I have, for almost my entire life, lived in a rural setting. For three years, we lived in town with neighbors less than a stone’s throw away. I didn’t mind it so much; the rest of my family didn’t enjoy it. I remember the first time a neighbor girl visited one of our daughters. After an hour or so, with no sign of leaving, I realized I didn’t know the rules for this way of living. Was I supposed to tell you it was time to go? Was her mom going to call? Would she just leave on her own?

Neighboring is the relationship a person has with the ones who live close on the same street or in the same development. Jesus said your neighbor is anyone who has a need, regardless of where she lives or who she is.

Proverbs has a lot to say about good neighboring. As I read them, I am amused, amazed and awed all at the same time. The principles written for us thousands of years ago still stand true today. This week I am going to share some of my favorites.

9When arguing with your neighbor, don’t betray another person’s secret. 10Others may accuse you of gossip, and you will never regain your good reputation.

Proverbs 25:9-10

What do these two — arguing and betrayal — have in common? Why would a person betray a confidence when arguing with a neighbor?

I only have my own experience and human nature to lean upon, but I recall times when I disagreed with someone and remember the desire to one up the one with whom I am arguing. What better way to do that than share information she doesn’t have and I do. Or perhaps the secret supports my point of view. There are many reasons a person might divulge a secret in the midst of an argument.

In the heat of the moment, it’s so easy to forget what is truly important– your character. Gossiping ruins your character. Character is far more important than being right. Protect it with all your energy!

15For I am waiting for you, O Lord. You must answer for me, O Lord my God. 16I prayed, “Don’t let my enemies gloat over me or rejoice at my downfall.”

Psalm 38:15-16

Once again, I find scripture speaks truth the best. Many times I have cried out to God to remember me, to save me, to answer my questions. I implored him to keep my enemies from triumphing over me.

1I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. 2He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. 3He 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 40:1-3

My patience is rewarded, God rescues me and puts me in a quiet, peaceful place. Do you ever wonder why God does this for you and I? Is it for our comfort? Certainly, he loves us and wants his children to be at peace. But I think there is more than that.

He wants our testimony to point to him. He wants others to put their trust in him. When I experience God’s goodness, I ought to sing it in the streets! Tell others of his amazing deeds; let them see what he has done. Then they will put their trust in him!

Have an amazing weekend with a new song on your lips and a hymn of praise for his goodness!

As I meditated on Psalm 38 yesterday, my mind kept turning to the woman in John 8. Jesus is teaching in the temple courts when suddenly the religious people push through the crowd with a woman in tow. “She was caught in the act of adultery,” they say. “What should we do with her? The law says she should be stoned.”

Jesus doesn’t respond as expected, but exposed the common denominator between the crowd and this woman — sin! All of them had sinned. Jesus allowed for anyone who was without sin to throw the first stone. The only sound that could be heard was the thud of the rocks as the people dropped them and walked away.

Then Jesus says the most amazing thing to her.

10Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 11“No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

John 8:10-11

In our Through the Bible in a Year, we are reading Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica. Paul writes a beautiful encouragement to the church and it applies to us today.

9For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. 10Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. 11So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11

Jesus’ interaction with the woman thrown at his feet in disdain is such a beautiful representation of this truth. He didn’t pour out anger on her as the religious people expected — he spoke words of life and salvation to her.

Why do we do less?

How can you encourage someone today with these words of hope:

Jesus came to save you, not to be angry with you!

Elementary school is tough for children. Well, all of school can be hard for children but I remember a couple of times I struggled to send a child to school because something outside of her control occurred. First, she contracted chicken pox. It wasn’t the pox that made me want to keep her home. After all, that was a given. It was after the active pox were gone and scabs remained. She had so many on her face and I needed to send her back before they were all healed. As I stood with her that morning, ensuring she was okay in her classroom, I saw the looks from the other kids. I imagined what they might say about her face being marked up and I wanted to gather her in my arms and take her home. I wanted her to know I thought she was beautiful.

Later that same year, she got lice. I have no idea where because no one else at school had them. But, again, I felt like a pariah. I imagined hushed whispers behind my back, students told to stay away from my daughter, mothers wondering how I could let that happen. Now, I know that lice has nothing to do with cleanliness. Likely she contracted them while shopping, trying on winter hats. But incidents like this can feel so bad.

As the kids aged, the issues became more serious. We tried to stay on top of what happened when the kids had friends over, but you can’t know everything. So when things happened on our watch, we heard the whispers, saw the stares, felt the judgment.

Difficult situations arise all the time, providing plenty of fuel for the gossip fire. This morning in my Bible reading, I pondered Psalm 38. The psalm is written by David and he recounts a difficult period of time in his life. He entreats God to remember him in his difficulty, he asks for protection. I paused at verse 13. You see, just the other day, I told a friend I was praying deafness over her. Deaf to what people might say about her situation. To be honest, I was blessed and surprised when I read these verses.

