ARCHIVES: October 2015


10.28.2015

What’s Hot this Christmas

Okay, so right off the bat you need to know that this is NOT going to be an inspirational or uplifting post. I have been thinking about how to redeem it, but so far…nada. The only person who could possibly find eternal value in what follows is my pal Michelle, who is convinced that shopping is her spiritual gift, and who proves it with regular Christmas shopping updates from TJ Maxx (where she is one of those people who knows that they really do get new merchandise daily).

Christmas shopping! Can you believe it? I haven’t even finished my second bag of candy corn. Still, I don’t want to get left behind – and I know you don’t want to, either – so as a service to my readers I am currently testing out a Possible Gift Idea. Alert blog followers may recall some past suggestions (The Posture Brace and the Scripture Memory Tool being two holiday favorites), but this one is brand new. I got it last week for my birthday, from Hillary:

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The Lava Seat. The packaging says it’s perfect for “sporting events, tailgating and outdoor activities.” Not having one of those handy today (and not being all that willing to go outside in the cold drizzle, even if a football game did break out in my front yard), I am going to go ahead and run the test in my kitchen.

The first thing they tell you to do is remove the Microcore Pack and pop it into the microwave. They want you to be sure your microwave is clean (which will be a stumbling block to a lot of sports fans right there, cuz of the buffalo wings and all, but whatever). Depending on the wattage of your particular appliance (800 to 1500, which who knows that stuff?), you put it in for anywhere from one to three minutes. I went for two.

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Assuming all goes well (and there’s a whole section about what to do if “swelling” occurs, which I guess is always a concern when you are talking about sports-related mishaps), you flip the Microcore Pack over and repeat the process. Then, because THE PACKAGE WILL BE HOT AFTER YOU MICROWAVE IT!, you are supposed to use an oven mitt to get it out and slide it into the cover.

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Okay. I don’t mean to be non-athletic, but seriously? The Microcore is a floppy sort of product, and unless you are one of those people who can put on mascara, or maybe diaper a baby, while wearing an oven mitt, you’re gonna have a problem. You can’t shove the pack into the cover without touching the thing. (Which is actually okay, because it isn’t THAT hot. I’m guessing that they have to put in the part about the mitt for that person who sued McDonald’s over the coffee.)

Anyhow.

Once you get the core snugged into the cover (which, incidentally, would make an awesome casserole warmer, if you needed one of those), it’s time to sit down.

And they nearly lost me again. There are not a whole lot of products that can instantly make me feel really fat (the wrong kind of white jeans being one notable exception), but trust me:  If you’re concerned about how you’ll look at the next Big Game, you don’t want to be wearing The Lava Seat. See that picture on the package? That’s a two-year-old’s bottom.

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But…does it work?

Yes.

Yes! When all is said and done, The Lava Seat performs as advertised. I’ve been working on this blog for nearly two hours (embarrassing, I know), and the casserole cover is still warm. So is my, um, you know. So, while I can’t speak for sports fans, tailgaters, and outdoor enthusiasts (who might not have ready access to a microwave), I can recommend this product for indoor bloggers.

And I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that The Lava Seat just might be what’s truly hot this Christmas.  I googled the top-selling gifts of 2015, and if you’re not into the Apple Watch (remind me why I want that, again?), the new and improved Fitbit (I’m still trying to figure out my old one), or the Despicable Me Fart Blaster (and we wonder why the French don’t like us), you’ll want to get The Lava Seat for everyone on your list.

After all (and if you’ve have hung on this far, you deserve a Bible nugget), you don’t want to be one of those faith-without-deeds people that James warns us about. You don’t want to look at a cold person and say, “I wish you well; keep warm and well fed.” (James 2:16). You want to do something.

Like, you might want to give that person a Lava Seat.


ARCHIVES: October 2015


10.23.2015

Fall in Love

Psalm 119:97One of the best ways to get to know God better – and to fall more deeply in love with him – is to fall in love with his Word.

Psalm 119 highlights about a zillion reasons to love Scripture; let’s borrow just one line as the launching pad for our Friday Prayer:  “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” (Psalm 119:97)

You can pray this verse for yourself today, or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for revealing yourself through Scripture. Help ____ to fall more deeply in love with the Bible: To read it, study it, and think about it all day long.

Amen.

 


ARCHIVES: October 2015


10.20.2015

The Semi-Colon Life

Untitled designI saw this sign in a shop in Duck, North Carolina, and I loved it.

