Oct 29, 2012

"Teacher's" Pets

Numerous passages in scripture refer to us, God's children, as sheep. Sheep, incidentally, are just about the dumbest animals on the face of the earth!  Sheep are totally unable to survive without their shepherd. They are fearful, fragile, weak, vulnerable, and stupid. They easily get lost, fall prey to wild animals, succumb to illness, and eat or drink things that can kill them.

Our society today tells us, "You can do anything you make up your mind to do."  But God tells us, "Apart from me you can do nothing."  (John 15:5) We couldn't even take our next breath if He wasn't keeping our hearts beating! Self sufficiency is not pleasing to God, and the fact is, we're fooling ourselves if we think we don't need Him.

Lambs of God 
But what a Shepherd we have! Look at the familiar Psalm 23. One translation says, "The Lord is my Shepherd, and therefore I lack nothing."  He promises to provide for all our needs. He is intimately concerned with the things that concern us. In this Psalm, He promises rest and peace, freedom from fear, power to do what's right, protection, and a life overflowing with blessings. This doesn't mean that we won't ever suffer, but God's blessings and comfort are always there in the midst of suffering.

In the times when the Bible was written (and in some places in the Middle East even today), shepherds cared for their sheep like pets. They named each one of them and lovingly looked after their needs. Isaiah 40:11 gives a beautiful picture of Christ as our shepherd:  "He tends his flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young."

Takeaway: Imagine the warm feeling you have inside for a favorite pet or beloved child. Magnify that times 1,000,000,000 and that's how God feels about you!

Oct 26, 2012

He stoops down to make me great - Psalm 18:35

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Once upon a time, there lived a king who was a grizzly bear. This bear was a hunter and a mighty warrior — enormous and mighty.  He was so very big that the ground trembled when he walked!

It happened, as he was moving through the forest, that his heavy steps shook the trees sent the birds into flight.  There was a tiny thud and the giant turned to see what had fallen. A spot of red and a tuft of yellow caught his eye.

Laying his bow and arrows down, the king stooped very, very low and squinted to see what it was. There among the moss and ferns was a tiny creature, covered in blood. A chick had fallen from it's nest! His footfall had done this thing!

The king looked closely at the broken little body and was remorseful and filled with compassion. King Bear lay down beside the poor animal and waited to see if there was any sign of life.
King Bear lay down beside the poor animal and waited

He waited and waited. He was still lying beside the tiny form when he shadows grew long and he was about to give up. The bird was dead.

Just then there was a tiny movement, and the bear's heart beat faster. It was alive after all! "Hurrah!" said the king, "I shall give you the best care in the kingdom — nothing shall I withhold from you."

Then, very, very carefully, he used his nose and mouth to pick up the chick and nuzzled it into the fur on his neck.

The bear lived in a giant cave. Torches lit the sparkling walls and it was very beautiful. There, royal doctors worked over the little body to save the chick. But it hovered between life and death, day after day.

Slowly, the bird grew stronger, until one day the doctors looked in and the chick was happily pecking for food!

"You shall sit with me on my throne"
With time, it grew well and strong and gained even more of the king's favor, because the bird was good and kind. "You shall sit with me on my throne and rule alongside me," said the giant. And so the tiny chick became second only to the king in authority, and all the land marveled at the greatness of this tiny creature.


We who are wounded and helpless become great in the kingdom of God because of His great mercy and compassion. (Psalm 113:5-7)

Oct 25, 2012

Relentless as the Forest

I feel closer to God in the hammock in our backyard, especially when breezes tousle the branches above me, all shades of green, a kaleidoscope in the sun. Here, in a city neighborhood, in the hilly, forested part of Arkansas, my oak tree hosts a soprano choir of birds who seem to sing for the joy in it. 

Not far from here, the parking lots make it hard to believe there ever was a forest. Yet today in my hammock there is a distinct sense of the wild places still being present. Perhaps it’s the moss carpeting the rocky ground, mottled now and again with purple violets. Or maybe it’s the little nest of birds in the siding of our house. Yikes! Yes, the forest is still here, waiting. If not held at bay by homes, SUVs, and concrete, it would return, craggy roots imperceptibly yet relentlessly creeping into crevasses and crannies until there were few signs of civilization.

God is like the forest, it seems, patiently waiting to enter a crack in the concrete of the flawless persona we put on for the world. If we were to put aside the weed-eater of busyness and the chain saw of materialism, the Holy Spirit would set up residence in our lives and grow a forest of goodness there. How often does God plant a wildflower only to have it crushed with the steamroller of ambition, paving our lives with humanly achieved successes? What a glorious garden would flourish in our hearts, would we let our Gardner in. But instead, He waits longingly and relentlessly, like the remnants of the forest in our backyard.


