“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” Romans 8:25 New Living Translation
The other Sunday I found myself struggling through my work day. On the PA Turnpike the toll collectors work 3 out of 4 weekends every month. Weekends are the busy traffic times so everybody works. Somehow after 29 years I have not managed to accept working weekends. I still dislike it. It feels like the rest of the world is out to play and we toll collectors are helping them on their way. Wah. Wah. Wah. Realistically, I know every job has a few negatives and I must accept it.
Besides the work related wound licking, I’ve been fighting for weeks on a personal level with strung out emotions. I function everyday but my FLURISHING feelings are just not able to push through to the surface. I know they are there because nothing has changed in my life. I remain a child of the Most High and nothing negative has touched my life. I should be enjoying all the goodness He gives.
But instead, I seem to be tired all the time and lack desire and motivation. I cannot get a handle on it. I must push myself to do everything: push to get out of bed; push to pack my lunch for work; push to go to work; push to go to gym or workout at home; push to cook supper; push to write or read anything. The only easy thing lately is going to bed.
Some may accept this as their Modus Operandi but I do not want to live like this under a constant cloud of depression. I detest it. I want to be free to FLURISH again so I keep praying, trusting, believing that this dark cloud will lift by the grace of God. I know He’s been faithful in the past and I’m sure He has a lesson for me to learn while I slog through this difficult season.
So I continue collecting on the job this busy Sunday afternoon and a man in his forties pulls up and asks if I need something to brighten my day. Not wanting to sound as pathetic as I feel, I shrug my shoulders and smile. He reaches over and hands me a dozen beautiful red roses.
He saw hesitation on my face and explained that he had a blind date in the city. He bought flowers for her but she never showed up. He was disappointed but thought someone should get some joy out of the flowers.
I received the roses as a caring reminder from Jesus, through the hand of a stranger, that He loves me even when I feel weak and struggling. I took them home and my husband set them up in a vase where I can see and enjoy them daily.
Are you weak and struggling too? Be encouraged, His love for you remains! Look around for His reminders.
“No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39 New Living Translation
“Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.” Psalm 4:4 + 5 English Standard Version
My cuddliest pet peeve on my job as a toll collector is when a customer pulls up and hands me their ticket and money together with hidden change on the bottom. It’s almost always a change chasing moment, with coins rolling under the car or down the lane. Since speed and efficiency are important to waiting customers, chasing dropped change is an unwelcome interruption to traffic flow. And sometimes the change dropping customers seem the most irritated by the delay.
Have you ever dropped change during a transaction at a toll booth or in a grocery store line? What are your thoughts and experiences? Did you become frustrated?
In these instances I have to breathe a prayer asking for extra grace.
Otherwise I get so frustrated wondering how they expect the collector to know what they are being handed. Common sense dictates placing the change in PLAIN SIGHT on top of the bills when handing it to someone if you want to avoid chasing change. Right?
But how often do we expect people to know things about us that just like the coins are also hidden? We think because we know something or feel something that everyone else does or should as well. We think it should be obvious to others like it is to us. And when we don’t get the reaction we expect, frustration can easily occur. At times we feel insulted thinking, if they really cared they would KNOW this or that. Ever experience that?
It can be especially painful when dealing with someone close to you. A family member, a close friend or especially a spouse. We MUST remember NO ONE can read our minds except GOD. Period! You must fight the urge to feel offended. Or the urge to entertain condescending thoughts (possibly accompanied by the dreaded eye roll—-I am so guilty of this).
Are you are tired of being disappointed? Tired of being frustrated? Then join me to bust up this hidden block to the FLURISHING life. Carefully consider the expectations you place on those who share a close relationship with you and during daily interactions with strangers.
Endeavor to put things in PLAIN SIGHT by;
Consciously questioning the fairness of your expectations.
Considering others may have a totally different view from your own.
Choosing to communicate clearly and thoroughly.
Covering others offenses real or imaginary in love.
