Monday, December 24, 2007

Santa's List

It is Christmas Eve tonight! “Santa Claus is coming to town! He’s making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. Santa Claus is coming to town!”

Those lyrics serve to motivate children far and wide to be good prior to Christmas. Those lyrics attribute “God-like” qualities to Santa: he sees and knows all. Just for Christmas Santa sees and knows all.

That may be motivational and even scary, but there is One Who sits in heaven and looks down on the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. He sees and knows all every day and every night forever.

In one of his novels, Tom Clancey describes God as the one who sits in heaven with his notebook taking notes. Actually the Bible speaks of God marking the thoughts, actions and attitudes of men and women down in his book (Mal. 3:16) even to the point of numbering (counting out) the length of our days on this earth.

It may have a certain charm for parents and motivation for children to tell their children that Santa is making his list, but the matter of real significance is that God is in His heaven. He does look down upon the sons and daughters of earth, and He does take note of both our actions and our hearts. It is something to contemplate at the end of this year and as we begin a new year that we take note of the One Who sees and knows all!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"Person of Value" Needs Fixed

Here I was driving down a major road in Pittsburgh yesterday when I glanced at a building and saw a sign for a business - or something similar. I had to check on my way back home to be sure I had read the sign correctly. The office was supposedly on the second floor, and it did appear that no one was home. Is it possible that someone actually makes money convincing people that they have value?
It does say something pretty significant about the search of hearts belonging to sons of Adam and daughters of Eve to find value and significance in life. It says something about why we who know where real value is should be "gossiping the Gospel" everywhere we go! That's the essence of the Gospel: The bad news is that we are all far worse than we can possibly imagine as sinners. The GOOD news is that the only One who could do something about our terrible plight took on our skin and moved into our neighborhood! He came as a baby in a small Judean town over 2,000 years ago. He stuck around for 33 years so He could live the perfect life - be the only Person of Value Who has ever lived - and die next to a well-traveled footpath outside Jerusalem. That's the best news of all: Jesus gave His righteous life in my place to give me value as an adopted daughter into God's own family! That's where real value is!
Somehow I doubt that's what is being touted in the storefront in the South Hills.
People everywhere know they are broken and "need fixed" ! The search is on for a restored heart - for fixing! Jesus came to do that very thing - to restore broken hearts in need of fixing and to give value that lasts forever!

Friday, November 16, 2007


No one ever told me how wonderful being a grandmother is. I discovered that awesome fact all by myself with a little help from my grandchildren, of course.

I have three grandchildren. My mother and dad have 21 “original “ grandchildren – and seven more gained through marriage to a grandchild. I might find 21 a little daunting even though they are spread out over 22 or more years (age wise), but three – now that’s a wonderful number!

Mine happen to be visiting at the moment. I was just musing as I cleaned up the breakfast mess how happy I am to be “young” enough to enjoy them. The mirror and my achy bones remind me that I am careening down the road to old age when I will be too old and crotchety to enjoy them like I do now. So I’m glad I can have them to love and enjoy just now …

Observing how they think is so interesting. Seeing how each one has his or her own unique personality is just plain fun.

But then there are the moments – squabbles over a toy, failure to obey, kicking the soccer ball in the house (which I just informed them their dad was never allowed to do either) and more. It’s in those moments when I see that they are just like me: they are sinners, too.

No matter how much I love them or want to wish their sinner hearts away or ignore the obvious – nothing changes the heart from the outside. Not even a grandmother’s love!

The only path to a restored heart for me or for them is to take the steps that lead to restoration:

See that I am broken and in need of being fixed (just like they are, too)
Know that I can do absolutely nothing to fix myself (nor can they)
Ask Jesus to make His “terrible trade” for me: exchanging my dirty, sinner’s heart and
giving me His right-living and loving and acting heart (otherwise known as a restored heart)
And then, give up struggling to fix myself and wave the surrender flag to the King of Kings, Jesus
Then, when my heart is in the process of restoration (as is theirs) I can be a better grandmother and they can be better grandchildren because it all starts in the heart.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Curved or Linear and Intelligence

It was a news item over the weekend.,2933,310636,00.html

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have actually been spending time interviewing 16,000 or so women and girls in an effort to discover a correlation between curves and intelligence. They have now published a report in a professional journal with their conclusions.

