Update on the day!

Hey, all. In case you were wondering, today was pretty fantastic. It was about 70 all day. The one downside is that we were supposed to be able to go to Busch Gardens to photograph a roller coaster that is going to have a ton of our products installed on it, but the contractor sort of changed his mind and told us we couldn’t go. =( I’m kind of bummed, actually. I really wanted to go.

But that’s okay.

We went to this GINORMOUS house on Manasota Key. It’s 25,000 square feet, has 8 fire places, a 20-car garage, five spiral staircases and an elevator. And it’s also full of our products, so we got a lot of good pictures.

The photographer I hired by way of Google seems to be a nice guy, and the salesman I’m hanging out with is also a very nice guy.

We’re chilling in a Panera at the moment becuase the hotel we’re staying in has an internet wifi connection that runs about as slowly as a snail. So we’re both catching up on email and I’m drinking  a huge cup of very strong coffee.

Tampa is kind of odd. Nice but odd.

And silly NOAA keeps saying that the weather on the way home is going to suck  big time, so we’ll see if I make it home when I’m supposed to. I purposely picked a flight that goes through Houston on the way home. The other option was Chicago, and I figured they’d be getting hammered too.

So, we’ll see what happens.

Thanks to everyone who prayed for me today. Please keep those prayers coming. I really really appreciate it!!!!

Who’s got your back?

Wow. This has got to be the worst internet connection I’ve had to work on in a long time. It’s taken half an hour to load my WordPress page. I finally gave up and am composing in Word and I will paste it when I’m done. Ridiculous!

 

Oh, well. I can’t complain about the view, though.

 

I’m sitting in a Holiday Inn in Tampa, FL getting ready for my first day of job site visiting. If all goes well today (and even if it doesn’t) and I feel like braving this stupid internet connection again, I will post an update tonight on how everything went.

 

In the mean time, this is today’s verse:

 

Psalm 86:5

 

 5 O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
      so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.

 

I am so thankful for that. I think I’ve mentioned in other posts about how thankful I am that we serve a God who forgives us. Not a tyrant in the sky intent on pummeling us or crushing us. God, who created us and loves us and wants the best for us.

 

But God even goes a step further beyond just forgiving us. He also wants to help us.

 

The thought of that takes my breath away. God, the creator of the universe, wants to help me with my problems. That’s incredible!

 

And all I need to do is ask.

 

So you’d better believe I’m asking for help today. This is all uncharted territory for me, and I will admit to some nerves and knocking knees. But I don’t have to worry because I know that God will help me. He’s so eager to help me. When we ask Him for help, He’s excited to help us.

He’s watching out for us and waiting for the moment when we get it through our thick heads that we can’t do it alone, and when we finally let go our our stupid, foolish pride, He’s right there. He’s got us covered and all we have to do when life gets to be too much is ask for His help. And He will.

 

Now.

 

Maybe He can help me get this posted.

A post on a Saturday? Surely not!

So I know I don’t usually do weekend devotionals, but I was at my computer this morning (in between packing and helping Mom and Dad look for the safe deposit box key that seems to have grown legs and walked away) and I just felt like I needed to write something.

It’s unusual to write without being freezing cold . . . and to see the sun coming up outside my office windows. I know this will all change by Monday as it’s supposed to be back to the normal 19’s for highs instead of the near-70 we had yesterday.

I checked the verse for today, and it’s a good one:

Mark 9:35

35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

He, of course, is Jesus.

I love the disciples so much. I think they all get a bad rap most of the time because people try to romanticize them, trying to make them sound either holier or dumber than they were. They were people, plain and simple. And people haven’t changed much from back then to right now — maybe we have electricity and iPads and MP3 players and Hulu.com but we’re all generally the same as those fishermen 2,000 years ago.

I love the disciples because I can relate to them and their reactions so often, and not just Peter, who most people feel kinship with. John, his youth and excitement. Matthew, his redemption. Thomas, his analytical, reasoning mind. Even Judas to a certain extent.

What Jesus was telling them was revolutionary and probably sounded ridiculous. I know it sounds ridiculous now.

