Thursday, June 29, 2023

Do You Ever Have a "What If," or Two, Wandering About Your Brain?

 I've had a "what if" wandering about my brain this week.

Sometimes I dismiss them quickly, because most "what ifs" take the form of worries, which can be damaging to my attitude.

This one, however, I've toyed with for a while.

It's shaped itself in the form of these "what if" questions:

"What if the Apostle Paul suddenly vaporized on earth today? What would he have to say to the church? What letters might he write, to leave with, say, the church in Pagosa Springs, or the church in ________________ (your pick)?"

Since my last few studies have been through many of Paul's Epistles, the questions arose not at all randomly.

Add to that news reports that leave me shaking my head, and responses I've read recently to different Jesus-following-influencers, and I've been pondering what a Pauline-like-response might look like.

(I won't give examples as I'm sure you have plenty of your own, and this isn't about debating hot topics or controversial concerns.)

After plenty of consideration and going back through some of Paul's letters to the churches in the first century, I've concluded with a sufficient answer to satisfy my wandering mind.

What would Paul say to the church today?

How would Paul respond?

EXACTLY (!) as he did all those years ago.

Really, there is nothing new under the sun.

While names of disruptors have changed, and issues have materialized that might cause Paul to raise his eyebrows, I don't think he'd be too shocked.

(So, neither should I.)

After all, he warned us about a lot of things:

When Paul wrote his letters, he clarified and presented for all believers THE bottom line:

  • Keep the main thing the main thing.
  • Guard the gospel.
  • Treasure THE TRUTH OF GOD.
  • Know that issues will arise, and people will love evil and hate good, but YOU, YOU LOOK TO YOUR OWN HEART and make sure you are prioritizing first things first.
  • Above all, love one another (without hypocrisy)...for it is through LoVe that all men will know we are DISCIPLES OF JESUS.
  • As much as it depends on you pursue peace with all men. 

In the midst of all my pondering, a song that dropped about 9 months ago, played on Sirius XM Radio as I ran errands in town.

When I pulled into the grocery store parking lot, I looked up the lyrics.

I thought to myself, if the Apostle Paul spoke in stadiums to large audiences today, he'd make certain this song opened the conference.

Yes, this is a short blog.

With the Fourth of July around the corner, we didn't need a long one...

So, you have plenty of extra time to take a listen to this song (all of it....maybe a couple of times). 

I'l print the lyrics.

Here is the link: First Things First, by the group, Consumed By Fire.

All the things that I have held dear

The vanities that whispered in my ear

What would I do if they all disappeared?

Riches and fame, and all that they could buy

I've come to find they never satisfy

What would I gain if my soul's the price?


I don't wanna love what the world loves

I don't wanna chase what the world does

I only want You; I only want You...

First things first, I seek Your will

Not my own, surrender all my wants to You

Keep the first thing first

To live YOUR truth, walk Your ways

Set my eyes, Lord, I fix my face on You

All my desires reversed

To keep the first thing first

I give it all, my life an offering

My heart is Yours so have Your way in me

Your Kingdom's all I wanna seek


Could you sing this song and mean those words?

Or, would you sing those words, and by saying them, think you mean them? 

There's a big difference.

When we mean something, really desire it, we make course corrections.

We don't need a visit from the Apostle Paul, or even a letter from him to the Church in America.

For now, allow these lyrics to become a heart-felt-prayer, and a Paul-like-life-changing-charge, to your soul...

What if?

And...keep first things first.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Another Random Lesson on Humility (and a way to strengthen it)

Last May, when I was asked to speak at a women's event in Tucson on the topic of humility, I began reading what I could, researching Scriptures, and studying different commentaries. 

To be honest, humility wasn't a topic I'd marinated in much... 

It's not that I thought I didn't need some lessons on the subject, and definitely wanted to live with more humility (Paul is pretty straightforward that Jesus-followers should have that same attitude as Jesus), but the whole idea smacked with the similarity of praying for patience. 

Almost everybody knows how that turns out...

At the time, I figured it would be about a 2-3 month "seminary-style-course" and I'd be done.

Oh no...not true...

All through this year, EvErYwHeRe (!) I turn, EvErY (!) book I read, EvErY (!) day it seems that the concept of humility is snuck in between words, paragraphs, pages and even on billboard advertisements. 

