Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Day I Shoplifted...

So the story begins...yesterday. Yes, my indiscretion isn't a skeleton from the closet of my younger days, it happened just 24 hours ago.

Most of you can probably relate to the way this whole scenario started. I headed into Walmart to buy some cat food, and wound up with way more stuff in my cart.

One of those items was the wicker basket pictured, although originally, it was empty. I stood in the store and played with some flowers, a few leaves, two gourds and a pumpkin until, tada! I had the masterpiece above.

"Masterpiece" might be a bit overstated, but you have to understand that while I love watching HGTV and design shows, I don't feel I have an "eye." I'm so envious of those who can put together patterns and colors or see the potential in a blank canvas. So to me, my little basket creation was a big deal. I was really happy with how it turned out!

Now, I didn't really want to spend the $10 it all came to, and it crossed my mind that if I waited a few days until after Halloween, it all might go on sale. But I have absolutely no fall decor in the house and we've already established that I had created a masterpiece, so I treated myself, put it in my cart and finished my shopping.

At the checkout, everything went on the conveyor belt. The cashier was putting just one or two items in each bag and I encouraged her to feel free to fill them as much as possible.

A customer behind me said "you sound like me! The less bags to carry inside, the better."

As she and I continued the conversation, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the cashier pick up the basket.

"Could you ring that up without dismantling it?"

It was an innocent request. I just wanted her to use the register "gun" to scan each of the items within the basket without removing them.

I turned my attention back to the other shopper until I heard "your total is $85.20."

Yikes! How did I manage to spend that much?

I swiped my card and headed for the door where a gentleman in a Walmart apron asked to see my receipt. I handed it to him, he glanced at it and then in my cart. He handed it back, and out the door I went.

As I drove away, I had a nagging feeling the cashier had not rung up all the items in the basket.

I started entertaining less than Christian thoughts...

"Well, if she messed up, I didn't really want to pay $10 anyway."

"The tags weren't hidden-it's not my fault if the cashier didn't catch it."

"I handed over the receipt, I'm in the clear."

When I got home, I checked the receipt. The basket was all that was on it. I knew I wouldn't be able to enjoy my little centerpiece creation until I had rectified the oversight.

Okay, so calling it "shoplifting" may have been a bit dramatic. After all, there was no intent to deliberately walk out without paying. But the bottom line is merchandise left the store without being rung up.

I was disappointed in myself. I had a suspicion it hadn't been rung up and I waited until I was home to check. My thoughts on excusing the oversight weren't very holy. And I knew the longer I waited to make it right, the easier it would be to dismiss the problem, so I never removed the basket from the bag after walking in the door.

Today, I went back into the store. I went to a cashier and said, "this is gonna sound weird, but...." and I explained what had happened. She looked at me a little surprised and said "God bless you. Most people would never come back to make this right."

She's probably right. Most people probably would have seen it as a $5 win. They would have made excuses on why it was silly to go back once the threshold of the store was crossed without detection.

But as Christians, we shouldn't be most people. We're held to a higher moral standard because we know Jesus. We know the one who is the Truth.

I'm not telling this story to say "hey look at how godly I was. I paid for something when no one would have been the wiser if I didn't."

I tell this story to say it's just that easy for the devil to try to trip you up. If he came up to us with horns and a pitchfork, we could easily spot him and get our guard up. But he doesn't do that. He's subtle. He tells you things are inconsequential. No one gets hurt. No one will ever know.

It's the oldest trick in the Book. He's been using rationalization since literally the beginning of mankind.

I have a friend and former co-worker named Joan. I consider her my "spiritual mother." She took me under her wing when I was in my mid-20s. She showed me the benefits of journaling, taught me through Bible study, and was just a wonderful example of being a godly woman. Joan had 7 children, several of whom were in the Navy. She wrote to them every day. When she made a decision to move across the country to California, she brought in a huge bundle of pens on her last day. When I asked what they were, she explained that often she grabbed a pen off her desk to write letters with during lunch. Sometimes she'd throw them in her purse. Now that she was leaving, she gathered them all to return to our employer. She reminded me that even though it seemed inconsequential, they weren't hers to keep and she was returning them to their rightful owner.

That was a lot of years ago, but that simple act of honesty made a huge impact on me.

So maybe I didn't deliberately shoplift, but I wouldn't have been able to fully enjoy my little basket if I hadn't gone and made things right.

It's important to remember that when no one else sees, God does. And not fixing the problem would have hurt someone...me.

"Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it."  James 4:17

Sunday, October 23, 2016

High Places

"The high places however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there."

As I read through I and II Kings I see over and over again, "He did evil in the eyes of the Lord"...king, after king, after king.

Every once in a while, the broken record is punctuated by "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord"...but it's followed by "the high places, however..."

As I read it for what seemed like the bizillionth time yesterday, I almost said out loud - for Pete's sake - was no one paying attention??  Did no one get the message that those high places were bad news?

The answer was no, at least, not until Hezekiah.

It's been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. In this case, the same thing was NOT doing anything about those insidious high places.

For 800 years!!

Talk about insanity!

But haven't I...you...all of us...done the very same thing?

I haven't been ignoring things that are abhorant to God for 800 years, but I've been a Christian for more than 40 and sometimes, the same 'ol, same 'ol just won't go away. I can still worry about money. Can still say unkind words. Have jealous thoughts. Be prideful. Get angry.

Yeah, those high places, while I try not to worship there as often, they can still woo me to burn a little incense on the altar now and again. But they're bad news. They need to be removed.

Thankfully, we have a way to combat them.

When the smell of incense comes wafting down, ask God to remove that high place. Crush that altar. Tear down the thing that stands as an idol in our lives.

We may need to do that more than once.

We may have to ask Him to do that many times. But He is always faithful to meet us in our place of need when we earnestly seek Him and desire to do what's right.

2 Kings 18:5-7a says "Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him, he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him, He was successful in whatever he undertook."

For all eternity Hezekiah will stand out as a king unlike any other. A person who saw that it wasn't enough to do what was right, but who actively sought to root out what was wrong.

I know I want to be like that. I want people to see that there's something different about me. And it all starts with tearing down those high places.

Maybe this is your prayer too...

Lord, you know everything about me. You see those idols in my life. The things that are harmful to me. The things that stand in the way of living life to the fullest in you. They may seem insignificant, but like a tiny grain of sand that can irritate the eye to the point where vision is blurred and the way forward is unclear, even the smallest of sins can trip me up. Remove them. Keep my focus on you. Help me never cease following you. Take away the temptations of the high places. Tear those altars down. Thank you that you hear my prayers and are faithful to your promises. Amen.