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No More Taxes!

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“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” -Psalm 95:2, NIV

The popcorn tax was first to be recognized as such. Then pizza. Bananas. Apples. Anything I use a spatula to cook.

That last one was put into effect when I accidentally flipped some stir fry out of the pan and onto the floor where the DRS discovered it and decided he wanted more . . . and more . . . and more.

That formidable DRS: Dog Revenue Service. Whenever we eat, he plants himself down in front of us and stares, patiently demanding his portion. Sometimes those eyes say, “Aren’t I so adorable you feel compelled to share with me?” or “Don’t you feel guilty enjoying that while I sit here all hungry-like and watch?” More often, they say, “I’m entitled to my portion of your food. Hand it over now.”

I blame my grandmother. Windsor was content to eat dog food until she came to visit us in the Netherlands during his puppyhood. We told her he could only have dog food. Vet’s orders, we said. She quietly slipped him some mashed potatoes under the table anyway. We caught her in the act, but irreparable damage was already done. Ever since, our doggie has demanded his due.

“But he likes it,” she said. I’m still rolling my eyes.

Now Windsor has discovered green beans and broccoli. It’s time for this taxation without representation to stop! Windsor is the dog. He lives in our house by invitation, not obligation. We choose to feed him and care for him because we want to. Windsor needs a change of attitude: Thanksgiving for all we choose to share in place of stubborn demands for what he wants.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Black Friday falls the day after Thanksgiving (and now seems to be usurping that holiday). Our ancestors set one day of the year aside for thanking God for all He’s given. Satan would rather our hearts be full of greed. So now we spend Thanksgiving Day planning how we’ll get more stuff.

Maybe that last paragraph was a little harsh. I know we’re not all like that. It’s more of a societal generalization. But I long to see this trend turn around. If everything we have is a gift from God, we should celebrate Thanksgiving every single day! (–without over-stuffing our guts.)

God doesn’t owe us anything.

We’re not entitled to a portion of what’s His.

He graciously provides all we need and more just because He wants to. He simply adores us.

Stop.

Let that last sentence sink in: He simply adores us.

We don’t need anything more.

Father, please forgive me when I take my eyes off You and turn my focus to wants. You are all I need. Help me to trust that the gifts You offer are more than enough for me. Help me to thankfully enjoy what You bring into my life and not to fret over what’s not there. I may ask for things, but I’ll try not to sit and stare, insisting You meet my demands. You are God, the Creator, and You chose to make me! Thank You, loving Father. Amen.

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Climbing Higher

Climbing Rock“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord, supported me.” –Psalm 94:18

I tried rock climbing once. My senior class in college took a trip to Yosemite National Park where the rock-climbing club from our campus volunteered to give a lesson to those who were interested. It looked easy enough.

It wasn’t.

Swaddled in harness and ropes, I began my ascent, quickly realizing that the strength I needed would have to come from my fingers and arms–every little muscle in each would be required for the task. My legs existed for balance and support as my hands sought a sure grip for lifting myself to the next level. Halfway up the rock face, I thought I could go no further. I felt exhausted, but had to go on. I began to rely on a voice from above.

That’s where my instructor was.

Below, I could hear friends, my fellow first-time climbers, shouting much needed encouragement as I struggled through my shaky situation. But my instructor was giving the advice I most wanted to hear:

“Move your hand a few inches to the left, Janet. There’s a great handhold there. Do you see it? There! Now place your foot in that crevice and push yourself up. Keep going! Now move your other hand to that small ledge just above the other one. You’ve got it!”

I depended on these words and followed them as precisely as I could. Of everything he said, though, the words that comforted me most were:

“Don’t be afraid. If you start to slip, I’ve got hold of the rope. You will not fall.”

Life is like that climb. We lift ourselves up, one handhold at a time, while listening to that precious Voice from Above. Our fellow climbers shout encouraging words as we make our way to the top. God’s voice is the One to listen for, though. He is there to help us find our way. Better yet, He’s got hold of the rope. We can depend on Him; if our feet start to slip, He’ll never let us fall.

