Tuesday, January 31, 2012
It snowed twice this week. The first time it came down heavy and wet. The next time it floated like fluff. I doubt if my whole yard full would have filled a pillow. No shovel needed; just a swish of the broom cleared the walks.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
No sooner do the lighter-than-air dandelion seeds quit scattering than the goldenrod fluff starts in. The late-autumn, wind-borne stuff still makes me sneeze. And soon golden, feathery Tamarack leaves will start to shed.
All the fluff is beautiful. Sneezes or not, it’s fun to watch it blow in the wind. One major problem with nature-fluff, however, is that whatever blows grows. Tiny seeds somehow manage to attach themselves to tiny specks of soil and—voila! A new dandelion or goldenrod stem to torment us.
There are many kinds of fluff in this world. In the literary world, it’s called Chick Lit—loosely-plotted, light-hearted fables about silly characters who spend their shallow lives trying to catch Mr. Hunk so they won’t end up, heaven forbid, lonely and unloved. In other areas of life, fluff can come in the form of a room full of “toys” or “awards” or “trophies.”
Fluff of any kind has little substance. It may bring the feel of cuddly softness babies feel when wrapped in a plush blanket. It may protect baby birds in the nest. It may bring the needed warmth of a down quilt or sleeping bag. It may even feel airy to the tongue, such as when we taste a light soufflé.
There comes a time when we need to replace our need for fluff for that of substance. Part of growing up requires that. We shouldn’t expect to be pampered all our lives. We must attain mental and emotional maturity along with our physical.
Spiritual “fluff” also can become a deterrent to our Christian maturity. Spiritual fluff can come in the form of easy-to-digest untruths about the Word of God. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears they will … turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
It’s easy to hear what we want to hear or read the light-hearted fables we want to read in order to feel comfortable. It’s easy to view our church as a fluffy quilt, forsaking Jesus’ command to go into the world and proclaim His message of hope and love. It’s easy to let our fluffy life take shallow root where it will hinder not only our own maturity but that of others. We are rather to be “mature in understanding.” (1 Corinthians 14:20)
Lord, help us to be discontent with the fluff of spiritual immaturity. Rather, help us grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Monday, January 23, 2012
I’ve been blessed to see the beauty of God’s handiwork in Alaska’s mountains. Denali, the highest point in America, is so awe-inspiring, it brings goose bumps. If you haven’t been there, I recommend a trip to our largest and most beautiful state.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Love One Another
I love chocolate, classical music, and a good novel. I love to watch the deer, to hike a mountain trail, and to spend time with family and friends. I love a good game of cribbage, a run through a rain puddle, and making silly faces with my grandchild.
Should we love “things” as well as people? There are different kinds of love—love for chocolate, love for family, love for a mate, and “agape” love for others that comes from God.
The saying, “God is love,” is much more than just an old saying. The Bible teaches us that God’s very nature is love. His thoughts and actions are loving. He created the earth and all that is in it—especially mankind—with love. He loves each one of us.
When we create something—a painting, a song on the piano, a quilt—we do so out of love not only for the product, but also for the process and the end result. Even in the imperfections of these things (for only God is perfect), they are loved.
But things we create or enjoy pale next to our love for other human beings. We experience love in its finest form when we love others regardless of their imperfections. When we allow God’s love to fill us, we automatically care more about another’s happiness than our own. When God’s love fills us, the slogan “love one another” becomes more than a slogan. It becomes a daily reality.
Agape love—true and unconditional love from God alone—takes practice. The Bible says we should “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) Anything worthwhile takes practice. By intentionally, prayerfully loving others, especially the unloving or unlovable, we begin to develop a new habit that each day will become easier.
It’s not easy to love the person who has maligned us or taken advantage of us. It’s not easy to deliberately show love to someone whom we know will never return our love. But with the help of Christ, it is possible. “With God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27)
God has promised to do great things through the love He bestows on us, if we give Him the chance. His love in us and through us can cause even the most hardened hearts to be healed.
