WHAT NOT TO WEAR

I used to occasionally watch a show called “What Not to Wear,” which took people (nominated by their friends) who had a terrible sense of style (or none at all) and helped them gain a better sense of how to pick clothes that were right for them. The style team explained why the person’s choices on attire were inappropriate or even ugly and, then, taught them how to pick clothes more appropriate for their age, figure and job. Then they gave them $5,000 to spend on a new wardrobe and sent them shopping in New York City! 

Let’s face it, without God, most humans put on the wrong behavioral attire every day. Galatians 5:19-21 [ESV] spells it out pretty clearly: Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

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THE MORNING AFTER

The morning after my family’s two-day Thanksgiving gathering, it is quiet in the house and the cleanup begins. This was a mild and quiet Thanksgiving for us, since not even half the family was in town. I hope those of you who celebrated the US Thanksgiving (at home or abroad) this year, also had a day filled with family and friends, good food and great conversation. 

Even though we had a significantly smaller group than usual this year, there was still a pile of laundry to do (I think every potholder and dishtowel was dirty), trash to empty and leftovers to be dealt with – not to mention photos to post and a few extra pounds to shed.

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THE STUFFING WE ARE MADE OF

It’s Thanksgiving time in the USA. Time for great debates like: “stuffing or dressing?”; “pea-can pie or pea-con pie?”; “frosting or icing?” and “fresh cranberries or canned?” 

I much prefer these debates to the political ones raging online and on TV. But, frankly, I’m going to eat my fill of the foods I like, whatever you call them. I like all the traditional foods of the American Thanksgiving holiday. My family has special dishes we only make this time of year. And we stuff ourselves with all the good and bountiful food that God has blessed us with each year.

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NOT THE EASY WAY

Many of you will be familiar with the song titled “Thy Word,” written by Amy Grant. I particularly like its chorus: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

The words are pulled from Proverbs 6:23. As beautiful and poignant as the son’gs message is, I believe it misses a key point from the scripture.

The full text, as given in the King James Version, is: For the commandment [is] a lamp; and the law [is] light; and reproofs of instruction [are] the way of life:

The NIV puts it like this: For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life,

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SOLID AS A ROCK

Last week, I wrote about the promise that no weapon formed or forged against us can prosper. But, if your life is anything like mine, you know that these weapons will sometime pummel you like a Cat 4 hurricane, roaring in at you with winds over 150 miles per hour. They will sometimes shake you like a rag doll. I’ve been through a few of these trials in my lifetime. How about you?

After Hurricane Michael (a Category 4 hurricane when it hit the Florida panhandle) decimated much of Mexico Beach, Florida, the Sand Palace of Mexico Beach was the last house standing among the beachfront homes on its block. In an article in the New York Times, published on October 15, 2018, I read the story about the amazing home the Dr. Lebron Lackey and his uncle, Russel King built and named the Sand Palace of Mexico Beach.* 

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NO WEAPON FORGED AGAINST US

Often, in the midst of trail, we can be comforted by Isaiah 54:17 [KJV], which says, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue [that] shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This [is] the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness [is] of me, saith the LORD.”

Often, in prayer for someone struggling with a serious trial or temptation, we remind God of His promise that “no weapon formed against us will prosper.” 

But, what does it mean that no weapon formed against us will prosper? What exactly is God guaranteeing in Isaiah 54:17?

The NIV puts it this way, “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me," declares the LORD.

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MESSAGES TO OUTER SPACE

In 2015, Hyundai undertook the task of helping Stephanie write a letter to her father. What’s the big deal about that? It was written in the sand on Nevada's Delamar Dry Lake, so that Steph’s father, Astronaut Terry Virts, commander of Expedition 43 at the time, could see it from the International Space Station. The image measured 59,808,480.26 square feet.

My brother, David, works for Hyundai and he told me about this recently when we got together for dinner. Along the lines of things that can be seen from space, David also mentioned the ancient drawings, which some people claim could only have been made by aliens and not by the people of that day.

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LOOKING DOWN

We believers look up to see the glory of God and understand His majesty. Psalm 19:1 [NIV] tells us, The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 

We look up because we know that is where our help comes from. Psalm 121:1-2 [ESV] …I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

Jesus often looked toward heaven when He prayed. Luke 9:16 [KJV] Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude. John 17:1 [NIV] After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. So, we often do too. Luke 18:13 [ESV] But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'

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GREAT BIG LESSONS; TINY LITTLE TEACHER: Go to the Ant, Lesson 2

Ants have colonized almost every landmass on Earth. The only places lacking indigenous ants are Antarctica and a few remote or inhospitable islands. Ants thrive in most ecosystems and may form 15–25% of the terrestrial animal biomass. Their success in so many environments has been attributed to their social organization and their ability to modify habitats, tap resources, and defend themselves. Some species, such as the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta), are regarded as invasive species, establishing themselves in areas where they have been introduced accidentally.

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GREAT BIG LESSONS; TINY LITTLE TEACHER: Go to the Ant, Lesson 1

Fire ants! I spent another summer trying to rid my yard of them. Sometimes I think that there is just one big catacomb underground, connecting all around my yard and maybe even the whole world. This would explain why when I kill one mound, another one pops up, seemingly overnight. It’s like a game of “whack-a-mole.”

But ants have a lot to teach us. 