These practices if done consistently can help you FLURISH and avoid frustration.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” I Peter 4:8 New International Version
Shine on. . .
“Being prepared has taught me to look ahead, to anticipate the unexpected, and to carefully prepare myself.” An 83 year old former boy scout.
Woman pulls up to pay her $5.35 fare with a debit card. Her account is 90 cents shy of the total. She has no cash. So I ask for her license to do an insufficient funds procedure whereby she has 10 days to pay by mail or online with an added $2 processing fee.
She begins looking for her license. Meanwhile, the traffic is backing up because my coworker is on his break. She tells me she doesn’t have her license so I inform her that I must call for a trooper to ID her. She tells me she has a job interview and she’ll be late if she has to wait for a trooper. This customer was in no way prepared.
I wondered if she sensed my frustration? These type moments make me beg Jesus for more grace. I mean really. Why would anyone drive on a toll road to a job interview without money or their drivers license and expect a positive outcome? She didn’t even offer any excuses. This appeared to be her habitual modus operandi.
In the end I don’t know if she made it to her interview on time or if she got the job, but I do know she wasted time and paid extra fees for her lack of preparation.
Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts of America, devised the motto “Be Prepared” in 1907.
Baden-Powell’s idea of BE PREPARED was that “Scouts should prepare themselves to become productive citizens and strong leaders and to bring joy to other people. He wanted each Scout to be ready in mind and body to meet with a strong heart whatever challenges await him.” 13th latest edition of Boy Scout Handbook
Baden-Powell further expounded:
“Be Prepared in Mind–by having disciplined yourself to be obedient to every order, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.
Be Prepared in Body–by making yourself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and do it.”
Sounds like a healthy and productive way to conduct ones life. I believe Scripture also encourages this way of living.
“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7 English Standard Version
So, how prepared are you?
For todays situations?
For your place in eternity?
Read Matthew 25:1-13 to gain important insights on being prepared.
Today at work after setting up my booth for a day of collecting fares, suddenly out went all the lights. There we were before sunrise in complete darkness. Motorists could not differentiate between lanes of EZPass or cash because the lights and signs were not illuminated. Talk about dangerous. This state of darkness continued for a half hour.
Working in darkness smacked of eeriness and having no heat added its own effect. As a chilling mist mixed in the shadows and crept across my skin, I had to feel rather than see to do most everything. I easily could have made mistakes when customers made their way to my booth. I couldn’t see where to put the ticket into the machine. My money drawer being black did not help matters. I had to feel each coin and hope I pulled out the correct bills when making change.
At any rate it made for an interesting start to my morning. I looked forward to the sun coming up so I could see what I was doing AND be seen by oncoming traffic. Thankfully, no one was hurt during this dilemma.
What do we do when the lights suddenly go out in our lives? Darkness falls in the form of uncertainty or calamity. What do we do? Grope around in the dark or wait for the light to shine again confident that it will return?
Those of us who know Jesus, the Light of the world are assured of His presence to guide us through dark times but what about people around us who don’t yet know Him?
Their entire existence has been spent in the dark. All they know how to do is inch forward clumsily with no direction, feeling their way from point A to B because they have no light. Desperately they try to avoid pits and traps they can’t see. For them each day can be a scary struggle of its own.
Allow the Light of the world to shine out of you to those who may be seeking to find their way. Light makes all the difference in the darkness.
“But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?” Romans 10:14 New Living Translation
Perhaps you know some who have become accustomed to the dark? Their inner eyeballs have adjusted and grown comfy in its murkiness. They exist doing as they please whether they hurt themselves and/or others. Taking such pain in stride they continue willingly in the blackness. They don’t believe they need the Light.
Shine His light and love on them anyway. God knows their heart and how to draw them out of the darkness but He may want to use you to do it. Work with Him. Don’t be afraid of the dark, you hold the light inside your heart.
