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Archive for the ‘Zeal’ Category

volcano

Granted, my life is dancing around the edges of its autumn season, but I haven’t quite reached the flash point yet –hot flashes, that is. Although, just the other night, I did get a taste of how awful that must be.

Surely, you have also experienced this kind of night at some point; a night spent riding the fever-and-chill rollercoaster. If so, you can sympathize with my frustration. Sleep was sporadic. About the time the mercury in my thermometer was about to pop, I would throw my blankets off, in agony. I was so hot, in fact, that my only relief was the overhead fan, which whirred quietly overhead despite the wintery chill of evening. But then, as quickly as my overly-fatigued body gave way to sleep, it awoke abruptly, shaking at the sudden coldness. And so it went, hour after hour, long into the early morning hours.

At one point, I lay there, clothes damp with sweat, thinking that the hot flashing part was surely similar to what my menopausal friends experienced all the time. I thought about the cartoon I had seen earlier that week. It featured three snow women, the first was sharing with her friend that, “Mildred,” who had melted into a puddle, had “just had a hot flash.” After which, I grumbled to my sleeping husband that I am NOT ready to start hot flashing. He didn’t hear me, of course, but I just thought he should know that I have firmly decided to skip the whole hot flashing thing altogether!

About that time, my thoughts took an entirely different turn; they somehow jumped to the third chapter of Revelation, where the Lord speaks, through John, to the church in Laodicea: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth (verses 15, 16).

I Guess I’m safe then, I lightheartedly reminded the Lord, because I am definitely hot –then cold –then hot –then cold ……….

Feverish humor aside, spiritual comfort is the very thing that the Lord warned His church to avoid. But I always wondered why He would prefer cold to lukewarm. I think Matthew Henry sums it up pretty well in his Whole Bible Commentary:

Lukewarmness or indifference in religion is the worst temper in the world. If religion is a real thing, it is the most excellent thing, and therefore we should be in good earnest in it; if it is not a real thing, it is the vilest imposture, and we should be earnest against it. If religion is worth any thing, it is worth every thing; an indifference here is inexcusable: Why halt you between two opinions? If God be God, follow him; if Baal (be God), follow him. Here is no room for neutrality. An open enemy shall have a fairer quarter than a perfidious neuter; and there is more hope of a heathen than of such. Christ expects that men should declare themselves in earnest either for him or against him.

Frankly, I would love to tell you that I am never lukewarm in my faith, but that just wouldn’t be honest. I don’t ever consider my faith to be ‘cold,’ but there are certainly times in my life when I feel as though my spiritual fervency comes in waves like menopausal hot flashes; and it is during those weak moments that I have to remind myself that I am NOT willing to tolerate hot flashing.

I’m sure that there are others who have felt the same way on occasion. In fact, one of King David’s prayers was, Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51:10). David, who was a “man after God’s own heart,” was not ashamed to acknowledge his weaknesses and ask the Lord to rekindle his flame.

Dear reader, I pray that we are quick to do the same, so that our flame continues to burn brightly enough and consistently enough, that we are able to help those who walk in darkness to find their way!

God’s Flame

The candle’s flame extinguishes
in a pool of molten wax.
Likewise does my spirit dim
when time with God is lax.

Too often, while life is tugging,
God’s time is pushed aside,
till trials deal such crushing blows
that my faith is severely tried.

I can barely face another day
in difficult times like these,
until my strength is again restored
by time spent on my knees.

It is then my Father reaches out
with gentle outstretched hand.
“Though you’ve waned,” he says,
“I’ll give you strength to stand.

All you have to do my child
is praise Me with all your might.
Then I will reignite your flame
and thus restore your light.

Then I will take that light
and place it high upon a stand
so that hurting folks can see it
throughout this darkened land.

And they will know that it is I
who makes the darkness flee
from all who yield their heavy hearts
and put their trust in me.”

                                                                         God’s Flame © Susan Shimkovitz

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Okay I admit it; a few days ago, I almost mixed dried mustard into my pumpkin pie filling instead of ginger.  It’s a good thing I keep a pair of reading glasses in the kitchen and have the good sense to use them.  Otherwise, our dessert would have tasted awful.  At least I can blame my aging eyes for this near-blunder. 

Speaking of nasty-tasting desserts, I will also confess to you that I still hold first place in the “worst cake ever made” category for novice bakers.  Granted, I was quite young when I made that horrible thing, but that error was one of ignorance rather than limited vision. Allow me to explain:

Because this was the first cake I had ever baked from scratch, I was careful to follow the recipe to the letter.   From its beautiful, golden-brown appearance, the cake looked perfect when it came out of the oven. It tasted awful, though.  Words cannot adequately describe how nasty this cake tasted, or how confused I was by the outcome.  What had I done wrong?

