Monday, February 25, 2013



Tilted Floors

Since my body is beginning to require more upkeep than the gardens and lawns of my country home, I sold my home and moved into town. The change is easier both on my budget and on my body.

As with any change, however, there are trade-offs. I already miss watching the wild critters that visited my country home, but enjoy living closer to other people. My new, relatively quiet neighborhood has nice neighbors. The upstairs tenants are quiet. I don’t have to shovel or mow. My apartment suits my needs. I’m comfortable here. 

As in all houses, not everything is perfect in my new apartment. The house is old and the floors tilt. My desk drawers slide shut when I want them to stay open. The bookcases are leveled with shims. The desk chair tries to roll me to places I don’t want to go.

When I think about these imperfections, I laugh because my crooked apartment is so much like life. We are riddled with flaws and idiosyncrasies in body, mind, and personality. None of us is perfect. Sometimes we can even laugh about our imperfections.

We might compare tilted floors to our spiritual lives, too. We struggle with poor judgments, bad habits, and sinful deeds every day. The best of us are stuck with imperfections. Mozart not only made mistakes on the piano, he is said to have lived an immoral life. Miss America may be beautiful, but she may also be judgmental. Famous leaders often become prideful, or worse. None of us will ever attain perfection in our lifetime.

There is hope for us imperfect beings, however. Jesus’ death and resurrection allows us to become “perfect”—that is, complete and mature—in Him. Paul’s mission was to preach and teach people so he “may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Colossians 1:28) We who will believe in and love Him with our whole heart, soul, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves, will know spiritual perfection. But our bodies and minds will remain flawed, unevenly tilted. “But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” (1 Corinthians 13:10) No doubt this verse refers to Christ’s second coming when everything will become perfect—without tilted floors. There will be no more imperfections in our body—our physical home—and no more sin.

Lord, thank You for accepting us in our imperfect form and making us complete and mature through Christ, who resides within us. Thank You, too, for Your promise of total perfection when we meet You face to face. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I can hardly believe how easy it is to keep taking back to myself the trust I place in God. Find yourself in the same situation? If I had Proverbs 3:5-6 tattooed on my forehead, I probably would still find myself trusting in my own puny solutions too often. The process of  letting go isn’t quick or easy, but if I want to be a more effective servant of Christ, I can’t give up trying. How about you?


A Smothering Nightmare

My twin sister and I, as kids, often had the same nightmare. A ball of lint in the distance rolled closer and closer, growing in size, until it eventually smothered us. We couldn’t move out of the way or punch it away, but only watch in fear as it approached. We always awoke with a stuffy nose.

Some real-life experiences also make us feel smothered, such as divorce, abuse, anxiety, and fear. Smothering oppression can weigh us down in body, mind, emotions, and spirit. Like a nightmarish ball of lint, such feelings of being smothered can eventually disable us.

When a falling tree traps us, our fight or flight reaction kicks in to help us get out from under the burden. Emotional oppression requires a different kind of effort—perhaps therapy or counseling. The Bible is filled with examples of emotional problems that led to spiritual oppression. The Israelites, oppressed by unbelief and doubt of God’s love and provision, suffered from fear, anger, and bitterness. King Saul’s tortured soul was soothed only temporarily by David’s  harp playing. Like the ball of lint in my nightmares, their oppression grew into drastic proportions. Only when they came to the end of their self-centered rope and turned to God did they find victory from their self-imposed smothering.

We too are sometimes helpless to remove oppression, when we rely only on ourselves. And it does no good to scream and holler, cringe and cry, or blame another source.

There is, however, a successful, biblical way to deal with smothering oppression. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us: “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.”

Trust comes hard for some, especially those of us who have an independent nature, believing they can solve all their own problems. Others believe they need only to sit back and wait for God or someone else to help. Some trust God in some things but surely not all things. But we’re told to trust Him with ALL our heart, not just the part we want to give Him. And sometimes we tend to forget to acknowledge Him in EVERY way, believing He will solve our problems the best way—His way.

