The Toad

July 8, 2013

It’s late at night.
I’m walking to the car to go to work for an overnight shift and I spy him: A big, fat,  hoppy, brown toad trying to “run”  from me as fast as a toad can. He hid under our reel mower, thinking I couldn’t see him. I just laughed and continued on my way.

The next morning I came home from work and my older (young adult) son tells me “I have a new pet!” I knew he meant the toad because when I returned the reel mower had been moved several inches. “Where is it?” I asked. “Don’t worry mom, he’s still outside”. I didn’t give it another thought as I went to bed — because working all through the night is exhausting.

After I woke up and gathered my thoughts I decided to go see how my garden is doing (my daily ritual). Out the door I went and over the patio towards the back yard. On my traipse through the patio an active bit of motion caught me from the corner of my eye: Upon investigation I discovered a fat, hoppy, brown toad trying to free his way out of the shallow pool of water at the bottom of the short blue bin on the patio. The bin walls were just a little too tall for him.

Oh dear, that’s MY toad!

I gently caught the little guy, holding him around his “waist”, upright, and away from my body (because I learned a long time ago that these critters will “pee” on you if you don’t!).

My mission was to put him in my garden where he had shelter. And shade. And a nearby water source. And protective places to hide.

In other words, the garden had everything a toad needed to be happy.

I truly didn’t expect that he’d stay there for the remainder of the season, but I still knew it was a much better place for him than that little blue bin. If he chose to leave the garden, that was beyond my control.

In spite of my good intentions he was having none of that human-hand-holding thing as I carried him the fifty-or-so feet it took to get to the garden.
He vigorously wiggled and squirmed;I gripped  him tighter (though gently).
He croaked at me, and I tried to speak to him gently.

He simply didn’t understand that I was taking him from a futile, and possibly dangerous situation, and putting him in a safer, more comfortable, and better place.

I put him under the shelter of the large, shady, zucchini plants and went about tending to my garden. I kept my distance from him, though I also kept my eye on him. He continually turned to watch me in between the times that he wasn’t distracted with the yummy bugs that kept coming in his reach. He was happy, sheltered, and being fed. After I was finished with the garden, I simply left and let him do as he wished.

The next day, as I expected, he was gone. Out of curiosity I did a thorough search for the toad; he was really really gone. Although I knew that would happen, I was a bit disappointed: I put him in a toad’s paradise! Plenty of shelter, shade, food, water, and dirt! WHY didn’t he stay?…..

And that’s when God brought it home to me:
“People are very much the same. I see them in a terrible situation, and I bring them out of it. They vigorously fight me, and I try to speak to them to calm them, but they’re so caught up in their immediate fear and discomfort that they don’t understand me or realize when I’ve placed them in a better situation. And once they get there, many times, instead of seeing what they have, they focus on where they could be, forgetting about where they were and how much improvement I gave them”.

And I said:
“But how can that toad not realize the difference between the bin and the garden? The bin was obviously futile, and he would have eventually drowned! Why, after all that hardship, did he leave the garden??!!”

And it came to me; was it from God, or did He let me figure it out myself? I don’t know, but here it is:
The Toad was in the garden, and he was doing  better there than when he was in that horrible bin. BUT…. after he was in the garden, and after he got used to it,  he saw more:

The outside of the garden.

In his limited mind, he thought that surely the outside of the garden has more bugs, more shelter, more water, and more comfort.

He was focused on what more he could have to enjoy, he didn’t think about the serious dangers that were out there: The neighborhood cats that prowl the night, the coyotes that live in the area, the slithering grass snakes stalking at all hours. He simply couldn’t see those things from his vantage point even though I knew all about those dangers. And I couldn’t protect him from those things because he didn’t see what I saw.

He didn’t understand all the vast things that I understand.
He didn’t understand that I knew dangers that he didn’t.
He only saw what he wanted, and what he thought was better.
And because of that, he left the “safety zone” and ventured out into dangerous territory

And I did not have the authority to control his free will, and so I lost him.