This article won first place in the writing contest for the Little Rock Chapter of American Christian Writers in May of 2010.

Twist on Mistakes

"Mistakes can either be valuable — 
or invaluable." 

 ~My Aunt, 
Cindy Phillips

Oct 22, 2012

Rendezvous by Chance

It was the fragrance of pines that lured me out into the forest that morning, unsuspecting. In the cool summer of 1996, light filtered through the woods, a kaleidoscope all shades of green. A gentle breeze tousled branches in the Wyoming Big Horns. I padded through lush ground cover following a narrow path that wound through the trees.

Me at 27 and a  braver deer
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed a movement. It was a deer! I stifled a gasp. The doe and I were both riveted to the spot, each observing the other with caution and wonder. Slowly and carefully I pulled a banana out of my pack. The doe could smell it, and her black nose quivered, wet and shiny. She took a few, tentative steps toward me and longingly stretched her neck toward the banana.

I was in awe to have a wild creature so close—I could have touched her. Wishing hard that there were some way—any way—to show her that I was worthy of her trust, I remained still. Though my heart was pounding, I spoke softly and sweetly. But it was no use. After a couple of minutes, fear won out over hunger and the doe darted off into the woods.

After that trip to Wyoming, I had a rheumatoid arthritis flare up that left me unable to even dress myself. Even after doctors got the pain under control, I had so much fatigue I could only stand on my feet for 10 minutes at a time for 6 months. The disease that is well-controlled today left me debilitated in 1996. In the midst of my suffering, God brought back my memory of the doe and showed me that He was holding out his precious gift of infinite love to me—just like I had held out that banana to the deer. He was worthy of my trust. God talked to me softly and sweetly through His Word and He longed for me to respond.

Like the deer, I could see the fruit and was hungry for it, knowing inside how desperately I needed that kind of unconditional love (the kind no human being can give).  God wanted me to dare to believe His love was more than a cold, theological fact. God was showing me that He has fond affection toward me and longs to spend time with me; He actually likes me!

The doe wanted the fruit but lacked faith in me. She left with her needs unmet. Unlike the doe, I dared to put my faith in God’s love, and began a healing journey of self-acceptance—a sense of worth that is based on what God thinks of me, not on what others think of me, or even what I think of myself.

Before my rendezvous with the doe, I knew God loved me in my head. In 1996 that knowledge dropped down into my heart. This gift is a treasure I would not trade for anything—not even for my health.


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Oct 7, 2012

Harvesting What We Don't Sow

If you plant cucumber seeds then you will harvest shiny, green cucumbers. Cucumber seeds never produce onions ... or celery ... or corn on the cob. If you plant tulip bulbs then you will reap a beautiful display of tulips. Tulip bulbs never reproduce zinnias ... or evergreen trees ... or forget-me-nots. You will always reap what you have sown. Seeds are only able to reproduce what their genetic code determines.

This is also true in the animal kingdom because cats only spawn kittens and never give birth to elephants, humpbacked whales or even to piglets. Animals, human beings and insects only reproduce what their genetic code determines.

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.”
And it was so.” 
~ Genesis 1:24

However, in the Kingdom of God, there is an exception to this irrefutable code of genetics. In God's garden, when you sow in tears, you will always reap in joy! If you have cried yourself to sleep too many times to count and have experienced the sorrow of depression, disappointment and sadness ... do not give up! Joy is on the way! Your tears have fertilized the seeds of joy that God has planted in the garden of your life. 

~ Author unknown


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Oct 3, 2012

Recipe for bearing fruit

John 15:5

Abiding ... and bearing fruit

1) Sink down into the present moment where God is. Because He calls himself the Great I AM and not the Great I Was or the Great I Will Be, the present moment is the easiest place to find God.

2) Breathe naturally and observe. Note what your sense with hearing, touch, and smell. Do this objectively, without evaluating or judging because evaluating awakens the mind and which often drowns out the Spirit.

3) Now observe with your spirit God's omnipresent love. He dwells within us whether we are walking in darkness or light (Psalm 139:11-12).

4) Sense the rhythm of your surroundings, of nature, and align yourself with God's pace, thus keeping in step with the Holy Spirit as you pray and as you get up and move through the day (Galatians 5:25).

5) Now hold your spirit in an attitude of listening to what God might have to say to you (Isaiah 30:15-21).

6) This is abiding in Christ, and He promises that this will bring the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatans 5:21).


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