Fairest of All

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Last week big trucks filled with colorful fiberglass animals were parked on the street this side of town. Today the Ferris wheel is up. Soon the sweet smell of cotton candy, snowcones, and cow manure will waft across this little town, and I’ll be up to my elbows in grease from the latest deep-fried fad. Fried green smoothies maybe?
I find in myself the little kid jumping up and down with delight at the remembrance of bumper cars and tilt-a-whirls of years past. OK, yeah -that was me slumped over the side of the squirrel cage, vomiting pink popcorn onto the people below, but I’d begged Cindy Shelton to stop flipping the cage, so it was NOT MY FAULT!
Ah, the memories evoked by a county fair.
Anyway, tickets are available now, so I’m picking mine up and soon I’ll be breathing it all in. The mere anticipation keeps me energized.
I experience similar emotions when I contemplate heaven. I’m not talking about the ridiculously twisted version of fat little naked cherubs playing harps on clouds, brought to you by Satan, Inc. I’m thinking of the real heaven, where nobody’s gonna be lying, hating, hurting, or emaciated by addictions. Where every longing- be it laughter, love, or quiet, is fulfilled, and people from “every nation, tongue and tribe” (Revelation 7:9), will be gathered at His place. Just think of the music from THAT cultural festival!
When I see the signs of Jesus comin’ to town, I think about all He is, and the anticipation keeps me going strong. We don’t know everything about heaven; the Lord wants us to love Him for Who He is-not for the prize behind Door Number One; plus there’d be a stampede bigger than Walmart’s Black Friday, if we knew all that heaven held.
But if the beauty of His creations, what is known of Jesus and His presence in my life is any indication, heaven is worth the ticket; which has already been purchased by the cross of Christ. Pick it up now, for the great adventure. We’ll be elbow-deep in the love of Fairest Lord Jesus.

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For the price of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

In the last days… People will be lovers of themselves
…proud, abusive, disobedient… ungrateful, unholy, without love…slanderous, without self-control…treacherous
…conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of spirituality, but without power. From 2 Tim. 3:1-5

No one knows the day or the hour, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking marrying and given in marriage, up to the day no enter the arc; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came. Matt. 24:36-38

You must be ready, because the Son of Man will come in an hour when you do not expect him.
Matt. 24:44

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Content Mint

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I was making a watermelon-feta- mint salad the other day and it got me thinking about mint. It grows wild in a stream behind our home. I love the fragrance, the freshness, the stepping-into-coolness to gather a bundle; and what is it about something growing wild? I’m going to throw a few watermelon seeds next to the mint to keep it company. With dairy cows nearby for cheese, I’m dreaming of a ready-made salad.
Back to the mint.
It’s just there, year after year, doing the hula to the music of the stream, looking beautiful. It doesn’t grunt or strain to grow, it doesn’t uproot itself in a panic during dry spells; in fact, it has quite an extensive root system, cultivated, I suspect, in the years of drought this valley has endured. The plant drinks what’s given, and the outcome is inevitable: growth, leaves, reproduction, repeat. Its minty-greeness is a vibrant contrast to the dried thistle soon-to-be tumbleweed in this desert valley.
I started thinking about the comparison of two lives described in Jeremiah 17. The first belongs to the person who trusts in human potential; himself and others. He is described as a shrub in the desert, living, but thirsty, always seeking more, and in the end, parched and dried up. The second illustrates the person who relies on the Lord: “…like a tree planted by water, that sends out roots by the stream and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
We who live in Christ don’t have to invent growth. “In Him we live and move and have our being,” stated the apostle Paul. It’s a done deal. We simply plant ourselves in the abundant stream of everything He is, and stay put. Droughts and heat will drive our roots down, and there, in deepest darkness, we discover the crystal waters, the subterranean things of Christ, revealed only in those times of secondary growth.
Dwelling in Christ, we dance the hula in the stream of His love, bear fruit, reproduce, offer what we have to others, repeat.

It was mint to be.

