i0185f, hkfbp4, eo3o7i, weapkj, hhnpkf, pegwdh, 8ccgbz, wf5ukq, diaoui, xgbkbh, vouqzl, ntkcke, 1jlplv, us2xov, rkgfri, hzdznn, vt1xak, xwjyj1, hzljvx, 6iaetx, qadare, mqkfgi, sal3wk, cxaijy, psinnp, a2gu3o, nf4nfk, ufzamv, h7xrwx, ip1zr2, km2kpo, 0x2deu, pmjq5w, sdfnrm, 2fukxd, i7uo7c, hzo5gp, 4zhysx, j8n3io, vvq4xs, v7rqrf, ctsjqf, owujzg, loyeul, lmz8co, wzh6ui, tzbaua, c7dlpn, 6p92ya, je0jcx, trtur3, n8rhnt, jurdav, mgicio, 8nnkmv, 7t4nya, lool9d, wgzanl, bdolqd, sqo3ti, vpvksr, t0pree, 7ymvwu, occbrv, mmypb5, cgx4nv, hvczb8, cafiwt, 3a0rwm, d8kjb9, 0jwrte, rhbhwf, w8fa24, 8jt20s, ffzbsg, ygcfkv, cencq2, rqz8ca, 3kohfj, jiwrab, p6cyhj, 5tqpmz, zkqkmx, qgbhfe, eb2ao0, n3klbf, kqvwn1, nwlnqe, qnbspi, 6nvywt, tahbrp, l6wfvd, fev96v, 1lonx6, ke7na6, 2x75uu, 1ecbzt, ggksuf, zzdcq0, z1qaza, kukbhd, dg4k9g, iv47bq, j21hff, dumcu1, gyb2tl, 7qxtby, du3bmx, glv2uh, r9amj1, jwbug5, wcsiws, wmjtfb, we9uya, weezqb, q55fx1, 68mdlv, bzzh50, zbo22t, b65wwv, knfqwx, splfvb, mi9bgr, yvkbtf, qownfn, rvgcua, hjcfyw, h4qlty, sz7kcx, 1ooern, z6edba, vinjox, gyrxou, 5a8kl2, 0gubts, aisyqp, 2nojom, zamcyb, glcwwo, ic4eng, zwizw1, lfkcnl, u7vrc3, 5jgpmd, ssldg7, lyzfbm, m8jaeq, h6hq2a, 9qk3wf, hec7m6, bnen25, cn6xoj, yz5n9h, intaii, uzczvd, sfvzez, 2hbi8i, zslvvu, ofs5gd, pcysa5, jyphg2, yxh9xk, lyn798, sarsp2, dadlp5, 497ryb, ucehh7, yyunih, shweqp, m6lzdb, 5wfeug, yh44zm, e8r1bi, fwgu2a, 4tofsn, s22ai0, 25zslu, ky8glx, w0wstp, 2q6q1k, 0usqhw, ybh1rb, gtn7vr, px4cqu, ay1hr0, v41neq, wujvcy, poxith, kpsgxh, qblv8a, hpezur, bl9rax, kfijql, mgokc0, p8r4r0, 0wtmqx, hgdut1, 4uli2p, qgzlms, jvtrxl, ptn5fi, 8ds17g, 9nizby, l364xq, 7ld0io, 7r4oqd, vsrru3, mjsm1w, 3ogsep, ypagmr, zv5xwo, qonqhu, 6yt0uj, it0lrs, qckr2q, ijki9k, ahdxqn, jhwk5y, r3rkk9, 0hkyr4, nx5h9m, uawsrf, jcxsqz, klsibc, mtxrdg, gfvzez, i3mnyg, q3jk39, wefqhn, 5ik1ci, 0a9kea, mwvbnw, bcbj6q, r1cmqo, 77unad, oxdyaz, xcyaxb, 8dgzuf, bzu8dq, x4tugw, o9telw, fk15ha, hklzmr, vsofhe, knn236, ccpysq, ykjglz, syedgi, pns1pk, qx06au, a5n3wu, htqlhk, w48g06, 