Let His light shine daily because there is coming a deeper darkness than we have ever experienced. [read about it in Matthew 24] When it arrives how will we react? We light-bearers need to be ready practicing how to reflect His light in this present darkness so that we may be glowing beacons for those stumbling even now in the gathering shadows.
Shine on. . .
“. . . the people who sat in darkness have seen a great Light. And for those who lived in a land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined. From then on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’ ” Matthew 4:16 + 17 New Living Translation
“And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.” Proverbs 7:10 English Standard Version
Lady pulls up in a polka dot shirt. It looked so cheery that a smile burst across my face. I love polka dots, especially when they are all different colors. Takes me back to lovely memories of childhood birthday parties in the 60s.
My customer was dressed much differently than the woman in the opening verse. Her attire spoke of innocent joy. The Proverbs 7 woman’s attire communicates lust and seduction.
During my work day any type of apparel may sport itself in front of me.. Pajamas passing themselves off as clothes suitable for public wear. Business suits and ensembles looking like they stepped out of a fashion magazine. I see scrubs and clothes in need of scrubbing, barely there bikinis and fur coats during the heat of summer. Each one speaking a message. It’s like a Walmart smorgasbord everyday. We really do see it all.
How we choose to dress says more about who we are than we may realize. Our clothing choices send messages to people. Ever think about what message you wish to send out to the public? Does it match the way you dress?
I aim to dress in well fitting bright colored outfits. I choose clothes that are fun rather than stuffy and unapproachable. I’m attempting to send out a message of stylish friendliness with hints of compassion to whoever I may meet.
“. . . The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
I Samuel 16:7b
Our clothing choices tend to mirror who we are. So the above verse from the Old Testament is comforting if our hearts are pure. Otherwise, not so much.
“But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” Acts 9:6 English Standard Version
From my booth I noticed a driver in a luxury station wagon traveling toward our Interchange entrance to access the Turnpike. He headed for the EZPass only lane but appeared distracted. I didn’t think much about it until a loud CRASH sent metal and plastic debris all over our entry lane! His car ran head on into the yellow cement bullnose! So much for his nice car, it was smasharooneys as those bull noses ain’t playin!
Fortunately no vehicles, especially trucks, were following him closely or he’d be history. Was he texting? No, but he admitted to the police he was looking for his EZPass and became distracted. In a moving vehicle, not a smart move. He should have paid better attention.
Ever see the movie Seven Pounds? Released in 2008, it stars Will Smith and Rosario Dawson. It’s a very hard hitting story about how quickly ones life can change when we’re not paying attention.
How are you at following the rules or following directions? Do you pay attention the first time or do you have to be told more than once?
The first time I took my drivers test shortly after I turned 16, I quivered with fear as I sat behind the wheel next to the state trooper conducting the exam. I wanted to do everything right. But after the initial part of the test that evaluated your knowledge of your vehicle’s instruments, I forgot to turn off the headlights.
This realization distracted me during the toughest part of the test. The three point turn. I thought I would fail the test if I let the lights in the ON position. So while performing the three-point turn, I carefully reached down to push off the lights and then bump! My little green Pinto nudged the guardrail of the driving course.
Immediately the officer had me stop the car and the test.
“You know I have to fail you,” he said. “But you learned a valuable lesson that most people do not learn— just how quickly an accident can happen.”
Of course I didn’t appreciate the lesson at the time. Failing my driver’s test devastated me. However, I never forgot the words of the kind officer. What he said proved true not only on the road but in many other areas of life.
Distractions sometimes sneak, sometimes march into all our lives. And at times we notice, other times we’re oblivious. Focus cannot be maintained if we don’t pay attention. God has many fulfilling things for us to see, learn and experience if we’ll just keep looking to Him and pay attention. Otherwise, things will eventually go awry.
So what in your life do you need to pay some attention to at this point in time?
Remember: Paying attention is always better than paying the price.
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23 New American Standard Version
“The LORD is your guardian; the LORD is your shade at your right side.” Psalm 121:5 International Standard version
Twenty-five years ago I had my introduction to God as my “shade” in reference to the opening verse. It was an awesome experience in my booth.