 

Are human relationships with God so much different than that?

Racism and Double Standards

July 8, 2013

Paula Deen is a famous chef in the United States: She had huge financial endorsements with WalMart, Target, the Food Network, and several other commercial entities. She was well-liked, well-respected, and a household name.

Then scandal rocked her:
Recently, it was “outed” that she had used racial slurs against black people in the distant past. When put on trial for it she was honest and did not deny her past transgression. It is rumored that a disgruntled employee was the originator of putting her in this “hot spot.”

She immediately issued a public, heartfelt apology for her transgressions.

And she was “rewarded” with ostracization, hate, and loss of her endorsements.

OF COURSE, racial slurs ARE wrong, and mean, and uncalled for.
OF COURSE she should have issued her apologies.
OF COURSE, we should forgive her — why? Because her failure is no different from our failures. It is a dangerous double standard to expect forgiveness for our past mistakes while damning others for theirs. Jesus Christ Himself taught us that we have no right to point out the sawdust in another’s eye when you have a log in your own eye (Matthew 7:5). He also taught us that we must extend forgiveness if we are ever to receive forgiveness from God (Matthew 6:14-15 ).

Who of us have NEVER said a bad thing against anyone ever? Maybe you or I haven’t used the “N” word, but that doesn’t absolve us of our other epithets directed at anyone else.  Slurs and epithets are  wrong no matter what the words are. And this brings me to my next point:

All of the endorsers who dropped her are hypocrites.
They’re all acting so offended by something she did in the distant past, trying to seem  as if THEY are lily white themselves! C’mon, let’s be reasonable here: If every person who has ever said a bad thing about another was fired from their jobs the unemployment rate would be a solid 100%, no question.

AND….

If WalMart, and Target were so terribly concerned about Paula Deen being racist, why do they CONTINUE to offer racist movies and music for sale? Any music or movie that contains any racially toned slur continues to be acceptable to these companies.  But Paula Deen is suddenly shunned?

I am not a Paula Deen fan.  I never bothered to watch her shows, never really gave her much thought.  She was always just a Dime-A-Dozen celebrity to me. However, I do see this treatment of her as being unChristian, unloving, and very unforgiving — especially since no person is “clean” of epithets.

The companies who are dropping her need to get off their self-righteous high horses and start making sense. Nobody is beyond error, and this is a perfect time to acknowledge this. To shun her for her mistakes (that she has publicly apologized for!) while at the same time continually accepting other celebrities who are blatantly racist is the epitome of hypocrisy and double standards.

May we all abandon the mindset of the hypocritical media and act like true Christians by forgiving her for her errors, just as we would want God to forgive us for our errors.

Introspection

May 31, 2013

Recently, our pastor gave a sermon in which he confessed the following:

He believes that everyone who dies deserves to have a funeral. As a result, the local funeral homes call him from time to time to officiate at funerals in which just he and the funeral director are the attendees. He does not want to be judgmental towards anyone because all are sinners, as is he, and he doesn’t feel he has the right to deny a funeral to someone.

But then the Boston Marathon bombing happened.
And it made him seriously think about his stance:
Hypothetically speaking, if he were called to officiate at the bomber’s funeral, could he go through with it?

Obviously, he wasn’t really going to be called to do that particular funeral, but he did have to consider the possibility that someday he may be called on to officiate for someone  heinous. I mean, that dead bomber’s family had a difficult time finding a funeral home who would accept the body, let alone finding an officiator.

Would he have the fortitude to go ahead with such a funeral?

After much consideration, he honestly couldn’t answer that. As much as he believes that all people deserve a funeral, he couldn’t bring himself to give a definite “yes” to that self-imposed question.

And it made me think.

What convictions do I have that might be seriously challenged someday? For example, I don’t believe in the death penalty…. but what if a serial killer murdered my child? Could I stand by my conviction, or would I be clamoring for lethal injection? I really don’t know if I can answer that. On the one hand, the Bible tells us that vengeance belongs to God, but on the other hand, I would feel that the killer deserved death for depriving me of my child.

