Move Over, Martha Stewart

Just kidding. I am no domestic diva. Martha Stewart has nothing to fear. Now, my husband? Well, he did vow for better or for worse.

Even though I hate to cook—and let me emphasis hate—my awesome husband would say I’m a great cook. Then again, he is stuck with me for life, so …

On the whole, weekends at my house are wonderful. Friday night is date night, followed by Saturday morning breakfast at my favorite coffee shop, complete with gingerbread lattes all year, not just the holidays. Our family makes an event of weekend sports … on the field and in front of the TV … and we enjoy them together with our favorite take-out food. Weekends equal no cooking, and that’s a win for everyone.

I muddle through the weekdays dreading the three o’clock hour when I’m forced to ask myself that age old question: “What am I going to fix for supper?”

Recipes are not the problem. I have a million. (okay, that might be an exaggeration) With Pinterest, Facebook, and food blogs all over the internet—information that Professor Google will find lighting fast—I have plenty of options. But there’s another problem …

Grocery shopping. Yeah, I hate that, too. Dinner time is a scramble to defrost something, gather ingredients, and pray everything is still in date.

For me, it’s inevitable. I decide what dinner is going to be, begin preparation … and it happens. Something vital to my recipe is out of date. I close my eyes, breathe a desperate “please” and then, “Yes”! It’s a “BEST BY” date, not an expiration date! (come on, I can’t be the only one!)

On our way to church a few weeks ago, that phrase made its way into my thoughts. Best By. It occurred to me that perhaps I have reached my Best By date. Still usable but, maybe I should step back and let those in their prime do the teaching, the singing, and the leading. Sure, I could stay ready to step up when there’s a temporary need to be filled.

Best by

We age and begin to notice changes, aches and pains. But God does not put us out to pasture. He makes that clear in His word.

“Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.” ~Psalms 92:14

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” ~2 Corinthians 4:16

No, God does not stamp us with a Best By date. Our usefulness has no expiration date. It’s in Him that we “live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

“I will praise the Lord as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath.” ~Psalms 146:2

We never stop serving. We never stop loving. We never stop … period.

The world may want to retire us and put us in the back seat as we age, but it’s no mystery that God never calls it quits for us.

Walk through every door He opens. Step up each time He calls. God will strengthen and give the tools needed to accomplish whatever He calls us to … no matter our age.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” ~Isaiah 40:31

Christmas … Where are you?

Nothing says “Christmas” more than screaming kids, crowded malls, angry faces, and my personal favorite … traffic. Ah yes, the joy of Christmas wrapped up in stress, debt, exasperation, and exhaustion.

Oh Christmas … Where are You?

Someone on Facebook asked, “What is your most memorable Christmas?” One from my childhood jumped to mind.

As a band geek from fifth grade, Christmas parades were a big part of the holidays for our family. Back in ancient times, when I was a kid, our town’s Christmas parade was on Thanksgiving night. Year after year, Mom and Dad would rush me to the band room, I’d march in the parade and afterward we would go back to my aunt’s house for dinner with the leftovers from lunch. Such grand memories!

The flute was my instrument of choice, and all I wanted before starting high school was a piccolo. I mean, the cool flute players had piccolos for marching season and I had to have one too. I asked and asked for a piccolo for Christmas, but feared it wouldn’t happen. Finances were tight and instruments were expensive, but a part of me thought maybe, just maybe.

Christmas Eve came and our family attended the annual midnight candlelight service at church, then home to bed. My parents put our “Santa” presents under the tree after we were asleep, so we’d wake up and rush to the tree with all the anticipation a kid feels on Christmas morning. But this Christmas I woke up in the middle of the night. I just couldn’t wait and slipped to the tree for a peek. And there it was … a piccolo! I could have screamed from the excitement.

I took that piccolo into my bedroom, and there, hidden in the dark, I softly blew air through the precious instrument with an unspeakable thrill. I got it! I actually got my piccolo!

I never told my parents what I had done. Never told them I already knew they made my dream come true before we ran to the tree that Christmas morning. If they knew, they never said a word to me. But that piccolo was a great investment. I played it through high school, college, years of church music ministry, and still play it to this day.

Grown now, with a son of my own, I understand the sacrifice my parents made to get that piccolo. Sacrifice isn’t a word we like to use, especially at Christmas. Christmas is a time of extravagance, not sacrifice, right? It may have become more about indulgence, but that’s not where we’ll find Christmas.

Christmas is life, joy, twinkling lights, and laughter topped off with scents of the season. Christmas is the carols we sing only once a year. Christmas is the hugs and love we can physically feel and remember from loved ones who have passed.

But the true meaning? Christmas is Jesus

I’ve struggled the last few years to find joy in the season. We all have, haven’t we. But there is joy—real joy and blessings beyond all we can ask or think in knowing Jesus and his great love for us.