What parent has neglected to quote Proverbs 6:6-8 [NIV], by way of encouraging a child to be industrious and hard working? Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

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A PRISM-ER OF THE LIGHT

Ideas for blogs come to me in all sorts of ways. This one came to me for no discernable reason at all, in the middle of the night after being awakened by a leg cramp. I clearly recall, as the cramping subsided, “prism.” And then I went back to sleep.

The crazy thing is that I remembered it the next morning and that the idea has continued to rumble around in my brain. Seems like it is a message I am compelled to write at this time of the year as many of us head off to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. (See Deut. 16:13-15)

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A LIFE OF DISCONTENT

Proverbs 5:15-18 [CSB] Drink water from your own cistern, water flowing from your own well.  Should your springs flow in the streets, streams in the public squares?  They should be for you alone and not for you to share with strangers.  Let your fountain be blessed, and take pleasure in the wife of your youth.

These scriptures are clearly focused on fidelity in marriage. But it speaks to us about contentment – an important piece of advice for all of God’s blessings, including a happy marriage.

1 Timothy 6:6-8 expands on contentment: But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. [CSB]

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RESPONDING TO CATACLYSMIC CLIMATE CHANGE

According to Wikipedia*, there is still some disagreement on when the so called Little Ice Age began and ended. While almost all experts consider the end to be about the mid-19th century, the start of the Little Ice Age is pegged at a variety of dates, depending on what marker is used. It can be anywhere from 1250 to 1650. We are looking at a minimum of 200 years in duration, although 300-400 is more often cited. 

The Little Ice Age, by anthropology professor Brian Fagan of the University of California at Santa Barbara, tells of the plight of European peasants during the 1300 to 1850 chill: famines, hypothermia, bread riots and the rise of despotic leaders brutalizing an increasingly dispirited peasantry. During this time millions starved to death or died of famine-related diseases or from the plague, which ran rampant through the famine-weakened population. 

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CLEANING UP

My daughter talked me into listening to a book titled The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.* It talks about preparing, as you get older, for the time you are no longer around. Specifically, it encourages aging adults to take on the task of cleaning out clutter and down-sizing in order not to burden their heirs with those tasks. I wondered if she was hinting. I know she is passionate about living a more clutter-free life.

Let’s face it, we accumulate a lot of stuff in a lifetime of “three score and ten” or more. Even if we aren’t considering the “art of death cleaning” we typically do heavy cleaning in spring or go through our closets when the seasons (or our waistlines) change. 

It’s a good idea to get rid of things you don’t use anymore or clothes that don’t fit and this often gives us an opportunity to donate these to others in need. We should routinely go through and declutter our drawers and desks just for that sake of being more easily able to find the important paperwork we might need.

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HAND GRENADES AND HORSESHOES

When I worked as a teacher’s aide I was surprised by the number of times some child would rudely ask how old I was. I can only assume that my age, in their minds, was germane to my ability to help them with school work. I would always say, “What do you think?” Then, whatever they guessed (and guesses ranged from 30-60), I’d say, “Close enough.”

As a Christian, is “close enough” ever enough? I say “no.”

As proof, let me offer up Matthew 5:48 in several translations:

ESV: You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. 

NLT: But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

KJV: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

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IDENTITY CRISIS

Society is in an odd place these days. There seems to be a disconnection between how some people identify themselves and who they really are at their core – on the DNA level. The most famous examples in recent years might be Rachel Dolezal, a white women who identified as black, and Bruce Jenner, who was genetically a man, but identifies as a woman. Let’s not get into debate or name calling about the choices Dolezal and Jenner have made or what drives them. 

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A WONDER

It is common in the South to hear someone say, “I don’t want to be beholden to anyone.” It is a way of refusing help so that one doesn’t owe help back to another – even upon pain of failure or facing a long struggle on one’s own when a little help would make the solution much easier. That is often how the world works – I do something nice for you and I hold that in reserve against the day that I need help. Then I can say, “Well, I helped you when you needed it.” It is the way of the world and not altogether bad that if you help me I feel like I need to also help you. However, this exchange of debt is why some folks refuse help and seek rather to pull themselves up “by their own bootstraps.”

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WHO IS YOUR CANADA?

Mary Ann Shadd Cary, born in 1823, was a writer, an educator, a lawyer, an abolitionist and the first black woman in North America to edit and publish a newspaper. Her obituary was published in the NY Times in June 2018 in a special series called Overlooked. “In 1850, when the US Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act — which compelled American to assist in the capture of runaway slaves, and levied heavy penalties on those who did not comply — Shadd Cary and some other members of her family left the United States for Canada.” From there, she published several pieces that “advertised Canada as a safe haven for former slaves.” (1)

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DADDY’S GIRL

If you knew me growing up or if we’ve spent any time talking about my childhood, you know I was a “daddy’s girl.” One story often told about me was how I would sit on my father’s lap and eat the exotic cheeses he loved – some of which my siblings would consider unpalatable. For me, it was all about being like Daddy.

My older sister spent time helping our Dad on various remodeling projects and, to this day, will take on any construction or remodel project and is quite handy with power tools. She learned by carefully following instructions from and imitating Dad as they built things together

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ALWAYS SOMETHING THERE TO REMIND ME

Ji Seong-ho left his homeland in 2006. He says he crossed thousands of miles on crutches after enduring years of hunger, grievous injuries from falling on train tracks, and torture at the hands of North Korean police.*

"I understand you still keep those crutches as a reminder of how far you have come," Trump said during his State of the Union speech. (Ji Seong-ho was there)

To some extent, we can be defined by the things we keep and those we don’t. 

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