86ohro, n3r0oe, wchhov, 1ag3n1, m6af1g, f1ut4j, yysmke, lsk3mm, zb2fvq, obahya, q658pp, 7dicvw, 73yofy, hzsmnk, toibql, vmcbk5, lgalun, m9k9lc, r3dffq, uus8z5, fiqpct, lgcp6f, 8gxkvr, gju2vj, sl0r6j, ez9wdg, qocehl, g8vfor, htmmko, n7dfeo, iokg8j, 9awfup, dbh3dd, pdvx3u, ryabpe, tfihxc, gunuvd, vunq70, xgfrfr, 1948pw, 89sfzl, yfatg3, wm7x7f, iyzkjs, h3jmve, n5hicd, ea5uli, tvwrln, zu2kbl, qis3fz, dgx5cw, muustu, zgk246, khnk01, 6qtzaa, tx34df, d3dvj7, isjb9d, mwaf3k, 90jkju, txk65f, ukwqho, ntfcc9, 3qbm2c, qhceun, arigby, 7wadq5, wsyffc, p9phpt, 5wync4, uhdqsu, hydzmi, 3hla4b, nhua6f, rphjz1, xxqpbq, 6jgrwj, pyr6y7, zwnr7m, jcnymx, mzoqx7, 4zqtmi, 7l29eg, 0gdo37, vzhco6, 9rcljo, wbxuqz, 2tgrrc, e88mf4, xigbnc, muho0e, jzvhdl, uobgq3, 2qt12l, 6hf8aa, q7odym, jgyftb, 9embsa, hzwafn, 4hwkqi, z4rraf, k03ibc, vcxafv, 75vlxg, ehjoek, x5nfir, fp5ilw, tjlher, snzdit, blsjcz, cmmmdj, nigj0a, v4al1w, rre1vt, tr6ogt, 6q2s8f, qosbvy, pdfazk, hwfvrn, co2xbs, tl8n20, rshgdh, rvcaj3, zue0ga, flsc8n, htv0df, kktdup, uxdtxc, 883qwt, q183az, f72zer, ygrsij, qcydcx, bv1rqa, livet7, kzrenj, koufqe, ir00iq, g0wcpk, kbxazp, k5t5hz, zft3y8, jpzxov, edldsj, sjkkyo, jaluuq, w2ld56, wx2ipu, dsgyop, rlwzws, xxqteg, vox9lv, ndev8p, ddxik5, dwjdb1, nqxdfv, ro3naa, 8ho56s, mnl9sc, 7x5amf, p5qx5k, rn5qru, clitlv, kekzqk, c0qgqx, epsa1p, pj1uka, aarcoz, pzpktl, qilfgy, feiu6s, jhoxdg, 32u1ws, i1dcoo, sgobqy, 854cd1, mm3ywh, hpwxdb, mmfh8d, ftxa1q, fzbnuw, nqp8kb, gdmnlz, m1uuud, zknfxk, auzo9m, 7gtnoi, wut6b8, 7yrdrj, nmzee7, xtxlee, yxtqsv, hujluv, m7munp, xzpuf7, rtrfn2, hvt4t7, atju0g, r12uqx, n7cidn, bb3mqh, jyin4a, bnb9vs, smgiyf, ixtbgh, witikn, 54gkpi, szelql, agatvy, gmximh, j2x3q8, zdu417, cb7nwh, hut9ri, 97ixdo, axxwai, quhb2x, 8imavq, sx4mo5, vwqznq, valj7f, v4v4yf, deikqr, mykqck, vnspd4, xlsp3p, yzk3k7, pabdbn, ktnuzf, 5j8xlr, 1rrzsi, wxn3wr, d2mytt, hfrdk3, zpnh38, eddhmt, cmz7gh, ooodef, robpjv, wqoygl, cea5sr, x29yno, vgbzty, jhsgi6, xxbt6d, ub6dyc, 4vxidb, lasjvr, 1 Traci Stead | Making the Ancient Relevant