I am the oldest of six children – four girls and two boys. All three of my sisters are beautiful and smart. We are all in different stages of life since we are spread out over seventeen years in our ages.

My youngest sister who has four very smart sons put me onto this news item today. One of her very intelligent sons found it. For some strange reason some scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have been studying the correlation between female body measurements and cognitive tests. . (One has to wonder if science is winding down on what needs to be known if it is reduced to such a project. One has to wonder where the initial concept came from in the first place.)

According to Fox News online, women with more curves (greater difference between hips and waist specifically) scored significantly higher on the intelligence tests. And the children of these women also scored significantly higher on the tests than others whose mothers have fewer curves. (The actual defining statistic used was women whose waists are smaller than their hips.)

Now think about that for just a moment: bigger hips than waists. Except for pregnant women (who are supposed to be shaped that way), who in the world would ever want a bigger waist than hips? That is a serious call to diet when one’s waist measurement exceeds the size of one’s hips.

The report continues that the correlation between large thighs and hips is also linked to higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. The report states that these omega-3 fatty acids contribute to brain growth during pregnancy. The report didn’t specify whose brain grows. One assumes the baby is whose brain grows but perhaps both mother and baby benefit intellectually from their bonded experience.

The report also states that “thinner or more linear-shaped women lack both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids around their waists and hips” so that they benefit from being more “linear” by living longer in their linear state but with more diminished intelligence than their curvier counterparts.

The report concludes: “Real women don’t just have curves. They are also smarter, live longer and give birth to smarter children.”

I have one very happy curvaceous baby sister today with four very intelligent sons! But the best news of all is: they all have restored hearts as well as superior intelligence. They know Jesus and walk with Him – every single one – and that’s the most intelligent choice of all!

It doesn’t take scientific research to determine the intelligence of choosing Jesus, it just takes faith and life lived in a relationship with Him. And that’s far more significant than curves or the absence thereof or even superior intelligence or less superior intelligence.

In the first century Paul of Tarsus wrote something like this (my paraphrase): When you know and love Jesus then neither having curves or not having curves – neither being of superior intellect or lacking in intelligence – is of any value. What matters is something far more interior (in the restored heart): faith expressed in love! (Galatians 5:6, paraphrase)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rules, Boundaries, Exits

My first memory of needing to find an exit comes from early childhood. I went to a birthday party. After I got there I discovered that the activity of choice for the party was something my family did not participate in. (It wasn’t a morally or ethically wrong activity just not one my family chose as an activity.)

Being only about six I hadn't yet picked up all those prickly feelings about being accepted by my peers. I was much more concerned with following my parents' guidelines for life. So I wasn't at the party long. I called my parents to come get me.

Those were the days when kids were safe almost anywhere and parents had far fewer worries. Those were the times when parents didn't have to be almost paranoid in order to protect their children.

Just a few weeks ago we were visiting our grandchildren. On October 31 we took the neighborhood walk with them to collect candy at various houses. We only went to the houses where people they knew lived. AND when we got home with the candy no one was allowed to eat anything until Dad checked through the pile. I was a child in far different times.

I remember other times in life when my parents would tell me "No" as a protection against going somewhere I didn't belong and would need an exit if I went. Sometimes they encouraged me to use their "No" as a reason to let me off the hook. That, too, was an exit of sorts.

I sometimes tried the old, "... but everyone else is ... " There was a very standard response to that particular protest. It was "… but you are not everyone else."

Fences (rules) are intended for protection. We don't need exits if we don't go places we don't belong.

When my oldest son was a toddler we lived on a very busy highway. Someone had to stay right at his heels the entire time he was outside for his protection as we had no fence.

One Sunday afternoon we were all taking a nap (supposedly). All of a sudden I was startled awake by honking horns. I bolted up, ran down the hall and saw that our front door was standing open. I looked further to the road and saw cars stopped. I hurried out into the yard and saw an elderly woman chasing my toddler down the center line of the highway.

There were cows in the pasture directly across the street. He was "going to see the moos." He had no clue of danger. He was focused on "the moos." He needed someone to dog his steps for his own protection.

