Taking the Right Path

Have you ever caught yourself going the wrong way? I did it this morning. I headed to the office and I went the wrong way. Now, the route I took is still a way to get there, but it is not way that I want to go. I live about 35 miles away from work and the straightest shot for me is to take I-35 and head north. It is a familiar route because it is one that I started taking almost 25 years ago. A few years back I decided that there were just too many accidents and delays on I-35. Too many times I found myself just sitting in traffic and I decided to start taking a different route and I began driving in on Mopac. Though Mopac is not without its challenges, overall I have encounter fewer traffic jams, fewer delays and my commute is less frustrating and far more enjoyable.

Every now and then I do what I did this morning. I will accidentally get stuck in “auto pilot” mode and revert back to my old route and before I know it, there I am stuck like Chuck on I-35. Such a driving error reminds me how easy it can be for people to take wrong turns in life.  There can be routes we want to take and routes we want to avoid and yet before we know it, we end up heading the wrong way.

If we find ourselves in such a predicament we should pray for strength and wisdom to do better as we move on down the road.  We can take also comfort from God’s word that we are not alone in these challenges.  Paul writes about his similar struggles in Romans chapter 7. Paul says there are things he wants to do that he doesn’t do and things he doesn’t want to do that he finds himself doing. He talks about the struggle between our flesh and our spirit. But then he goes on to praise the Lord for setting us free from the sin that reigns in our flesh and giving us the power to take the right path, to do what’s right and to do the will of God.

Even though we are in Christ and are new creations (2 Cor 5:17) we can slip back to old ways from time to time. Those ways aren’t just related to how we drive but how we live, how we cope, how we interact with others and how we handle trials and tribulations. Sometimes we all take wrong turns and head a direction we did not mean to take or do something we wish we had not done. That is just one of the reasons I am glad we serve a God of mercy and grace. The Bible says in Psalm 103: 14 “He knows our frame, He is mindful that we are only dust.” This does not mean we have license or liberty to sin, backslide or behave badly. Not at all, but it does mean we have a Lord who understands our weaknesses and our flaws. It is because of our weaknesses, flaws and sins that He went to the cross. Yes, He is mindful of our frame and He knows that we are only dust. He knows how easily we can take wrong turns but He still loves us and stands ready to place us back on the right path. Have you let Him place you on the right path today? He will, if you let Him. Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

Posted in Christianity, doing the right thing, faith, God, Psalm 103:14, religion, Romans 7:15 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unto Us

Here is a song I have been working on the past couple of days. It came about one morning as I was praying about some of the troubles that our country is presently going through. May the Lord bless us, comfort us and most definitely may He lead us and guide us.

Unto Us

Unto us… a Child is born;
Unto us… a Son is given;
And we need You now,
‘Cause our world is torn.
It must break Your heart
To see how we’re livin’

We’ve all gone astray,
Wandered off on our own.
We’re so far away
From your throne,
But You came to save
And redeem Your own
The sacrifice You made
Is the greatest ever known.

Unto us… a Child is born;
Unto us… a Son is given;
And we need You now,
‘Cause our world is torn.
It must break Your heart
To see how we’re livin’

So Lord strengthen us all,
To do what is right,
For we were called
From darkness into light,
Take our hand lest we should fall…
Remind us You’ve never left our side…

For unto us… a Child is born;
Unto us… a Son is given;
And we need You now,
‘Cause our world is torn,
It must break Your heart
To see how we’re livin’

Lord, I know… You’ll come again,
Lord, I know… evil will not win
The trump will sound,
The dead will raise,
And the Saints will forever
Sing Your praise!

For unto us… a Child is born;
Unto us… a Son is given;
And we need You now,
‘Cause our world is torn,
It must break Your heart
To see how we’re livin’

Posted in Christianity, faith, God, Isaiah 9:6-7, religion, Unto Us a Child is born | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eyes of Grace

I have continued to practice playing the guitar and have found a couple of songs that I really like that have some quick chord changes in them (at least quick for me) that I almost have memorized.  My progress continues to be slow but steady but at least it is progress.  And the important thing is that I am enjoying it.  A couple of times Marta and I have been out and about and someone has asked me how the “guitar playing” is going.  Usually before I can tell them how it is going slow but steady, Marta jumps in and tells them how great I am doing.  She even tells me on a regular basis.  I practice in my study which is a good distance away from the living room and at first I wondered if she was not able to hear the all too frequent mistakes.  There are still too many times when my fingers feel like cucumbers and I just can’t seem to press the strings down against the frets in the right position and the result is a buzzing sound that sends the dogs scattering from the room.  Or my timing gets off and what started off as a slow waltz ends up being super-fast Johnny Cash “chic-a-boom” style song like Folsom Prison Blues.  All these flaws and she thinks I’m doing great.  And I thought I was the one who was tone deaf.  The truth is; she is not tone deaf.  The truth is she loves me.  Because she loves me, she sees me through eyes of grace.  Because of grace, she focuses on the steps of progress I have made, not the missteps I am making.  She loves me and I love her too.