For one thing, the semi-colon is my favorite punctuation mark. It’s more than a comma, but not quite a period; honestly, I think it offers the best of both worlds. The semi-colon lets a writer coordinate two independent sentences that could stand alone, but are just better when paired. Think of it as the grammatical equivalent of wine and cheese.

And what a terrific message:  My story isn’t over yet.

I don’t know how the Apostle Paul felt about semi-colons, but if he were on my Christmas list, I’d be getting him one of these signs. I just finished re-reading about his life in Acts, and if ever anyone had a two-part story, it was this guy. Part One had Paul trying to destroy the early church, going house-to-house and dragging out Christians – men and women (!!) – to be beaten and thrown into prison; in Part Two, we find him tromping all over the place, building that same church through personal visits and powerful letters, and proclaiming the good news about Jesus from his own jail cell! Hooray for the semi-colon!

I don’t know about you, but if I had been in Paul’s shoes (and given his fondness for athletic metaphors, maybe I should say cleats), I think I would have benched myself, once I realized how awful I had been. Sure, I would have wanted to be on God’s team, but given my past “mistakes” (things like stoning people who talked about God’s goodness), I might have tried to live life in the shadows, leaving the contest to the “varsity” Christians who didn’t seem to be such big screw-ups.

But not Paul! He knew what he had done was bad (horrific, even) but he wasn’t gonna let his past influence his present or his future. He understood God’s grace. He received it. He knew his story wasn’t over yet – and that changed everything.

How many of us really believe that? How many of us really believe the message of grace: that, thanks to Christ’s triumph on the cross, nothing that we’ve ever said or done or even thought has the power to disqualify us for a spot on God’s team? His varsity team? How many of us can say, as Paul did in Philippians 3, “Forgetting what is behind and staining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”?

I checked a few commentaries, and the word “forgetting” doesn’t mean that Paul had some sort of convenient amnesia, or that he just blocked out all the yucky stuff he had done. Instead, the idea is that these things no longer shaped or defined Paul. They couldn’t rob him of his salvation or his fitness for service; instead, Paul knew that God could (and would!) work in and through all of these failings to bring about good in his life and in the lives of others (and, although he couldn’t have known it at the time, in the lives of billions more people who would one day read his story).

If you have a past (and who doesn’t?), don’t let it steal your purpose or your joy. Don’t believe the lie that says, “You stink; how could God ever use or love someone like you?” Instead, take hold of the truth: You do stink (as Tim Keller puts it, we are all “more wicked than we ever dared believe”), but in Christ, you are (Keller again) “more loved and accepted” than you ever dared hope! Like Paul, you really can “forget what is behind” and “press on toward the goal,” because God adores you – and he is still writing your story.

And by the same token, if you’re praying for a friend or loved one whose life seems to have gone off the rails, remember that their story isn’t over yet. As one sweet mama said when I asked her how her teenaged daughter was doing, “Well, she’s still working on her testimony.” This gal understood the real life application of verses like Romans 8:28; she knew that, in God’s hands, all of the stuff to the left of the semi-colon would one day be used on the right – and that the sentence, once completed, would be glorious.


ARCHIVES: October 2015


10.16.2015

Reflections of the Heart

Proverbs 27-19 (1)Proverbs 27:19 says, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.”

If that’s true – that our life mirrors what’s in our heart – then I definitely want a good heart! But (sigh) I can’t always make it behave. I try, but then all those nasty things like envy and pride and selfishness barge in and start throwing some elbows, and there are days when I feel like if you could actually see into my heart, you’d find kindness and faith curled up in the corner, bleeding or sucking their thumbs!

Happily, we don’t have to whip our hearts into shape. God promises to do that for us. I think King David prayed it best in Psalm 19, when he asked God to forgive his hidden faults and keep him from being mastered by willful sins. He wrapped up his petition with a sentence that I want to borrow for today’s Friday Prayer. Pray it for yourself, or for someone you love:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Amen.


ARCHIVES: October 2015


10.09.2015

When Opportunity Knocks

Ephesians 5-15-16Back when Paul was writing his letter to the Ephesians, he described a culture marked by things like darkness, disobedience and empty words. Paul encouraged the Ephesians to remember that they were “dearly loved children” and that they should “live a life of love” – even when they found themselves surrounded by yuckiness.

The same charge holds true for us today. We are dearly loved, and we are called to be light in a dark and often confusing world. Sometimes the very things that conspire to bring us down – difficult relationships, career challenges, fears about the future – are opportunities to showcase God’s love. Sometimes they can open a door to trust, one that leads to a place of hope and security.

