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Amazing Things @AmazingThing Official Education Website July, 2018

Fascinating, right?  So I had to ask, am I an oyster or a clam?

We live in a dirty-water world today. Everything is murky. Rules of society are not clear anymore. And it seems people like to stir up muck whenever they can.

Like oysters, believers in the Way are called to not only clean up their own act by filtering out all the negative and immoral influences that cloud our thinking but by doing so, we can bring clarity to those around us.  And in groups, we can do a lot of good.

Often times,  I want to clam up instead. Shut myself off from the world and surround myself with my Christian music, Christian friends, and Christian literature. Blindfold my eyes, stuff my ears, and hold my nose as I walk through this life.

But Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus was an oyster.  He met people in the middle of their messes and made them clean again, from the inside out. He immersed himself in the filth of the world but didn’t let it taint Him. Instead, He changed it and encouraged others to follow Him in His clean-up efforts. Scripture says He is still filtering and will until the end of time.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:32)

I think filtering all that stuff must be a bit painful for the oyster. Talk about getting down to the nitty-gritty!  The sand particles must be abrasive. But the reward for all this uncomfortable task? A pearl. The more filtering the oyster does, the larger and more precious the pearl.

Jesus said in one of his parables, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls” (Matthew 13:45).

When God looks for fine pearls, will He find one growing inside of me?

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My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.  Psalm 25:15

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My parents used to take us to the coast each summer. We were told to be wary of the undertow. My sister and I find pockets of this mild quicksand, and at first, it was weirdly intriguing to watch it surround my feet. Cooler than the surrounding sand, untouched by the sun, it held a strange sensation. I could feel the sand particles almost come alive as they encased my feet. But the longer I stood still, the more the sand developed my lower extremities, up past my ankles. I was stuck! I couldn’t wiggle free.  I was helpless.  TALK ABOUT A SAND TRAP!

My eyes scanned for my mother or father as my breaths quickened and the sand crawled higher.  When our gazes locked and my father dashed to free me, I sighed in relief.

An intriguing, not-so-legal situation, a temptation, a movie with iffy scenes can be intriguing. We are drawn to it. Yes, it may not be proper or wholesome or upright. The Holy Spirit may whisper for us to back off, turn away or be careful…even so….  we venture toward the experience.  A little of it won’t hurt.  I’ll just watch for a few minutes. Everyone else is doing it, right?

Then, we might go deeper, watch longer, become more entangled in the deceit.  Soon, we are stuck. This isn’t fun anymore.  Two choices. Try to get free on our own with our eyes solely on the problem as panic begins to gurgle up from our stomach juices, or…

Raise our eyes and seek our Father. Call out to Daddy for help.

Of course, if we had kept our eyes on Him in the first place, we never would have wandered. But no sense going back to woulda, shoulda.  Instead, it is best to ask forgiveness, receive His help, and move forward while holding on to His hand. It may take a while to shake the wet sand from our feet. Actions do have consequences. But if we walk with our Lord in the way He deems, then the undertows in our world will no longer be a snare.

Just as my father splashed sea water on my toes that day to release the sticky, itchy granules, we can be washed in His waves of mercy.

 

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Throne Room

The Contemporary Christian Music group, Casting Crowns, sings that God is on the throne so we shouldn’t worry but be held. I giggled when I first heard it on the radio, because in my neck of the woods, “the throne room” meant something other than a place where a king or queen sits.

But then I started to think about it. I recall those years when small pets and children occupied my life. No room in the house was off-limits. No matter how “busy” I was, they barged in looking to me for love, comfort, to feed them, or to fix a boo-boo. And I responded, in love. They became my priority. Everything else could wait. Well, sometimes not. But at those times I tried to explain I’d be there in a minute or two.

It made me realize that our Heavenly Father is never too busy for his children.  We may think He is. After all, He has a universe to run and millions upon millions praying to Him.  Our little need might seem minuscule in comparison to what others are suffering.  Cancer, untimely death, natural disasters, murder…

Doesn’t matter.  When we need Daddy, He is there for us.  He will never close the door in our faces or tell us He is otherwise occupied. He is, and always will be, on the Throne waiting for us to climb up on his lap.

Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior. Psalm 38:22

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Maybe I am the only one who still uses an electric mixer instead of a bullet or processor, but the harvest gold one I got as a wedding present in 1976 still works just fine. I use it often in making crustless quiches, almond flour pancakes, and gluten-free, low carb cloud bread.

Anyway, I put the beaters in the dishwasher basket along with the rest of the silverware.  After the dishwasher had done its thing, I wanted to use the beaters again. But I thought I didn’t have time at the moment to empty the  rest of the things in the dishwasher. Wrong. Some of the forks and spoons had gotten mixed up (pun intended) in the loops of the beaters.  I tried to wiggle them free but to no avail. With a deep sigh, I decided I had to remove the utensils one by one in order to get to the beaters.

So, why am I telling you this? Once again I heard that holy whisper.  I found God today in a dishwasher basket.

Sometimes I think that I am ready to have God help me work on a fault.  Yes, I have them. Now you know.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me (Psalm 51:3).

Instead, He gently shows me another area of my life He decides to clean, remove, mold or polish first. Before we can get to the “beaters” we need to remove the other things I hadn’t noticed as an issue.  I don’t think I have the time or the gumption, but He, in His eternal wisdom, knows the order in which to tackle things even if I do not. I have learned that instead of struggling, it is easier to take them one by one and untangle them from my life.

