Atari and the devil’s toolbox

Do you remember that old game Pitfall? I think it was the first video game I really ever played… besides the big stand-alone games at the skating rink, that is. It was genius for a 10-year-old back in the day. Atari was the coolest new gadget you could have. It was right up there with the Betamax. Unfortunately, I did not have one, but my BFF Michelle did.

Oh, the hours Michelle and I would spend playing that silly game. We would break away only long enough to eat a Pop Ice and ride bikes down the street to flirt with the boy who lived a few houses down, whose name I can’t quite pull up from my dusty filing cabinets.

The pitfalls we encounter as adults are much more sinister. They are sneaky little danger zones that we stumble into that can wreak havoc in our lives. The devil doesn’t have any new tools you see, he has the same old toolbox that he started out with when he was expelled from the Garden. His toolbox uses things like confusion, anger, apathy, and hopelessness to get our eyes off the goodness and faithfulness of God, and on to the natural circumstances, which many times do in fact seem impossible.

My Dad always says: How can a black cow eat green grass and give white milk and yellow butter? Because God, that’s why.

God is bigger than our circumstances, but the devil’s pitfalls make us forget that. God is faithful to the end, but the devil’s pitfalls make us forget that too. The devil even tries to get our focus off the incredible things God has already done for us and tells us, “Well, that really just worked itself out on its own, God didn’t really do that. And there’s really no hope for this situation at all.” That’s the lie he’d like you to believe. That’s straight out of his toolbox, that’s a classic, that’s one he used on Adam and Eve… Did God really say?

Catch him at his game. Slam the lid shut on his toolbox and sail over those pitfalls with eyes wide open to the Word of God, ears wide open to the urging of the Holy Spirit, and hearts wide open to love and forgiveness. You will come out on top, every single time.

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Sundays and grilled cheese sandwiches

Why is it so easy to get irritated on Sundays? Why is it so hard to get out of bed on Sundays? Why do we feel like yelling at our children and fighting with our spouses on Sundays? Am I the only one that experiences this? Is it just the pressure of another work week looming ahead and knowing tomorrow is back to the grind? Or is it something darker?

And whether or not I go to church, the late afternoon and evening seems to be troublesome. Why is this? What is wrong with me? Am I the only one that wants to high-tail it for the mountains and forget that I’m a wife and Mom on Sundays?

Jaxon is tinkering around on the piano (Baby grand) and it sounds lovely… ahem. Lynn is out hitting a bucket of balls. Samson is snoring at my feet. The dishwasher is running, uniforms are tumbling in the dryer. It’s a regular night. There’s nothing in the world wrong. I should be singing, I should be skipping… I should be HAPPY.

Geez.

How do I fix this?

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Yikes, there’s my answer.

This is much easier said than done, but here’s my plan. I am going to ask God to lift this funk off of me. I’m going to thank God for His goodness, His mercy, and His immeasurable blessings in my life. Then I’m going to make grilled cheese sandwiches for my boys, because everyone knows that grilled cheese sandwiches are truly medicinal. They are a tonic for the soul, they are soothing to the bones, they are cream cheese frosting on carrot cake. They make me happy.

Tums will come next…

Squeeze the juice out of it

We’ve had a brutally hot summer here in Tulsa; one of the hottest I can remember. But this morning when I got up, it was 68 degrees. I stood on the deck in amazement, I had forgotten what cool morning air felt like. But God reminded me.

The hot sun of life beats down on us from time to time, but the cool morning will come. The Bible assures me that there will always be summer and winter, cold and heat (Genesis 8:22). God set the seasons and they will not pass away. And that’s what life is about, seasons… walking through them, embracing them, and knowing that they won’t last forever.

I kissed my 10-year-old goodbye as he left with his Dad for school this morning. He was wearing his friday spirit shirt and jeans. He was a happy camper. Remember when spirit day was just that fun? I do. But soon he will be in another season and I will have to embrace it or I will miss it.

Embrace the season of life that you’re in, learn from it, squeeze the juice out of it, spit out the seeds, but keep the nutritional value. Don’t let an opportunity to grow pass you by. God will use all these things to shape and perfect us… if we’ll let Him.