If you want to get ahead in life, you need to stay behind. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. If you want to lead, follow. If you want to be greater than everyone else, make yourself less than everyone else.

Makes no sense. But then most of Jesus’ teachings don’t make sense if you look at them like the world would.

Humility is one of the most important lessons we need to learn.

You know what the first sin was, right? Pride. Even before Adam and Eve felt it (and, yes, that’s what it was), Lucifer felt it and God thumped him out of heaven, as my Pastor so eloquently says. Pride. The Original Sin, the sin that every other sin stems from. If you don’t agree with me, just think about it. Everything we do against God begins with us thinking we know better than He does; it’s pride. And it’s deadly.

But humility? Humility isn’t weakness, as many people in 21st Century America would have you believe. So is it knowing you can do a better job than someone else and grudgingly letting them do it for you? Of course, not. Humility is recognizing your strengths and your weaknesses and recognizing the strengths and weakesses of the people around you and trying to find a way to work together for a singular purpose. Humility is acknowledging the worth of the people around you.

Humility is finding a way to serve other people, even if they haven’t asked for help, whether it’s praying for them or making them meals when they’re sick.

And it’s also about keeping your mouth shut when you have the opportunity to tell someone about what you did for them. If you bust your butt serving someone and then feel the need to tell them all the work you did for them, that’s not humility; that’s wanting recognition for your hard work.

Many times service is done in secret and sometimes people will never know who did nice things for them. That’s humility. Doing something nice anonymously, not caring if you get the credit, not caring if anybody knows it was you who did it.

God knows.

And the reason the last shall be first and the first shall be last is because He said that’s the way it is. So if we can keep our hands on our humility and not let it go for anything, God will take care of the rest.

I’ve been staring at my computer for 15 minutes

Maybe I’m foggy today. Maybe I’m feeling too much and thinking too much and trying to understand too many things at once. But I feel somewhat like a dry well this morning, like if you reached in for a cool drink of water all anyone is going to get is a bucket of mud. I guess there’s just a lot going on.

The verse for today is a great one.

John 4:24

24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

 And it certainly is a good thing to remember. God is Spirit.

Knowing who (or what) someone is usually determines how we respond or act toward it. I mean, knowing someone is a king means you shouldn’t run up and try to hug them or chew with your mouth open in front of them. Stuff like that.

I think about all the idols people worshipped in the past (although people worship just as many idols today). They did all sorts of ridiculous things for gods made of rock and wood and metal. Horrific things. Ghastly things that make me feel sick and wonder how people could ever do anything like it for any reason whatsoever.

It’s amazing to me that all God asks from us is trust. If you really get down to it, that’s all He asks. Trust Him. Trust Him when He says He’ll bless you, protect you, never abandon you.

It’s odd. And it’s different than any religion in the world (maybe I should say any other religion in the world, but that would imply that God is attached to a religious system; He’s not).

So it makes sense that worshipping Him might be a little different too. So many people have so many ideas about what worship is. Some people think it only happens in church. Some people think that if you haven’t got your hands up in the air, it isn’t real. Some people think that there needs to be fainting and healing and shouting for it to be real.

I’m not an expert on this, but worship is an attitude. It’s more than something you say or do. It’s how you live. It’s what you think about. It’s the reason you do anything you do, say anything you say.

My incredible friend Lance Cummins once said that worship is telling God how much He means to us. It’s giving Him the glory and the credit for everything in our lives and thanking Him for everything we have and don’t have. It’s not just singing. It’s not just doing good deed. You can worship God when you’re standing still. You can worship God when you’re singing or when you’re dancing or when you’re playing an instrument. You can worship God at church, but you can also worship in your home, in your place of work, in your relationship with other people.

You can worship when you’re having a great day. And you can worship when the day is long and cold and dark and depressing and it feels like there’s no end to it. You can worship Him when you’re sad. When you feel discouraged. When you feel alone. When you make mistakes. (I’m so glad we can worship Him when we make mistakes; if we couldn’t, how could we ever worship Him? We make mistakes all the time.)