Consequently we put safer locks on our doors and eventually a fence in the back yard. That fence was very freeing. He could go anywhere inside that fence without anyone needing to dog his heels. He could play happily and safely inside the fence. The fence marked the safe boundary.

Rules, boundaries, exits – all good and necessary for safety - too bad these words have all become negatives. It is a sign of a fundamental shift in our values as a culture and a symbol of how warped our thinking has become.

We all need rules. We need boundaries. We need exit strategies.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

No Way Out - No Exit

Last week the Pittsburgh Tribune Review carried a startling story on the front page. It was about a deer that jumped a fence to get into the Pittsburgh Zoo. After wandering around for awhile apparently, the deer jumped another fence into the polar bear pool. The entire saga was caught on video by surveillance cameras.

Deer are everywhere in western Pennsylvania. We live above a very busy US highway surrounded by residential areas and regularly deer stroll through our yard in groups. Deer eat my flowers. They love tulips in the spring. They eat the shrubs and trees in winter and spring - right in my yard mere feet from our house. In fact, if I encounter deer in the yard up close, they stand and look at me as if I were the intruder.

I have offered a number of bow hunters access to the balcony off our living room for their own personal deluxe hunting "stand" in a gesture of "humanitarian" protection for my plants, bushes and trees. So far there are no takers.

Back to the zoo story: After jumping over 20 feet into the polar bear pool, the deer swam several laps with the bears close behind. Then the deer climbed out followed by two huge furry bears. According to news reports the bears never touched the deer. The deer injured itself jumping the fences sustaining significant injury so had to be euthanized by zoo personnel. The bears did no harm and were unharmed apparently. Soon they were swimming in their pool again with no interference from an "alien" creature.

Another deer story: recently I was driving along a Pittsburgh street with cars in front of me and cars coming toward me. All of a sudden - somehow dodging the cars - a deer streaked straight across the road running at full tilt, up the bank beside the road and on to parts unknown. This time no harm was done except for raising at least one driver's cardio-vascular rhythm. But that is not usually the case. Deer are routinely killed and injured on the streets and highways of western Pennsylvania. Cars, passengers and drivers also sustain damage in these encounters.

Deer don't belong in closely populated residential areas. Deer are in grave danger crossing busy highways. Deer don't belong on streets and highways. Deer are the "alien" intruder.

Then I mused on environments where I am also an "alien" intruder - places I don't belong and shouldn't go and where there is great danger to life and limb. In my life I have found myself in various such dangerous situations. (We all have.) Sometimes (like the deer at the zoo) I have been totally oblivious and unaware. Sometimes I have known I needed to get out but not known how. Sometimes I am in the situation in the first place because I chose to jump in. In every case the end result is that I need an "exit strategy."

Actually that's why Jesus came to earth in the first place. He is God's provision for that way out of every harmful, dangerous circumstance in life. Jesus knows we are trapped in a life of sin and doomed to eternal death with no way out, no exit. He is the only Exit! John 1:14 says, "He became flesh and dwelt among us ... " He put on our skin and moved into our neighborhood (our world). It was a trade down for Him to provide a trade up for me (and you) !

My unrestored heart gets me in lots of predicaments. As my heart continues to be restored by God's grace (provided in the trade Jesus made: "He Who knew no sin became sin for us." 2 Corinthians 5:21), I may still get into predicaments. The good news is that there is an Exit and His name is Jesus!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dear Warrior: Thank you!

Today is Veterans Day. It is the day designated to honor the brave men and women who have served our country in both war and peace defending our country's honor and Constitution, protecting our freedoms and preserving our nation's sovereignty.

To our shame we have not always given honor to our warriors. Many veterans have suffered abuse when they returned from war not because they have done anything wrong but because political winds blow against that particular conflict and cause. The current Iraq War is no different. The politicians and the media have turned this conflict into a platform for their own agenda.

Politics, rhetoric, debate and differences in opinion have no place when they cast a shadow over our brave warriors who stand for freedom against great odds and in the face of great danger. Nor do they (politics, rhetoric, etc.) have any justification when rhetoric or politics deny our brave warriors the very protection and tools they need to do their job.