Lord, as we accept Your love in our hearts, use us in mighty ways to move the hearts of others through our intentional, prayerful expressions of love. May our love for You and for others be evident in our thoughts, our words, and our deeds. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Monday, January 16, 2012
The straight and narrow path which takes us to God’s heavenly home may be difficult at times. For this coyote, however, it wasn’t hard to find the path to my compost pile. Wily coyote savored my leftover food. May you savor God’s Word and presence through His Spirit as you keep to His perfect path. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Eyes on the Road
One year, my twin sister and I decided to celebrate our birthday together in a northern Michigan cabin. Unused to the Upper Peninsula snowbelt, we met, celebrated in an uninsulated cabin, and left for home in a snowstorm. My sister, headed back to Lansing, made it across the big bridge just before they closed it to further traffic. My trip west required total concentration. I dared not let my gaze waver or take my hands off the wheel for a second, or I’d have been in the ditch like other vehicles I saw.
The narrow path became harder and harder to see. Snowplows and school buses driving kids home early were about the only vehicles on the highway. Increasingly anxious and cautious as the slushy snow piled up, I debated stopping at a motel midway home. But if I turned off—out of my narrow driving lane—I might spin around and get stuck in the ditch. Hours later, I arrived home exhausted but safe. Never since have we celebrated our December birthday together in the Northwoods.
Sometimes life paths seem treacherous, too. When the going is easy, we tend to veer off and enjoy the scenery, so to speak. That can cause us trouble if we give in to the temptations of illicit, immoral, or illegal behavior. Many things can tempt us to take our gaze off our path—things such as pride in ourselves, overindulgences, or fear.
God doesn’t promise us that the going will be easy. In fact, Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction; and there are many who go in by it, because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
It doesn’t take much to veer off God’s straight and narrow course. Keeping our eyes on His path can be difficult, but He promises to help us. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for … My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Thus, while it is difficult, relying on God will make it easier.
God wants us to keep our eyes on His path, because “His way is perfect. The Word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” (2 Samuel 22:31)
Lord, help us to keep our eyes on Your narrow path even when it’s as hard to navigate as a vehicle in a snowstorm. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Isn’t it amazing how much control we want to have over our circumstances, people, and our own actions and words? More amazing are the wonderful benefits God gives us when we surrender all control to Him. Let’s make 2012 a year of surrendering everything—body, soul, and spirit—to God.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Backseat drivers can be frustrating. Well-intentioned or unsure people point out the parking spot we should use, yell, “You’re too close to that car,” or warn about the stop sign three blocks ahead. We might have a five-star driving record, but that doesn’t stop them from offering us unsolicited advice. Other “backseat drivers” are those who can’t keep a job because they keep telling the boss how to run his business.
It’s a matter of control. Backseat drivers believe their way is the only way to fix a problem—whether it’s about finding the perfect parking spot, pointing out an obvious stop sign, or telling the boss to let us do the job our own way because it’s “better.”
The Bible includes countless stories about people who believed their way was better than God’s way. Each time, they got in trouble. The Israelites turned away from God, their “boss,” for other gods and missed out on the Promised Land. Samson caved in after Delilah’s relentless begging and told her the secret of his strength. He lost his life over it. Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed by a whale when he disobeyed God. He didn’t believe God should send him to such an evil place as Ninevah. Jonah later learned that God was right all along.
Jesus’ disciples wanted to send 5,000 people home for dinner rather than believe that God could provide enough food for them on the spot. They insisted a group of little kids shut up so Jesus could preach to the adults, not realizing that the kids were important, too. They tried to keep an “unclean,” bleeding woman and, later, two blind men from making a scene, not imagining Jesus would even think about healing them.
It took a while for the Israelites, for Samson and Jonah, and for Jesus’ disciples to learn the lessons about God’s faithfulness. When we too “backseat drive,” trying to take God’s control into our own hands, sometimes it requires many lessons before we learn that God’s ways are better than ours. When we finally learn, we can stop being His backseat driver and allow Him to remain at the controls. We can feel relaxed and at peace.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Lord, help us to trust in You completely so we won’t be tempted to be Your backseat driver. In Jesus’ name, amen.