Worship is an attitude. Worship is a lifestyle. And it’s not getting all emotional and teary at the drop of a hat. It’s not jumping up and down and hooting and hollering and screaming and falling down. It’s not chaos.

Worship is the purposeful act of directing your thoughts toward God when you don’t feel like it. Worship is trusting that God forgives you even when you make an unforgiveable mistake. Worship is giving Him the credit for the work you think you have done all by yourself. Worship is living a life for Him and not hiding it.

Worship is so much more than anyone ever thinks it is. And what you worship will give you something in return. It will either give you peace or it will eventually take it away.

So to me it’s better to trust God, knowing that He is able to make the circumstances of our lives all work together for our good and His glory, than to trust in anything else, whether it’s my job or my finances or my family or my church or my pastor or my friends or my insurance company or the government. I won’t have my job forever. I won’t be secure in my finances forever. My family won’t be around forever and neither will my church or my pastor or my friends.

God is Spirit. Worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Worship Him with everything He made you to be. Trust Him. He really does know what He’s doing, and what’s wonderful about God is that He can see the entire picture of our lives, every little detail, and He knows exactly how everything is going to work out. And it’s going to be good.

So when do I get a free Coca-Cola?

So it’s a really long story, but legend has it that you will have “arrived” as a world traveler when someone gives you a free Coca-Cola.

I never thought I could ever possibly in a million years classify for this prestigous honor.

I might this year, though.

Arkansas last week.

Florida next week.

Kansas City next weekend.

Delaware in March (maybe)

Alaska in April (a definite total long shot but still could happen).

Texas in May (maybe).

Guatemala in July.

And then I know I’m going somewhere in September or October.

And I simply HAVE to fit a trip in to Boston to see the Cummins family.

So . . . . . I’m really hoping that a free Coca-Cola is in the near future for me.

Samurai pretty much rock

I am a student of Japan. I have always been fascinated by their history, their culture and their people. I’m not sure where this fascination comes from, but ever since I was old enough to know what a samurai was, I’ve wanted to know more. And on that same note, I love armor. Armor is a terribly fascinating study, especially the armor of the samurai.

Medieval armor was interesting, yes. But the samurai, to me, were on a different level.

I know my writing habit is what drew me to first begin studying Japan and the samurai, but the more I study it, the more it intrigues me. I actually even bought a book called the Code of the Samurai which is actually a translated text about bushido; it’s actually a really good read and I’d recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about the rules by which the samurai lived.

I think one of the things that fascinates me the most about samurai armor is that they all look different. Google samurai armor sometime and see what you come back with. They are beautiful examples of craftsmanship. Art, really. Passed down from generation to generation, each one symbolizing something in that particular family. Medieval armor is different; it all looks very much the same. Why else do you think people had to come up with heraldic symbols and colors? They couldn’t tell each other apart. But not samurai. The samurai were all unique and you could identify them by the armor they wore.

The verse this morning is familiar. One of those ones that gets quoted a lot but it’s one that people actually don’t really think about because it’s kind of freaky.

Ephesians 6:12-13

12 For we[a] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

Other translations say that we fight against spiritural forces. Creepy huh? Do you ever think about that? About the fact that there really is spiritual warfare going on all around us? And no, you children of the 80’s, not Spiritual Warfare as in the awful old Nintendo game where you wandered the streets and converted nonbelievers (anybody remember that? Ugh).

There is a battle going on around us every day that we can’t see. It’s a struggle for our attention, our faith, our belief. Demons and angels. God and Satan.  God already dealt Satan a blow he can’t recover from; when Jesus died on the cross it ended Satan’s hold on us (we have to choose it, though). But Satan hasn’t backed down yet. He still thinks he can win, so he’s throwing everything he has at us.

But God has given us everything we need to resist him. God has given us his armor.

I don’t usually do this, but I’m including the rest of the verse.

Ephesians 6:14-17

14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.[d] 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.[e] 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Truth. God’s righteousness. Peace. Faith. Salvation. The Word. Those are the pieces of armor that God has given to us to fight against what Satan throws at us. If we wear them, nothing can hurt us. But do we use them? It’s rare. I know I don’t always use my armor when I have the option. I’d rather fight and struggle through a situation unarmed, but that usually ends up injuring me and the people around me.