Our warriors - living and dead - are the heroes of our freedom! We will remain the land of the free only as long as we are willing to stand and to support others who stand as warriors against all foes. We will continue to be the home of the brave only by demonstrating our courage to stand tall for right against terror and evil.

God bless America's heroes - living and dead - for their dedication, diligence and sacrifice for freedom!

Me First?

Once upon a time long ago and far away there were two look-alike boys (twins). They always wanted the same thing at the same time. They especially seemed to want whatever the other one had or was playing with. Thus they got into many fights!

Finally their parents decided that they would always have the same toys - no more variety unless both had one. If one had a truck, the other did too. If one had a ball, the other did too. And so it went, but they still fought over what each had. They wanted the other boy's toy instead of their own.

You see, the problem was that each one always wanted to be first and have the best and usually have whatever the other one was playing with. So they still got into many fights resulting in many, many broken toys.

One day their father decreed that each of his boys would have his own color. Everything that son had must be either red or blue as the color was assigned. But the problem would never be solved by assigning colors. The problem was in each boy's heart!

Finally, enough was enough! So all the toys were cleared from their room. Each boy was seated at opposite ends of the room facing a wall, and they were left alone. As time went by, each boy started thinking about how he had acted. Eventually they began to talk. One said, "I was wrong to take your toy truck. I should have played with my own." The other said, "If I had a ball, I would ask you to play catch with me."

And as time went by, they moved their chairs right next to each other so they could talk better. After a long while, their father and mother opened the door and left a big basket in the middle of the room. The basket contained all the blue toys and all the red toys jumbled together, and the mother and father quietly closed the door again.

Then after a longer time the mother and father returned and opened the door. What an amazing sight they saw! The boys had connected all the parts of their train track and hooked up a VERY long train - red car, blue car, red car, blue car and so on. They were pushing the train back and forth to each other around the track.

When Mom and Dad got over their surprise, Dad said, "See, boys, when you try to keep everything for yourself and grab things away from your brother and always want only your own way - you have two times the trouble and absolutely no fun!" And the two look-alike boys knew Dad was right so they played happily ever after and never grabbed each other's toys again - well, almost never! The boys learned the “me first lesson!"

Does “Mr. Me First” live in your heart? Do you ever want to push ahead of someone else in line? Do you ever interrupt when someone else is talking? Do you ever grab a toy away from someone else? Well, any of those things and many more are things “Mr. Me First” does.

I’m sorry to say that “Mr. Me First” sometimes lives in my heart. I sometimes want to be front and center. I sometimes want my way over someone else’s. I sometimes interrupt when someone else is talking. Do you?

This "me first syndrome" is pandemic in our culture. We all want "my space" to be the most important space. We want "my way" all the time."

In Luke 9:46 – 50 Jesus’ main men show that “Mr. Me First” lives in their hearts. Here’s what happened: They all wanted to be first. They all wanted to be the most important main man to Jesus. They wanted “me first” !

They didn’t just think about being “me first.” They started fighting with words about which one of them was “first” – the most important. They must have had their fight “off camera” where Jesus couldn’t hear. Perhaps that means they knew what they were fighting about was wrong.

The Bible says that Jesus knew what they were thinking. Jesus knows what we are thinking, too. We can’t fool Jesus, and they didn’t fool Jesus either.

Jesus found a little child nearby. Jesus put his arm around the kid and told His main men (something like this), “Here is the deal, guys. See this kid. He is a very special person! In fact, he just might be more special than any one of you. Get this - when you value other people – even little kids - then you start leaning to love and value Me (Jesus.)”

Then Jesus went on, “And anyone who treats me special and loves me will also love My Father in heaven (God the Father).”

Then Jesus said the most important thing of all. He said (something like this), “If you want to be #1 then you have to be willing to be at the back of the line. You must think of other people before you think of yourself. You need to let people go ahead in line, be first, be #1. You need to learn to be willing to come along behind.” That's what Jesus told His main men. That's what JEses wants us to do, too.

Remember: Jesus wants to be #1 all the time! He is the ONLY ONE who really has the right to be "Mr. First" ! When Jesus is the "Mr. First" who lives in my heart, then I will love others and think of them. Jesus will be first in my heart and then other people will come next before me. That's the order of priority in a restored heart: Jesus first, others second, myself last.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Where is technology taking us?

