Monday, February 28, 2011

Hug a Tree

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10

Over the years when I find myself too busy to read scripture or write the devotional, I have learned that it is time to stop and practice one of the rules we taught our children when we would take them camping in our state parks.

The rule? If you get lost, hug a tree.

The principle is that if you are lost and running around in circles, it is more difficult for rescuers to find you than if you stay in one place. We assured our children that we would come and find them if they were lost, but that they needed to do their part.

So, rather than running around in circles pontificating on the issue any further, I am going to do my part - hug a tree (be still) and let the Lord help me get my schedule under control today.

Thank you, Lord. Amen

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wars and Rumors of Wars

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation must rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Matthew 24:6-8

Have you been watching the news lately?

Wow! You would have to be living on a desert island or totally engrossed in a legislative session to miss that something significant is going on in the world. The Middle East in melt down mode, earthquakes in New Zealand, riots in Greece, union protests in Wisconsin - the list goes on and on.

What does it all mean?

That was a rhetorical question. I have no clue.

Does it look like we are living in the end times? I suppose every generation has thought so. Eventually one of them will be correct. Personally, the issue is not one that concerns me too greatly, because there is no doubt in my mind that my reservations for eternity have been confirmed through the salvation of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I will be in the “no smoking” area.

If you find the news of the day unduly distressing, take some time to ensure the certainty of your salvation, pray for the Lord’s mercy in these difficult times, and carry on with the work the Lord has given you to do while here on earth.

Other than panicking and running around in circles, those are really the only logical options.

Lord, may your mercy and grace envelope us and give us the peace that passes all understanding in these tumultuous times. Amen

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Must You Do?

“Did I not tell you, saying, ‘All that the Lord speaks, that I must do’?” Numbers 23:26

Balaam, the prophet of God, was hired by Balak to come and curse the children of Israel. In his defense, Balaam warned Balak that he could not curse the people. Apparently Balak was what we would call a “slow learner.” Balaam, on his first two prophecies, blessed the Israelites. Not content to admit defeat and cut his losses, Balak asked him to move to yet another spot and try again.

It was at this point that Balaam reminded him, “Did I not tell you, saying, ‘All that the Lord speaks, that I must do’?”

It is easy to see in the political realm the tendency of people to do the wrong thing for the perceived right reason. Voting to please constituencies, rather than on principles. Supporting an issue or person for private gain. Remaining silent when you should speak up in defense of a principle or person for fear of reprisals.

But those actions are not reserved for the political arena. They happen every day in every environment. The best way to avoid doing the wrong thing is to keep Balaam’s rule in mind.

Two questions:
  1. Would you say you are a Balaam who believes that ‘All that the Lord speaks, that I must do’?
  2. Would the Balak’s in your say it about you?
Lord, help me to hear You speak and do all that you say. Amen

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Balaam, the Donkey, and the Angel

Numbers 22:22-40

One of the joys of reading through scripture is finding stories that make you wonder how you would have responded in similar circumstances. Take the story of Balaam and his donkey.

Baalam was a prophet of the Lord who was called by the king Balak to curse the children of Israel. He was reluctant to go, but finally succumbed to the pressure, saddled up his donkey and, with two servants in tow, proceeded to go meet Balak. The Lord sent his angel to block Baalam’s path. Three times the Angel of the Lord blocked the donkey, and three times Baalam struck his donkey because it would not move. After the third time, the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth and she asked, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?And, so Baalam and the donkey proceeded to have a discussion, after which the Lord opened his eyes and he, too, saw the Angel of the Lord. Come to find out, the donkey, in its perceived belligerence, actually saved Baalam’s life in her refusal to pass by the Angel of the Lord.

So, let’s think about how we might have responded in similar circumstances. In the first place, I don’t have a donkey or servants, so I will imagine a basset hound and some grandkids. Now, unlike Balaam’s donkey, basset hounds frequently refuse to move, so it is not uncommon to have to drag them from place to place. Chances are, I would miss seeing the Angel of the Lord as surely as Balaam did.

But, here’s the part of the story that intrigues me. The donkey opened her mouth and spoke to Balaam. And, rather than marvel at the fact that his donkey was speaking, he carried on a conversation with her.

And nobody thought that was odd?