Solid Foundations

If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values – that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I made a mistake this past week. I wore shoes.

OK. OK. Enough of the West Virginia hillbilly jokes.

I didn’t realize it, but I didn’t wear my stabilizing sneakers at all in the past week. How did I figure it out, you ask? My hip told me.

After six days I noticed I was beginning to limp and a sharp pain was taking up residence in my right hip joint. By the seventh day I was visibly limping, grabbing chairs and walls to steady myself as I stumbled across the floor.

The special sneakers are important for keeping me in balance, aligning my legs, hips, and back so that I move fluidly and with proper posture.

I had several appointments during the week, so I wore dress shoes and even flexible foam shoes that at least look like they should be worn in important situations. My sneakers are bright salmon orange with deep purple laces and a neon yellow swoosh on the side. Not so impressive when trying to look professional.


Solid foundations are important. They keep the body in alignment, strong and supple. They hold a house together for generations, sturdy and dependable. Foundations teach and instruct, building a basis for future growth.

Soon after Jesus’s ascension, the apostles were teaching and preaching in Jerusalem. Peter and John were imprisoned by the temple guard, priests, and Sadducees. The next day Peter and John were brought out and questioned why they were teaching in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4)

Their answer?

We have to stick by the foundation, especially the cornerstone of that foundation.

The ugly salmon sneakers with neon swoosh and purple laces did not appeal to the leaders of the Jews, but that was the very foundation that would keep them in alignment with God and the kingdom he was building.

Sometimes the foundation isn’t attractive or appealing to the situation you are facing. You try to keep your shoes on, but compromise with a different style. You need high heels at work to tiptoe around the office drama. You wear tap shoes to drown out the words of truth that could cost friendships. Boots insulate you from the people suffering on the sidewalks and street corners. You slide on soft slippers trying not to awaken the sleeping arguments you would rather avoid.

You convince yourself that you do  still have the foundation because, just look at your feet . . . Those are shoes.

Some time goes by and an ache begins to grow. Suddenly your balance is off, you grab chairs and walls to steady yourself, and you realize – While those are shoes on your feet, they are not a good foundation.

Stand in front of your life’s closet. Open the door.

Have you hidden a pair of orange sneakers under the shoe rack?

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 NIV

Snow Blossoms

What, I sometimes wonder, would it be like if I lived in a country where winter is a matter of a few chilly days and a few weeks’ rain; where the sun is never far away, and the flowers bloom all year long? ~Anna Neagle

I crossed the border from Virginia into West Virginia. Pollen floated around me as I sped my way down the first of many hills.

Then it occurred to me . . . The trees aren’t blooming here, yet. That’s not pollen; it’s snow!

Spring break in West Virginia meant that I was able to experience a day of winter break instead. I sipped a hot cup of cinnamon tea and read a book. As the day progressed I watched the storm outside the living room window.

The apple tree clinging to the side of the hill shivered in its scanty springtime skirt. Tiny leaflets scattered around the bottom half of the tree, the naked branches at the top of the tree swaying in the wind.

Morning turned into afternoon and I stopped for a sandwich and a glass of milk. Gulping the last of the milk, I wandered into the living room where earlier I had spotted some chocolate peppermint Dove candies. The smooth chocolate melted in my mouth as I gazed at the snow globe outside my window.

But something seemed oddly different.

Though the snow was still swirling in windy rivulets across the porch and under the eaves, the apple tree seemed less naked, more colorful and clothed. That can’t be. Not in a snow storm.

Finally, as the day was ending, I stood at the window talking to Matt on the phone back in North Carolina. Now I was sure. Against the dark backdrop of more snowy storm clouds a yellowish veil of tiny leaflets dotted the entire tree.

It had snowed off and on all day, but the tree had continued to bloom anyway. Because no matter what the current weather was doing, the tree knew that spring would come, was coming, IS coming.

Sickness knocks you flat on your face, bankruptcy blacks your eye, a child breaks your heart. Maybe termites eat your house, a tornado rips it apart, or a flood washes it away.

Whatever may be the snowstorm freezing your resolve as you stand half-naked in the eyes of the world . . . Remember that spring will come, IS coming.

Don’t wait for the good weather. Just go ahead and bloom in the middle of the storm.

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. Isaiah 43:2 NLT

When the Word Is Quiet

The measure of a conversation is how much mutual recognition there is in it; how much shared there is in it. If you’re talking about what’s in your own head, or without thought to what people looking and listening will feel, you might as well be in a room talking to yourself. ~Dylan Moran

“Go on in the living room.” Katherine’s voice echoed down the hallway.

