosity is part of giving. You can’t give if there is no one willing to receive.

Did he refuse to take their badly crayoned family portrait? Did he push away their construction paper Valentine?
Did understand that they poured their love and effort into doing something for him? Would he ever be able to
understand that when his grown daughters offer an all expense paid trip to visit the grandchildren, it is the adult
equivalent of a construction paper Valentine? That it’s an expression of their love for him? That it’s their love letter
to him? And he wrote “return to sender” on it.



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