On a tremendously hot and humid summer day my boss scheduled me to work the temporary booth which had no AC. The dread spread through my mind like wildfire The burning anxiety attempted to overwhelm me.
How could I survive with such heat and humidity baking me in this flimsy tin can of a booth I questioned? I felt ill. I fought the desire to call off work and just hide in my air conditioned apartment.
When I arrived at work and entered the booth, the heat was already unbearable. A friend of mine had told me recently to ask God for grace whenever I felt in trouble. I began begging God for grace because I knew I was prone to fainting spells when exposed to intense heat.
A few minutes later the sky darkened and then a heavy downpour. Within twenty minutes the temperature dropped from 95 degrees to 75 degrees. A customer pulled up and asked, “Did you know it’s only raining around your interchange?” I KNEW at that moment the truth of Psalm 121:5. The LORD was my shade! He cared for me enough to send a personal storm cloud! I worked the rest of that day praising God in fresh cool breezes after the storm passed. It was heavenly.
“. . . The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16b New Living translation
The key to answered prayer is having faith in God’s love for us and His goodness. Believe when you pray or don’t bother.
Ponder Mark 11:22-24 and Hebrews 11:6
Fast forward to July 2017 when heat and humidity hit hard. The HVAC technician arrived for our seasonal maintenance and after an hour of checking he came to me with the news. Not good. We had a leak and were losing coolant like a geyser. I authorized him to locate the leak. More bad news. The leak was in the coil which translated into needing a new AC system. My heart sank.
Worse news came later after we ordered a new system. We were told it could be two weeks or more before installation due to seasonal demand. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I’m a girl who grew up with air conditioning. I’m spoiled and do not like heat when coupled with humidity. And now I’m menopausal!
My husband Dwight and I were not quite on the same page concerning how we would pay for the new AC system. I wanted to drain our savings and pay it outright avoiding finance interest charges, then trust God to help us build back our savings. Dwight, however, preferred to use financing, not wishing to deplete our savings.
We were bumping heads since of course we each thought our way was best. I did not like being at odds with my husband. My heart was not at peace.
So I started praying. I prayed we could somehow afford the AC without causing a rift between us. I also prayed for a speedy installation. Some may feel these issues are too small to ask the God of the universe to remedy. But I disagree. If He cares about the hairs on our heads to continually keep track of how many fall out and grow in daily, (Matthew 10:30) surely He cares about helping me and my husband in the heat.
The first answer to prayer came when the salesman offered us an AC system with 5 year financing for 0% interest. As long as we paid it off in five years there would be no interest tacked onto our fee. An affordable option satisfying both Dwight and I. Praise God! Thank You, Jesus!
Second answer came the next day when the HVAC company called to say they could install our system in one week rather than two or three as they originally thought. Hallelujah!
Midsummer hot week began nipping at my mind as the temperatures rose. I asked for grace, grace and more grace to get through the week without whiney complaining.
Beginning of the week the weather turned less humid and cooler at night so we slept well. We only had to endure heat for about 6 hours each day. Then midweek the heat and humidity climbed. I again asked for grace and He faithfully helped me get through the sweaty hot days and muggy nights. Again I am amazed how He cares about each of us more than we can imagine!
What causes you to become unglued? Wigged out? Panicked? Ask Him for His grace to help you overcome. Believe and expect His help. FLURISHING will follow.
“. . .My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” II Corinthians 12:9b New Living translation
For those who may view this entire post as silly, remember simple faith is a state of mind ; ASKING, BELIEVING, RECEIVING lived out in daily life.
“The indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future.” Wikipedia
Recognize this definition? Chances are you never looked at this definition because we are all so familiar with the concept. But I found it intriguing to reflect upon the thought that we are a tiny segment on the continuing, changing line of TIME. Equally mind bending is the fact that TIME is irreversible. Think about that. Each moment that passes is gone forever, never to return.
