A friend of mine told me about the Waze app last year – it’s a GPS that not only tells you the best way to a particular destination, but also which routes have traffic delays at any given time. Others using the Waze app can add their comments – an accident reported an hour ago might be cleared now; a police officer is hidden under an overpass; get into the left lane early because the right lane is closed. It’s fantastic. While the app can’t make traffic delays go away, it can make those delays bearable – and it can tell us how to get around the worst part of them.
For example, we were driving back from Tennessee yesterday when we hit terrible traffic on I-75 north of Atlanta. It was frustrating to go from 75 mph to 15. Especially when the traffic was backed up as far as we could see, and we had no idea what was going on, how long it would last, or anything. But then, I opened up Waze, saw there was an accident 4 miles ahead. Waze rerouted us around the accident itself. It still took longer than normal to get through Atlanta. But not as long as it could have taken. Plus, there is something comforting about knowing there is an end in sight, rather than just seeing the long lines of cars stretching far into the horizon.
It made me think: God’s Word is a lot like that app. Infinitely better, of course, seeing as it was written by the Creator of the universe and all. Here’s what I mean: In this life, we are not guaranteed paths that are free of all obstacles. In fact, we are told over and over again that we WILL face trials, temptations, difficulties. Sometimes, when we see those, we can get frustrated, upset. We can want to get off God’s path – it’s so hard! – and just go our own way. But those paths are always dangerous.
When faced with “stand-stills” or unexpected delays in our “travels”, we must look to God’s word. In that, we can find direction. The Psalms and Proverbs tell us time and again that if we put our trust in God, He will make our paths straight. The epistles give us practical helps for how to live – what to do, what not do – so we can avoid the worst of the difficulties. Every book in God’s amazing word is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (II Tim, 3:16).
So if the life path you’re on right now seems to be at a stand still – or even if it’s not! – open up God’s word, ask for direction. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Prov. 3:5-6)
When we lived in Spain (2006-2007), we were surprised to see that political correctness was not an issue during the holidays. Our kids’ public school had a huge nativity scene prominently displayed in the lobby. Thomas was cast as a wise man in his Pre-K3 Christmas presentation. In fact, in Spanish culture, Three Kings’ Day is even more important than Christmas Day.
At first, it sounded great! The real Christmas story was shared, sung, and held in a place of honor. But, as I continued to look, I realized it wasn’t all that great. When it was time to ask for Christmas presents, Santa came to school — with the Three Kings. The kids could ask their “gift giver” of choice for that special Christmas gift.
As I looked and listened some more, it hit me: the story of Jesus coming to earth was seen as fiction – just like the story of Santa. There was no need for political correctness because the story wasn’t so much religious as cultural – a cute part of the holiday season. Baby Jesus and roscon and peeled grapes — all fun Spanish holiday traditions.
It made me sad — the reality that Jesus came to earth is amazing. It is an undeserved gift, given to us by a God who loves us so passionately He was willing to send his son to a world that rejected him then and rejects him still. The baby in the manger is the Savior of the World! And while I have no problem with the fiction of Santa, I do not want my Savior placed in the same category.
So, Christians, let’s not be so quick to be frustrated that Americans are upset at nativity scenes and signs that proclaim “Merry Christmas”. It is a good thing. The true Christmas story is still recognized as the TRUE Christmas story here. It is tied to our faith. People who do not share our faith are upset because this season proclaims biblical truths. Those truths, Jesus himself told us, would offend. When they stop offending – when they start to become “cute little holiday tales” - then we should get upset. So bring on the PC police! And continue to bring out the GREATEST story ever told!
I love Christmas movies! Our family tradition is to save these films for the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s — no Christmas music or movies any other time of year. So when we finally get to pull these out — woo-hoo! We go crazy.
“White Christmas” is definitely my favorite, but “Elf” is quickly rising up the ranks (it’s just so quotable!!).
What about you? Is your favorite not on here? Tell me about it! I am always ready to try out a new Christmas movie this time of year!
Twenty years ago this week, Dave brought me home for Christmas. Except that he didn’t tell his parents we were dating. He hadn’t even told me we were dating. We had, in fact, been “hanging out” for about six months (yep, that’s months) and he had yet to declare his intentions. But there I was, at his parents’ house in Long Island.
Let me give you some background: David McGee is one of the smartest guys I know. He is also one of the godliest. And he never makes rash decisions. He’s researched cars for close to a year before making a purchase. When he was choosing a seminary, he poured over pamphlets, spoke to every seminary graduate he knew, seeking advice. Whatever the opposite of “spontaneous” is — that’s Dave. And it’s a great thing. God made him cautious, wise. And we balance each other out well because I hardly every think before I make a decision. My gut and a credit card is all I need!