Determined that I would not accept such a failure, I decided to toss the cake and start over.  Again, I assembled all the ingredients and followed the recipe meticulously. The flour was carefully sifted, the butter properly softened, the vanilla carefully measured and every ingredient added in order.  Surely, I reasoned, this cake would be better.

Definitely not!

The second cake was every bit as disgusting as the first; I was practically in tears.  With great disappointment, I informed my parents that we were not having cake that night because I was the worst baker on the planet and both cakes were in the trash, where they belonged.

“What did you put in the batter?” they asked.

I explained that I had followed the cookbook recipe and used only the ingredients listed.  I wasn’t sure why my parents started laughing, but they led me into the kitchen and, pulling a bottle from the cabinet, asked if that was the vanilla I used.

“Yes,” I answered, somewhat confused.

More laughs.  “That’s not vanilla,” they explained. “You used liquid smoke in the cake.”  (Unbeknownst to me, we had run out of vanilla.)

To be fair, the label had come off the bottle some time before.  But even if it hadn’t, I didn’t have a clue what liquid smoke was. Apparently, it’s a dark, liquid seasoning that is used to add a smoky flavor to foods. Trust me; you do not want to eat cake which tastes like it just came out of the smokehouse!

I was thinking about this recently after I listened to a young pastor present some rather “contemporary” suggestions for bringing the unsaved into his church. For the most part, his ideas were pretty good. And if the preacher’s vision to reach the lost had been more firmly grounded in Scripture, the outcome would have been very sweet and desirable.   However (without elaborating on the details), I noted that a few of his suggested “ingredients” for successful evangelism were, in reality, a violation of God’s Word. His vision was admirable, but he simply did not have proper understanding in regards to the propriety of his ideas.

We must remember, when putting together any kind of church outreach, that the proper “ingredients” are absolutely vital!

Although our hearts may be sincere and our motives pure, we must always be careful not to unintentionally substitute the sweet “vanilla” of God’s instruction for the (liquid) “smoke” of “cultural relevance.”  True, our well-meaning efforts might produce something that looks really good, but if we have made substitutions in God’s “recipe” for Christian conduct, (even unknowingly), the results will most likely be distasteful to the Lord.

Of course, we do need to earnestly minister to the unsaved, but it is only the LORD who can effectively bring them into the fold.  He Himself said: No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him (John 6:44).   Programs are nice, and preaching is important, but our primary focus should be to fulfill our divine calling to be a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that  [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light (I Peter 2:9).

Dear reader, let us   firmly resolve to once again raise the church to the standards of holiness she once walked in, that God may be pleased to dwell in His sanctuary as He did in days of old.  Upon doing so, we will most assuredly have the right ingredients to properly minister to those whom the LORD will send.

And that, my friend, is sweet and desirable to the LORD!

 “Once we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes.”                   ~George Soros

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In memory of my dear friend, Shiela.

And, in tribute to all the faithful, loving pastors who really care about the hurting.

WHEN A PASTOR TENDS TO ROSES

In the midst of frailty
Where the brier often grows,
God chose to lovingly restore
A beautiful, broken rose.

For her there was no sunshine;
She had known only rain.
Life’s storms had oft uprooted her,
And drenched her life with pain.

Thus, the rose was wilted;
Her natural luster had faded.
She thought her life to be a waste,
And her strength had been abated.

When she could no longer stand,
This rose crashed to the ground
Beneath the weight of her battles,
Which did so greatly abound.

She sought to find the answers
That would end her hellish war,
And give to her the kind of peace
We all are searching for.

At long last, she knelt and prayed,
Lest depression take its toll;
Until the soothing voice of God
Spoke life into her soul.

“Sheila, My child, I love you,”
He compassionately said.
“Your sufferings will come to an end;
There are brighter days ahead!”

“When you accepted me as Lord,
I forgave you of all your sin.
Now, I will fill you with inner peace,
And destroy the turmoil within.”

God spoke again to Sheila’s heart,
“I will send you a gentle pastor.
He will love you through each battle
And help your heart heal faster.”

He knew that Shiela needed support
In order for her to grow;
Until she reached the realms of glory
Where briers and weeds can’t go.

True to His Word, God sent a pastor
To embrace this broken rose,
And lead her back to the fertile garden
Where beauty and wisdom grows.

After only one brief chat with him,
Sheila knew she wasn’t alone
In her efforts to finally rid her life
Of all the weeds that had grown.

The pastor helped nourish her spirit,
And he lifted her always in prayer.
Sheila saw Jesus through him so oft,
She stopped yielding to hopeless despair.

Then, through her pastor’s guidance,
Which he offered with patience and grace;
Sheila understood God’s love and favor
Towards all those who seek His face.

She learned to believe God’s promises,
Of which she became quite zealous.
She clung to the life-giving words of God
Like the rose which clings to its trellis.