I’m thinking words coming out of the basset’s mouth would leave me speechless, not conversational.

Take aways from the story:
  1. If the Lord can use a donkey, he can use anybody.
  2. Listen to the donkeys in your life. They may see something you are missing.
  3. Don’t beat up on the ones who see something you missed.
  4. Use caution carrying on a conversation with your donkey (basset) in public. While it may be the Angel of the Lord, there are people who would call the mental health officers to come check on you in today’s world.
Lord, open my eyes to see those things I am missing. Amen

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Journey

Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged. Numbers 21:4

Are you one of those people who likes destinations. Or, do you like journeys?

Never could two people be more different as travel companions than my husband and me. He loves every portion of a journey. He likes to plan it, map it out, pick all the spots to see, have travel brochures, a book about the place we are going and interesting tidbits of information of the history of the road traveled.

I, on the other hand, travel as a necessary means to getting to a destination (and because Jerry loves it and I love Jerry). If it is a road trip, napping is my favorite pass time. Like an infant in a car seat, five minutes into a trip, I am out like a light. Early in our marriage I bought Jerry the book Why Stop? because it has the text of every historical marker in Texas in it. When he would want to interrupt my naps by stopping at historical markers, I would just remind him to read about it when he got home and go back to sleep.

Over the years we have had some incredibly memorable vacations. Most of them were good really good trips. But, one of my favorite to reflect on was the year we took our three children to west Texas for a week of camping in the desert. Jerry had regaled us with stories about Balmorhea State Park, home of the world’s largest spring fed swimming pool, located at the foot of the Davis Mountains. We were planning to camp out, swim, check out the observatory in the Davis Mountains and see the local sites.

The only thing between us and our glorious destination was about 550 miles of Interstate 10 going through the desert in West Texas. Three children in the car meant that my nap time was interrupted by my duties as chief referee. Each time I would rouse myself to intervene in the argument of the moment, I questioned if we had made progress or if we were on a giant treadmill. Nothing ever changed. Nothing that is, until we were almost at our destination. Then the weather changed and it began to rain.

And it rained.

And it rained.

And it rained.

Do you know what there is to do when you are camping in the desert and it is raining? NOTHING! And, that’s pretty much what we did for the week. We couldn’t swim because of the lightening. We couldn’t go to the observatory because of the cloud cover. We couldn’t go through the forts because it was too wet. So, the whining and complaining started. Once Jerry shut me up, we had to address the whining and complaining of the children. My fondest memory of the trip was counting the mile markers on the way home. When we pulled into the drive way, my then 14 year-old daughter jumped out of the car and kissed the driveway.

It was a horrible trip. But, it made a great memory for us to laugh about in the years since. And, so it is with many spiritual journeys. If you find that the trip the Lord has you on is not the one you planned, don’t let your soul become discouraged. Check out the mile markers along the way and prepare to kiss the driveway when you get home. This trip will be one you will always remember.

Lord, do not let us become discouraged with our circumstances. Amen

Friday, February 18, 2011

I'm Back

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Psalm 118:1

As mentioned in previous devotionals, my family can tell the Texas Legislature is in session by the plagues that hit us. Jerry’s pain from the herniated disc in his neck went from bad to worse. After two trips to the emergency room, a visit with a pain management specialist, and a consultation with an orthopedic neurosurgeon last week, he opted to undergo surgery on Monday.

He is home and feeling better. He survived my coming into the office for half a day yesterday. And, I know he is getting better because he thinks I should be at the office instead of at home with him.

So, today is just one of those “Praise God Days.”

Praise God for modern medicine. And pain medication. And a full night of sleep.

Praise God for the boss whose primary concern was that I be there for Jerry.

Praise God for the wonderful staff in the office who picked up the slack while I was gone.

And, praise God for babies and puppies and kittens, because they are so cute and cuddly. (Just thought I’d throw that one in ‘cause I’m in such a good mood.)

Lord, You are good and Your mercy endures forever.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bloom Where you are Planted

Many seek the ruler’s favor, but justice for man comes from the Lord. Proverbs 29:26

Committee assignments came out yesterday. If you aren’t heavily involved in this process, that probably means nothing to you. For those of us who live and breath the process it is rather like the first day of school when you find out who your new teacher is and which other students are in your class. And, like most school placements, you are pretty much stuck with which ever assignment you get. Not everybody gets the most popular picks and you have to play with the cards you are dealt.