Everyone who knows me knows God gave me John so he could shore up my technological weakness (among other things) ! :o)

I love some of the techie gadgets we have to help us. I don’t want to know how to make them – just how to use them – like the computer. I find great pleasure in the internet for email, being in touch with lots of people, researching information with Google, etc. But I was very slow catching on and getting even up to the speed I am.

HOWEVER I saw a news item yesterday that really made me wonder. Fox News was interviewing three young women from somewhere who live together. Apparently they have had unknown and numerous men coming to their house asking for sex because of a sick “joke” being perpetrated on them on the web. Someone put an "ad" with their names, pictures address and bios somewhere on the net saying they would provide “sex on call.” They were just in the beginning stages of trying to navigate through how to stop the unwanted visitors, how to protect their reputations and how to find the perpetrator.

This isn’t the first time someone has played a sick joke over the web. We have an example right here in Pittsburgh in a story we know where someone broke into another person’s email and sent an email as tho’ from that person. The information sent wasn’t true and was defamatory.

Like feathers in the wind, these kinds of things don’t ever go totally away. And there doesn’t have to be any truth or substance to what is said, written or disseminated.

I have more than 20 nieces and nephews most of whom are in the 20 – 30 age range. I have just discovered that most of them (if not all) keep in touch through the net – not email – but “Facebook.” I am a total neophyte about this process, but I would like to be in the communication circle with my nieces and nephews particularly since I have told them for years that I am their favorite aunt and some have even “believed” me. Not all, mind you! There is at least one tenacious hold-out!

I am reminded in my musings of what Joseph told his brothers when he forgave them for their dastardly actions against him – actions which impacted not only the rest of his life but effected the future course of history as God’s story is written across the sands of time. He said, “You meant it (the things they did starting with hatred in their hearts) to me as evil but God meant it for good.”

Evil happens. Evil people use good technology for their own evil purposes. We are called to be salt and light which includes knowing enough to protect ourselves and those around us as much as possible.

The evil is not in the technology. The evil is always in the heart. We don’t need restored technology. We need restored hearts! With a restored heart we can say with Joseph (when others have done great evil to us), “You meant it for evil but (now I know) God meant it for good.”

Friday, November 9, 2007


Several years ago I took a business course. The course ended up being more than a waste of time, but it did have interesting moments. One was the first day when the instructor told us to go around the room and give an adjective – that started with the same first letter as our first name – that described each of us. Mine was “something Ann.” I can’t even remember. We started class each day for at least a week by going around with these adjectives and our names. It was a name-learning activity, and it was effective for that purpose. It was also silly!

But the interesting part was what the instructor said when she introduced the activity and began, “I am centered (Cathy - not her name).” It became obvious over the weeks of the course that the instructor desperately wanted to find a center for her life. The problem was she is searching in all the wrong places – mostly turning over New Age stones.

However, the “game” caused me to reflect on “centering.” We all long for a “center.” The problem is that we look for a “center” in all the wrong places, too.

Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662), the French mathematician/physicist and philosopher, wrote: “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

Perhaps this is what the wisest man who ever lived – King Solomon – was referencing in Ecclesiastes 3:11 when he writes of God’s placing “eternity in (our) hearts.”

God’s plan is to fill that vacuum with His eternal presence – to fill us at our very center of being with a longing for Him and Him alone.

Pascal made many major discoveries in physics. He proved the existence of the vacuum which paved the way for hypodermic syringes, barometers and hydraulic devices. He also developed the theory of mathematical probability and helped shape the field of calculus.

Pascal knew the rigors of living with chronic pain from his teen years until he eventually became a cripple as an adult. Often when the pain kept him from sleep, he did some of his most ingenious thinking.

I’m sure his chronic pain may have taught Pascal many lessons. It was always with him. He learned that no one can solve the deepest mysteries and needs of life with their intellect. He knew well (from his pain and life) that man can do great things while being very flawed at the same time.

Many life experiences shaped Pascal’s heart but the milestone moment in faith was a near fatality in a carriage accident. At age 31 Pascal came to a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. His heart was restored forever! His life was centered in Christ, his Creator.