And yes, this old gal is still working, too. Thank you, Lord, for still using me even if I do get things mixed up now and then.

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I read a devotional that said when the writer spotted a negative emotion she stopped and asked God to help her identify the cause so she could hand it over to Him.

SPOT. STOP.  Word aficionado that I am, seeing those two words utilizing the same letters got my creative juices whirring.

When worry, frustration or prejudice knock at the door of our minds we should do two things – spot it and then stop it.  This helps to objectify whatever “it” is and remove it from any misguided emotions churning inside of us and threatening to rise to the surface.

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.  Proverbs 15:8

from lifehacker.com

Cooks know that in order to keep something from boiling over in a pot you can place a wooden spoon over the mouth of the pot. It acts as a barrier, popping the bubbles that rise, destabilizing them and making the rising boiling water retreat back into the pot.  By spotting the potential disaster, the cook knows how to stop it.

Prayer can be like a wooden spoon. Instead of stirring our emotions up, it can help keep things in control if we use it to cover the situation. Prayer stops fear, anxiety or negativity from bubbling up inside us.

Once our bubbling emotions are quelled, we must resist the urge to pick up the spoon and stir the pot, causing it to boil up again.  We need to be careful to not use prayer time only as a complaint session to revisit our angst and not get beyond it. Sure, God is a great sounding board, but at one point we need to stop and then give whatever it is to HIm. Then allow Him to deal with, heal, or reveal the purpose of the issue.

He has the ability to turn down the heat, or He may choose not to do so. Perhaps He will let things simmer in order to move us to act, hopefully through prayer. Or, He might remove the pot from the stove, so to speak.  Either way, we must allow Him to reveal to us how, once spotted,  we can stop it from getting out of control so He can use it for good.

 

 

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Play the Game

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

...because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do… Ephesians 6:8a

We all like little rewards, right?

We were raised on charts that showed how many stars we’d earned throughout the school year. Trophies sat on our bookcases and medallions hung from door knobs. Achievement certificates were slipped into the proverbial black “document” frame from the dollar store and hung on the wall. Now they probably sit in a box on the closet shelf or at the back of a filing cabinet.

I like to play word and solitaire games on my smartphone. They offer me coins and treasure chests, which in reality mean nothing. It’s not like I can cash in my 15,783 coins for real money or even a prize like a blender or an e-reader. Still, these little attaboys make my day start off well. I did something. I achieved a goal and I have something to show for it. Well, virtually that is.

At times I wish God worked that way. I know, He does bless me when I am obedient and follow His will. Yes, He forgives my sins. Yes, when I need something like a new desk, tires, or a cavity filled. the money appears just at the right time in the sale of books, a small honorarium for speaking, or a new work to edit.  Occasionally someone will write and tell me a devotional spoke to their needs that day. At the end of my life, I know I will kneel before the throne and Jesus will speak well of me because I proclaim Him as my Savior. I pray I will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).

But every now and then, I’d like to see something more tangible. A ding-ding and a few animated coins landing in my mental slot. I hope I am not sounding ungrateful or irreverent.

Perhaps I need to look more often for a rainbow, feel a soft breeze on my cheek like a celestial kiss, or notice a special white moon with the face smiling down at me.  And then continue to write about not only where I found God that day but how He found me and patted me on the head in the special way only He can. Better than virtual coins, right?

OK, Lord. Game on.

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Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, Hebrews 12:28

My pastor stated in our adult Sunday school class that many of us have forgotten what worship should be all about. We so used to sitting in an audience to be entertained, be it in a theatre, concert, or on the couch binging on Netflix that we have a tendency to treat church like that.  We “watch” what is going on near the altar. We may participate by saying amen or sing a hymn. maybe nod when the sermon has a rhetorical question in it. Perhaps we feel a stirring in our hearts over the words of the hymn or what the preacher said. But often times, conversations on the way our the doors is whether or not worship was “any good” that day.

But that is not what worship should be about. It should be us entertaining our Lord, telling Him how much we love Him, honoring Him and giving Him the glory. It’s not about how well the choir sang, or if the preacher got off track, or if the service went off without a hitch. We are not to be the critiques and whine that the church just doesn’t do it for us. If we do, perhaps our focus is on the wrong thing.

It’s not about us. It’s about Him.

Then we are to go into the world, filled with His Spirit, to be His hands and feet to a hurting, confused world filled with lost people. Instead, we crawl into our air-conditioned cars and go out to lunch to be served by a waiter (who didn’t get to go to church but had to work instead) or to the store to be served by a floor clerk and cashier. When we make it home, there is laundry, or the game on TV, or projects to be completed before we hit the ground running on Monday. And church became just another check mark on the to-do list. That’s not worship.

I’ve mulled over his message all week like a cow chewing on its cud.  Not only did it challenge me to check my motives in the pew, but my private worship time as well.  Do I judge my quiet time with God by how I feel at the end? Do I rush through it so I can get to my other errands? Is my time less about praising God for who He is and more about what He can do for me? Is my daily Bible and prayer time just another check mark on my things-to-do-today list?

Euginia Herlihy, an author and spiritual leader from Capetown says, “Praise and worship shouldn’t be a few hours of church service entertainment. It should be our heartbeat and should never depart our lips. ‘Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song’ (Psalms 95:2).” *

Lord, is my worship time all about me…and then You somewhere in the mix? Forgive me if I have slipped into that pattern.

 

 

*https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/praise-and-worship

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