Christmas, where are you?

Christmas is where it’s always been … there in the manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Jesus … born to be the greatest gift of all. Jesus …  come to be light, life, and joy. Jesus … come to bring salvation.

So, let’s light that Christmas tree. Let’s sing those Christmas carols at the top of our lungs. Let’s fill our homes with memories around those we love—and tell them we love them.

Are you looking for Christmas? Celebrate Jesus. Because Jesus is where we will always find Christmas.

I’ll Take What’s Behind Door Number Two, Monty!

Doors shouldn’t be hard to open.

We push or pull them and walk through, right? The mechanics of operating a door is easy.

It’s what’s on the other side that can get tricky.

Continue reading “I’ll Take What’s Behind Door Number Two, Monty!”

Don’t Beat Your Donkey

Sometimes I need a talking donkey.

The story of Balaam is fascinating and mysterious. He was a man who knew God and had seen His mighty hand at work. God spoke to Balaam. But—Balaam messed up.

I can’t be too hard on Balaam, I mean, I’ve messed up a few things myself.

Balaam had a lucrative gift, he could bless or he could curse. When the king of Moab had a problem, he called on Balaam to curse his problem. The king promised money and great honor.

Balaam had a sweet job lined up—if God gave the okay.

God did not give the okay and Balaam sent the king’s men back to Moab.

The king sent an entourage a second time to plead with Balaam to come. And again, Balaam waited for God to speak.

And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you—that you shall do.”
Numbers 22:20

Great! It was a go…or was it?

The next morning Balaam got up, saddled his donkey, and went to the men from Moab. Things would not go as planned.

The Lord had not told Balaam to go. He told Balaam IF the men CAME for him, then he could go, but say only what the Lord instructed him. I think this was a case of putting the cart before the horse…or the donkey.

Balaam was eager for the money and honor promised him. He ignored the prerequisite God had laid out for his going and couldn’t get that donkey saddled quick enough.

God did not take that lightly. The Angel of the Lord went ahead of Balaam and stood in the road with his sword drawn to oppose him. But Balaam’s mind was on the profit awaiting him and he didn’t see the Angel. But the donkey did, and she turned away and walked into a field.

Now, anyone who knows me knows how much I love animals. So I get a little upset with Balaam here. He beat his donkey to get her back on the road.

The Angel of the Lord moved further ahead to a narrow passage between the vineyards with a wall on either side. Again Balaam’s donkey saw the angel, but I assume she didn’t want to be beat again. She tried to pass by the angel, but crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. That poor little donkey couldn’t win, and once more, Balaam beat her.

For a third time the Angel moved ahead to a passage so narrow there was no way for the donkey to move to the left or to the right. Can you imagine her frustration? She’s already tried twice to keep this guy from the sword of the Lord, and all he does is beat her!

As I read this story, in my mind I’m thinking for the donkey, “Okay dude, I tried, you’re on your own. I’m going to lie down right where I am.”

And that’s just what she did. Balaam’s anger was so provoked he beat the donkey with his staff.

Donkey

Here’s where the story gets fun.

Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” Numbers 22:28

In his anger Balaam said to the donkey:

“Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!” Numbers 22:29

I have to stop for a moment. As my son and I read this scripture, when we reached this point he said, “Whoa! Balaam just talks back to the donkey? No pause for surprise? No shock that the donkey is talking? Just, hey donkey I could kill you”?

Who wouldn’t be aghast? If I heard a donkey talk, I think I would at least have a moment of bewilderment. But, on with the story.

Balaam’s donkey answered him:

“…Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?” Numbers 22:30

Bless her heart. Balaam had only one word for her:

“No.” Numbers 22:30

At the moment of Balaam’s self-awareness, God opened his eyes. He saw the Angel of the Lord and fell face-down. Then the angel said:

“Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before me. The donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.” Numbers 22:32,33

The donkey gets justice!

Sword

Balaam moved forward independent of God’s direction. It took a talking donkey to wake him from his own ambition. He confessed his sin and repented.

Sound familiar? Many times in my life I’ve stepped ahead of God only to step into a mess. Waiting for God is difficult. It’s easy to talk myself into moving ahead of Him. I tell myself that He’s left me behind and get caught up in the pace of my own madness.

A talking donkey. Yes Lord, sometimes I need a talking donkey.

Have you ever gotten ahead of God?

 

 

Chocolate, Stress, and a Cozy Mystery

Let’s face it, life is hard. Stress is one of those “certain” things we just can’t avoid. From the moment the alarm goes off in the morning until we crawl back into bed, stress happens. Count on it. Continue reading “Chocolate, Stress, and a Cozy Mystery”

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