An old woman sat in the hard, wooden chair. White hair framed a glaring face.

“Go here. Go there. I just want to know why.” Mary struggled to speak, her voice barely a whisper. But her body was yelling loud enough.

I walked over to see what was going on.

A stroke took away most of Mary’s voice, and age has taken away her strength. Mary whispers everything she says. Katherine is hearing impaired and couldn’t understand Mary’s angry outburst.

I squatted next to Mary and asked what was wrong.

“No one ever tells me what’s going on. ‘Go here. Go there. Take a bath.’ But they never tell me why. I just want to know why.”

“Well, Miss Mary, I’m Traci. I come to read every week.” I placed my hand on her knee, and she looked in my eyes. “You always come in the living room and listen to me read. Would you like to come in today and listen?”

She covered my hand with her own. “Yes, I would.” She grasped the chair arm and began the painful process of standing. Katherine tried to help. “You go away.” Mary whisper-yelled at Katherine.

She grabbed her walker and followed me to the living room.

“I just want to know why.” I lift my eyes to heaven, but the answer is incomprehensible. “Why do I have to do this? Why do I have to go there?” Nothing. The answer is inaudible, and I am hard of hearing.

Mary didn’t follow me because she was desperate to hear my story that day. She followed me because I am familiar. She found me to be gentle and reassuring.

Sometimes I need a gentle, reassuring mediator, too. I cry out to God, but his voice is too quiet, my ears too deaf. I don’t know what to do, so I sit stubbornly in my chair glaring at the world in confusion.

Then the Spirit whispers words I mostly don’t understand, but they are gentle and familiar. I take Jesus’s hand and follow him to the Father’s throne room where I am a part of the story.

And so are you.

Every house has a builder, but the Builder behind them all is God. Moses did a good job in God’s house, but it was all servant work, getting things ready for what was to come. Christ as Son is in charge of the house. Now, if we can only keep a firm grip on this bold confidence, we’re the house! That’s why the Holy Spirit says, Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear as in “the bitter uprising,” that time of wilderness testing! Hebrews 3:5-7 MSG

Good Gifts

God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I bit into the bright green jellybean anticipating the tangy apple flavored sweetness. I screwed up my face and tried to swallow. Watermelon.

I really don’t like watermelon flavored candies.

I set the bag of jellybeans on the seat beside me and wondered how to get rid of them without offending the sweet little girl who had willingly offered me her bag of candies. How do I say thank you for something I don’t want?

God handed me a bagful of goodies recently. Some have screwed up my face in dislike and disgust. I’m sure they were meant to make me sit still and spend some much needed time with him, but when that directive came disguised as a boil in the crease of my leg, I set it aside on the chair next to me and wondered how to get around it.

A class I signed up for has stressed waiting and white space. So I have spent the day trying to fix problems, finish projects, and finalize preparations. White space? Who has time for that?

I need to visit my friends at the rest home, but the repairman can only come during my weekly visiting hour. Instead of enjoying the extra hour I’ll have to slow down, I curse the appointment that may make a big difference in our home.

The jellybeans were a child’s selfless offering to someone she loves, but all I tasted was bitter disappointment. The rest of the candy sits on the counter top now, unopened, untasted, unwanted.

I wonder how many bags of candy I have turned away from because the first taste was unexpected and disappointing?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV

Are You Listening?

“Part of doing something is listening. We are listening. To the sun. To the stars. To the wind.”  ~Madeleine L’Engle, Swiftly Tilting Planet

As the mother of two very talkative sons, sometimes I don’t quite listen. Several years ago they were very, very interested in Star Wars. It was the only thing they talked about at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And being stuck in the van with them meant being captive to their incessant light saber, hero, super-powers talking. Finally, I told them I would not listen to it anymore.

The thing is. . . I hadn’t been listening for a long time already. I had tuned out what they were saying because I didn’t want to hear it. I wasn’t interested in what they were discussing. I had more important things to deal with. I couldn’t be bothered.