A young woman pulls up to the booth on a frigid day in January sporting a gray beanie with large letters in fluorescent green. The letters glowing across her forehead read YOLO. You know the phrase, it was popular a few years ago: YOLO — You Only Live Once.
I wondered to myself what that term meant to her in her personal life? Was she a thrill seeker trying to squeeze as much adventure as possible out of each day? Was she an ambitious entrepreneur seeking to break into some exciting new business and working daily toward that goal and not about to waste time. Or was she simply determined to try everything under the sun whether it was good for her or not? I guess I’ll never know, but as always it made me think.
I remember in Christian circles there were two added lines to YOLO;
“You only live once, this life is soon past
Only what you do for Christ will last”
So what does YOLO mean for you? What or on whom are you spending your lifetime? When we’re young it seems we have so much life ahead to do whatever we want. And then we find out as we grow older time seems to slip through our grasp faster and faster.
Science has not yet explained the mysteries of time and how it seems to speed as we age but one theory by William James made sense to me. He hypothesized that we gauge time by memorable events in our life. When we are young there are so many new things to experience. First day of school. First friend. First bicycle. First kiss. Prom. Graduation. Etc., All these events outweigh the average daily life of a working person where one day seems no different than the next. So time is altered or so it seems.
If Mr. James’ theory is true then we need to chase after new things. New experiences, new friendships, new challenges, new leaps of faith to keep life fuller and time slower.
Last year Dwight and I took surfing lessons. It was on his bucket list and I sorta got roped into it. This year, Lord willing, we are working toward experiencing the “Hang Loose” island life in Hawaii together. That is on my list.
Is there something on your bucket list you want to do but keep shoving that thought to the back of your mind thinking you’ll get to it later? Time is probably moving faster than we realize. So make or revisit your bucket list. Revel in past checked off experiences and start adding new ones to the list. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. We can garner ideas from each other. Share your bucket list plans as we FLURISH together and have the Time of our Lives!
“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” James 4:14 New Living translation
“A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.”
Proverbs 15:13 New American Standard Bible
Do you have a healthy inviting smile? I’m not talking about nice white teeth or perfectly shaped lips. More about what your smile conveys to others.
At work one day an older gentleman pulls up to my booth and says, “My you have a beautiful smile! I’m a musician and your heart’s all over your face.” He circled his hand around his face as he said this.
The guy seemed sincere enough and not just blowin smoke, as they say. I don’t know much about music but I wonder if this musician could recognize a song in my heart from the smile on my face?
Recalling his words in that short exchange now reproduces a smile on my face and my heart because I know the smile I gave him that day was long in the making.
You see, you cannot give what you don’t have. I remember hope dashed every year when my school photos arrived. There I was in living color gritting my teeth or forcing out a smile. I hated the way I looked. One year I decided to do something about it.
I appraised my smile whenever I had a mirror available. I wanted it to be beautiful. My family made fun of me but their insults only reinforced my determination.
I experimented with varying widths of smiles. Mouth open, mouth closed. How many teeth to show etc., In Junior high I had no idea the reality of the problem had nothing to do with my mouth. No matter what I tried the smiles all came out forced and gauche. Why?
It wasn’t due to my awkward adolescence. It stemmed from a deeper issue of the pain and sadness occupying the space in my heart. At that time in my life no song played in my heart to filter through to my face. For years I thought I was smiling but my sad eyes revealed the truth of my private world to the public.
Only after I began allowing Jesus to take over and heal my heart, replacing the sadness with His joy did my smiles flow without effort. A song rang out in my heart and spilled onto my face.
This is a recurring favorite in my heart by Luther B. Bridges, 1910
HE KEEPS ME SINGING
“There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
Fear not, I am with thee, peace be still,
In all of life’s ebb and flow.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Sweetest Name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.”
Ever hear of a Duchenne smile? French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne conducted research in the mid-19th century on the physiology of facial expressions, specifically on smiling . He identified two types of smiles.