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They are… planted in the house of the Lord; …even in old age; they bear fruit and are fresh and flourishing. Ps.92:13a,14a

The Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your soul even in drought…and you will be like a watered garden…Isaiah 58:11

He who delights in the Lord and his instructions will be like a tree planted by the river that brings forth fruit in season; his leaf will not wither; and whatever he does prospers. Ps. 1:3

If anyone does not remain in Me…he will wither. John 15:6

All-Purpose Cleaner

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It’s a ticking bomb found in public places, randomly detonating with the roar of a lion. I’m talking here about automatic flush toilets. They mean well, but do we really need our backsides sprayed with an international smorgasbord of bacteria? For those with weak constitutions, do NOT google “germs and automatic flush toilets.” Let’s just say it would be safer and more convenient to simply have automatic dispensers marked, “E-coli, Streptococcus, Hepatitis A and Who-Knows-What-All”, that we might contaminate ourselves at leisure.
Enter, wipes. Wipes of every kind. Y’got got yer diaper wipes, facial wipes, hand wipes, disinfectant wipes, personal wipes, scented, unscented, hypoallergenic, MI-free, paraben-free and alcohol-free; with aloe, vitamin e, and…green tea— I’m guessing for those times when sucking on a wipe just seems the right thing to do. Then there are organic wipes, flushable, quilted for extra comfort, triple-layered, and one that boasts of our evolutionary progress, “Made with 99% water!”
The one I recommend is the one you have handy when your phone drops into the toilet as you leap off the seat before the detonator blows.
Like unseen bacteria, spiritual contaminants continually mist us—sometimes jetting us—and, like a lion, seek to devour: pop-up porn, e-mail ads, and Facebook rants. As if that weren’t enough, we have the deadly schemes of our own secret, hateful, and desperate little thoughts, encouraged and lauded by the devil himself.
Thankfully we have a better—than—a—wipe, all-purpose cleansing solution:

God’s Word, the Bible. That humble, no—frills, dusty little book on our shelf, reaches to the unknown areas of our souls in need of cleansing and refreshing. It’s a hot shower in a handy carrying case. Simply open, read the instructions and apply daily.

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…just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word…” Ephesians 5:25,26

Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

Just think how much more the blood of the Messiah will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. Hebrews 9:14a

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:25-27

Smell That?

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We’d been gone a few weeks and came back to it. It was there. Then it wasn’t. Then it was: A funny odor. Like dead-rat-in-the-wall funny. There it is again…sniff-sniff. There’s never a good bloodhound around when you need one. I sniffed in all the obvious places: the kitchen trash, the hamper, my armpits, John’s shoes,…I’m ashamed to say, I even gave John a hug just so I could sniff him.He backed away. “Laura, what are you doing.”  

“Do you SMELL it?” I said. 

He gave one token sniff, and, being all male- which is to say, I could slip a pea under his mattresses and he’d never feel a thing- he simply said, 

“No.”

After an hour of hyper-ventilation, I pulled out a drawer in the fridge. Petrified carrot, an apple-head doll, and…OH DISGUSTING!!! Who knew an innocent fingerling spud could emit enough methane to fuel the city of Los Angeles and its suburbs? I thought of calling a disaster clean-up company, but I suspect even they wouldn’t come near this root of mass destruction, so I had to dispose of it myself. Apparently, the poor thing had a bout of diarrhea before it died, so I cleaned up the drawer, too. 

I bring this all up, because that very same week, this happened to me again, in the spiritual realm. Something was off. WAY off. There was tension. John was seemingly being a total idiot-which isn’t like him at all. He was ignoring me. And when we did talk, communication was scrambled like yarn the cat got hold of. I couldn’t find the source of the trouble. So I prayed, “Lord, I don’t know what this is, could you show me?” 

HA! Never ask that question unless you are prepared for the answer. I know this will come as a huge surprise to you, but the answer was ME! I was the total idiot! So focused on the imaginary fingerling in John’s eye, I couldn’t see the russet in my own. I was naggy, bossy, and a lot of other negative descriptive words. Really stinky. This disaster needed relief. 

The great news is, the Lord doesn’t leave us rotting in our own juices. He reveals our sin, not merely to shine the lens, but to cleanse. 

I prayed, “Oh Lord, I am so sorry. Forgive me, and show me what to do next.”

(Like, really. You don’t know what to do next?) Clearly, I needed to apologize to John for being…well, me.

So I did. And because I’m married to a very forgiving man, we’re back to being the happiest married couple in the history of marriage. (We call ourselves the best kept secret in the world but we can’t say why, ‘cuz it’s a secret).   
The point is, the Lord specializes in disaster relief, but He takes it one huge step further, and reconstructs. He’s the Ultimate in restoration and beautification. And He’s one quick call away. ***********************************

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23,24
My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. Jeremiah 16:17
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.”

And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Psalm 32:5

He makes beauty from ashes, joy from sadness, praise from despair.
They will be like beautiful oak trees for His glory. (from Is. 61:3) 

*Gungor has an awesome song called, “He Makes Beautiful Things”, if you care to dance.

Raising The Difficult Child

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Laura’s a difficult child to raise. She’s sometimes hangs with the wrong crowd, the unkempt gang of thoughts that loiters under the dim light of her mind. Their tactic is effectively simple: volume and tenacity. I constantly have to remind her, “Yes, I hear them, but what is TRUE? What is REAL? Shine the Light of Truth on them, and see what remains.”  

Here’s a helpful little hint from one who deals with that lunatic army on a frequent basis: Simply ask, “WHO SAID?”  If the answer is anything other than Jesus Christ, arrest them and put them away. For life. Because, our thoughts become actions; our actions, habits; and habits, our life.

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 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and TAKE EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

…Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will is for you… Romans 12:2
As he thinks, so is he…Proverbs 23:7

But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? Matthew 9:4

Tonight’s the Night

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My friend texted me last night to tell me to go outside and look at the moon, so I did. The stars were particularly bright against the clear blackness. Initially the mountains hid the moon, but I could see the light coming as if from a sunrise. I stayed there, breathing in the light, until it dawned on me that I witnessed this glorious light because I stood in darkness.We often hear voices of doom and gloom for the days in which we live – and I’ve been known to join the chorus. But last night was a reminder that today we have the very greatest opportunity to shine the hope and joy of our Lord-not in spite of, but because of- the darkness around us. 

This day, this dark day, His stars can display most brightly His Light. 

This little light of mine, how will I let it shine?
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Do everything without arguing or complaining, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God, without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you SHINE LIKE THE STARS IN THE UNIVERSE*as you hold fast to the word of life. Philippians 2:14-16a

Give thanks to Him who made the heavenly lights…THE MOON AND THE STARS TO RULE THE NIGHT*. His faithful love endures forever. Ps.136:7,9

*emphasis mine

Daily Reading: Daniel Chapter 12 

Project: Eden

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God loves puttering in the garden. He strolled through Eden “in the cool of the day.” (Gen.3) Imagine that; shooting the breeze with God; stooping down with him to study a plant and learn it’s medicinal qualities. Maybe God said something like, “Hey Adam- you’re gonna need this someday when you’re wife complains of something called a “headache”; have her chew these leaves to cure it.”God knew those walks would be cut short, and that beautiful garden would become a tangled mess of thorns and weeds. 

Thousands of bleak years later, another garden and other thorns became part of God’s plan to restore what was lost, so you and I could get up in the morning, watch the Son rise, and putter again in the garden, with God, in the cool of the day. 

That’s what we celebrate this week. Jesus did all that He did, to get us back to the garden- that place of friendship with God. 

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Jesus said he came to bring us some great news, to heal our broken hearts, to set us free from oppression, to open our eyes. (Luke 4:18)

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To see how Jesus did this, read the second chapter of the book of Acts, or the Book of Mark for the bigger picture (c’mon- it’s only 31 pages).