So when we met, Dave was attracted to me, but he was cautious. I was only 19 – a baby. He was 25 – a college graduate. He knew 19-year-olds tended to be fickle and immature. He was at the point where he was ready to find his future wife. And he wanted to be sure he made the right decision. So he watched me. All summer. We worked together at a youth camp. He was one of the Unit Leaders (in charge of a group of counselors), and I was a counselor (not in his unit). His sister conspired to get us thrown together in some activities. Shoot, the whole camp worked on throwing us together. I wasn’t sure I was interested in someone that old, but I had to admire a guy whose Bible was so worn it was held together by duct tape!
That fall, he decided to go to the Word of Life Bible Institute’s (WOLBI) School of Youth, Ministry and Evangelism. He had finished college and he had attended WOLBI’s one-year Bible program the year before me. But he felt God wanted him to study the Bible more, and so he came back. With me. And we hung out. Now WOLBI is super strict, so no couples are allowed to go off campus together or touch at all — not even hold hands. So we spent that fall talking. A lot. That’s a good thing. We really go to know each other – what we liked and didn’t like, what we believed, what we thought God wanted us to do in life. But we didn’t
talk about “us.” Didn’t call each other “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” or even (a WOLBI favorite) a “special” friend.
I was getting a little impatient. I mean, we met in JUNE and it was DECEMBER. I understood cautious, but this seemed excessive! And then he asked me to come home with him. I was so excited! That meant something – we were ready to put the “special” in front of the “friends.” And then he told me he had invited someone else home, too- a friend from school, John, who lived in England and couldn’t go home for the holidays.
“So,” I tried to be as diplomatic as possible. “Do your parents know anything about me?”
“They know you’re coming.”
“Do they think I’m with John or with you?”
“We didn’t talk about it.” He said. “It doesn’t matter.”
It doesn’t matter. Right. But then he said his sister, whom I had known from camp that summer, had been talking to their mom, and she filled her parents in on who I was. Nice.
So I was in Long Island with a guy I was falling hard for and I wasn’t even sure if his parents knew who I was.
Why would he do this? Because I had gotten to know him, I knew it was because he had gotten hurt in the past. He had dated girls and had his heart broken, and he didn’t want that to happen again. His mom had gotten her heart broken, too, when Dave was hurt. So he didn’t want to bring any but “the” one to meet his parents. I knew him asking me to come home was a big deal. But I also knew it was scary for him.
The week ended up being great. Away from the rules of WOLBI, we sat close on the couch, held hands (!), and just had fun. By the time I left, we were “official”. I think I could have flown home without the aid of an airplane!
Now, twenty years later, it is a fun story, one we laugh about when we tell our friends. But, I have to say, as impatient as I was, I am glad Dave was so slow. In a time where life is fast, girls and guys are fast, being slow has major advantages. We spent a long time building a foundation of friendship before we began speaking of love (that was still several more months after this story!). That friendship, built on Christ, is what has sustained us for the eighteen years we have been married, through global moves, heartache and hard times. It has allowed to stay together “For better or for worse.”
And now, twenty years later, it is still one of my fondest Christmas memories!
“Doing Good” is part of almost every religion, part of groups on every side of the political landscape; it is part of slogans and campaigns. It is everywhere. Christians don’t have the corner on the “Good Deeds” market. But we do have a reason for doing good that is different than anyone else’s. Or, at least, we should.
In one of Jesus’ most famous sermons, he said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mt. 5:16) So why do we do good? To glorify God and point people to Him.
But, sometimes, I think even Christians forget that. In fact, sometimes, I think Christians fall into the trap of thinking doing good for others means that good will happen to them. They take the idea of “karma” from eastern religions and believe that is a biblical idea. That God will bless you with material things or no disease or no pain if the good you do outweighs your bad.
But that idea cannot be supported by scripture or by experience. Jesus himself was the best man to ever walk this earth. He was Emmanuel – God with us. If anyone “deserved” good, it was this man who healed the sick and cared for the lepers and ate with the outcasts. Yet he was killed. The disciples all faced horrible ends. These were men who loved God and served others with everything they had. I can think of half a dozen people I know, right off the top of my head, who are amazing, wonderful people, people who “deserve” good things. But these people have lost children, lost parents, lost homes, suffered deep hurts, emotionally and physically. All the good these people did did not protect them from hurt and pain.
So why do good? Because it honors God. Because it points people to Him. Because we were created to be part of a community of people who reflects Christ. And what do we get out of it? Wealth that cannot be measured by anything on this earth: Peace that passes understanding. Uncontainable joy. Faith that can withstand storms. Hope in a future that is infinitely better than even the best days we have in the present.