Obviously, I've a long way to go in my understanding.

This week's been no exception to this rule. 

New book. 

New lessons.

Truth is that I wish I could just copy and paste a couple of chapters right here, but I doubt the author of the current book I'm reading would take kindly to it. 

So, let me distill one concept in particular that I've been sitting on, and need to begin practicing, if pride is going to take a back seat and weaken.

The author, Mark Buchanan, of the book Your God is Too Safe, makes this comment:

"There are some sins that we keep constant vigilance over. Pride is one of them. It's a shape-shifter, a master of masquerade. It often cloaks itself as humility - perhaps pride's most effective and attractive costume." 



I've even discussed this very notion of how pride often masks itself - it has a tendency to dress like a tax collector on the outside, while inside is every inch the Pharisee, trying to look humble and holy, when not. You can read that blog here: (A Pharisee in Tax Collector's Clothing).

That's exactly why, suggests Buchanan, we need to incorporate dead space, margin, aloneness, and, most of all, quiet into our lives through the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude.

In this space, where the Lord has our full attention, He can strip away our masquerade and reveal the Pharisee within.

In this place, dead space (which feels awkward, uncomfortable, and dreadful to almost every human) becomes Holy Ground.

There, we are most likely to find burning bushes of our own, where the Lord speaks intimately with us.

I'd discovered this in my study, as well, the importance of sitting with the Lord and putting into practice spiritual disciplines, "holy habits." 

BUT, there's a discipline never really incorporated within my common list; a holy habit sure to weaken and remove the masks of pride we live under. The practice of:

(To be honest, I had to look that up - I wasn't sure that it really was a spiritual discipline, but, yep, sure is! You can google for much more information...)

Definition: the act of keeping something as secret.

Secrecy is not the same as being secretive.

Definition: the act of hiding, or concealing, information with a conspiratorial attitude

Things we want to hide (secretive), we most often ought to confess (another holy habit).

However, things we want to verbalize, or make known, we, most often, need to keep anonymous. 


When used as a spiritual discipline, the act of secrecy dresses in the garments of humility. 
This kind of secrecy 
"acts on the belief that the reward of God matters more than the reward of man 
(Mark Buchanan)."

Here are some Scriptures: 

Psalm 51:6. "You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart."

Isaiah 45:3.  "I will give you treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by name."

Matthew 6:4.  "(Let) your done in secret; and, your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Matthew 6:6. "Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret and your Father who sees in Secret will reward you. 

The late Dallas Willard once described the practice of secrecy as, "Consciously refraining from having our good deeds and qualities generally made known, which, in turn rightly disciplines our longing for recognition."

As he went on, he wrote, "Secrecy rightly practiced enables us to place our public relations department entirely in the hands of God..."

That's the part, I needed to hear this week:  Secrecy rightly practiced enables me to place my public relations department entirely in the hands of God.


That certainly resonated with a sounding bell of conviction within my soul!

Far too often, I want to make sure I get the proper credit, the applause, the pat on the back, the recognition, the validation, and the admiration. 

Instead, can I slip into the background, allow the Lord to handle the time and the place for my light to shine for His glory? 

Can I be content to "do in secret," where it matters not at all what others think about me, or say about me?

Might I be more John-the-Baptist-like that He might be greater and I might be less?

Might I be more Jesus-like that I'm able to be more about the interests of others than my own?

Look at this statement one more time.

Hold it for a while in your heart.

What would that look like for us to do just this?

 Secrecy rightly practiced enables me to place my public relations department entirely in the hands of God.

In our current "selfie" culture, where public affirmation is as close as our cell phones and social media posts, this "training in righteousness" might remove the temptation for self-promotion, seeking only and needing only the joy of a simple nod from God Himself. 

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Disposing of Dead Mice to the Glory of God

I don't like mice.

It doesn't matter if they are living or dead, I will screech at the sight of one and rapidly remove myself from the premises.

Small and harmless, though they may be, I'm fairly traumatized if one skitters across the floor.

Dead ones, though, are just gross. 

All I can think of are the diseases they carry.

The list isn't short and the names are long, so I won't take up space (just google "diseases from rodents").