Precious Guide, thank You for holding me tightly with the harness and rope of Your love. Amen.

For more devotional thoughts today, visit Spiritual Sundays.

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Strength for More Than a Game

Salmon Flowers“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ . . . From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” –Ephesians 4:11-13, 16

Raise your hand if you remember Red Rover, Red Rover, the infamous, school playground game.

I truly hope there aren’t too many of you who do. I remember the day when the playground monitor came out to stop us from playing it and to tell us that the school had decided it was just too dangerous. Someone was going to get their arm pulled out of its socket—or worse!

Part of my then ten-year-old self was outraged that the school would stop us from having so much fun. A bigger part, a part I kept quiet at the time, was oh-so-relieved!

That game was absolutely terrifying!!!

For those who’ve been blessed to have never heard of it:

Two teams line up facing each other on opposite sides of the playing field. Children on each team link arms to make a chain. One team yells, Red Rover, Red Rover send [unfortunate child from the other team] right over. That unfortunate child, often me (I’ll explain why in a minute.), then has to run as fast as she can across the field to try to break through the other team’s chain. If she succeeds, she triumphantly gets to choose one member of the opposite team to join her team. If she fails, she gets caught up in the chain like a convict snagged at the top of a barbed wire fence. Then, when everyone finishes laughing over this child’s humiliation, she reluctantly becomes part of the team she failed to break through. The other team then takes their turn, hopefully not calling the same, unfortunate child back.

Why was I often that unfortunate child? Because I was little. Think about it. A smart team is not going to call the big, football-player-type kid to come hurling at them as fast as he can from clear across the field. No. They’re going to call the child least likely to break through, aka the little girl.

On the flip side, the child who is running across the field is not going to try to break through between two giant, playground jocks whose arms are solidly linked. No. That child is going to try to break through two little girls. That’s right. Me and my best friend, Anne. If we weren’t the runners, we were targets, bracing ourselves for the on-coming blow and praying it wouldn’t hurt too much.

Oh, yeah. We were sorry to see that game go.

Spiritual warfare is kind of like that game of Red Rover. Satan is always looking for the weak link in the Body of Christ. He targets it and throws everything he has as it, hoping to break through to claim someone for his side. But as the Body of Christ, we are one. We are joined and held together by supporting ligaments. We are growing and building ourselves up in love as each of us does our work.

I see two ways this works:

1. Just as someone who wants to excel at a physical sport will eat right, exercise often, and get plenty of rest before a game, Christians train for spiritual warfare.

I don’t think either Anne or I could have built ourselves up enough to stand against the playground jocks in a game of Red Rover. No protein-rich, muscle-building diet or amount of strength-training would have made much of a difference for us. We were just too small. (And we didn’t take the game that seriously!)

But Christians can build themselves up. Bible study is our healthy diet. Prayer, worship, and fellowship with other Christians are essential strength-training. Honoring the Sabbath assures we rest.

2. Just as a team must work together, with every member contributing his or her strengths, Christians help each other succeed.

Think about that game of Red Rover. What if, just once, instead of leaving Anne and I to stand alone against the oncoming runner, one of stronger players on our team had linked arms between us. That person’s strength added to ours might have made the difference to keep the other team from breaking through. Evidently, we weren’t smart enough to figure that out in grade school. (Or maybe, at ten, we were still afraid of cooties.)

But we Christians can apply the principle now. By serving one another in love, we help the weaker links among us to be built up and grow. The whole body benefits when we strengthen each other this way.

We build ourselves up through Bible study, worship, fellowship, and prayer. We build the body through faithful service to our brothers and sisters in Christ until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Father, thank You for drawing us together in Christ as one body of believers. Help us do our part each day for individual and community growth. In You, we stand firm against the enemy. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

To read more devotional thoughts today, visit Spiritual Sundays and Hear It on Sunday; Use It on Monday.

