The Tale of Two Men


131 (2)Two men approached Jesus. They were both wealthy. They were both important figures in society with places of high position. One was named as a young ruler, the other’s name was Zacchaeus.

I know, not a common name today. But stay with me.

When Jesus came to town, the ruler sought him out to ask a very important question. You see, he had everything money could buy. He’d followed all the rules so he believed he was good. But the one thing he couldn’t put his hand on was how to live forever. He believed that was the only thing he lacked. So he asked Jesus how he could inherit eternal life.

Jesus told him there was one thing he lacked. But it wasn’t eternal life. It was the right heart attitude. Jesus’s answer for the ruler was to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. Then to follow him. The Bible says the man went away and was very sad.

Did Jesus say the man’s money was bad? The poor were more important? He wasn’t allowed to have wealth?

No.

He simply pointed out that the man’s primary focus was on his money. The ruler believed he could inherit eternal life from Jesus, but he wasn’t looking for Jesus. He wanted a guarantee, not a relationship.

DSC_0141The second man, Zach (we’ll call him), heard Jesus was coming. The Bible says he ran ahead and climbed a tree just to get a glimpse. He wanted to be in the presence of Jesus and did whatever it took to get there.

Jesus spoke to him, calling him out of the tree and offering to come to Zach’s house for dinner. It says Zach came down at once and welcomed Jesus gladly. Even when all the people around him complained about him. Even though Zach had potentially treated people unfairly because of his job as chief tax collector.

And in the presence of Jesus, Zach’s life changed immediately. He joyfully offered to give half his possessions to the poor and repay four times the amount to anyone he may have cheated. Jesus never asked him to give all he had to the poor.

The ruler wanted eternal life. Zach wanted Jesus.

The requirement wasn’t to get rid of their wealth. Jesus gave them both instructions based on their heart posture. One went away in sadness, holding onto what he had; the other obeyed, opened his life, and was transformed.

Today, in the midst of unprecedented times, I believe Jesus is coming our way. He’s looking to bring salvation and transformation to all. We can be like the man whose focus was on everything he could get or keep for himself, or we can be like the other man who did whatever it took to get into the presence of Jesus.

Which one are you?

(Scripture referenced is Luke 18:19-30 & Luke 19:1-10)

Working Hard, or Hardly Working?


There are two kinds of work – toil that is exhausting and produces little OR work that arises from doing what we love and brings life and value to others and fulfillment to us.

Sometimes our attitude makes the distinction, but more often we let money rule us so that we are only working for a paycheck and feel trapped rather than working as unto God and to bless others.

God’s word tells us how to think about work and money. He’s the one that makes us able to create wealth. Everything belongs to him and every good gift comes from his hand.

Money is a tool to further God’s kingdom. It’s not something we should long for or love. And in the end, we can work for money, or we can let money work for us.

Getting Well Part 1


So you want to get well. Now what?

From the moment I answered God’s question affirmatively, my life became one revelation after another. PSuddenly, I saw wounded places in my heart that I had never noticed before. I had a new understanding about my abuse and recognized the truth that God was showing me. I learned so much about myself and how I related to others. Then, as I began to change, my family changed. Not all my circumstances changed, but the way I saw things did, so the circumstances were no longer the main focus of my life. Jesus was. The things God showed me opened up areas of my life to his comfort and healing.

But when I first said yes to God’s question about getting well, it seemed like my life spun out of control!

Because it did. At least, out of my control. But that was the point, to get my life out of my control and into God’s. It was difficult and frightening at first because I had been comfortable in my old ways even though they were destructive. Everything I had learned to rely on, all the patterns I had employed to protect myself and all the defenses I built to make myself feel secure were actually hindering the better situations God had for me. I needed to learn new, different ways to live.

Kind of like when my kids were very young and learning about money.

They would proudly show me their five pennies and I would attempt to exchange them for a nickel. No way! They would adamantly refuse. All they could see was that five was more than one. It didn’t make sense to them to trade something they thought of as more for only one coin. Then, I would try to give them a dime for their five pennies. That was worse in their little minds! Now they perceived I was trying to steal their five coins for one coin that was even smaller in size! They could not grasp the concept of the dime being twice as valuable! Even though I had doubled the value, they felt I was trying to rip them off when I was actually trying to give them something twice as good. Until they learned more about money, they had a terrible time trusting that I meant them good, not harm.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has a plan for our future and it is to bring us good, not harm.