Lord, help us remember to look to You first, trusting that You can free us from our oppressions in the best way possible. Thank You for Your faithfulness in directing our paths in Your perfect way. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Flunking Sign Language

This devotional column needs no introduction. I admit that I’m failing and it’s my own fault. Thanks be to God for His eternal grace and willingness to give second chances.


Our church is blessed to have a member who knows and teaches sign language. She and another member, who is hearing impaired, are teaching some of us how to sign. Take it from someone who has a college degree in English but nearly flunked Spanish—and at one time failed to learn basic Swedish words—learning sign language is difficult. In fact, I’m flunking.

My problem, I’ve decided, is not taking the time to retrain my brain to speak and listen differently. Being what is considered a visual person, I have a hard time transferring my mind pictures to hand pictures. I realize now how closely related hearing is to seeing. The process of hearing with our eyes requires change. And change is not always easy. For instance, when training my puppy years ago, she too found it hard to understand—and ultimately to obey—my spoken words that worked in conjunction with my hand gestures.

Reading signs is a habit for most of us. When we see a hexagonal red sign, we know to stop our vehicle. Our brains compute naturally to slow down at a curve in the road when we see the clearly marked sign. New signs take longer to learn and remember. We must make an effort to store them in our brain’s hard-drive.

Sign language applies to our spiritual lives, too. God showed the Israelites countless, dramatic signs of His power and love. His signs, even when strengthened with His Words, still caused many people to doubt. Jesus also gave many visual signs of healing and deliverance, which many Jewish leaders rejected. Jesus said, “…seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Quoting Isaiah, He said, “For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed ….” (Matthew 13:13-14)

Lord, give us the desire to take time in retraining our brains so we can hear Your truths not only with our ears but also with our hearts. Open our eyes to Your wonders and works. Give us new vision and new hearing so we won’t flunk Your sign language. Give us the will and strength to follow Your Words from James 1:22 to be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving (our)selves.” We want to follow Your true law of love—hearing with our hearts and then serving others in Jesus’ name.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Many of us are afflicted with cabin fever about this time of year and, due to short days, yearn for more sun and warmth—to say nothing about dressing lighter and getting from Point A to Point B faster and easier. I pray you aren’t in the winter doldrums, but especially that you aren’t in the spiritual doldrums. We surely need to avoid that in spite of the weather or season.


The Doldrums

I once sailed with some friends on a day of dead calm. Neither water nor air seemed to move and, as we sat quietly without wind in our sails, we felt listless, almost as empty as the air itself. Finally tiring of the heat and stillness, we started our motor and went on our way.

Before the days of motors, sailors used to face dead calms in the waters near the equator. Those frustrating regions are called The Doldrums, a word that we use today when referring to listlessness or emptiness.

Any kind of emptiness, or vacuum, longs to be filled with something. In our emotional doldrums we try to fill our souls with either bad things (drugs, revelry, crime) or good things (devotion to a dog, sports, hobbies). Most of us become devoted to something or someone. Even the most accomplished pianist or heart surgeon is devoted to his or her profession. Devotion runs deep in the human heart. Most of us feel that we need people or things or accomplishments to satisfy the deep longings of our heart. But those things are temporary and will not cure our emotional or spiritual doldrums.

God our Creator designed us to be filled with and devoted to Himself. He desires to fill every empty place in our heart with his life-satisfying Spirit. When we choose to fill our feelings of emptiness with the things of God, and become committed to him, we find the deep satisfaction that we long for. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him…" (Romans 15:13) "And this is my prayer, that…you may be…filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:9, 11)

Lord, forgive us for the times we've tried to fill our longings with the things of the world. We want to live outside of the deadly doldrums of emptiness. With Your help, we commit ourselves to become devoted to You—through Your Word, fellowship and communion with other believers, and prayer. In Jesus' name, Amen.