Living a life of love isn’t always easy (and some would say it’s getting harder all the time), but this little reminder from Ephesians 5 can help. Pray these verses for yourself, your children, or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

Help ____ to be careful how he/she lives. Let ____ be wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

Amen.


ARCHIVES: October 2015


10.08.2015

Report Cards

Two things happened this week to get me thinking about parenting, performance, and our perception of God’s love.

The first was that my friend and fellow parenting author, Jeannie Cunnion, wrote a terrific opinion piece for Fox News. She said that today’s kids feel “overwhelming pressure to get it all right” because their identities – and, in fact, their “lovability” – is linked to their behavior, their accomplishments, and their performance. “If I am good,” the thinking goes, “you will love me more.”

The second thing that happened was that I got my dad’s kindergarten report card.

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My mom and John are downsizing, and as part of their domestic purge she is unloading pretty much everything she thinks her kids and grandkids might want. (And more than a few things we might not, like a c. 1978 how-to book on napkin folding that she gave Hillary at one of her wedding showers. But that’s material for another blog.)

Anyhow, I wound up with a box of old photographs and papers. In it, I found this gem:

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That’s my dad, Allen Rundle. He was a kindergartner in 1944, and from the marks on his report card (also in the box), he had some growin’ up to do. I was relieved to see that he was clean, but he clearly had a ways to go in a few other areas, including walking (seriously?), using a hanky, and and…wait for it…breathing with his mouth closed.

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Oh my gosh. What did my grandmother think, when she got this report? Was she like, “Allen! Close your mouth!”?

That’s how I would have been, if he’d been my boy.

But even if he had sat there, staring at me with his tonsils hanging out, I wouldn’t have loved him any less.

I mean, things like being a mouth breather (or missing a free throw, or flunking a test, or pouring the fat back into the macaroni and cheese, or any of life’s imperfections) don’t make or break our love for our boys. Or our girls. We love our kids just because they are ours.

Which is pretty much what Jeannie writes about in her article. And she brings it around to the bigger picture – the one that has to do with God’s love – by reminding us that nothing we do could make him love us any more, or any less. Because it’s not about what we do. It’s about what Christ did. He’s the one who makes us lovable.

If that idea runs counter to what you’ve always thought, you’re not alone. Most of us have been there – and as Jeannie knows, the performance mindset can make it really tough to be a parent. “I was once the mom who put unbelievable pressure on herself to be a perfect parent setting a perfect example for her kids to follow,” she confides. “And because I wasn’t accepting God’s grace for myself, I couldn’t give grace to my kids.”

I won’t steal any more of Jeannie’s thunder; click here to read the piece for yourself.

I will say that I hope my grandmother was into the whole grace thing. I didn’t want to show you my dad’s whole report card (some family secrets are better kept that way), but she couldn’t have been happy with how he scored on “Originates stories and poems.” (But maybe that’s just hard to do, when you breath through your mouth. I don’t know.)

At the end of the day, though, it all worked out. My dad shut his mouth, learned some rhyming words, and wound up at Harvard Business School. Plus, he married a gal who knew how to make a napkin look like a lobster.

What’s not to love?

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ARCHIVES: October 2015


10.02.2015

Friday Prayer for Everything

Untitled design (1)If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you know that Fridays typically target a particular need or concern (things like trust, friendship, or safety) wrapped in a Scripture. I like to pray this way for a lot of reasons, but mostly because the Bible transforms fears and worries into confident expectations and songs of joy. God’s Word comes packed with power.

As does a little book that a friend sent me not long ago.  31 Days of Prayer, by Ruth Myers, offers a month’s worth of daily prayers about all sorts of topics – from personal challenges to worldwide concerns – with the words pretty much lifted right out of Scripture. The references are right there at the end of each entry, so you can check ’em out for yourself. Very handy.

It doesn’t matter whether you are brand new to prayer or a seasoned warrior, if you like the idea of tapping into the Bible (or if you’re just looking to breathe some fresh vigor into your prayer time), you’ll love this book.

Here’s a paragraph from Day 5 to whet your appetite. Pray it for yourself today, or for someone you love:

Guide me as I bring each problem area to You – my pressures, my finances, my uncertainties, my disappointments and failures (including my failures in relating to people). I trust You to work in my situations and give me practical wisdom in how to handle them. And even more, work in me. I lack power and I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on You. (2 Corinthians 12:9; James 1:2-5; Psalm 37:5-6).

Amen.




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