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Thank You, Lord, for Significance

Red Flower“Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah.”–1 Chronicles 1:1-3

While researching my husband’s family tree, I learned of a genealogical society that had done extensive research about families in the area his family came from. I was able to order pamphlets recording their research about specific family names. I expected one that I ordered to provide information about my mother-in-law’s birth family. In that pamphlet, I found the name of her birth mother, with information about her parents and grandparents, etc.–just as I had hoped. I also found information about this ancestor’s second marriage and the children from both marriages. But this woman’s first husband was missing from the record; my mother-in-law’s birth father had been overlooked.

This man married, fathered four children, and then died in Italy during World War II–before his fourth child, my mother-in-law, was born. He was only 26 when he died. Perhaps that explains why the historians missed him. To my family, however, he’s significant. His children, their children and grandchildren would not exist if this man had not lived, even if only for 26 years. Further, my life and many others could not possibly be the same without the impact of this man’s descendants on us. His life had meaning; he mattered—big time!

You matter, too. The book of 1 Chronicles begins with several lists of names, names, and more names–hard to pronounce, in most cases, significance lost to the past. But God remembers each one. His children matter, that includes you. Perhaps at this time, you’re feeling overlooked and insignificant. God has a place for you. He hasn’t forgotten. He’ll never forget. He gave you life, and He wants you to live! Live for Him today.

Lord, to think that among all the world’s people–past, present, and future–somehow I matter to You! I’ll show my thanks by serving You. You matter most! Amen.

To learn what some others are thankful for today, visit the Counting Our Blessings Link Up.

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A Place to Nurture Faith and Watch It Grow

Wildflower Collage2It all started in Texas.

I only lived in that state for one year, but that gave me just enough time to discover wildflowers and to learn how to hunt them.

That’s right. I hunt them down and shoot them—with my camera, of course.

The first flowers I noticed were the bright purple tuber vervain, the showy primroses, the bluebonnets, and the Indian blankets. They were everywhere—and so pretty.

One morning, after Mike had left for work and the boys had left for school, I grabbed my little camera and drove to a nearby park where I’d seen some of these flowers blooming. I took all kinds of pictures.

They didn’t come out very good.

But I kept taking pictures. And my husband bought me a better camera. And my son taught me how to use the settings on that camera. And my pictures improved.

My new hobby was born.

It became more than a hobby, though. I started to notice that whenever I would stop to take a picture of one flower, I’d notice others nearby. When I moved to take their pictures, I’d see more—then more. I would think I was stopping to photograph one simple flower, then end up taking pictures of a lot!

I realized that our thoughts about God work like that, too. God is all around us all the time, trying to get our attention, trying to get us to think about Him and to talk with Him, too. Sometimes we’re busy and ignore Him. We carry on right past the thought and miss the message from God.

IMG_3268When something simple from everyday life, though, like a wildflower, catches our attention and draws us to think about God in some new way, His Spirit will bring other thoughts to mind. As we consider these, we’ll remember Bible verses, sermons, and other words we’ve heard or read which reinforce the thought. When we know God’s Word supports the new thought, we’ll realize we’ve learned a new truth. About God. About the way He wants us to live life.

That’s how Wildflower Thinking, my first blog was born.

But this is Wildflower Faith! This is the next step.

You see, thoughts are just thoughts. Thoughts about God and His truths are good. Very good! When we learn to apply them to our daily lives in a practical way, though, that’s faith. That’s growing faith!

Shortly after our family moved to Georgia for the first time, the move that followed our year in Texas, my husband planted a few showy primroses in our front yard for me. He thought I might enjoy raising some wildflowers of my own, and he was right!Primroses

Winter came, though, and the flowers died. They do that in winter, you know.

But then came spring and with it came not just a few little showy primroses, but enough to stretch across the whole front of our house. Those primroses where everywhere!

Wildflower Faith is like that. When hard times come, it may struggle or seem to disappear. If we don’t give up on it, though, it’ll come back. Stronger. And it will bring friends!

I invite you to join me here in this place where, together with God’s Spirit and His Word, we can nurture Wildflower Thoughts into Wildflower Faith

And watch it grow!