13But I am deaf to all their threats. I am silent before them as one who cannot speak. 14I choose to hear nothing, and I make no reply. 15For I am waiting for you, O Lord. You must answer for me, O Lord my God. 16I prayed, “Don’t let my enemies gloat over me or rejoice at my downfall.”

Psalm 38:13-16

This is an awesome strategy! When I am in a troubling situation, I want to defend myself, to let onlookers know that I am worthy of love. I want empathy, not judgment.

When my daughter had lice, I wanted people to know she was still a good friend. When she came to school with chicken pox scars, I wanted to tell the kids she was the same kind, fun-loving person as always. When my kids made questionable decisions in high school, I wanted to shout from the roof tops that I loved them no matter what.

From this passage, I learn it is better to stay silent and avoid hearing what others might be saying. Choose to say nothing, make no reply, no defense.

Let the Lord defend you, let him answer the accusations.

Take refuge in His unchanging, crazy, unconditional love for you! And leave the rest to him.

18I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.

Psalm 94:18

Speaking through the prophet, Isaiah, God says this about the Lord’s Chosen Servant . . .

3He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.

Isaiah 42:3

Matthew helps us understand that Jesus is the Lord’s Chosen Servant!

14Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus. 15But Jesus knew what they were planning. So he left that area, and many people followed him. He healed all the sick among them, 16but he warned them not to reveal who he was. 17This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning him: 18“Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, who pleases me. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. 19He will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public. 20He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious. 21And his name will be the hope of all the world.”

Matthew 12:14-21

Scripture says it best for me today! Lean into these truths while you look Jesus in the eye. Ask him how is he preserving your life today? How is he holding you up, protecting your bruised heart, stabilizing your shaky knees?

He truly is the hope of the world!

Preaching is hard work. Not only is there content to be written, worked and reworked, but there is what to wear. I know, that isn’t a big deal. But it is. Yesterday I wore earrings and discovered during the first service that the new microphone was not earring friendly. If you listened or attended first service, sorry about the clicking of my earring on the microphone.

This afternoon, I slept. When nagging doubts came to my mind, I ushered them into the presence of Jesus. With the psalmist, I trust in God’s comfort and care for me.

I think it’s a great way to begin the week — dependent on the presence of God to sustain!

19When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

Psalm 94:19

Here’s to the opportunity to love others like Jesus, depending entirely upon his provision of genuine affection! Romans 12:9-10

Sunday, October 10, I will preach again at Maple City Chapel. I would love to have you join us online or in person if you don’t have a place to worship!

As a church, we are reading through the Bible this year. Our sermon series have loosely followed the reading and right now we are wrapping up a series on the book of Acts entitled Defining Moments.

As I prepare to speak, I pause to consider the defining moments of my life. What stands out as pivotal in who I am as a person? As a follower of Jesus? As a wife and mother? Do I like the trajectory of my life? What adjustments do I need to make?

Major events such as death, marriage and the birth of my children jump to the top of the list. Certainly those were defining moments for me. Other moments less obvious come to mind as well. The time I fought with my sister when I was in junior high, not being chosen for Honor Society in high school, the relationship that fell apart my senior year — all of these helped me make choices that determined who I am today.

As I prepare to speak, I ask myself if I am where I want to be? Have I achieved? No! I sure am not where I want to be; I haven’t achieved my goals. But there is one thing I know and Apostle Paul says it best!

12I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians 3:12-14

It’s wise to have a target. It’s wise to check the trajectory of life. It’s even wiser to remember that, this side of heaven, we will not reach perfection (maturity). So, forget the past and press on to the future. Reach for the prize!

May your weekend be blessed with God moments all around and may your worship be true and from the heart!

Today I picked up walnuts. Not just a bucket or two but five wheelbarrows full. We have our share of walnut trees which is quite nice considering it gives us full grown trees, pretty leaves in the summer and filtered shade. They also provide walnuts which would be great if I wanted to learn the process of drying, storing and using them. But I don’t. So they are a nuisance to me.

While I raked, gathered and moved walnuts from my driveway to the woods, I heard them continue to plop all around me, in the areas I just cleaned. It was as if they mocked me, challenging me to keep up with them. Maybe it was just me, but I wondered if the trees were taunting me to do more and do it faster. I didn’t succumb to the invitation.

While I worked, listening to the walnuts fall, I considered something I read yesterday. I thought about Jesus on the cross and how the people taunted him. Challenging him to do more and do it faster.

29The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. 30Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!”31The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! 32Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him.

Mark 15:29-32

The onlookers wanted Jesus to do more and he could have. He could have called a legion of angels or fire from heaven or rained sulphur on their heads. That would have been showy. But it wouldn’t have accomplished his purpose — salvation of humanity.