The day Pascal came to know Jesus was so important to him that he wrote a reminder of his commitment to Jesus and sewed it into the lining of his coat. This note was found in the lining of his coat after he died at age 39. The note said (in part): I have come to know “the God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob. … I will not forget Thy Word.”

As Pascal lay dying – in great pain – he watched the poor of his city trudge past his window while the rich rode in their carriages. One of his last great ideas was the bus – public transportation.

Blasé Pascal demonstrated a restored heart in action as he put his considerable skills as a thinker and physicist/mathematician to work in practical ways to help others.

Blas̩ Pascal was centered in Jesus Рthe only real Center for life and forever!

© Ann Holmes, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

More About “Dog” (Duane Chapman, Bounty Hunter)

More About “Dog” (Duane Chapman, Bounty Hunter)

“Dog” says he feels terrible, really terrible about what he said. I can only assume that the reason is because he got caught as he’s always talked trashy talk apparently.

“Dog” says he’s sorry, too. Then he promises to try “never, ever, ever to use that words again.”

What he says next is interesting because he starts talking about being “on the hot seat” and not liking it. My translation for all that including the tears is that “Dog” really, really wishes that he had never, ever, ever gotten caught and recorded and especially wishes he hadn’t been exposed to the world. He just wants it all to go away as painlessly as possible, I think.

But the interview on Hannity and Colmes gets better. Shaun Hannity asks “Dog” - So what are you going to do to make up for this really big, big bad thing you’ve done and said?

The “Dog” responds that he really had hoped that no one would ever know so he wouldn’t have to do anything but just make like sorry. And after he goes on in that vein for awhile, he says the most interesting thing of all so far, “But now I’ve had to clean myself to be able to look at myself in the mirror.”

So he does understand on some level that there’s dirt here that is pretty indelible. Problem now is that the “Dog” doesn’t know what to do to fix the dirt.

Shaun Hannity observes: “You don’t think you’ll be forgiven? … It sounds like you won’t forgive yourself.”

Then, enter stage right, Duane “Dog” Chapman (the bounty hunter) ’s preacher, Tim Storey. He has some things to say, too:

“What you have with Duane — I met him before he was the big Dog the Bounty Hunter, before he had the A&E show. And he's rough around the edges. And, you know, God uses shaky people to do sturdy projects. And when I met him I knew he had trouble. He (the “Dog”) has flaws — flaws, faults, failures in his life.”

[And I guess the massed choir just hummed and sang, “Unh-Uh !” or something.]

Storey continues: “… he does have a big mouth. But I do believe in forgiveness. I believe that you can get forgiven, that God will (forgive) forget, and you can go forward.”

HANNITY: Well, he's said he doesn't think anybody will forget.


HANNITY (to “Dog”): Do you believe that? Is this — you know, you may lose, and we haven't gotten to the issue of what's up with A&E? Are you going to lose your show?

D. CHAPMAN: I don't know. I'm laid off. I mean, I don't know.

HANNITY: Pastor, you can help out here. He's not Mother Teresa.


HANNITY: I mean his whole show, there's a lot of bleep bleep bleep bleep bleeps in the show.

STOREY: You know what's amazing, Sean, is a lot of people, they want mercy but they're not willing to give it out.

D. CHAPMAN: I need forgiveness way before I need my job.

HANNITY: Do you believe that he's capable of now saying he's going to change his life and not curse anymore?

STOREY: Not on his own. I believe that God can help him.

HANNITY: And that will be a miracle

What a classic pattern of all of our hearts! Thanks, "Dog," for this lesson in sin and need, failure and flaws, repentance and forgiveness leading to restoration!

Now, I don't know where "Dog" will go or what he will do with his own flawed heart but there are some things I do know:
  • I know that we all have flawed hearts.
  • I know we all see dirt when we look in the mirror.
  • I know we all want to clean up ("fix") the dirt especially when we get caught with the dirt.
  • I know that we can't clean up a broken, dirty, flawed heart! No way, no how!
  • I know we ALL need forgiveness!
  • I know that the only source of forgiveness is Jesus Christ. He died to take care of flawed, dirty hearts. He makes the terrible trade (for Him) of giving us His cleanness and He takes our dirt! WOW!
It is a miracle! Only God can take care of heart problems like "Dog" 's and mine. God is the only source for forgiveness. He provided His Son Jesus to accomplish what we could never do for ourselves - find forgiveness.