Though it took some time and trust,
Sheila was freed from all strife.
Her eyes then shone brightly with joy,
And peaceful contentment with life.

Unquestionably, Sheila had been restored,
And a lifetime of brokenness mended;
With the help of her faithful pastor,
Who loved her as God had intended.

No longer living in constant rain,
Shiela’s life reflected the Son
Until her radiant, inward beauty
Could be denied by none.

This rose had grown more beautiful
In the Master Gardner’s hand.
He then used her to touch others’ lives
In the many ways He planned.

Folks saw what God did for Shiela;
More than words can tell.
Thus, they were greatly encouraged
And turned to Him as well.

But alas, the beautiful rose has left.
She discarded her early vase.
In Heaven’s eternal garden,
She has gone to take her place.

Yet, Sheila will never be forgotten.
For the fragrance of God’s love,
Which flowed so freely through her,
Will linger with us, till we join her above.

To her faithful pastor,
And to all of her family and friends,
Sheila left a testimony of God’s healing
And of His love –a love which never ends!

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Riding the Pig


I can say with certainty that it is not a good idea to ride a pig bareback. On the other hand, it is a hysterical thing to watch if you are on the outside of the pen. I know this because I once busted a gut watching my younger sister’s efforts to conquer a big fat hog. Incidentally, those porkers can really move when they’re riled.

With lightning speed, the hog violently bucked my sister off; which would have silenced me at that very moment had she not fallen into a fresh, mucky puddle of piggy poo– that was just too riotous for constraint.

The hog, relieved to have thrown its burden, paced frantically back and forth squealing some unintelligible swine dialect, uncertain of what to do next. But when my sister stood up, the furious beast decided to charge; she barely cleared the pen before it slammed against the railing in an effort to nail her. That brought me to my senses rather abruptly.

I could just imagine the next day’s headlines: “Nine-year-old girl is killed by charging pig; thirteen-year-old killed by parents for letting it happen!”

Even though she was only bruised and shaken, I was angry that my sister had not listened to me when I forbid her to climb into that pig pen. Then again, she always was pig-headed (pun intended). She just grinned smugly and proclaimed with more than a hint of arrogance: “See, told you I could do it!”

Truthfully, I never really doubted it. That girl was always one to grab the bull by the horns- or the pig by the ears- and seize as much of life’s gusto as she could manage. Though I would never have told her so, I secretly admired my sisters’ sense of adventure and her limitless courage. (Don’t tell her I said that- I would never hear the end of it.)

I, on the other hand, was quite the opposite. Whereas my sister had been raised in such a way as to believe nothing was impossible to her, I was conditioned to believe that everything was. I had absolutely no self-confidence and was pretty much afraid of my own shadow, so I always played it safe. Being an incredibly difficult hurdle to clear, that fear has kept me from fully enjoying life for more years than I care to admit.

And I will confess that even as a person of faith, I spent way too many years being overly cautious, especially in regards to my children. It is only by the grace of God that they aren’t afraid to pursue their dreams and desires, despite my frequent nominations for the Over-Protective Parent of the Year Award. I guess they really took it to heart when their father and I taught them to believe the words of Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Being nearly grown, I’m sure none of my adventurous offspring will ever want to try riding a pig, but it goes without saying that they will undoubtedly want to do other ‘risky’ things on occasion. That may be hard for an old mother hen like me, but I have to realize that I cannot always protect my children, nor should I always try.

Even if their decisions cause them to ‘fall in piggy poo’ once in a while, I still rejoice in their adventurous spirits and their courage. And, I am very thankful that they are willing to take the bull by the horns and go for the gusto. After all, “A life making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” [George Bernard Shaw]

As for me, I don’t know what the future has in store, but watching my children grow into such fearless young adults has been a great inspiration to me. I’ve even decided to dust off a few old dreams and give ‘em a whirl. After all, I too can do all things through Christ who strengths me. And so can you!

“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” (Louis E. Boone)

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Several years ago a friend and I were pondering what the ancient Israelites looked like. What did they wear? Did the men use head coverings? What about their hair and beards? I suggested that we go back three or four thousand years and look at the newspapers and photographs.
Of course I had to explain that what I really meant by that light-hearted metaphor is that some of those answers can be found in archaeology.

It took a very long time, but I was finally able to put together a pictorial portfolio comprised of images from antiquity. The search was tedious and difficult but very enlightening in the end; well worth the effort.

I would probably never have seen an image of the ancient Israelite, though, had it not been for the labors of thousands of archaeologists who painstakingly combed every square inch of the ancient historical sites and dug the answers out of the ground inch by inch.

That’s why I love archaeology so much. With a little digging, we can view the day-to-day lives of the ancients as though they stepped right out of the pages of history. There are museums in every country of the world housing a variety of artifacts that chronicle ancient history, yet we have probably not even scratched the surface of the vast store of treasure still buried.