I also believe that all who have finished their time in prison should be forgiven and given a new lease on life. BUT…. if a pedophile molested my daughter, could I be as forgiving when he finally is released from prison? Again, I’m not sure if I can answer that.

And we all should consider possibilities that can challenge our personal convictions. Although certain situations may seem highly unlikely, there really is no such thing as absolute-impossible. And I don’t think it makes someone a bad person if they cannot stand by their convictions — it just means they need to lean into the Lord’s strong arms and seek His love to get through the crisis.

We are all imperfect people, and we all have challenges that are hard to manage. If you find yourself facing this kind of challenge don’t let it discourage you. God sees everything you’ve gone through, what you feel, and what your situation is. He waits patiently for us to come to Him, and like the loving Father He is, He isn’t going to reject you simply because your convictions are being severely challenged. Although we may fail ourselves, He will never fail you.

If you find your convictions to be twisted inside out, resist the urge to feel like a hypocrite or a failure. Instead, hold tight to Father’s strong hand and let Him lead you through the darkness and into His light.

 

The Lord Provides

April 7, 2013

From time to time, the topic of the “Mark of the Beast” comes up in conversation.

According to Revelation chapter 13, the Satanic Beast will enforce his “mark” on everyone; all who do not accept this “mark” will be unable to buy or sell goods. (Revelation 13:17).

In other words, when this happens you will have a black-and-white choice:

  • Take the Satanic mark in order to be able to feed, clothe, and shelter your family.
  • Resist the mark, and rely on the Lord to feed, clothe, and shelter your family

If you take the mark, you are essentially looking to Satan to provide your physical needs.
If you resist the mark, you are looking to the Lord to provide your physical needs.

This will be a scary moment for all Christians.

The Satanic mark, and the results, are tangible: You will have the means to get what you need, and you can clearly see how, where, and when those needs can be met.

Relying on the Lord, however, doesn’t seem to be so clear-cut: You have no way of seeing how, where, or when your necessary provisions will come. There is nobody giving you a “game plan” for your family. You will be simply taking it day by day, or maybe even hour by hour.

Most people will accept the mark because they want a sense of security and tangibility in caring for their families.

These are the people who either don’t read their Bibles, or don’t trust in the Lord. The Bible is chock full of examples of how the Lord provides for our needs, even in the most unexpected of ways:

When the Israelites were wandering the wilderness for forty years, the Lord provided them with daily food: Manna
(Exodus 16:1-12 ).

When the Israelites ran out of water, the Lord provided that for them as well.
(Exodus 17:1-6 )

During a time of long drought, the Lord provided for the prophet Elijah by sending  him food by the use of ravens, and settling him by a source of water.
(1 Kings 17:1-6)

During this drought, he Lord miraculously provided for a poor widow who had run out of  food for herself and her young son.
(1 Kings  17: 7-16)

The Lord helped another poor widow who ran out of money to provide for her family by miraculously providing enough oil for her to sell.
(2 Kings 4:1-7)

Jesus Christ miraculously provided food for over 5,000 people with only two fish and five bread loaves.
(Matthew 14:14-21)

In fact, Jesus performed this miracle a second time, with over 4,000 people with a few fish and seven loaves.
(Matthew 15:32-38)

On yet another occasion, when the overnight fishermen caught nothing, Jesus miraculously gave them an overwhelmingly large netting of fish.
(Luke 5:4-9)

Clearly, the Lord can provide for your family’s needs on a moment’s notice. We don’t need to rely on the tangible things, especially  those which originate from Satan’s dominion. The Lord sees, and all you have to do is simply trust that He will provide, and He will. Strengthen your faith. Resist Satan’s world. Don’t let the things you can see with your eyes seduce you away from the Lord. Satan is a master trickster, and once he sucks you in, it will be impossible to get back out of it.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Easter Sunday

March 31, 2013

Today is Easter Sunday.

