Friday, August 26, 2011

A Lesson from the Flowers

PRINCIPLE: “When you wake up, open up.”

Every evening many of our flowers close up, as if retiring for the night. Every morning they open up, as if getting ready for the day. On the surface, it appears that God made them that way – which, of course, He did. But there’s a deeper truth in this divine routine. The flowers open up because of the sunlight and only open to their fullest when the sun is shining. For all my years of living, I have known this. But only today have I learned yet another lesson – “When you wake up, open up.”

E. Glenn Hinson wrote, “Prayer…is opening like a flower opening to the morning sunshine to allow God’s love energies to flow into your inner chamber. You may know that many flowers close up at night, folding their petals in. When it begins to become daylight, they open just a little. Then as the sun’s rays strike them, they open a little more and a little more until they’re wide open.”[i] “When you wake up, open up.” Once again the rhythm God created into nature is intended for us as well. Just as God, for example, created the 7th day and the 7th year as times of rest, we know we, too, need the rest built into our lives as well. So it is with the opening and closing of the flowers – we need to get into the rhythm of closing up at night and opening up in the morning to once again receive His sunlight for the new day. “When you wake up, open up.”

Hinson continues, “’God is love…’ Theologically, you must say, God’s love energies brought the world into being. God’s love energies sustain the world. God’s love energies are directing the world toward some meaningful end. And the same love energies are constantly pouring out on you.”[ii] I need those divine energies each day! And they are available every morning – but I must open up, even if just a little, to let the sunshine in. If I do not, I will live the day in darkness, without divine energy, and not be the beautiful flower God intends and created me to be. “When you wake up, open up.”

Maybe the little children’s chorus from so many years ago (dating myself again!) had it right. “So let the sunshine in, face it with a grin, open up your heart and let the sunshine in!” “When you wake up, open up.”

Will you join me in a renewed commitment to begin each day by taking a moment to greet and thank God, and thereby open our hearts to let the sunshine in? Just imagine how beautiful and full-bloomed your life will be each day! “When you wake up, open up.”

[i] E Glenn Hinson, from Spiritual Preparation for Christian Leadership, quote in A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God,  Upper Room Books, Nashville, 2006, p. 326
[ii] Ibid

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Computer Cofee

PRINCIPLE: “When you’re mad at your computer, remember your coffee.”

Technology – can’t live with it but can’t live without it! It’s great when it works but when it doesn’t, well…my pastoral vocabulary isn’t adequate to describe the frustration. Perhaps you’ve been there. Recently I was working on my computer and it was one of those days when it was running slow – very slow – slower than molasses – slower than a sumo wrestler in the 100 meters. Get the idea? I didn’t know why, and really didn’t care why – I just wanted it to run at normal speed. Finally, in frustration – no, make that in anger – I slammed my fist on the desk as I cried out “Come on! Give me a break here!” - or something like that. And as my fist hit the desk it also hit my coffee mug and tipped it over. Coffee everywhere but in the mug. I didn’t want to admit it but it served me right. I knew immediately that “When you’re mad at your computer, remember your coffee.”

Anger is a dangerous emotion – and loss of anger seldom, if ever, results in anything good. As Paul wrote (Eph. 4:26-27 NLT) “And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” Anger is sometimes okay but how we process it is the key. Hitting my fist on the desk was a sign that I was letting anger control me. Sure, it harmed no one but me. But the frightening thought is, if the state of my computer can fill me with anger and sin, how close am I to letting my feelings towards others do the same? And then the damage is not so minimal. Paul understood this. That’s why he continued (30) “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live… Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior...” Once the devil sees anger, he jumps in and tries to take over. James wrote (1:19-20) “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters… Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” I let a stupid computer control me – the devil had a foothold and he loved it. I was not very righteous. “When you’re mad at your computer, remember your coffee.”

Moving forward, I have resolved to try to remember this when I sense the anger rising within me. Fortunately, I do not have to do it all by myself. It’s more than just remembering “When you’re mad at your computer, remember your coffee.” Listen to the advice of James and Paul: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry…Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you...” As God in Christ forgave me! God should be so angry with me – He has a million reasons to be. But in Jesus He forgave me – once for all, forever. How can I, then, unleash anger towards another? Let my quickness be to listen and my slowness be to respond. And how can I help this happen? Be kind to those who stir my anger, tenderhearted towards those who oppose me, and forgiving to those who offend me. The Holy Spirit is ever present to help me. A quick prayer to Him is all it takes.

So perhaps I should change the principle to “When you’re mad at your computer, remember to pray.” Not a bad idea. But then, it just doesn’t sound so dramatic. So for now I’ll stick with this: “When you’re mad at your computer, remember your coffee.” Besides, every time I drink coffee I’ll remember my computer anger – and that will remind me to pray. In fact, how different would I be if with every cup of coffee I drink, I asked the Holy Spirit to pour into me His kindness, tender heartedness, and forgiveness? Quite different, I’m sure! “When you’re mad at your computer, remember your coffee.”   