A non-Duchenne smile utilizes only the muscles around the mouth. Whereas, a Duchenne smile engages the muscles around the mouth as well as the eyes and is sometimes referred to as “smizing”, or “smiling with the eyes”. A Duchenne smile is uniquely related to positive emotion which emanates from the heart.
In essence when your entire face engages in the smile, that is a Duchenne smile. What a wonderful thing to have named after you!
So my smile issue began to improve in direct proportion to my heart issue. As my heart healed, the smiles widened.
So I ask again, do you have a healthy inviting smile? Are you sharing a song with your smiles?
“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3 New Living translations
“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:6 English Standard version
A few days ago a woman approached my booth. I could see her face through my front window. I hurried to catch up on paperwork before she actually arrived to pay her toll. I finished filling out my report from a previous customer and I turned toward her. Astounded by what I beheld, I attempted to keep my shock to myself while taking her ticket to process it.
In all my years on the Turnpike, this was a first. The woman appeared to be in her late twenties. She drove 53 miles from the Ft. Washington exchange on the Turnpike wearing dual breast pumps that were actively engaged.
I wondered if I should mention the “Elephant in her car” or remain quiet? I couldn’t help myself.
“So, I guess you’re really busy, huh?”
“Yeah, and this works great on the road. Saves me lots of time,” she answered with enthusiasm.
I smiled as I handed her 75 cents in change and off she went pumping down the road. Just had to chuckle to myself and shake my head.
I wanted so badly to say STAY CALM AND PUMP ON! Gotta love my job, you just never know what you’ll see. This young woman sets the Ultimate Multi-Tasking record in my book.
Now you may not be a busy young mother but are you a multi-tasker? In some scenarios this is a great advantage. I know several women of various ages who pride themselves in their ability to multi-task. There are men who also multi-task but primarily it’s a skill naturally occurring in women.
Me, I can do a couple things at once but are they done well? Probably not. The closest I can get to the young mom’s record is to eat my breakfast while the washing machine is running.:)
I believe women excel at multi-tasking in preparation for the demands of motherhood. I think of it as a God-given ability necessary for a specific time in a woman’s life. Not something to gloat about. At this point I’m passed the child bearing and rearing age and I can tell my abilities to multi-task are fading. This decline is natural but can be so totally unexpected when it starts. Especially if you are a person who relies heavily on this proficiency.
At first sight of losing my multi-tasking ability, frustration overwhelmed me. I had gotten used to my full speed ahead with multiple projects mindset. Inside I felt angry that I could no longer keep all the balls in the air. I felt inferior to my former self and I didn’t like it.
And then I remembered words I memorized years ago from a no nonsense woman of God who has since gone home to Jesus, Elisabeth Elliott**: She used to quote a poem called “In Acceptance Lieth Peace” on her daily radio program.
It was time for me to test that bit of wisdom for myself. To give up the idea that multi-tasking makes a life more productive, more valuable. That somehow I was less because I could no longer juggle 12 things at once. I needed to accept my limitations as a natural part of the aging process.
This is what I told myself and now I believe it to be the truth. For every time I accept what I can do well as enough in any given day my mind, my soul and my body are at peace. FLURISHING is free to flow, no longer blocked by frustration and pressuring expectations. That is priceless.
May you find the same peace at whatever stage and capability of life in which you find yourself. Accept what you can do with whatever He gives you, whether a lot or a little. Read the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30.
Beware of multiplying your own expectations to multi-task. Remember, God won’t expect more from you than He empowers you to do.
” Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God Himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to Him forever and ever! Amen.” I Peter 4:11 New Living translation
Shine on. . .
**Christian author and speaker (1926-2015). Elisabeth Elliott’s writings will challenge your faith. Check her out.
This morning a car came roaring down my lane and screeched to a halt at my booth. The woman driving began apologizing profusely.
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” I wondered what she was sorry about? She continued.
“I just came flying into your lane way too fast. I know there are people who cross these lanes. I’m so sorry.”