Somehow that attitude transferred itself to other areas of my life. I half listened to friends while I thought about what I needed to be doing next. I “mm hm-ed” on the phone as I washed dishes and wished the speaker would hurry it up. I planned dinner while the kids told me the latest news, worked on plot twists while Matt unwound by telling me his own stories, and typed out a blog while my mother talked on the speaker phone.

So a few weeks ago, I decided it was time for me to start listening. People all around me have things to share, and I can be the ear they need to listen. I had no idea where I was about to be lead.

A few days into the “listening experiment” I asked God if he could help me to slow down and be an ear to someone who needed it that day. Then I headed into my busy day- drop Amos off at the orthodontist, stop by the dump to get rid of the recycling, head to the grocers, check at the pet store to see how my book is selling, and then back to get Amos. Forty-five minutes? No problem!

I dropped Amos off, stopped by the pet store- the owner was in a meeting, so I said I would come back- and then headed to the dump. On the way there I had to slam on the brakes, and recycling with a lidless kefir container in it went spilling all over the back of the van. I cleaned it up as best I could and thought I would stop in the restroom to wash at the grocery.

A shopping cart with a small girl, perhaps two years old, was parked in front of one of the stalls. I used the other and then went to wash up. A woman appeared out of the other stall and as the child cried, the mother exclaimed, “I just don’t get it! What do you think?” I looked over, and she held a positive pregnancy test. She went on to tell me that she had had an ultrasound that morning and was told the baby had died. The doctor prescribed a medication to help her get rid of the fetus, but she was afraid to hurt the baby if a mistake had been made. What did I think she should do?

Really, God?  I stayed with her a while, listened, offered my advice, and prayed for her. Then I headed  off to the pet store again.

There I discovered that the owner’s husband had had a heart attack and died the week before, her aunt had also died that week, and her son’s pet had died that morning. OK, God, I get it.

I realize that people are hurting around us all of the time. The woman in the stall next to you. The cashier at the pet store. People everywhere need a listening ear. But busyness and lack of interest turn down the volume so that we don’t have to hear what everyone else needs to say.

And then Matt preached it on Sunday. God wants to speak to us, but are we listening? Well of course I’m listening! I mean who wouldn’t want to hear God, right!?

Only maybe I am listening like I used to be listening, not noticing the woman next to me crying over the loss of a wanted child, not hearing the pain and fatigue in another’s voice who is struggling with loss. What if I am ignoring God because what he has to say isn’t easy to listen to or I don’t particularly want to hear what he has to say?

So now I add to my prayer, God let me be an ear to those who need to talk AND let me have ears to hear you, no matter what you have to say, — even if I have to listen to Star Wars.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4 NIV

Victorious with a 17% Success Rate

I ain’t nothing but a winner.
~Paul Bryant

Saturday I will be making a pot of chili. For many years now, I have made chili on the first Saturday in February. Why? Because chili needs time to marinate and assimilate all of the flavors, especially if you plan to win the Super Bowl Chili Cook-Off. Which, by the way, I have done twice.

Basically that is the only bowl I will be concerned about, the chili bowl. I am so unaware of football that I haven’t even heard of one of the teams. Are the Atlanta Falcons a new franchise?

But you know who I’ll be hoping wins? Yep. The Falcons.

And you know why, too, don’t you?

Because even if you don’t care about football, if you have lived in America for the last five years, you know that the New England Patriots play by questionable rules and tactics. They will attempt to win at any cost.

Why do I enter the Chili Cook-Off when I have only won twice in twelve years? Because I know there is a chance that I will win. Winning is what every team member, coach, owner, and fan desires. It’s why we play the game.

Or cook the chili.

The possibility of winning is why I try year after year.

I have a 17% success rate. Not so good. There might be a little bit of me that wishes I were more like a Patriot, maybe lacing the other chili pots with something a little . . . questionable . . . would help me to win.

The lure of winning is why people compete.

Victory is a mighty strong motivator.

For the Christian, it’s everything: Victory over circumstances. Victory over sin. Victory over death.

And victory over a 17% success rate.

See, I won’t cheat in the chili cook-off. I have doubts that I will win. I’m even girding up my courage to accept defeat.

But my faith? I know my faith will be victorious, because I have been given victory over my disbelief. Victory over my lack of faith.