So, of course, it has fallen to me to check our mouse traps this week, while my honey is on a ministry trip (a 10! day! trip!). 

Each trap is set in the typical places where we seem to catch most of the field mice that try to sneak into our house. 

Just to try to keep the little critters away from the traps, so I don't have to deal with these diminutive monsters, I take extra precautions.

Every night before bed, I saturate the area around the traps with lots of peppermint oil (I've read that mice are repelled by the smell of peppermint). 

In fact, the smell is so strong, I'm almost repelled by it.

When you walk into our house from outside, you can't help but note that the odor reaches out and grabs your nose (maybe even shakes it a little) the minute you open the door. 

I also bought one of those little sonic thingies you plug-in that are supposed to send mice scurrying.

I can assure you they don't work. 

All this to say, this morning when I checked the traps, there were two (!) dead mice and one sprung trap (I had three traps set). 

You know what that means, right? 

I had to dress in my brave-clothes (well, that, or a hazmat suit, which I don't own, but am seriously contemplating purchasing). 

After all, one never knows when the trap might accidentally release and throw said dead mouse onto your person...

Honestly it took me about an hour to muster up the courage, and I kept finding other things to do in order to procrastinate the actual act of disposal.

It didn't get past me, however, that at the top of my to-do-list are written these words:

Do Hard Things First.

(just like that in a large red bold italic font) 

The whole get-rid-of-the-dead-disease-carrying-creatures debacle might have made a humorous Tik-Tok video had I not been so horrified. 

It was truly comedic.

But, y'all, I did the necessary deed, and even reset the traps. 


What does all this have to do with anything?

Getting there. 

This morning before checking for mice, I happened to be reading through Colossians.

I got to chapter 3, and my husband's favorite verse in the Bible:

Paul happens to be writing to slaves who are followers of Jesus, when he writes those words.

He's actually saying to them, "Listen. Turn your slave-work into worship!" 

"Do ALL your work, not to please your earthly master, but your heavenly Lord."

As I read that this morning, I knew my to-do-list stretched across a couple pages, and knew this to be a sweet reminder to have a good attitude as I ticked things off throughout the day.

I even made myself a note, "Turn enchilada-making into a gift to God." 

Or, clean the pollen off the porch as if the Lord Himself will inspect when finished. 

Well, enchiladas are one thing.

Mice are an entirely different deal.

BUT........Paul said, "WHATEVER you do..." 


That means dead-mice-disposal, as well.

Even that act could become an act of worship, if I made the right choice.

Here's what I noticed as I began to muster the courage to carry away the dreaded (dead) fearsome creatures...

I prayed.

It started with "Lord, would you come and help...."

But, I couldn't finish the prayer.

God's already with me.

How many times do I do that...ask for His presence when He's always present no matter where I am, or what I am called to do?

I didn't have to appeal to Him to be with me to help me dispose of a dead mouse.

Yet, I, far too often, ask for His presence, when the Word of the Lord tells me He's already given me that gift. 

In big things and in small mouse-sized things, the Lord is with me...always at all times. He is ever near and ever here!

I just need to "practice coming into His presence," even in the midst of mundane, sometimes yucky jobs, and make every action as unto the Lord.

This morning gave me a whole new take on a very familiar passage of Scripture.

And, it brought a whole new kind of brave...

...even peace amidst a yucky, less-than-desirable-job.


Thursday, June 8, 2023

Random Thoughts on Doubt (& Doubting Thomas)

Every once in a while I like to take a break from a normal "study-a-book-of-the-Bible-through," and mix things up a little, in a way that will help me learn life-lessons with new eyes. 

So, the last couple of weeks I've been doing a character study on Jesus' disciple, Thomas, because I didn't want to be like him:  A doubter.

You recall Thomas, right?

He's the one on whom we placed the moniker, Doubting Thomas.

Poor Thomas! After reading more about him, I recognize he didn't really deserve that nickname.

And, I'd love to know if it makes him chuckle, or embarrassed, or even angry to know how that label has stuck!

There's not much known about Thomas' early history, or his actual calling by Jesus to be one of the select 12. 

We do know that besides the name Thomas, he is sometimes called Didymus, which means "twin," so of course we speculate that to be his situation.