Yes, we know all about the pagan traditions attached to Easter: Bunnies, chicks, eggs, even the name “Easter”!

So, many people prefer to call it “Resurrection Sunday” in order to delete the paganism and keep the Christianity in it.

We aren’t here to judge, so we’ll let you do what you wish with it. HOWEVER… we still want to point out the importance of this day’s observance.

Today is the day in which we meditate on, and appreciate the incredible thing Jesus Christ did for us: Although He never deserved it He took the mockings, took the beatings, took the blasphemy, and took the death, just so we could be forgiven and have a chance to dwell in the Kingdom of God.

He certainly did not owe this to us.
And yet He did it, even though all of us today weren’t even born yet.
In fact, we wouldn’t be born for many generations at that time!

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for tolerating such pain and humiliation for us.
Thank you for giving us the only chance we could have.

 

 

Small Potatoes

March 31, 2013

Don’t let the little things get overlooked. Too many times something seems so insignificant that you don’t even give it a second thought. Unfortunately, these overlooked things are actually missed opportunities in disguise. What do we do with our daily “small potatoes”?

Lowly coins:
It’s inevitable: You find a stray penny on your living room rug, or a dime in your coat pocket, or even a quarter on the sidewalk — small little coins that don’t have much value all by themselves. Do you just throw them someplace, or ignore them and forget about them? A better idea is to have a small jar designated for all loose change you find. For you germ-phobes out there, hand sanitizer is a wonderful thing. When there are enough coins for a small handful, give the money to a child who may not have anything to give for the church offering plate.

Old, Battered Clothing:
If you are not handy with a sewing machine you can cut the old clothes into rags and donate them to your church for cleaning rags. If you ARE handy with a sewing machine, cut the good parts of the clothing into similar sized squares, sew the squares into strips, and sew the strips together to make a strip-quilt. Be sure to include pockets and graphic designs; it makes the quilt more unique. When you are finished batting and backing the quilt, donate it to a homeless person or your local homeless shelter.

Bread Ends:
DO NOT USE MOLDY BREAD! Many birds love bread. Break the bread (preferably stale) into pieces and leave them out for the birds to eat. Good places include rooftops, shed tops, outer window sills, building ledges, etc.

Meat & Cheese Ends:
You get a lot of this if you own a deli: The last ends of meat and cheese slabs which cannot be put through the food slicer (because your hands will get too close to the blade).  Instead of tossing the food, give it to people in need: Collect the ends in a refrigerator (separating meat from cheese), and every couple of days donate the ends to your local food pantry or soup kitchen. In some urban areas, you can even just hand them out the back door to those in need.

Container Redemption:
In the United States we can redeem our disposable beverage containers for a few cents each. I don’t know if this also occurs in other countries. Instead of just tossing your containers in a recycling bin (which redeems no money), take it to your local redemption center. After receiving the money for them, donate the money to a local charity, shelter, church, or other worthy cause.
CAVEAT: In some neighborhoods the poor scavenge through recycling bins to find containers they can redeem money for. If you can afford to live without your own container redemptions in these neighborhoods, leave your containers in the recycling bins for the poor to glean.

Litter:
We all see it: Bits of trash and garbage along the roadside, in public parks, marring the scenery. I know of  a zoo which figured out how to eliminate this problem: The cost of admission was a piece of litter. Of course, the lawn in front of the admissions office was spotless, so patrons had to find other litter to “donate” in order to get in with their children. This kept the outer zoo grounds immaculate, as well as a perimeter of several hundred yards. Unconventional? Yes. Environmentally friendly? You betcha!  AND…. because the cost of admission was basically free, they enjoyed a booming business of visitors. Take a cue from this: If you own a business, tweak this experience to cater to your business (if you can) so that you can be “green” and enjoy an influx of increased customers.