Love is the lens the lets us look at other people through eyes of grace.  Love is the lens that lets us overlook the flaws in other people and see their intentions.  Love is so important that when Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest, He answered in Matthew 22:37 “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Yes, love is important.  When we love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind we will seek to do His will, to honor Him, and to live in a way that brings Him honor and glory.  It also means we are to love others as we love ourselves.  We are to show care and concern for others.  We are to treat them as we want to be treated.

Because we love others, we are to look at them through eyes of grace.  Sometimes we are too quick to notice the one or two things that are done wrong instead of the things that are done right.  We do it in our lives and we do it in the lives of others; we focus on one or two notes that weren’t quite right and declare the whole song flawed.  That type of assessment can cause people to give up.  This does not mean that we should walk in compromise.  We can appropriately point out areas of growth or issues needing correction but as we do so, we must do so in love.  We are not to discourage one another but are called to encourage one another (1 Thess 5:11 and Heb 3:13).  Love encourages one another because love looks through eyes of grace.  It is good to be loved.  The Lord loves me.  My wife loves me – even if I’m not Stevie Ray Vaughn.  Until next time keep the faith.

Posted in Christianity, faith, God, Hebrewss 3:13, Love the Lord, Matthew 22:37, Neighbor | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Do We Love God

Haley Sefie 2014  Avery Selfie 2014

I was blessed with a much needed day off today.  I got to go to the mall with my wife, my daughter and my two granddaughters.  The last couple of times to the mall, the girls and I have been taking “selfies” in the backseat.  I could barely take one of our youngest granddaughter Haley because in the car she was holding on to my arm so tightly.  On the way home today before she fell asleep in her car seat she leaned over and gave me a big ole cookie crumb kiss.  It was like that all day but it hasn’t always been like that.  She has always been a little more quiet and reserved than her older sister Avery.  There was even a time a year or so ago, when she tended to shy away from me a little bit during some of their frequent visits.  But lately she has really been hugging on me, climbing on me, talking to me and talking about me.  And yes, I love it.  I love the way she and her sister express their love for their pawpaw.

Our visit together got me to thinking about the ways that we express our love to the Lord.  I suspect that if I ask most people how we show our love to the Lord the common answers I would hear would be “Go to church, pray, and worship.”  Those are certainly excellent ways to show our love and devotion.  But I wonder if we would forget to reference one way of showing our love that Jesus specifically mentioned to His disciples.  In John chapter 14, Jesus said it twice, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.”   Keeping His commandments means knowing His will and doing His will.  It means knowing what He said and putting it into practice in our lives.  It is embracing Him and holding on to Him at all moments in our lives.  Showing our love for Him is simple but not easy.  In that same chapter, Jesus promises the Father will send the Holy Spirit to be our Teacher, our Helper and our Comforter so that we can obey His words and thereby demonstrate our love for Him and be His witnesses to a lost and dying world.

I have always known that my granddaughter Haley, my sweet Haley has loved me…even in those times when she has shied away from me.  I have not doubted it.  But I have enjoyed, experienced and been blessed by her love even more so when she has embraced me and given me cookie crumb kisses.  When we obey the words of Christ, I know that He enjoys, experiences and is blessed by our love even more than those times we have not.  Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

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Are You Like Your Father?

It is not uncommon for me to get to call and speak with people from various parts of the country in the claims office where I work.  The other day I was speaking with someone from Minnesota and at the end of our call he asked me if I was from Tennessee.  I let him know that I was from Texas and he said that was going to be his second guess.  He said that he often visited Tennessee for business and he picked up on certain inflections that led him to guess I was from Tennessee.  I explained that guess wasn’t a bad guess because my father was from Tennessee and I am sure that I picked up many vocal characteristics from him through the years before he passed.