If ever I could, I would love to participate in a dig- especially in the area of ancient Mesopotamia. This might not ever happen, but I suppose that’s okay since I am on a far greater treasure hunt anyway; one which spans 6,000 years of human history and beyond.

Listen to what the Word of God said about the kingdom of heaven:

the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.(Matthew 13:44)

Notice that the kingdom of heaven, at least the knowledge pertaining to it, is “hidden.” Where? It is hidden within the pages of the Holy Bible. But the good news is that anyone who diligently searches for it can find it.

There is no greater treasure that may be found in this earth than that of God’s Kingdom. With that kingdom, however comes great responsibility and it is absolutely imperative that we seek God’s wisdom in order to fully comprehend it. Again Scripture says:

All the words of my mouth are in righteousness… They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge. Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it. (Proverbs 8:8-11)

Seeking God’s wisdom as well as understanding the pages of Scripture is a life-long endeavor, but oh the treasures we will find there!

It never ceases to amaze me that archaeologists will sometimes devote their entire lifetimes unearthing one buried city or searching for sites long forgotten. They will in their great devotion work with little more than a trowel and a brush in the grueling heat day after day, year after year. And yet I, to my shame, sometimes find it hard to spend an hour a day in God’s word. Forgive me Lord.

I pray that I may become a great treasure hunter. And I pray for patience as I search through God’s Word to find the hidden riches there. If archaeologists can continue to work at unearthing Pompeii for more than two hundred years (with a third of the city still yet to be cleared); then surely I can devote more of my time searching for the greatest treasure that can ever be found; one that will last for an eternity without decay.

After all, the Lord God instructed us: Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:19-21)

My heart is with God and my desire is for His kingdom; I’m sure yours is too. Can you dig it?

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Odd Ducks

Years ago, I joked about forming an Odd Duck Society. I wasn’t really serious, and I probably would’ve had trouble rounding up members anyway. Just about everyone I knew back then seemed to be “normal” whatever that is. I, on the other hand, never quite seemed to find other birds of a feather to flock with.

As a person of faith, it never bothered me that I was an oddity to those who weren’t. That is too be expected. The rejection I felt from other believers, though, hurt deeply. I found myself denounced more times than I could count because of my zeal and outspokenness in defense of God‘s word.

This used to really bother me. In fact, it was only about eight years ago that I began to accept the reality that being an “odd duck” was really okay. I had been meditating the passage of scripture that says we are a peculiar people; that we should show forth the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light ” (1 Peter 2:9).

Peculiar. I thought, how much more peculiar can one person be? That shoe certainly fit my big foot, so I didn’t mind wearing it. God had assuredly called me out of darkness, but it was that darkness in which I was raised, that caused me to be so peculiar. Because God had delivered me from such misery and showed me such overwhelming love and goodness, I could be nothing less than passionate about His word.

I truly longed to be peculiar, in the biblical sense anyway. Yet, I could not even begin to understand why my intensity bothered other believers so much. I hadn’t wanted to be an offense to others, so I prayed and asked the Lord to please change me so I could be of more use to Him.

He answered by reminding me of several people whose lives were recorded in scripture. The names are too numerous to recount here, but they all loved God and served Him wholeheartedly. And they too, faced a great deal of persecution for their zeal – even from those who should have understood. Nevertheless, the lives of those “odd ducks” are still impacting others even today, through the pages of scripture, because they dared to be different.

Have you ever seen one odd duck swimming amongst others? I have. Only days after meditating on that particular scripture, I was watching a flock of plain brown ducks. And I couldn’t help but notice that swimming amongst them was a multi-colored wood duck with all its bright, gorgeous colors glistening in the sun. I marveled that there, in the midst of plainness, was something extraordinary and beautiful.

It struck me, God’s people are supposed to stand out like that too. When others look at our lives, they should see God’s hand at work and marvel.

As I walked nearer to the water, I looked at the ground. There were webbed footprints and feathers everywhere. Most of the feathers were brown, but there, in the midst of them, were a few which were bright teal. I smiled. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out just where that lone, odd duck had been. Even in its absence, a part of its beauty lingered on to be found by others.

I want to be like that; I want others to be able to look at my life and see God’s hand at work. And everywhere I go, I want to leave something of beauty behind as a lasting impression that points people to God.

Call me crazy, but I‘ve decided through the years that being an odd duck can actually be a blessing, and I am not at all ashamed to be one. Perhaps I should still start an Odd Duck Society. I probably wouldn’t even have trouble finding members now. The Lord has blessed me in recent years with many friends and acquaintances that happen to be odd ducks like myself. We may be different, but I gotta tell you, our pond is one happening place!


Photos courtesy of http://www.photobucket.com

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