And I know the massed choir is singing in grand harmony, "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah - Glory !" Jesus said so, ... there's more joy in heaven over one sinner's rescued life than over others who don't think they have any need of rescue. (Luke 15:7, The Message)

  • I also know that just about everyone wants "mercy, but they're not willing to give it out."
  • And it is for sure that "God uses shaky people to do sturdy projects" !

It is a matter of getting the order of the process right. There is nothing but futile frustration in trying to clean up my own dirt (or you trying to clean up yours) !

The good news is that God is in the dirt cleaning, heart restoring and forgiving business 24/7! And it is a huge miracle! I'm not Mother Teresa either. But from this being restored heart, I'm so thankful that "God uses shaky people to do sturdy projects" because that means he can use me! He can even use me to give out His mercy to other flawed dirty hearts like mine!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Words and the "Dog"

Words – they are tools to communicate - not the only tools, but one important tool.

When the ancient prophet Hosea calls wayward Israel back to God, he says, “Take words with you and return to the Lord.” (Hosea 14:2

Words – they are a window into our hearts. Jesus said: “It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words. … Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. Words are powerful, take them seriously.” (Matthew 12:34-37, "The Message," Eugene Peterson)

In Matthew 6 Jesus told a huge crowd of people that some people think the more words they use, the better they will be heard. (Matt. 6:7) Then Jesus concludes, “NOT – no way – not going to happen !” (my translation not His)

I have a really good friend who is a man of few words. An example that I will remember and giggle over forever is the night we were talking about dealing with anger in a group. Someone asked something like, “Well, what do you do if you don’t get the desired result and you’re angry with someone ?” He quietly and calmly said only one word, “Reload.” Think about it!

My brother is one of the commanders on the ground in Iraq. Several times I have written him detailed emails. He does respond. The response is something like: “Gotcha” or “Noted.” He’s a busy man of few words. He communicates all that is needed with a word.

Words are in the news today. Not a few words but many words – too many words and the wrong kind of words. Duane “Dog” Chapman, the bounty hunter, is in big trouble for using multiple racial slurs in a phone conversation with his son. His son taped the conversation and sold it to a “sensation rag.” Now “Dog” is in trouble, scrambling to rewind and recover and booted from his TV show.

“Dog” says he’s sorry and regrets his “inappropriate language.” He said all that and more including crying on the Shaun Hannity show last night on TV in an exclusive interview.

A very wise man once told me that people use profane words due to their limited vocabulary. They resort to the lazy way to express their thoughts because their word resources are limited.

Words expose both our hearts and our emotions.

In another time some mothers demonstrated this to their children by washing their mouths out with soap after naughty words were spoken by the child. It’s a very effective deterrent unless the pattern of bad words is already firmly established. In that case, more drastic measures may be required. In any case, the only permanent fix for a dark heart that spews forth evil words is God’s grace at work to restore hearts, minds and mouths.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Needs fixed? A Restored Heart

In Pittsburgh few people struggle to understand the sense of the question, "Needs fixed?" We get it! The broken car needs fixed. The dirty house needs cleaned or "redded up." (Note: "Redded up" means a little more than picking up the red stuff lying around. :o)

So what about a heart that needs fixed or "redded up? I guess like in a "Restoration Heart" ? Words: what do they mean?

Could they mean the heart is so restored/fixed/"redded up that perfection is finally achieved and there is no more work ("redding up") to be done? NOT A CHANCE!

A restored heart is a heart in the continual process of being restored. That means that I need Jesus every day to walk beside me and do His work of restoration in my own broken life and heart. It also means that as I experience God's great restoration in my own heart I need to reach out to others who are also broken. My heart offers them love and acceptance. My heart, hands and feet come alongside them for encouragement.

As more and more restored and being restored hearts walk together down the Life Road, the band of brothers and sisters grows. As they go, the band of broken sinners in the process of restoration walking together help each other along the way. This means the one who has no arms gets arms from one who does. It means that the one who has no eyes gets sight from another who sees more clearly. It means that the brother who struggles to hear gets words and sounds from another who hears and cares.