Would a samurai have forgotten to put his armor on before he left for battle? Unlikely. His armor was the symbol of his family, his heritage, his honor . . . . and, let’s face it, folks, it was just common sense.

So we who are Christians need to remember that every day is a battle. And we’re not fighting against what we can see. We don’t fight against our coworkers (no matter if they annoy us) or our family (even if they frustrate us) or our government (even though The Man is getting a little big for his britches). We are fighting the remnants of a war that God has already won for us.

So don’t forget to put your armor on. It serves a dual purpose, after all. It keeps you safe and you look totally awesome wearing it. =)

samurai warrior in armor

Samurai, circa 1860

Do you suppose tortoises are good at math?

I remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. I think I remember my teachers (probably Mom) telling me that I didn’t need to rush through my math assignments, that I should take my time and do them correctly and stop trying to compete with my genius nerd-face little brother. And I genuinely tried to listen, but it was so hard not to rush when I wanted to beat him so badly. Big sister pride was at stake, after all. I was older than he was and should have been able to finish my math assignments more quickly and more accurately than him.

Right. Those of you who know my brother know he’s faster and more effecient than some calculators.

Eventually I gave up trying to beat him because I knew his talent with numbers was beyond me. I never stopped learning, but I stopped trying to beat him. There’s a big difference there.

I finally got to the point where I understood I wasn’t trying to beat him because I was better; I was trying to beat him becuase I thought I was better.

Similarly in the story of the tortoise and the hare, the hare didn’t rush through the whole race (only to lose in the end) becuase he was better at racing than the tortoise was; he did it because he simply thought he was better than the tortoise and could afford to take a few rest breaks. What happened? The hare lost; the tortoise won.

And what happened to me? I stopped trying to excel in an area where I had no gift and focused instead on the gift I had been given (writing) and now I’m actually using those gifts on a daily basis.

This random analogy is what came to me when I read the verse for today.

James 4:10

10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

 James is one of those Books in the Bible that hits hard. James doesn’t pull his punches, and if you can really get the meat of what he’s talking about, most of the book will make you cringe. (It’s a short, easy read; I’d recommend it.) But this verse doesn’t really seem to make a whole lot of sense at first blush. It goes against everything we are taught.

Make progress in your life through being humble. What sense does that make?

When you’re at work you’re supposed to be cutthroat and savage, aren’t you? When you’re out in the world, you have to fight for every scrap you can get, every penny you can get, every inch you can get. You’re supposed to be merciless, and when you’re all done getting ahead of everyone else, you can pat yourself on the back because you’ve done right by yourself. Isn’t that what we’re taught? Isn’t that what’s expected of us? To look out for number one?

Well, that’s not what I get from this verse. This verse says to be humble. Be humble before God and understand that everything you have, He gave you — and He can just as easily take it away. Be humble. Live your life the way He commands. And He will see to it that you are taken care of because that’s what He does.

Stop trying to run your race better and faster than your brothers and sisters and instead stop to help the ones who fall down.

When you get a chance to do something nice for somebody, do it. It’s a good reminder that God loves them as much as He loves you.

Treat other people the way you want to be treated.

And above all else, don’t take credit for anything in your life. Maybe you can sit there and point out all the good things you have and explain how you worked to get them, but I can tell you right now that I don’t deserve any of the blessings I have. I’m not a good enough person to have earned my wonderful family or my awesome job or my great church (I’m running out of modifiers); God has given me everything I have and I give Him the credit for it.

Be humble. Realize that you aren’t better than everyone else. You’re different and God made you that way, so stop trying to compete against people you aren’t gifted to compete against. Why do you need to win anyway? To prove something?

If you’re trying to prove something, who are you trying to prove it to? The world? Your family? Your friends? Yourself?

What good will that do? Yes, maybe you’ll get some respect. And maybe you’ll gain some independence. But what good will it do you?

It’s worth thinking about.

And take your time. There are plenty of miles left in the race and there’s no need to rush.