I marveled that she admitted she wasn’t paying attention and genuinely regretted it. She seemed to care about my safety enough to apologize. Hopefully, she’ll be more aware of her surroundings next time she drives where people are working. Today God’s grace protected both of us from something horrible.
Later a tractor trailer pulled up to my booth. The driver handed me his ticket. With a wide grin he said, “Hey, you got my vest on. Give it back!” He pointed to his fluorescent safety vest and laughed.
“Yours is a bit fancier than mine,” I answered forming a sly smile. “Do people ask you why you’re wearing a safety vest inside your truck? ‘Cause people ask me that question fairly often.” He chuckled a bit but more out of not knowing what to say than actually finding my question humorous.
I continued, “I could tell people it’s part of the uniform. You and I know what others have not considered. We don’t stay in the booth or truck all day.” He chuckled again. “We have to be prepared in a moment’s notice to exit our booth or truck directly into traffic. If we get hurt without wearing the vest, no insurance coverage .”The driver looked me in the eye and exclaimed, “You got that right!”
We laughed together about living in our vests 24-7 to avoid any chance of “non-coverage” and then he left.
As usual, I pondered our casual chit chat afterward. I thought about my vest being a vital part of my uniform as a toll collector. It’s similar to a firefighter’s flame retardant suit or a Police officer’s bullet proof vest. These articles of clothing are available and required for protection purposes in the line of duty.
Perhaps you wear a uniform that requires safety accessories such as special glasses, latex gloves or slip proof shoes for example? What happens if you neglect to wear these protective parts of your uniform? You’re exposed to some sort of danger and you’re also in trouble with your employer. You know this upfront so most of us don’t take chances. We diligently protect ourselves by wearing whatever is provided or required, right? Who wants to get hurt AND have to pay for it?
Let’s apply this in a spiritual sense. . .
“Jesus said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is great, but the WORKERS are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more WORKERS
into His fields.’ ” Matthew 9:37 & 38 New Living translation
Do we realize and embrace the mindset that our ultimate employer is God? When we realized our need for God and invited Him into our hearts, we became not only part of His family but also His workforce.
Laboring for His harvest in whatever way we are gifted requires safety gear. Fortunately our loving Employer has supplied each of us with special protective clothing and equipment to use while we work and live for Him. Whether we are called to be farmers, soldiers, athletes or something else, His safety gear works in every field of service.
Most of us are familiar with the passage in Ephesians 6 concerning the supernatural reinforced clothing and equipment supplied to us. Some can even recite the verses from memory.
“Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil.” Ephesians 6:13 New Living translation
Now let’s ask ourselves some questions:
When was the last time you actually thought about your spiritual uniform? If it’s been awhile then you’re probably walking around unprotected like a firefighter running into a blazing building wearing regular clothes thinking he will emerge unharmed. We’re fooling ourselves if we think we don’t need God’s armor to survive in this world.
Take some time today to read over the passage in Ephesians 6:10-18 and remember the clothes our divine Employer expects us to be wearing. Each piece is vital. Verse 11 and again verse 13 says to put ALL of it on, EVERY piece;
The belt of truth: We need truth first of all which is Christ Himself. The belt of His truth holds everything else in place. It gives Him the final say in our lives and is directly related to the breastplate of righteousness, they are inseparable.
The breastplate of righteousness: We need it to guard our hearts with practical holy living in obedience to God.
The shoes of the Gospel of Peace: We need to be ready to share the Good News of being at peace with God through Salvation anywhere we go.
The shield of faith: We need it to snuff out the various fiery darts of temptation thrown constantly at us by our enemy questioning what we believe and urging us to do things against our divine Employer.
The helmet of salvation: We need it to cover our minds with the assurance of our own salvation and with the blood of Christ against any other foul thinking the enemy tries to plant in our minds. Fears, doubts, deception, worry etc.,
The sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God: O ur only offensive weapon against our enemy. We need to know the Word to use the sword.