It is a process that lasts until life ends - this process of being fixed or "redded up" or restoration! To get started only takes Jesus and me or you!

Monday, November 5, 2007

People or Paper?

People or Paper?

Saturday two little four-year-olds visited me. They are identical twins. As we were driving, they spontaneously started a game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Being twins their first five or so tries each came up with the identical symbol: both were rocks, both were scissors, both were rocks again.

In the game the object is to make the hand symbol that is stronger than the other person’s. So rock against rock is a draw. But rock against scissors: rock smashes scissors. Or scissors against paper: scissors cut paper. In the game, paper is the weakest symbol.

Then Sunday morning I went to church. A dear friend shared a sad story of a man battling a fatal disease. He faces lost work time as he gets treatment. He needs his employment and benefits to keep going. She said she wanted to donate some of her own sick leave days to his “account.” She was told that she couldn’t do that because they were in different levels of employment of the same company. Her voice shook as she said, “Paper is more important than people.”

Paper is NOT more important than people but that’s how we live at times. What a great reminder and challenge to live and order my life (and to encourage others to do the same) so that people always trump paper. Balancing priorities to always value people more than paper cuts against the grain of bureaucracy but it's the right way to live.

In our world, paper is often more important than people. But that’s a really skewed value. It’s upside down! People are more important than paper every time! Life should mimic the game making paper the weaker symbol: not paper crushes people but people care for people more than paper.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

War of Terror on Words

Words – that’s how we communicate but what a way we have with them! And the ways we use and abuse them are amazing!

Think of just ordinary – very good words – that have totally lost their meaning: love and gay come to mind immediately

Just today, on the news, was the item about “how to buy a coat.” Must be a REALLY, REALLY slow news day! Anyhow, the “expert” talking about how to buy a coat mentioned that buying a coat can be overwhelming. Buying a coat – overwhelming? Now that’s a new use for the word “overwhelming.”

Overwhelming can be watching fire crest over a ridge in California and suddenly consume your home and all its contents, including the memories and pictures! Now THAT’S overwhelming!

Overwhelming is watching a car run over your child or coming into your kitchen and finding your wife of over 50 years dead of a massive hemorrhage! These things and many others are truly overwhelming BUT I don’t think buying a coat falls in that category.

But, then there is the tennis shoe store – have you ever seen so many different types and kinds of tennis shoes? One needs a special degree just to know what KIND of tennis shoe one needs to select. Perhaps THAT is overwhelming!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Need, Faith, Action

Why should I care?

It is the question answered by Moses, David, Esther and Nehemiah. They each saw a need and did something. Moses saw Jewish slaves groaning in the brick yard. David heard Goliath's roars and stepped up with his slingshot and stones. Esther risked the king's wrath to plead the cause of her people. Nehemiah volunteered for the construction crew to rebuild Jerusalem. And the line of men and women who step up to do something, who care when there is need is as long as time.

In each story, there is huge need, there is great faith, and there is a touched heart that responds in action. That's what it takes to make a difference in our world - willing hands and feet propelled by a caring heart!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Salt and Light...

Oprah's Promotion of Porn and Adultery Shameful, Says Christian Attorney reports that a special counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is upset that Oprah Winfrey, in a recent show titled "237 Reasons to Have Sex," featured among her 'experts' a woman who traveled worldwide experiencing one night stands, and another who advocated the use of pornography for couples to enhance their marriage. ADF special counsel Pat Trueman says it is shameful that Winfrey would advocate destructive behavior on her national talk show. "Shame on Oprah!" says Truman. "There are lots of children who watch the show. Many adults; many, many Christians; she's got a loyal following because she does have good things on her show." He argues that because of Winfrey's status, giving a forum to "anti-Christian" and "sinful" values only serves to popularize such behavior, even though adultery and pornography can only harm marriages.
Why are we surprised when unbelievers act like unbelievers? That's our call to be salt and light in a dark, disgusting world! If we all flavor and light where we are for Jesus, it will make a difference! I'm gonna go out and try to be salt and light today.