Friday, August 12, 2011

So So

PRINCIPLE: “When life is just sow sow, just sow sow.”

I was in the sixth grade (in those days that was still elementary school). I was part of the safety patrol – responsible at an intersection for making sure no students crossed the street until it was clear to do so. One day, a much younger boy fell right near my corner. So I helped him up made sure he was okay, which he was. Shortly thereafter I ran for Mayor of the school. My mother told me that another mother had shared with her that her son had voted for me because I had been so nice to him the day he fell. It, of course, made my mother feel some pride – and I was always happy when that happened! But I remember thinking that it was really nothing special that I did, and wondered if it wasn't something that anyone would have done. Little did I realize at that time a couple of lessons. One – not everyone would have helped. Two – I had experienced the divine law of reciprocity. Both lessons would be reinforced many, many times throughout my life.

It was many years later when I recognized the divine nature of my actions. Paul said it more than once, but most clearly in Galatians 6:7-10 - “A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we will not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Paul mentioned the same principle in 2 Cor. 9:6 in regards to giving. Whether it's in giving, or in praying, or in loving, or in our relationships what we sow, we reap. Even if we do not see it right away, God will reciprocate - it's His promise.

I admit that sometimes, in fact, I get tired of sowing all the time and begin to feel as if there is no return. After all constant sowing can be boring and not all that exciting. But since it's a promise of God, “When life is just sow sow, just sow sow.” Even if I never see the return in this life, I will in eternity. Then again, when I stop the self-pity routine and examine my life, I begin to see again the blessings God has poured into my life. He, like my little fellow student, votes for me in a myriad of ways through the blessings He sends – and I know there are many blessings I will never realize until that great and glorious day! In fact, I shudder to think of life without the blessings. I'm convinced that the saddest people, and some of the most depressed, are those who are not sowing. So their lives their lives are just so so – lacking in blessing and joy. So we all have a choice – we can live so so lives or sow sow lives; it all depends on what we want out of life. “When life is just sow sow, just sow sow.”

But I've discovered something else about the sow sow life. Once we begin to sow it becomes a habit, a pattern, a life-style. Without realizing it we are soon sowing into others lives not because we want a return but because it's what we were created to do; therefore we feel a sense of inner peace and joy, a sense of fulfillment whenever we sow. And really, that's blessing enough. Come to think of it, that's when we're most like Christ. No wonder it's enough. So – will your life be so so or sow sow? Remember, what you sow, you reap.

Fire Up

PRINCIPLE: “If you want to fire up, fill 'er up.”

It was two incidents close together that drove me back into Scripture. The first came at suppertime. I was in charge of grilling the burgers. As usual, I fired up the grill, closed the cover and went back inside while it got up to a good temperature. I soon returned to the grill and opened up the cover to place the patties in the prime places – except when I opened up the cover I felt no heat. It didn't take long to realize the tank was out of gas. Apparently there was just enough gas in the line to provide an initial flame but no more. The second incident occurred just a few days later. Knowing two of our grandchildren would be at our house over the 4th of July, we had purchased some sparklers. So we broke them out with great anticipation and excitement. We then realized we had only a few matches – and our butane lighter was all but empty. But no problem, we'd only use 1 match and light the sparklers from the sparklers. So we lit the first sparkler – it feebly spit out sparks for a circumference of about inch. And it lasted about 5 seconds – no time to light another one. Thinking it was just a dud, we used another match to light the next one. Turns out they were all duds! There just wasn't enough flammable stuff on the wires to produce any sparks of significance.

As I thought about these two related incidents later, I realized the truth that “If you want to fire up, fill 'er up.” No gas, no fire. No flammable material, no fire. Now read Acts 19:1-12. “While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all. Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.”  The fire didn't flame up until the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. “If you want to fire up, fill 'er up.”

I began to think of all the times I have tried to do things in  my own power, to produce something I wanted, to bring about a result I could cherish – only to have it burn out. I forgot to make sure the vision or idea was Spirit  driven. “If you want to fire up, fill 'er up.” And I thought about all the times I've flamed out, burned out, quit flaming – because I had been running on empty and not taken the time to be refilled by the Holy Spirit. “If you want to fire up, fill 'er up.”

It's a good reminder for me. If I don't want to flame out, if I want to burn brightly, I need to be sure the Holy Spirit's on board. Otherwise I'll be just flash that never grows up into a fire. “If you want to fire up, fill 'er up.” In fact, I wonder what would happen if I began each day with a prayer: “Holy Spirit, set me on fire.” Perhaps, just perhaps, I'll only do those things and say those things that will keep the fire burning. And perhaps, just perhaps, my fire will set others on fire – until the world is on fire for Jesus. Will you burn with me? Perhaps, just perhaps “God (will do) extraordinary miracles through (us), so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that ... touch (us will be) taken to the sick, and their illnesses (be) cured and the evil spirits (leave) them.” “If you want to fire up, fill 'er up.”