Leftover Paint:
You’ve repainted something in your home: The exterior, the inner rooms, window frames, etc. And, inevitably, you are stuck with leftover paint that you have no use for. There are three things you can do that come to mind: First, call your local Habitat For Humanity chapter to see if they can put the paint to use (since they build homes for the poor). If they don’t need it, then ask your neighbors if they know of anyone who can use the paint. AND, if THAT doesn’t work, then call your local freelance painters and see if they could use the surplus.

Leftover Food:
It happens to all of us: You attend a reception or party in which guests are allowed to take home any leftover foods. But you either don’t want it, or don’t have room for it in your refrigerator or cupboards, so you decline. Instead, you should do this: Think of someone you know who may be struggling financially, and tell the host that, if there is STILL any leftovers after all the other guests have taken their shares, then you want the remainder. Then, give the food to the one(s) who are having the financial difficulties.

Old Clothing In Good Shape:
I know this seems like an obvious answer, but in many cases the obvious stuff is missed, so we have to put this here: If you find yourself with a load of clothes that are still in good repair, donate them. Clothing can be donated to your family members, neighbors, nursing homes, charity organizations, disaster relief organizations, homeless people, and church rummage sales. Just call ahead first to be sure the donation will be accepted.

School Supplies:
Your son or daughter has finally finished school…. but there are still leftover pens, pencils, paper, calculators, backpacks, etc.  If the items are still in usable condition try donating them to your local school district. School budgets are tight these days, and so is the economy for parents trying to make ends meet. This could be the needed solution to a budget gap.

Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive listing, but I’m sure you get the point: Don’t just automatically put something in the trash without giving a first thought about what else can be done with it. Granted, some items are simply beyond hope, but you will be surprised to find that many “junk” items can actually be useful to someone else.

Just a little something to consider.

Interesting Viewpoint on the Mark of the Beast

March 15, 2013

So I’m perusing through my Google+ posts and come across this very interesting video shared by one of my subscribers. Although I’m not sure yet how I personally feel about the whole thing, I must admit they have some very interesting p0ints. Take a look and see what you think:

Mark Of The Beast

Would You Go To Prison?

January 15, 2013

Every once in a while you hear that saying: “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

Usually, I just take note of it and then go on my merry little way. But today, I really started thinking about it: What would it take to convict a person of Christianity?

Of course, you have the obvious stuff: Church attendance, a clean lifestyle, Bibles on the bookshelves, etc. But do these things automatically prove you are a Christian?

Not necessarily.

“Dressing” the part does not make you what you seem: I can dress like a doctor, complete with a stethoscope and a white lab coat. I can talk the talk, using medical jargon and carry around a clipboard and pen. I know what doctors look like, and I can so easily make myself look just like them, and people would see me and automatically think that I’m a real doctor.

But in reality, I am not. I would be nothing but a phony who only looks the part.

So, what makes the doctor a real doctor? His or her actual education and willingness to live by the tenets of the job: Do no harm. If you have neither the proper education nor the willingness to live by the tenets, you cannot be a doctor no matter how well you play the role.

Christianity can be the same way. Of course, I realize that none of us are perfect people, but I’m not talking about  being a perfect Christian, I’m talking about being a real Christian. There is a difference: Being an imperfect Christian simply means you’re a sinner, just like everyone else. But being a real Christian means striving to live according to the tenets of faith that Jesus Christ taught. Yes, our sinful nature can get in the way of our living the faith, but that doesn’t mean we are  failures at living the faith; it just means we are failures at being perfect.

Simply looking the part of a real Christian will not save you in the End. Jesus Himself tells us that :

“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven. Many will tell me in that day ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?’ Then I will tell them ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity’.” (Matthew 7:21-23, World English Bible).

Clearly, simply playing the part does not fool anyone, especially Jesus. After speaking the above words Jesus continued on, saying:

“Everyone therefore, who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell — and great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27, World English Bible)

Of course, this doesn’t negate the performance of doing works, but it does mean there are more than outward appearances (such as good works) that prove one to be a true Christian. Note that Jesus said that those who hear His words and actually lives by are the wise ones. What exactly does this mean?