Teens today are having sex. A lot. Studies indicate that at least half of all teenagers are sexually active in high school. Personally, I think that number is conservative. It is as casual a part of many relationships as the goodnight kiss was back in the “old days.” It isn’t a stigma, isn’t embarrassing,isn’t shameful. It is considered a natural part of adolescence, necessary, even beneficial.
Those who disagree with this view of sex are seen as ridiculous prudes. We are mocked on TV shows, movies, even Broadway musicals. “What is the big deal?” They say. It’s a primal need, an itch that needs to be scratched. Monogamy in general is hopelessly out of fashion, even within marriage. So abstinence before marriage?? Laughable at best; harmful at worst.
Christian parents have an increasingly hard time with this issue, as well. Some don’t ever want to say the word. It is NOT a discussion they want to have with their “babies.” Other parents focus on just the negatives: teen pregnancy, STD’s, heartache…have sex and your life will be ruined. Some, who made mistakes in their own teen years, feel hypocritical telling their children to abstain when they chose not to.
Those of us – parents and teens alike – who hold to the Bible as our foundation must recognize two things:
1) Sex is a good thing
2) Sex is entirely reserved for the marriage relationship
We hear a lot about the second point. And, while people may not like it, there’s no getting away from the fact that sex is for marriage. Period. Not for people in a non-married, but committed, relationship; not for people planning to get married. Sex is for marriage.
Because of reason #1 – it is a good thing. It isn’t terrible, evil, scary, or disgusting. Sex is a gift given by a good God for our enjoyment. Within marriage, there is guilt-free, committed, life-long enjoyment of each other. It is part of the “one flesh” relationship God grants to the children He loves so much. It enhances a marriage, helps couples remain connected, provides a level of intimacy that, hopefully, carries over to all other aspects of marriage. Couples with healthy marriages have healthy sex lives.
It is because of how good this gift of sex is that we should guard it and protect it. While the desire may be there long before we can satisfy it, we are not powerless to give into it.
Teens, you don’t have to be in the half that chooses to give this gift away. Stand strong, even when everyone around you is falling for the world’s lies. God has something great for you – don’t miss out on His best.
Parents, you HAVE to talk with your kids about this subject. Not just once. Often. Pray for them. Pray for their future spouse. Model a healthy marriage for your kids. Don’t just kiss with the bedroom door closed. Let them see you kiss, give little tush-grabs. It’ll gross them out, but that’s all right. They see it with non-married couples all the time. They need to see it within marriages.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.” ~I Thess. 4:3-5
I have several talents I am grateful for, that I hone and try to improve, that I practice alone and with groups. But I have one particular talent that brings me far more shame than pleasure: speaking without thinking.
I have used this talent in far too many places with far too many people to far too disastrous results. It’s not always end-of-the-world stuff. But it is always annoying at best and damaging at worst.
When I was in college, my friends would laugh at me because, no matter what was being discussed, I’d have a story for it. Rather than listening to what others were saying, engaging them, asking them questions about their story, I sat waiting, mentally preparing for when I could speak and regale the group with my story. Looking back now, I realize how incredibly self centered I was. And how incredibly gracious my friends were: They just let me talk, rather than turning to walk away because – invariably – I would be telling a story they’d already heard.
And that’s a more positive example. Let’s not even talk about when I yelled at a good friend, calling her a selfish jerk in front of a whole crowd of our friends. Or when I told a young man, in a very unkind manner, that he was not worthy of the girl he was dating. Or when I completely lost it in front of the entire cast of a play I was directing (more than once, for more than one play).
In every case, I let my mouth run while my brain raced to catch up. By the time I realized how ridiculous, rude, and/or arrogant I had been, it was too late. The damage had been done. What I needed to do, in every case, was to just shut my mouth.
I am going to get frustrated, I am going to get angry, I am always going to think of stories I could tell. But that doesn’t mean that I need to say everything that pops into my head. I need to think over what I am going to say, I need to make sure that what I am saying is kind, beneficial, necessary. I need to guard my mouth so that what comes out builds people up and doesn’t tear them down.
“The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.” ~Psalm 37:30
“You’re going to test us over EVERYTHING we’ve learned this whole semester?”
Semester exams are just a few weeks away and students who have barely said a word for the last few months are suddenly wide awake and quite vocal. “But why??” “We can use notes, right?” “You don’t mean everything do you?”
I used to be super easy in my semester exams. It is a lot of material, and the students do have several other classes to keep up with, and, yes, you can successfully navigate life without being able to identify a predicate nominative or explain the theme of “Tell Tale Heart.”
I have changed, though. Now, I do test over everything, and I do expect my students to be able to identify a predicate nominative and explain the theme of “Tell Tale Heart.”