Reflecting on that conversation had me thinking about the old expression, “The apple does not fall far from the tree.”  There are certain speech patterns, certain expressions and even certain habits and beliefs that I have picked up from my father.  My father taught me the value of hard work.  He worked at the same factory for over 30 years and rarely called in sick.  He taught me the value of giving your best even if you were playing a game like basketball.  “Never give up son.  Play hard and if you don’t leave the game with at least 3 or 4 fouls, you may need to question your effort.”  He was not a highly educated man but he was hardworking and loyal to our family despite some difficult times. When that individual on the phone asked me if I was from Tennessee, it reminded me that in some ways I am like my father.  I miss him and look forward to seeing him again.

As Christians, there is an expectation that we will remind others of our heavenly Father.  Simon Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:14-16

1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

When I read that passage, there are a couple of thoughts that jump out at me.  First, I often find myself still walking in ignorance.  I slip back into my old ways and I know that my speech, my conduct, my actions and my reactions do NOT remind others of my heavenly Father.  He has called me to be holy as He is holy.  I know that I fall short.  When I recognize that I have fallen short I seek to make amends and apologize to those that I have wronged.  And I go to the Lord in prayer, confess and ask for strength to do better going forward.  The second thing that comes to mind is that I know that whatever God asks me to do; He will help me to do.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  If I just lean on Him, depend on Him, trust in Him, take my thoughts captive to Him, He will help me walk in a way and talk in a way that points others to Him.  He will keep my feet on solid ground.

I am so thankful for His grace and His mercy.  I pray that you may know His grace and mercy as well and that you may have a blessed and awesome Thanksgiving.   Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

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Blessing Those Who Mistreat Us

Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

I love Romans chapter 12.  Our Lord through the Apostle Paul provides us such great instruction, inspiration and encouragement for godly living in this chapter.  This verse in general has been one of my memory verses this week.  Any time I set about memorizing a verse I always want to make sure that I have a good grasp of what the Lord is trying to convey to me in His word.  There are a couple of interesting things about the verbs Paul uses in this verse.  First of all, that verb “Bless” that Paul uses is the Greek word eulogo.   It comes from the same root word that we use for our word eulogy.  It means to praise or celebrate with praises.  We all know that nobody goes to a funeral and stands up and speaks ill of the one who has passed.  Nope, that would not be cool.   When someone passes on, we eulogize them.   We remember the good things and speak well of them.  That is the same attitude we should have of those who persecute us.  If somebody has mistreated us or done us wrong, it is not enough to just mind our tongues and not say anything bad about them.  The Lord says we are to bless them; we are to speak kind of them and say nice things.  We are to “praise” them.   You and I are to remember that they have been created in the image of God Almighty and despite their ill-treatment of us; God still has a plan and a purpose for their life.

We also need to notice that the verbs Paul uses here represent continuous, ongoing actions.  Rather than constantly reminisce in a bitter fashion about how they have mistreated us and are still mistreating us, we are to continually and constantly speak well of those who continually and constantly persecute, pester and irritate us.  We should always actively do our best to be at peace with them.  And above all things, we should pray for them, hoping that they will receive from the Lord the same grace and mercy that the Lord has extended to us.

Posted in Christianity, enduring mistreatment, faith, good advice, keeping your mouth shut, Relationships | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Been So Long Since I Have Prayed

I was practicing the guitar earlier today and trying to put together just the right chords to a song I wrote a long time ago.  Funny, but I don’t think there are any chords to capture what my voice does sometimes when I sing.  And I think that is okay because I am not sure that anyone really wants to duplicate those things.  At any rate, here is a simple reflection on the Grace and Mercy of Our Lord.  No matter how long it has been since you have prayed, He is ready to listen.

It’s Been So Long

It’s been so long since I closed my eyes to pray Lord,
I’ve done so much wrong that I don’t quite know what to say Lord,
But if you hear me,
Please draw near me,
I feel so alone and I need to come home
And this time I’m ready to stay Lord.

I thought I was tough and I thought I was enough
And I thought I could live without Ya,
Just left on my own,
Without a care I was gone,
And for a while I never even thought about Ya,
Then my world fell apart, broke my will and my heart
And now I wonder how I could ever doubt Ya,

So if you hear me,
Please draw near me,
I feel so alone and I need to come home
And this time I’m ready to stay Lord.

Yes, it’s been so long since I closed my eyes to pray Lord,
I’ve done so much wrong that I don’t quite know what to say Lord,
But I know you hear me,
And You’ve drawn near me,
I’m no longer alone; I know I’m home,
And this time I’m ready to stay Lord.

Posted in faith, God, prayer, religion | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments