Kicking Trees

When, as a young girl I got mad, frustrated or began whining my mother gave me words of wisdom.  At the time, I didn’t know they were words of wisdom.  I just thought her words of instruction were normal protocol.  Her instruction was this.  “Go outside, run around the house six times and kick some trees.”  So, I would go outside, count as I ran around the house and begin to kick one of the big pine trees in our backyard. I always felt better.

I thought about this several times this week.  One of my most oft-used and very helpful scriptures is short, but profound.  It is found in Romans 12:21 –
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This is what my mother was training me to do.  To replace what was bad with something good.  (Exercise and getting rid of frustration was good….and no trees were harmed in this process.)

What an important scripture to practice.  I find that I can only find success in overcoming sin, temptations or even annoying habits by applying this verse.  It’s sort of like this:

Imagine if I decided that I ate too much chocolate (is that possible?) and that I would quit having chocolate as one of my staple food groups.  So, I would then think about how I would avoid all Lindt dark chocolate bars with a sprinkling of chili in them.  By no means would I indulge in a molten chocolate cake, warm from the oven with melted Ghirardelli chocolate oozing out of the center – and smothered in ice cream.  And whenever I went through a “Wendy’s” drive-through I’d request a vanilla frosty (aren’t “frosty” and “chocolate” synonymous?) so I wouldn’t have to take slow tastes of the creamy chocolate custard that coats my throat in an oh-so palatable way.  Needless to say, this is not a smart way to get chocolate out of my life.  Even as I type this while in a neighborhood coffee shop, I am now tempted to check out the chocolate goodies staring at me under the glass.  You see, God knows that the way to overcome something is to replace it with something else. What I need to do is to take a walk or eat an apple.

Jesus taught this truth with a parable: Luke 11:24-26
“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ [25] When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. [26] Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”

Too often we try to get rid of besetting sins or bad habits by just “sweeping our house clean” without occupying it with Godly attributes, actions and thoughts.  Some practical ways this is to be done is found in Col. 3:5-10
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. [6] Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. [7] You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. [8] But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. [9] Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices [10] and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
12-15 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. [13] Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. [14] And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
    [15] Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

A couple of days ago I was sharing Romans 12:21 with a young woman who was eager to become a Christian and who was wanting help in overcoming some destructive habits.  She decided to “arm herself” with several scriptures she would immediately turn to, with prayer, and with requests for support from a few who she might call when tempted. She decided upon  several “courses of action”  which she could immediately turn to in order to “overcome evil with good”.  She also was thrilled with the  promise of God’s Spirit entering her when she was baptized. She was learning to put off…and to put on.  To not be overcome…but to overcome.

What a privilege to have an alternative to “being overcome by evil”.  What trees do you need to kick today?

I Can’t Hear You!

I rattled the dish, ever so quietly – and Denver came running over, thinking it was time to be fed.  This little puppy devours his food in a matter of seconds, with what seems like one gulp.  The slightest crumpling of a bag or rattling of a dish sends him into a whirlwind.  He responds immediately, almost running over himself to get to the food.

At other times, I can call loudly for him to come to me.  I can also look at him and tell him “no”,… don’t eat my boot, (you see him listening so well in the picture as he is chomping on my boot).. or the computer wire, or the chair, or my ear….and he suddenly becomes deaf.  Granted, he is only nine weeks old and still untrained, but I am quite sure his hearing is fine.  It’s not that he can’t hear me, or connect that the word “no” has repercussions associated with it.  At this point, in his immature state, it seems he hears only what he wants to hear.  We are teaching him basic commands as quickly as possible, for his own safety (and our sanity).   I  thought about how easy it is for us as humans to hear “conveniently”, as Denver does.

Think of things you are eager to hear.  You may await a certain phone call, or thrill at the sound of a child or grandchild as they utter their first words.  I thought about times I have been quite eager to hear good news of someone’s safe arrival, or to hear the voice of a loved one.

I ask myself how eager I am to hear the words of my God.  Do I strain in eager anticipation in order to hear them, or do I merely listen “at my convenience”?  The answer can be found in my daily habits.  Do I eagerly open pages of my Bible, (or open Bible applications on my computer)?  Do I really want to hear what he has to say to me?  Or, will I glance through the Bible at my leisure- at my convenience.

What keeps us from eagerly listening for and hearing the words of God? What causes us to stumble over them – and not take them to heart.  There can be various reasons, but perhaps the most common is what I observe with my puppy.  He is so busy doing what he wants to do, he doesn’t care to listen.

1 Peter 2:8b

 They stumble because they disobey the message—

It’s easy to be careless with listening…and it’s easy to stumble with the scriptures – when we don’t want to do what they say.  That’s like Denver, when he doesn’t want to obey.  Yet sometimes, unfortunately, it can be like me. I am always sobered by the scripture in Hebrews 2:1-3

    We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. [2] For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, [3] how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.

Listen carefully…..what do you hear?

A Listening Ear

My ears seem too sensitized and it’s affecting my sleep.  For the past 6 weeks I have had my phone in my room – on standby for baby delivery news.  3 of those weeks, while Kristen was hospitalized, my ears were also tuned in to the baby monitor in our room – in case my grandson, who was sleeping upstairs, awoke.  I would wake up to the slightest stirring. I even started incorporating hearing the phone ring or hearing my grandson with a croupy cough in my dreams.  I would wake up only to realize I was only hearing Wyndham or me breathing.

Now, I hear whimpering through the night from Jordan, our ailing Golden Retriever.  He used to be so quiet.  Now, he is excited when he stands up – and he wants to let us know.  He barks when he needs to go out, when he wants water and when he wants another pbj (peanut butter and jelly sandwich – his new fave. He is still not wanting his dog food…hmmm, I wonder why) Last night he began barking for seemingly no reason.  It seems he was lonely.  Once we brought him into our room he was fine.  He just wanted company.

Last night I was tempted to put on my noise cancelling earphones (got a great deal at Brookstone Outlet) and just fall asleep listening to Kenny G.  Or, better yet…. listening to quietness.  However,  I need to be able to hear since I’m “on call”.

I started thinking about how amazing God is.  He is always on call.  Psalm 55:17

Evening, morning and noon

        I cry out in distress,

        and he hears my voice.

 He never sleeps. (Psalm 121:3-4) His ears are always attentive to the cries of the righteous.   1 Peter 3:12

    For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous

        and his ears are attentive to their prayer,

    but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

   This blows my mind.  This is a dimension beyond my understanding.   I can tire by just being attentive with my immediate family (dogs included).   God is listening for all those who are seeking him, and attentive to all those who are striving to follow him.  It is a sobering thought to know that God does not listen when we aren’t seeking him or seeking to follow him.   Isaiah 59:2

    But your iniquities have separated

        you from your God;

    your sins have hidden his face from you,

        so that he will not hear.

I’m so grateful that God wants to hear my voice. Psalm 5:3

    In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice;

        in the morning I lay my requests before you

        and wait in expectation.

 I want to be most sensitized to hearing God.  I want to hear him as I read my Bible, and as I ask for wisdom, and as I try to be tuned in to His Spirit.  I pray that today I can be “on call” to His voice.

John 10:27     My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Carried Close to His Heart

Isaiah 40:11

    He tends his flock like a shepherd:

        He gathers the lambs in his arms

    and carries them close to his heart;

        he gently leads those that have young.

I think of this verse as I watch my husband carry Jordan in and out of the house, first thing in the morning and  last thing at night.  This new routine is causing some back soreness, but we think it’s worth it. This caretaking of our invalid dog is teaching me many lessons.

Saturday morning I had a good cry –  a deep sob is more accurate.  It had been two days since Jordan had eaten or had drunk water.  He would and could not stand.  Wyndham and I concurred that we would wait until Monday to decide whether to put him down, but I felt the inevitable was approaching.

I had made him scrambled eggs, meat, and chicken soup – and offered them all to him.  He had no interest.  Then he surprised me. Saturday night, on a whim, I tried feeding him Ritz crackers with peanut butter on them.  Apparently, that hit the spot.  He at the whole roll of crackers.  Yesterday he had about 4 hamburgers, a chocolate chip cookie (his favorite…and chocolate hasn’t hurt him in his 14 years) and drank a lot of water.   Last night he stood up.  This morning, I cooked some ground beef (with  some mashed sweet potatoes added) and he ate it all from my hand.  Then, after being carried outside he stood up, did his business and wagged his tail.  It seems he truly is getting better!  Whether or not he will fully recover is still unknown, but I’m encouraged.

Meanwhile, I think about the fact that he is our dog.  A perfectly wonderful dog mind you; but I do realize he is not quite human.  I think about the tender loving care he needs right now and how eager I am to give it.  And I am a very imperfect human.

I can’t really begin to grasp the love God extends to me.  It floors me to think that I am made in his image….thought of even before I was born (Psalm 139) and that he gathers me in his arms, close to his heart as the scripture above states.  Shamefully, I worry about too many things.  Next time (likely later tonight) when I’m tempted to worry about something I need to remember how I feel about my dog… remember God’s loving care for me, his sheep.  Nothing is too big (or too little) for my God.

Matthew 6:25-27

    “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? [26] Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? [27] Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

Luke 12:22-26

    Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. [23] Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. [24] Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! [25] Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? [26] Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?