However,  I'm not as interested in those early years, as what I might learn from him as he walked and came alongside Jesus during His earthly ministry - how can I not end up being a "Doubting Peg," or worse, fall into the "sin of unbelief (Hebrews 3:10-19).

To be honest, not a whole lot is said about Thomas, but John records three different conversations that give us some insight.

Conversation #1.

The first time Thomas speaks is when Jesus announces to his disciples that His good friend, Lazarus has "gone to sleep." And, He tells them plainly, "Let us go to him." 

The disciples are dumbstruck! "Lord, we can't go to Jerusalem again, the Rabbi's are ready to stone you!"

But, Thomas answers them all, "Let's all go with Him, so that we may die with Him."

John 11:5-16

I don't know what you're thinking, but does this sound like a skeptic to you?

If this were the only conversation we hear of Thomas I certainly wouldn't call him a doubter. 

Definition of doubt: A state of being unsure/uncertain of truth; to lack confidence in; to waver in opinion of; to be of two minds, to consider as unlikely.

Nope. I wouldn't call him this at all (perhaps a bit impulsive, but definitely not dubious). 

Courageous Thomas, but not a Doubting Thomas. 

Trusting Thomas, but not a double-minded Thomas.

I read conviction in those words.

Conversation #2.

Jesus has just said to the 12, "Listen. Don't let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. I'm going to go and prepare a place for you, so that where I am you may be also. You will know where I'm going."

Thomas: "No, Lord. We don't know the way. How can we know?"

Jesus responds to him (this is almost how I hear Him saying these words of assurance): "Oh, don't worry. I AM the way, I AM the truth, I AM the life."

John 14:1-6

Doubting Thomas or simply curious?

Lacking confidence in Jesus or simply wanting assurance of THE WAY to be with Jesus? 

I get the feeling Thomas is a man who deals in assurances. 

Once he knows what he believes, he sticks to it come what may (see conversation #1)...he follows hard after his beliefs...he doesn't doubt, he simply rests in what he knows to be true.

Thomas' ethics are settled once he KNOWS WHAT HE BELIEVES.

Conversation #3.

The disciples and many of the women who followed Jesus are gathered in an upper room just after the discovery of the empty tomb. 

But Thomas was not with them.

Jesus appeared to them, showed them his hands and feet, then commissioned them: "As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you."

When Thomas arrived, they excitedly shared with him that they had seen the Lord. 

But, here's where Thomas gets his nickname: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

John 20:19-25

Yes, Thomas was an eye-witness to Lazarus' resurrection. 

Yes. He'd heard Jesus say, 

"I am the resurrection and the life."

But for a man who dealt in certainties (see conversation #2), the words of his friends must have felt like wishful thinking.

In order to boldly, with conviction, proclaim that Jesus fulfilled who He said He was (Resurrection and Life), Thomas needed to see for himself.

To live for something he could (& would) possibly die for needed a greater degree of certainty for Thomas than just what his friends told him.

The truth is that Thomas' doubts are often our doubts.

Sometimes, the Words of Truth cause us to wonder.

Are the declarations and promises of Scripture simply wishful thinking?

Does prayer really make a difference?

Is heaven real?

Will God truly provide what we need?

Will He be with us in times of trouble?

To verbalize our questions doesn't feel very Christian, does it? So, we stay silent.

And, yet, at times, we will all struggle with doubt.

Eight days after the above conversation, Thomas saw Jesus for himself. 

Jesus says to Thomas: "Look at my hands...Look at my side...reach out and touch."

What does Thomas do?

He doesn't need to reach out and put his hands in the marks on Jesus' hands or in his side...

Instead, he falls on his face in worship. (John 20:26-29). Then declares: 

"My Lord and My God (v. 28)!"

And, for the rest of Thomas' life, he never wavered.

Here's my take away:

Initial doubt is a human response to something that seems too good to be true. 

Jesus doesn't rebuke our initial doubt (he didn't rebuke Thomas).

But, He doesn't want us to stay there either.

Instead, we process through to a place where we know for certain what we believe and why we believe it. 

Then, we live in its truth without wavering.

We, actually, live like Thomas -




Maybe being a Doubting Thomas isn't all that bad...