During the controversial speaker’s race, there was a lot of discussion of retribution and consequences for choices that would be made in that race. One fear was that there would be retribution for decisions made and that the punishment would come in the way of committee assignments.

Now, committee assignments came out and not everybody is happy.

News flash!!! Somebody is always unhappy about something. And, regardless of whether or not there has been a speaker’s race, committee assignments cause discontent.

But, before you feel too sorry for those poor legislators who didn’t get the committees they wanted, remember that people actually have options. They can choose to be unhappy and disgruntled or they can choose to be contented and joyful. And, the choice for looking at the bright side of things transcends politics. Consider the driver who cuts you off in traffic. He may be distracted and just failed to see you. Or, he may in fact be a jerk. But, how has it hurt you if you choose to say a little prayer for his safety and drive on without honking your horn and shaking your fist?

Politicians look for success in committee assignments, statesmen are content to bloom where the Lord plants them.

Lord, help us to remember to keep Your perspective in mind. Amen

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Eternal Vigilance

Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord, for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. Numbers 11:1

When watching the news or talking with your friends, do you ever find yourself grumbling and complaining about the state of our nation? Better watch out. God doesn’t like complaining.

In his 1837 Farewell Address, President Andrew Jackson said, “But you must remember, my fellow citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. . . . May He who holds in His hands the destinies of nations make you worthy of the favors He has bestowed and enable you, with pure heart and pure hands and sleepless vigilance, to guard and defend to the end of time the great charge He has committed to your keeping.”

In light of that quote, I ask you:

1) Have you refrained from complaining about the state of our nation?
2) Have you been willing to pay the price of liberty?
3) Have you been vigilant to guard and defend this great gift the Lord has committed to our keeping?

If your answer is “no” to:

Question 1 - shut up.
Question 2 - put up.
Question 3 - stand up.

In my humble opinion.

Lord, forgive us for whining and equip us to pass the torch of freedom to the next generation. Amen

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Two Front War

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

Over the years it has become apparent that preparing for a legislative session is like preparing for battle. It is a known fact going in that there will be battles over politics and policy issues. For those battles you arm yourself with the most facts, the best arguments, and the wisest strategy available and take your best shot. You win some and you lose some. As each battle is over, you prepare for the next one.

But, the more difficult battles are the spiritual ones. Without fail, those who work in this arena will experience spiritual battles both here in the Capitol and in their homes. It has been during legislative sessions that the most difficult attacks have come against me and my family. Back surgeries, diagnosis of cancer, terminal illness of family members, health issues with children, gall bladder attacks - those are the ones off the top of my head. Each legislative session in which I have worked has been marked with a significant detractor of my attention from the things at hand.

And, while I hate to give Satan credit for anything, he’s back. For the past couple of weeks my husband has been suffering with a pinched nerve in his neck. An MRI revealed he has several bulging discs in his neck and back. He has gotten progressively worse, to the point that it disturbs his sleep and plagues him every waking moment.

Just so you know, few things disturb my sleep - except Jerry not sleeping. You can lean me up in corner and I can go to sleep. The cares of the day do not concern me when my eyes are shut. That’s a good thing, because I like nine hours of sleep a night. It is possible for me to function on seven hours. If I get less than that for any extended period of time, I become downright cranky. Consider this your notice. I AM CRANKY.

We spent all day yesterday in the emergency room experiencing the marvel of our incredible health care system. Jerry experienced several hours of pain relief - better living thorough chemistry, but at the end of the day, he was released with a new prescription for steroids and a warning to return him to the hospital if certain symptoms appeared. (They were, by the way, all the symptoms for which he came to the ER in the first place.) My brain almost imploded trying to understand the logic of going home and trying what what we had been doing for the past two months for another week and then coming back to see the neurosurgeon. After sharing my feelings with the ER personnel (relatively nicely for the circumstances, if I do say so myself) we returned home.

Now, after a full six hours of sleep, my perspective is better. The circumstances haven’t changed, but I have been reminded that God is sufficient to meet all my needs. And, my crankiness has prevented me from remembering to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”

This isn’t cranky time. It’s time for joy!

And, I was just surprised with a venti Starbuck’s with whip cream (thank you, Michael) to prove it.