Bugs in a jar

Jaxon is collecting bugs for science class. Why is it that the outdoors smells fresh and clean and wonderful even though it’s full of bugs, but when  you put a bug in a jar, it really stinks? These are things I ponder.

So far we have a grasshopper and a large green beetle. Had I known of this impending project, I would have kept a few of the myriad of moths and June bugs I have swept off my front porch. Had I known of this impending project, I would have held the exterminator off for a week or two because the creepies come out at my house between sprays. If I don’t have the bug guy on a regular schedule, my corners become hide-outs for spiders. And then the spiders get braver and walk right across the floor. And the braver the spiders get, the more chicken I get.

Bugs are good, bugs are pretty. Bugs overtaking your house is nasty. The bug man has a purpose. The bug man is valuable. I love the bug man. (Although he smells a little funny.)

I realize there is not a sermon in here, but I wanted to share my thoughts with you anyway.

Have a nice, bug-free day.

Organizational seizure

I came across this picture during an organizational seizure which affects me about once a year. It was just too amazingly good not to share; the style, the pearls, the 80’s of it, it was just a beaut.

Brentwood Academy, 8th grade, 1986.

I had yet to learn of the efficiency of braces and a flat iron. I had yet to learn of mortgages and children and encroaching 40’s.

Can I go back, please?

Happy Saturday to you all; hope you’re enjoying family and friends, and maybe even 40.

Stream of consciousness

I took 11,000 words today and whittled them down to 1,200. I know how to wield a red pen! But that’s the beauty of writing. You gush out everything in your head and then you read it again, cutting out the fluff and just leaving those meaty bites that really satisfy. It’s like the difference between eating an entire Hershey Bar or just one perfectly decadent Godiva chocolate truffle. One will take you longer, but the other is pure bliss.

I had this creative writing class in high school, I really enjoyed the class although it was uncomfortable for me at times. We had to get used to the process of stream of consciousness writing. Basically, we had to put the pen to paper and write whatever came to our minds, and I do mean whatever. We couldn’t pick up the pen to think or ponder or even stop ourselves from writing something ridiculously stupid. It was hard at first and I repeated words, even whole sentences. But once I got the hang of it, I was impressed how quickly my mind could work, and how interesting my thoughts were. (Albeit slightly disturbing.)

I do that same thing many times when I’m writing this blog. I don’t know what I want to    talk about so I just start typing and see what happens. Eventually I get around to making some sense, and then I go back and ferociously edit.

On special days, I have something already spilling out of my mind and heart and I sit down and type the entire thing out without stopping, my thoughts coming faster than I can get them down. I feel powerful on those days… granted, they are more infrequent than I’d like.

And all this round-about discussion of writing has brought me to my point, as it always does. And it’s a point I’ve made before…

I love praying in the Spirit… I love praying in tongues. I love praying in my prayer language. Whatever you want to call it, I love it.

I love it when I don’t know what to pray, I love it when I don’t know what to say, I love it when I’m mad and want to rant and rave about something or someone to God. I love it when I have tears flowing more freely than words. I love being able to communicate with God in a stream of consciousness kind of way. My natural mind can check out and my Spirit can get active. It doesn’t matter if I mess up, I’m not getting a grade, I’m just talking to my Father from the depths of my heart.

It works best for me when I get somewhere quiet, preferably alone because I get really aggravated at distractions… it’s a character flaw, I know. Then I close my eyes and I just let the words flow. Sometimes they are soft and sweet, they almost sound like worship. Other times they are loud and forceful and I can tell my spirit is doing serious business. Sometimes I feel the urge to sing a little, yes I realize this sounds strange, but hey, I bet I’m not alone.

The bottom line is, I let my spirit talk to the Lord and then my own words will start to come. I get peace, I get clarity, I get direction, I get answers. And let’s face it, we are all looking for some answers in this crazy life.

Get to praying in the Spirit. If you don’t know how, ask someone who does to show you how to start. I promise, you’ll love it too.

