11/26/08

Giving Thanks - for Jury Duty

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a jury “quiet room.” As assortment of people are filing into an adjacent room to fulfill their civic duty. I’m always divided concerning jury duty. On the one hand, it is an intrusion into my schedule; on the other hand, it is a blessing of our system of government. Our rights and privileges far outweigh our duties. As Americans, we have privileges that other nations do not. Trial by a jury or our peers is a citizen’s right and blessing, and the system won’t work without our involvement. “We the people” is as powerful a force today as when those words were first drafted.

I am thankful for this blessing and many others in my country. My country—just the sound of those words stirs feelings of patriotism and appreciation. I am thankful for those who have died to keep America free and Democracy alive. I am thankful for farmers who grow our food on fertile fields. I am thankful for those who protect us—the military, policemen, and firemen. I am thankful for those who lead us—government officials and pastors—especially those who lead with integrity and base their wisdom in biblical truth. I am thankful for teachers who guide our children into righteousness and godly character. I am thankful for those who give and serve, to make America strong. I am thankful for a family that loves God.

My country—this “sweet land of liberty”—is what she is because of her people. But more than that, America is a beacon of freedom because she was rooted and grounded in God. He shed His favor on this land because it was founded on the principles of scripture. Modern liberals can and will deny this, of course, but the fingerprints of God are all over America’s creation.

As I sit her waiting for the jury selection process to begin, I’m glad I have time to thank God for my blessings as an American. In God we trust is on our money. May we choose to keep this truth in our hearts.

11/19/08

Choose Hope

Both candidates pushed their agenda for “Hope” before the election—and certainly America needs hope in these dark days—but I know that true hope is only found in Jesus Christ. My brother-in-law, Tom, reminded me of this recently. As he preached at his Aunt’s funeral, he shared the powerful and solid hope we have in Christ—saving, steadfast, sustaining, satisfying, and supernatural hope. When our hope is centered in God, we have a steady anchor for troubled times. We can hold onto Him when all else fails.

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, survived the Holocaust. At one point in his remarkable life, his medical opinions rescued patients who were destined for death under the Nazi euthanasia program. Frankl wrote of the hope that welled up in some poor souls who struggled under Nazi tyranny:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread,” Frankl wrote. “They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Are you struggling with something today? Do you feel burdened by poor health, weighed down by circumstances, and lost in hopelessness? Hope is a choice. Counsel your heart: “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62:5-6). Anchor your hope in the Lord.

11/12/08

Joseph-Style Thriftiness

An article in the Sunday paper’s Parade magazine (July 13, 2008) grabbed my attention. “Secrets of Thrifty Families” is just what my walking partner and I talk about on our early-morning jaunts. Sue Heinz, whose family was featured in the article, said, “It’s about informed decisions, not cheap choices.”

Jim Schenke, a man interviewed for the article, suggested that a story from the Bible (Genesis 41) was the driving force behind his family’s frugality. “I took the Joseph approach,” he said. “I knew the coming years were going to be lean, and we needed to fill the silos.” The biblical Joseph wisely sent an abundance of grain to the silos during seven years of plenty to prepare for the tough times ahead—seven years of famine. Maybe it’s time to fill our pantry “silos,” too!

I am determined not to get into “Y2K” mode again — I remember the panic in the last few years prior to 2000 AD — but I am just as determined to make wise choices for my family concerning material needs.

I’m buying and storing extra canned goods, and writing expiration dates on the lids with a dark marker so I can quickly rotate my groceries. (On the other hand, I’ve learned not to buy things I won’t use or use up, no matter the price!) I’m planting a small garden to help keep food costs down, unplugging things that aren’t being used to conserve on electricity as best I can, making “circuits” of errands all in one day to save gas, and making as many right turns as I can (ever since I heard how much gas UPS trucks save by doing that!). My husband and I are paying down our credit cards, too.

Those are good ideas for thrift whether in lean times or not. God does expect good stewardship. It certainly can’t hurt to make some thrifty “Joseph” choices now and every day.

11/5/08

Flip-Flopping

God has been teaching me a lot about “flip-flopping” lately. I’m not talking about politicians’ changed policies before elections, and I’m not talking about those summer “thong” sandals (called “flip-flops”)—although I could write pages about those! I’m talking about positively “flip-flopping” our thoughts and behaviors to the glory of God.

I’m learning to turn things around. When I start to think negatively, I do a “180” and replace the negativity with positive truth from God’s Word. When I’m emotionally strung out, I purposefully praise God or offer thanks. When I’m stressed and overworked, I take a 30-second time out to rest in the Lord and seek His will for the rest of my day, or I plan in some fun for my day, or find something to celebrate.

God is the great “Flip-flopper” of circumstances. One of my favorite examples of how God purposes “flip-flops” in our lives is found in the Joseph’s words in Genesis 50:20: “You meant it for me for evil, but God meant it for good.” Another example of flip-flopping is found in Colossians 1:8-11, Ephesians 4:22, Romans 13:14, and many other scriptures. There are certain things God wants us to “put off” from our lives, and then things that He wants us to “put on.” One of the most important ways we can “flip-flop” is to recognize sins in our lives and repent. To repent is to turn around; to do a spiritual 180.

Flip-flopping is fun to think of in terms of choices. What harmful things can I choose to eliminate from my life, and what can I add that will build my life?

P.S. - By the time this blog is published, we will likely know the name of our next president. I am hoping it is John McCain, but regardless, I know that God is sovereign, and He will not be shaken from His throne by any choice we make in an election. Psalm 47:8 is clear: God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. Proverbs 21:1 reminds us that the "king's heart" can be turned by the hand of the Lord. My responsibility (and choice) as a Christian is to pray for all who are in authority (I Tim. 2:1-3). Whether Obama or McCain, the challenges of the next four years will be complicated. Our only sure hope is in God.