Do I hate my students??
Do I think they’re all going to be English majors?
I always hope for a few. But, no. That’s not it.
It’s because of my “semester exam principle”: Retention of information is crucial to success in every facet of life.
Students today have SO MUCH information that it all ends up just crashing over them like a wave. They are drenched with information, but then they “dry up” and get ready for the next soaking. Nothing sticks, nothing lasts. I see students cramming for tests every day, stuffing information in their brains just long enough to get a good grade, then forgetting it.
What would happen if our doctors did that? Our accountants? Our pilots?
And though students think it doesn’t matter right now, those of us “older” folks know that the habits we develop in school carry on through college and into our careers.
But even more important than our grades or career, this principle applies to our Christian life.
A quick search of the word “remember” in scriptures yields 231 results. Several of those verses refer to God remembering his people and his promises. Many are commands for believers to remember God’s commands. Over and over again, we see the prophets lamenting the fact that the people of God have not remembered His faithfulness. We see the writers of the epistles challenging the readers to remember what they have been taught, what they have seen, what they know to be true.
So don’t let all that information just wash over you. Soak it deep into your pores. Drink it in.
There’s a new 4-letter word these days: a word that causes chaos in checkout lines and rages at red lights, a word whose very syllable makes us cringe in horror. We hear – or experience – this word and our entire day can be ruined. That word?
Move small children away from the screen….
We used to have wait for stuff all the time. I waited for “Wizard of Oz” to come on TV (once a year, at Christmas, right after “Sound of Music”). I waited for cartoons on Saturday mornings. I waited to get my film developed to see what my pictures looked like. Later, I waited for Dave to get off the phone so I could get online. Then I waited for the dial-up internet to pop up on my huge desk top computer.
Waiting was part of life for millennia.
Not anymore, though. We – and by “we”, I mean “I” – no longer accept waiting. Food should be fast. Information should be faster. Want to watch “Wizard of Oz”? Sure! On your tablet, your phone, or your TV? And waiting for pics? What?! It’s actually kind of sad that we have no more terrible pictures floating around. Unless someone screen shots a Snap chat…
I am a big fan of technology (she types on her blog, attached to her social media sites…), but I recognize that we have lost something precious as we have gained all these cool gadgets. We have lost the discipline of patience. We have lost the gift of a gentle and quiet spirit. We are so desperately trying to keep up with all the things we don’t have to wait for that we no longer have the ability to enjoy the silence (what is that??).
Patience is a virtue, it is a gift, it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. And patience is developed by *gulp* waiting. So don’t see it as a bad word or an inconvenience – waiting is an opportunity for God to speak to you, to be real to you, to develop patience in you. It really isn’t a 4-letter word. Except that it is. But you know what I mean.
So hurry up….and wait!
God has been working on me, lately, in the area of hating sin. We hear this a lot in reference to others: “Hate the sin, love the sinner” and all. But adages like that tend to make me even more self-righteous than I already am. I need to focus far more on my own sins than the sins of others.
I was reading part of A.W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God (free on Kindle!), and was hit pretty hard with this discussion of our sinful nature:
“The tough old miser within us will not lie down and die obedient to our command. He must be torn out of our heart like a plant from the soil; he must be extracted in agony like a tooth from the jaw. He must be expelled from our soul by violence as Christ expelled money changers from the temple. And we shall need to steel ourselves against his piteous begging, and to recognize it as springing out of self-pity, one of the most reprehensible sins of the human heart.”
I have had more than my fair share of dental work in my lifetime, so the image of ripping a tooth from the jaw really resonated with me. When I have had an infected tooth, I HATED it. I wanted that thing out. Now! Whatever it took.
But have I ever viewed sin like that? Take gluttony, for instance. I know it’s a sin. But since my weight is within the “normal(ish)” range, I figure it’s no big deal. Eat that second donut, that handful of leftover Halloween candy…Even though I know I don’t need it. And what about laziness? Also a sin. But, again, I have grown accustomed to it. I know I should clean up, but I’d really rather read. Those dishes will still be there tomorrow. No big deal.
But Tozer reminds me that sin IS a big deal: Jesus had to die because of our sin, because of MY sin. Yet, daily, I squander the amazing gift of salvation by willfully choosing to sin against the God who loves me so deeply.
God doesn’t ask me to let go of sin because He wants me to be miserable, but because He wants me to soar. He knows I can know Him better, serve Him with greater passion, minister more effectively to others when my mind and heart aren’t weighed down by sin.
So I want to hate my sin and love my Savior. I want these “entanglements” gone so I can “run with endurance the race marked out for” me (Heb. 12:1).