He chose to do less so in the end he could do more. He could save himself or he could save the whole world. I’m glad he chose to do less because the more includes me!

Maybe you are waiting for Him to do more, wishing he would make a show of it. Is it possible by doing less He IS doing more?

It’s a thought!

Last evening a friend and I were talking and discovered an experience we hold in common. Both of us share the common experience of being cut off by someone we thought was a friend. Not just casually ignored but told with words that we are no longer considered a friend.

Many times, relationships do not end that abruptly. The change is more subtle and often, imperceptible. Until one day, realization hits that I haven’t been in touch with someone for a long time. Then a decision has to be made. What needs to be done to “do all that {I} can to live in peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

It seems the same is true in my relationship with Jesus. I don’t mean to drift from His presence. It just seems to happen. I notice in scripture, when confronted with this very thing, the people ask, “When did we do that?” Humans haven’t changed much.

And God hasn’t changed either!

He is always seeking me, always reaching out, always calling me back to himself. Just as he did with Israel and Judah in the Old Testament.

As I read through the book of Jeremiah, I am confronted by the mercy and grace of God, his unending desire for his people to be in relationship with him.

…This is what the Lord says: “O Israel, my faithless people, come home to me again, for I am merciful. I will not be angry with you forever. 13Only acknowledge your guilt. Admit that you rebelled against the Lord your God and committed adultery against him by worshiping idols under every green tree. Confess that you refused to listen to my voice.”

Jeremiah 3:12-13

Perhaps the reason human relationships fall apart is because no one wants to admit their guilt. I see the other party as being in the wrong, misunderstanding me or believing something that was only partially true. I don’t see that I am a part of that equation.

Perhaps that is the reason our relationship with God falls apart. I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I don’t acknowledge my guilt. I don’t see my actions as rebellion. I explain it away and close my ears to his voice.

This morning, as I pondered the conversation with my friend, my heart was broken. Broken for human relationships that once thrived but now are languishing. Broken for those alienated from community, relationship and mostly from loving fellowship with Jesus.

As I write today, I fear the pulse of my heart will not come through. I know what it is to sit in the pain of isolation, hurting from a human interaction or feeling far from God. I know what it is to be wronged and yet invited and even compelled to forgive the wrong, knowing full well there will be no apology. Let me tell you friends, when you do that, you are setting yourself free. Free from a prison of misery and heartache. I think what I really want to say is – Let it go. Humble yourself. Forgive radically. You are hurting yourself the most. And if it is God you are having trouble with, tell him. Open a dialogue and see what he has to say. Because he will talk if you are willing to listen!

Happy Hump Day!

In the land of ancient Israel, there were several considerations to take into account when a people group decided where to settle. They looked around a prospective site and asked, “Is there a water source?” “Is there food here?” “Will we be protected?”

Water was the first consideration. Without drills and the equipment we have today, finding water wasn’t easy. The best source of water was a spring. On the farm where I grew up, our water was supplied by a natural spring. Water bubbled up from an underground source and pumped to the house. It was always fresh, moving and cold.

The second source of water was a well. Wells provided an excellent source of water when the water source was reached. It was dependable and fresh. The downside was the effort it took to reach the source. There are many accounts in scripture of interactions that took place by a well. Consider Abraham’s servant looking for a wife for Isaac by the well in Genesis 24 or Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman by the well in John 4.

The final source of water was a cistern. In some situations, a natural water source wasn’t available so elaborate underground storage tanks were dug and lined with stone to collect water during the rainy season. When I visited Israel in 2005 I went underground and witnessed the marvels of ancient engineering. The water from the city would flow through the streets, directed into the cistern for use during the dry season. While a viable source of water, this was by far the least desirable. It was stale, not renewable and filled with the filth of the city.

Jeremiah was a prophet to Judah in the years leading up to their captivity in Babylon. At one point, the people didn’t like his message so it says “the officials took Jeremiah from his cell and lowered him by ropes into an empty cistern in the prison yard. It belonged to Malkijah, a member of the royal family. There was no water in the cistern, but there was a thick layer of mud at the bottom, and Jeremiah sank down into it.” (Jeremiah 38:6) This must have been toward the end of the dry season as the water was gone and only mud remained.

Early in Jeremiah’s ministry to the people of Judah, God instructed him to give them this message . . .

13“For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me—the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!

Jeremiah 2:13

Take a moment to consider this vivid word picture. Water is absolutely necessary for life. Before you there are two choices — a fountain of living fresh spring water and a cistern that is cracked so it won’t even hold water. Which do you choose? It seems obvious.

Yet, the exact opposite of what seems obvious is the very thing God says his people are doing — choosing the cracked cistern that doesn’t even hold water. This is what it they chose when they followed gods other than Yahweh.

I don’t know for sure where this week will take us, but we start here. In what ways do you have before you a living fountain –> following God and a cracked cistern –> following your own wisdom? What are you choosing?