A question of mercy

I have a question: We want God to have mercy on us when we screw up, right? Why don’t we want Him to have mercy on others, especially those who hurt us? Why do we want bad things to come to them? Why do we refuse to see the fact that God loves those people the same as He loves us, and He’s not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9)?

Revenge is human nature, it’s very difficult to break free from the desire to see it land on our enemies’ heads. And somehow we think we must be God’s favorite and He will spare us and gather us into His loving forgiveness, but we are sure that He’s closed His arms to others, others that we deem unforgivable.

This is just not so.

If I try to count up all the times that I have messed up, I’d be here all week. And do you know how many of those times God has forgiven me? All of them; all that I’ve repented of and asked forgiveness for, that is. And even when I don’t realize what I’ve done, I know that God’s goodness and mercy have followed me around, cleaning up my messes. Psalm 23:6 promises me that. So why do we find it hard to imagine that God does that for others too? God loves His children, all of them. He is rich in mercy and loving-kindness. We should be too.

I stumbled upon an online forum where people were talking about a shared experience from years ago. The forum could have been a place where they reminisce about funny things and easier times, but sadly it gave many the opportunity to simply prove themselves bitter and stuck in the past.

God isn’t in the business of going backwards, He is always in forward motion. He has plans for us, He has a future and a hope for us (Jeremiah 29:11). He doesn’t live in the past. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). How can we fulfill God’s plans for our lives if we can’t get out of the past? We must accept God’s mercy for ourselves, we must show God’s mercy to others, and we must get on with life!

The perfect combination

I’ve been pondering grace and mercy and faith and repentance; the balance of which entire theologies are being made of… a little of this, a lot of that; finding the perfect mixture that answers our questions and makes us feel like we’ve got it all figured out.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t have it all figured out. I know that all these elements work together in the life and walk of a Christian, but I’m not sure when you cross the line and you’ve got too much of one at the expense of another.

I know that I cannot perpetually walk in sin in an area of my life without having to pay the wages of that sin. The Bible assures me that the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) I know that’s when I’m in danger of being out from under the protection of my Father God. But the Bible also tells me that when I repent of my sin, He is faithful and just to forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9) If I sin and repent, and sin and repent again, I know His forgiveness will be there for me.

I stumbled upon an amazing scripture the other day and as I’ve let it roll around in my head, I love it more and more. It is found in Psalm 94:18-19, If I say, “My foot slips,” Your mercy, O LORD, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul. It is the perfect scripture for an imperfect person, like me.

The Lord’s mercy is astounding. His grace is a precious gift. But I believe it has a lot to do with the attitude of the heart; an attitude of repentance, a willingness to say, “I blew it.”

When I blow it, He’s got my back.

But in addition to repentance, I have to receive the forgiveness that He so quickly and consistently provides. I can’t move forward without using my faith to accept His mercy. Only then can I pick myself up, dust myself off, and move forward.

I cannot do without God’s grace and mercy… and He cannot do without my faith and repentance. It’s the perfect combination of His job and mine that makes it work.

Controlled burn

I’m propped up in a rather comfy bed at a Holiday Inn Express in Memphis, TN. I’m using the gloriously free Internet, and there are Rendezvous ribs in my future. My world is at peace.

There will be good church tonight. There has been good church for two days already. Church is good. Church burns up your dead ground and makes room for new growth. You can’t have new growth until the old junk is cleared away.

You know how farmers and ranchers burn their fields from time to time so that they can grow back thick and green and lush? I think sometimes we need to just go ahead and let things in our lives burn away so that we can grow back better.

And I know it can be a scary thing, watching your land burn, but the end results make it all worth it. You’ve got rich, green grass instead of crunchy, dry, dead grass that has no nutrition. You’ve got a soft and tender heart that the Lord can speak to. You are teachable; you are malleable. You are useable. And that’s what God’s looking for; people who are useable, people who are willing and obedient. His Word says those people will eat the good of the land (Isaiah 1:19).

You know, God is in the restoration business. And there’s nobody better at bringing beauty out of the ashes than our Heavenly Father. He’s the ultimate Home Makeover. He’s the heart makeover, He’s the life makeover, He’s the family makeover. He wants to be whatever kind of makeover you need. Let Him get started on you!