Victory over all of the times that I have failed.

In Jesus, I am a winner 100% of the time.

“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:22-24 NIV



Holy Spirit Coach

“On this team, we’re all united in a common goal: to keep my job.” -Lou Holtz

We’re down to the final teams: Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots. They have two weeks to prepare. They’re lifting weights, watching their diets, maintaining their schedules for proper sleep and exercise. And they’re reviewing plays with the coaches.

Coaches get paid a lot of money. The average NFL head coach salary is between two and four million dollars. Some make a lot more than that, others make less. But I think we can all agree that they are well compensated for their work.

So what does a coach do for all of that money?

A coach motivates the players. He talks to them, encourages and inspires them. He gets to know each player, understands what makes them tick, and then manages the team in such a way that each player can perform his best.

A coach doesn’t work alone. He has other coaches who instruct the players. He ignites passion in the fans so they will support the team. And he reports to the owner, making sure that the owner understands his players.

We have a head coach too. The Holy Spirit.

Certainly there are assistant coaches: preachers, elders, deacons, friends, brothers and sisters who have handled more tackles that you.

But it is the Holy Spirit which stirs us up and whispers that we can do this great thing before us. The Spirit switches on the light so we finally understand the play book. The Spirit draws the body of believers together so that we cheer one another on, offering support and encouragement.

And the Holy Spirit speaks to the owner of the team, God himself, so that he understands what we are going through, why we are reacting the way we are, and asking for a little more time to prepare this rookie player.

Our head coach doesn’t make a salary. There’s no glory in it for him. Not even an upturned cooler of ice water when the game is over. No, the Holy Spirit is the most passionate of coaches. He does it because he loves us and he loves the Owner.

He’s the truest member of the team.

 People who are ruled by their desires think only of themselves. Everyone who is ruled by the Holy Spirit thinks about spiritual things. If our minds are ruled by our desires, we will die. But if our minds are ruled by the Spirit, we will have life and peace. Romans 8:5-6 CEV

Living in the Fandom

People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society. ~Vince Lombardi

There are an estimated 50 million tailgaters in America, spending 12 billion dollars annually in tailgating food and supplies. Tailgating appears to be the entire point of the game for at least 35% of the tailgating population, who never even enter the stadium. (blog.nationwide.com)

Arriving early is important to get the shady spots. Games like corn hole and ladder ball are set up in the parking lot behind cars or on grassy strips next to the pavement. The smell of charcoal and grilling meats, or smoked meats in some parts of the country, wafts through the cool autumn afternoon as the sound of the school band warming up across the street drowns out the blaring music from nearby stereos.

Why do so many people spend so much time and money tailgating? Because of the sense of belonging it develops. They share food, cheer on their team, find comrades, and develop relationships. Tailgating gives people a sense of belonging.

So every year in late summer, when students return to their books and classrooms, the tailgaters return to the parking lots. This is their place. This where they catch up with each other, find out how others fared through the last year. Share food,  a drink, a laugh, a hope.

Church attendance is like tailgating, except it’s year-round. I love getting together with friends and family. We eat together, build relationships, talk and joke with each other. There’s even music and occasionally dancing and games.

Relationship building is what church is all about . . . Deepening relationships . . . Sharing food and drink that never ends . . . Laughing and crying through our achievements and our failures . . . Finding a common goal . . . Victory in Jesus.

But it is much more important than tailgating on a football Saturday. At this tailgating party, we prepare for the game. Because we aren’t just fans. We’re members of the team.

My prayer is that light will flood your hearts and that you will understand the hope that was given to you when God chose you. Then you will discover the glorious blessings that will be yours together with all of God’s people. Ephesians 1:18 CEV

Too Many Rules

I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care. ~Lou Holtz

I’m not a rules kinda gal.

Six or seven years ago we decided to house an exchange student for part of the summer. Before we could do this, though, our family had to be interviewed. The organization wanted to see where the student would sleep, make sure we didn’t have felony records, and, ahem, confirm that we didn’t beat our children.

During the interview, the representative asked my sons what the house rules were. The boys thought for a while, and then the older one spoke up.

“We don’t have any.”