Thank you, Lord, for the joy that comes with the trials and tribulations of our lives! Amen

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Let it Shine!

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16


Just had to get that out of my system.

One of my joys working at the Capitol is the view when I leave the office after dark at the end of an exhausting day and walk across the Capitol grounds. The brilliance of the otuside lighting showcases the granite building while making everything around it recede into the pitch black background. With only a little breeze the Texas flag wil be unfurled, proudly standing guard over the north entrance to the building. When the sight no longer takes my breath away, it will be time to find a new job.

This morning on my drive in, I knew from several miles away that something was not right. Driving along the upper deck of I-35 the lights from the Capitol were not visible. There was the usual red light at the place where the Capitol dome is. Then, there were a few lights coming from the inside of the buildingl. But, the view that takes my breath away was nowhere to be seen. It had been sacrificed as non-essential use of electricity during this winter weather we have been been experiencing.

The extreme cold played havoc with the electric grid. At the same time that we were experiencing record winter usage rates of electricity to keep warm, multiple generation stations across the state were experiencing weather related difficulties. The result was a strain on the electric grid which, unmanaged could have resulted in the entire grid collapsing. The quick fix was to institute rolling blackouts, meaning that pressure would be taken off the system by cutting off power to different areas at different intervals. By relieving drain on the grid, service could then be ensured across the state.

The morning view of the Capitol reminded me of the stark difference between one who lets their “light shine” and one who do not. But, more importantly, it reminded me that people notice when the light isn’t shining. While lighting the Capitol may constitute the use of non-essential electricity, the light of Christ is never non-essential. We should never allow the “weather” of our lives to cause us to sacrifice our light.

Lord, help me to let my light so shine before men that it will glorify You. Amen

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

False Advertising

Got to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. Proverbs 6:6-7

The background photo on my computer is a picture of two basset hounds stretched out and serenely snoozing on a blanket spread on the floor in front of my favorite easy chair. Just looking at it gives me a rush of serotonin with the corresponding sense of well-being.
The truth is, it is absolutely false advertising for the beasts. It does nothing to convey their propensity to bark, shed, drool, or stink.
(I happen to think their attributes outweigh their negatives, but can understand others may have a differing opinion - not today’s subject.)

Focus instead on the difference between what things look like and what they are in reality. The Legislature convenes each morning (or afternoon on Mondays), they have a prayer, recite the pledge, recognize a doctor of the day and pass some resolutions honoring persons, places or things. After an hour or so of doing virtually nothing, they adjourn and are free to do as they please until the ritual begins again the next morning. Evenings are filled with multiple opportunities for too much to eat and drink. It is deceptively false advertising for the novice who may believe this will be the model for the rest of the session.

Part of my job is to analyze legislation and make policy recommendations. That requires both an understanding of the legislation that is under consideration and the background of the issues being discussed. It also requires a clear mind to be able to process the information and to articulate a position quickly. I cannot afford to wait until an issue arises to consider all its implication. The policies developed here have too much impact on the lives of the citizens of Texas for me to make poor decisions.

Each of us, regardless of the position we may hold, are divinely placed in our positions for a specific purpose. We may believe that what is happening today has no bearing on tomorrow or eternity, and allow that belief to lull us into a sense of complacency. We think that lack of sleep, improper exercise and nutrition, and over drinking will have no bearing on our actions tomorrow.

Like the ant, now is the time for the wise to be gathering their “food.” Whether that “food” is sleep, information, exercise, or relationships, take full advantage of each hour of today to purposely cultivate those things that will be needed in the rush of the coming days.

Divine purposes deserve our best efforts.

Lord, help me to live for eternity, not for today. Amen

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Rock

Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. Luke 6: 47-48

My hammock day of the weekend was but a fond memory as I stood out in the cold wind putting gasoline into my vehicle this morning - a vivid reminder of the phrase, “this, too, shall pass.”

The cold front roared in around 3:00 am with winds howling through the trees and rain pelting the outside of the house. The temperature dropped 30 degrees in less than 15 minutes. I rolled over and snuggled down into the warmth of my bed, content with the knowledge that our home is securely founded on The Rock.

Lord, thank you that peace is not dependent upon my circumstances, but upon my relationship with You. Amen