Do we believe there is danger around us? Here’s what the Apostle Peter says as a warning:
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8 New International version
Don’t know about you but I don’t want to be eaten alive by the enemy!
Like my lady customer, most days I’m not always paying enough attention to where I’m going. I’m moving way too fast but I truly don’t want to hurt anyone or myself. Do I regret it enough to intentionally don my spiritual armor each day before I plunge forward? I don’t want to get myself in a jam and have “Non-Coverage” because I was not in my safety gear.
We can’t FLURISH when we are wounded and bleeding simply because we neglected to use the safety equipment God has provided. It takes some time and effort to dress each day in our safety gear but it is well worth it. Let’s remember to let our loving Employer outfit us for each new day. Otherwise when we run out into the traffic of the world we’re gonna get hurt.
“Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.” Colossians 3:21 The Message Bible
A beat up sedan lumbers down the lane toward my booth. Loud cursing escapes as the window rolls down. A woman in her 60s sporting disheveled gray hair is yelling over her shoulder to the children in the back seat. “Sit the ‘F—‘ down!” I see two small heads disappear behind the seat. The woman turns forward to look at me with a sheepish smile as she hands me her ticket. In a rather soft tone she says “Here Mam,” and hands me her money.
As I dig in my cash drawer for her change, my heart aches for all the occupants of this car. The anger I first felt toward the woman who is most likely a grandmother, has shifted into sadness. Sadness for whatever it is in her life causing her to treat these children with such disdain. She little realizes she is injuring their young hearts possibly for a lifetime by her foul words and spirit.
As I handed her the change, she responded in the same soft tone, “Thank you, Mam.” I tried to smile but I am sure the sadness seeped out onto my face when I looked at her. I tried to wave enthusiastically to the children who were about 4 and 8 years old, (definitely old enough to understand expletives) and they returned the same sheepish smile of the woman. I breathed a prayer of protection for the children and mercy for the grandma as they exited the lane.
I am certainly no expert on child rearing but this was so blatantly wrong, it made my heart sick. The saying comes to mind, “Hurt people hurt people.” It can be a vicious cycle in family circles.
As Christ followers desiring to FLURISH we need to be aware of our own words and tone of voice we use with and around those closest to us. We may never swear at our loved ones but we can cause pain verbally in other ways. Sarcasm, curtness, insults, and yelling all have something in common; they hurt.
It can be so easy to treat outsiders with kindness and respect while allowing familiarity to breed seeds of contempt toward those we claim to love the most. If we can hold our tongues with others then we certainly can do it with those we love. It just takes some mind renewal (see Romans 12:2) and intentional appreciation for the gift of family.
In the case of children it’s especially crucial to act with kindness and love so that they will learn to show others that same kindness and love. Of course there are times we may slip up and speak harshly before we realize it, but in Christ there is forgiveness and second chances. Jesus wants us to come to Him with our failures as we explored in CRUMBY TOASTERS: “But if we confess our sins, HE is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong.” I John 1:9 Common English Bible
Jesus can even protect the children from being affected negatively by our slip ups. Trust Him to help you.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with lovingkindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 Amplified Bible
We must diligently guard and protect the love relationships within our family structure whether it’s our spouse, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or grandparents etc. If we can’t treat these people who we CLAIM to love lovingly, how are we going to love those fighting for survival in a cold world? As Christians we alone have the light and warmth to shine into their hurting lives.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you develop a truly loving heart first toward your spouse if you have one, then to your immediate family members, then to other believers and then to the world at large.
Learning to let Christ love others through you takes time. It’s a lifelong endeavor but the results can be phenomenal in your spirit and in the lives of others!
As Valentine’s day approaches, make your start to love as HE loves; unconditionally. Don’t just use symbols for Love and talk about Love. Instead, sincerely learn how to love one another. What better way to truly celebrate this holiday that many see as superficial?
WILL THIS WORLD KNOW YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN BY YOUR LOVE?
“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:10 New Living translation