Jesus Christ showed it was required to put mercy ahead of Theocratic Law by pointing out that respect for life should come foremost, regardless of Law (Matthew 12:11). He mercifully overrode the Sabbath Laws when he healed people on the Sabbath day (Matthew 12:9-13; Luke 14:1-6); even though the breaking of the Sabbath Law could easily result in the death penalty (Numbers 15:32). He also overrode the adultery Law when he showed mercy to an adulteress (John 8:1-11), even though the sin of adultery was also supposed to result in the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10-12). On another occasion He mercifully healed a bleeding woman with only one touch, even though the Law stated that such a woman was unclean and untouchable (Mark 5:25-34, compared with Leviticus 15:25-27). On yet another occasion, He mercifully healed the daughter of a foreign woman even though it wasn’t His responsibility to do so (Matthew 15:22-28). You know that Jesus didn’t sin in doing these things because the Bible clearly tells us that Jesus never sinned (1 Peter 2:22). In essence, Jesus was teaching us that mercy is not a sin – in fact, Jesus even rebuked the Pharisees for inflexibly putting Theocratic Law over mercy (Matthew 23:23).

Remember, God is a merciful God (Psalms 103:8; Ephesians 2:4), and God is LOVE (1 John 4:8). And when it comes to Theocratic Law, love is the Law’s fulfillment (Matthew 22:36-40). This is why Jesus made it clear that God wants mercy to override Law (Matthew 9:12-13). God is so serious about this that those who do not show mercy will, in return, not be shown mercy in the Kingdom judgment (James 2:13), whereas those who do show mercy will be shown mercy (Matthew 5:7). THAT is how important mercy is in God’s eyes.

How can we show mercy? The same way Jesus did: Don’t shun the “untouchables” of society. Aside from your usual charitable donations, do you continue to show mercy to others? Are you willing to step out of your “comfort zone” to help someone in need regardless of their station in life? Visit your enemy when he or she is sick, take the beaten prostitute to the hospital, and offer a free meal to the homeless drunk. We are not better than any of them, we are not entitled to withhold mercy from them. For that matter, Jesus Christ Himself was better than any of us, and even He didn’t withhold mercy!

And mercy is not the only mark of a real Christian: There is also unconditional love. Unconditional love is best described at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (World English Bible):

Love is patient and kind, love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud, doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek it’s own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil, doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

Obviously, unconditional love is a tall order to fill, but don’t let your own failures knock you down. A real Christian continues to do his or her best every day, even if it isn’t a perfect best. And yes, this is a tough assignment — we all bumble through it no matter how sincere we are; but the point is that we make a heartfelt effort to continually offer mercy and love to all. Basically, if we want God to offer us mercy and unconditional love then we must also offer it to others. That was the point of the parables of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37 ) and the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35).

So, going back to the original question: If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Just So We’re Clear…..

December 19, 2012

Just so all visitors are clear on this:

This blog is a Christian, Bible-based blog. We take the position that God is real, Jesus Christ is His son and our Saviour, and the Bible is truth. We understand that not everyone believes this, and we respect that. However, we are not looking to let our comment areas turn into clutters of debate on those three things. We have not previously made this clear in our “About” page, but today we updated that page to reflect this point of view. If a reader does not agree with this blog’s points of belief, then be respectful and hold the debates elsewhere.

God bless.

Gentle Caroling

December 19, 2012

And now, for some soothing Christmas music….

Angels We Have Heard On High (Sixpence None the Richer)

Away In A Manger (Celtic Woman)

Breath Of Heaven (Amy Grant)

First Noel, The (Natalie Cole)

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (Julie Andrews)

Mary Did You Know (Trent DeWhite)

Oh Holy Night (Celine Dion)

Silent Night (Sinead O’Connor)

What Child Is This (Mercy Me )


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