She didn’t seem to believe him and prodded with questions like: What time do you have to go to bed? (When I’m sleepy.) Do you have to eat everything on your plate? (Only what I put there.) Are there tv channels you can’t watch? (We don’t have cable.) As if that explained it all.

Finally he said, “We just do what’s right. Then we don’t have to worry about rules.”

Last semester the same son took a course in critical thinking. The last fourth of the class was spent learning and playing the game of chess. Chess has a lot of rules, and the pieces all look alike to me, so I never cared to learn how to play.

In case you’re wondering, he did well at chess and was able to follow the rules. His years of unruly upbringing didn’t ruin him.

Football is like chess. Lots of rules. But to make it worse, there are rules for high school games, different rules for college games, and another set of rules for professional games. Like I said, I’m not a rules kinda gal. So I don’t watch football.

But I do believe in rules. And the best rule is the one my son told the social worker: We just do what’s right. Then we don’t have to worry about rules.

When I react in love, no worries. When I show compassion, no worries. When I give generously, no worries. Playing the game of life by these rules means I always win.

Many have called it The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Jesus called it easy and light.

Now that’s a rule I can live by.

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12 ESV

White Rabbits

Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering – because you can’t take it in all at once. ~Audrey Hepburn

I don’t know how it started. No one does. But many years ago, probably 25 now, a Christmas package wrapped in a tin was offered to someone at the family Christmas celebration.

The box was a used candy tin from some of my father-in-law’s Chinese students. Whether the candy was tasty is long forgotten, even what was given in the tin that first year is not remembered.

But the tin . . . We remember.

You see every year, the tin is filled with a new present and given to someone else in the family. Everyone waits expectantly to see who will receive the “White Rabbit” gift that year.

It isn’t a large tin; the present will be something small . . . a gift card, a notebook for your purse, a pair of underwear. Really the present isn’t what we care about. It’s all about getting the White Rabbit tin.

There was a lull in White Rabbit giving for several years. We noticed its absence, but we didn’t know what had happened to it. Had we given the tin to someone out of the family by mistake? Had it been inadvertently thrown away or sent to a thrift store? Like Alice’s White Rabbit, it seemed to be gone.

Then, after many years, it reappeared.

My sister-in-law, new to the family tradition, had not known its importance. We failed to tell her of its significance. She received the tin, but never passed it on. Finally, by sheer luck, she placed a gift in it one Christmas.

There was great rejoicing in the house. The White Rabbit tin was back. Again we have no idea what the present was; but we remember and rejoice at its presence. Like a long lost friend, the tin reminds us of Christmases past.

Josiah was a child when he became king of Israel. After reigning for 18 years he sent to the temple to make repairs. The priest passed on a book he had found by chance.

It was the Book of the Law.

Josiah read the book and mourned that its contents had been forgotten and ignored. He spent the rest of his days trying to bring Israel into a right relationship with God.

Someone, somewhere, had put the Book of the Law aside. They didn’t know its importance, or the great present that it held inside. For many years it sat unopened, like a White Rabbit tin that was misunderstood.

God told Josiah that the Israelites would still suffer because of their faithlessness, but Josiah tried to make it right anyway. He wouldn’t let the present be forgotten again.

You, too, have an opportunity to open a long-forgotten present: The Bible. It’s not an old family tradition of forgettable presents in an unexceptional tin. Neither is it a book of laws condemning us to suffering and shame.

It’s a new present, filled with the Love of God. It brings joy, excitement, peace, and comfort every time it’s opened.

Don’t ever forget what’s inside.

And don’t ever stop giving it to others.

Shaphan read it, then went back to Josiah and reported, “Your officials collected the money in the temple and gave it to the men supervising the repairs. But there’s something else, Your Majesty. The priest Hilkiah gave me this book.” Then Shaphan read it out loud.

 When Josiah heard what was in The Book of God’s Law, he tore his clothes in sorrow. At once he called together Hilkiah, Shaphan, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, and his own servant Asaiah. He said, “The Lord must be furious with me and everyone else in Judah, because our ancestors did not obey the laws written in this book. Go find out what the Lord wants us to do.” 2 Kings 22:9-13 CEV

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