We can trade what we have made of our lives, even the destructive areas that seem safe to us, for something exceedingly better. We simply have to let go of our “pennies” and let God give us something twice as good! But until we learn more about God, we may have an awful time trusting his intentions.

In the beginning, I felt scared, shaky and unsure of everything in my life and heart.

I felt like crying, and sometime screaming a lot of the time. I was tempted to fill the void created by letting go of my old patterns.  Before I fully learned new patterns of living, the empty places screamed at me to replace them. For me one of the biggest replacements was busyness, but it could be alcohol, food, shopping, reading romance novels (all of which I once battled) or any number of “comforts.” I would say “yes” to every request or perceived responsibility and take on more and more until I exhausted myself.

If I accomplished a lot, I felt good about myself and when I was busy I didn’t have time to consider the messed up places in my heart. That old pattern still threatens sometimes when my past fears get triggered. But now I’ve become aware of that tendency and instead of letting it control me I embrace the opposite. When I feel compelled to take on more than is reasonable, I recognize that old pattern, and I take a break or a time out, maybe even a nap.

God has a double portion of good for us if we are willing to relinquish our control.

Letting him lead us may seem crazy because his ways are opposite of the patterns we’ve employed to make ourselves feel safe. But if we will agree to his making us well, he will have twice as much good for us than what little we’ve been clinging to.

What have you been clinging to that God wants to exchange for something better?

Are You Kidding?


Baby, I want you. IMG_4059

For those of you who have already frequented internet dating sites, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. For those who are still juggling the idea, consider the value of humorous interactions as one of your pros in the decision making process. You wouldn’t believe how some individuals approach the internet dating scene. I suppose it may be equally ludicrous with people at bars, but I can only confess to my experience online.

Let’s start with the men—and  I use men only as the example of my experience, not to be sexist in any way…perhaps women exist who use similar tactics—who in their initial correspondence use the terms: “Oh baby” (Do I know you?); “I want you” (Like for dinner or…?); “I can’t live without you” (Really? What have you been doing all these years?); and “You are my angel” (Sent straight from heaven I suppose).  What response do these men expect from such nonsense? Do people actually reply to those comments?  And what about messages spelled horrifically with no apparent understanding of any language, let alone English? I mean no disrespect, but if you are someone who has been lured by this type of drivel, please know that you were meant for so much more!

Clearly these men are not “in love” with anyone, they simply desire to get something—like money, sex, or a way into the country!

Predators stalking the innocent!

Nonetheless, the possibility of endless pee-your-pants laughter abounds in these situations. One of my friends encountered a suitor that claimed her as his little goldfish, and then referred to himself as a piranha! Really?? Like a girl would be wooed by that line.

Once I was contacted by a Russian scholar-writer-pastor-missile salesman about whom my friend inquired, “Does he do that door-to-door?” We truly didn’t know how someone goes about selling missiles, but we certainly enjoyed a great laugh!

On christiancafe.com, the site I ended up on for about a year, the options for communicating were varied. If you wanted to show interest without corresponding directly, you could wink at someone by simply clicking a button that would send a short general interest message. You also had the choice of either sending a short form email, or a personal email. Generally, I ignored winks because I supposed that if someone was truly interested in me they would take the time to write something.

But when Brendan winked at me, I had already been drawn to him through his profile. Initially, it was his smile that grabbed me, and the fact that he was widowed with three children gripped my heart (more about that in coming blogs). His responses to the questions posed by the site’s profile page delighted and entertained me, and I was so disappointed when I realized he hadn’t finished answering them! So, just a few days after I had enjoyed reading his captivating responses, his wink caused my heart to skip. Really, Lord? Are you kidding me? Really? He’s so far away! Really?? Oh, my gosh.  Beyond thrilled and shedding joyful tears, I took hours to compose an email in reply because of the deep impression on my heart that he might be the “one.” And it turned out that he was.