Burger and Lies, Animal Style

Mine is a firefighting family. Three generations of firefighters so far, and probably more to come. As the wife, mother and daughter-in-law of firefighters, you can imagine the stories I have heard at the dinner table each night. Sometimes I can’t get the visual version of these stories out of my head for months. It amazes me that my firefighters are able to deal with emergencies, fires, tragedy and death, and then head to the next call, no worse for the wear.

One call that I have difficulty forgetting is when my son ran on a traffic collision and one of the occupants of the vehicle was deceased. He had an In-n-Out burger still in his hand, and a big bite of that delicious double-double-animal-style still in his mouth. The poor In-n-Out dude never knew what hit him. The last thing that young man did on planet earth before being T-boned was take a bite of a burger that he would never finish. He literally died with it in his mouth. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” Matthew 24:36. He never saw it coming . . .

None of us knows the day or hour when we will exhale earth for eternity. When that moment comes, there will be a big fat bite of whatever it was we were devouring at the time, still on our lips. And I’m not necessarily talking about food, it could be anything. Are you chewing on bitterness? Unforgiveness? Hatefulness? Sexual sin? Jealousy? Addiction? Porn? A rebellious spirit? Was it a big mouthful of hateful, bitter words to or about someone who doesn’t share the same views as you? Was it a fork full of fornication? Infidelity with a side of lies? Whatever it is might just determine where we inhale eternity. Eternity is a certainty, where you will spend it is the question.

The Bible is clear that from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

The words that are found on our lips are a sample of the content that lies within our hearts. Sadly, the Bible also says “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9. Not very encouraging, right? Does that mean we are destined to die with a burger and lies, animal style, on our lips? Sadly, yes . . . BUT GOD.

God made us to fellowship with Him, we were created to love Him and enjoy Him forever. He knows our frustrations, our unfulfilled desires, our loneliness. He sees the emptiness of our life, our problems, our hidden heartaches, our secret sins are known to Him. There is nothing we can remember that He has forgotten. He longs to have each of us bring them all to Him and receive His peace. “Jesus said, ‘I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.'” John 14:27

Jesus Christ, God’s Son, came to planet earth. He stepped from time and eternity to permanently settle the fatal flaw of sin. God wants a relationship with YOU! He wants YOU in His family! He wants to give you a new life that begins here and now and goes on for eternity with Him! This amazing gift becomes yours when you level with God about your sin, accept His forgiveness and receive Jesus Christ into your heart! Jesus is the only remedy to our deceitful hearts! The only hope for a wicked heart is for Jesus to take residence there.

Because of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection, you can have God’s gift of eternal life with Him; you can have all your sins forgiven and never counted against you; you can have peace of mind and freedom from guilt! “. . . Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow . . .” Isaiah 1:18

Jesus loves you, He wants you to come to Him, He created you as an eternal being and wants to spend eternity with you and He has made it possible! Come to Him today and take your place in His family as His son or daughter! Follow Him so closely that nothing can take your eyes off Him.

Proverbs 4:23 “Guard your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life.” You have unbelievable strength and power through your faith in Christ Jesus! Use that strength and power to make sure you don’t waste your time, not even one minute, on anything or anyone who doesn’t help you stay focused on Jesus; who doesn’t come along side you to strengthen who you are in Christ. Choose friends who expect the best from you and won’t settle for anything less; friends who will hold you accountable spiritually and never bring you down. Spend your time with those who love you enough to encourage and help you in your desire to be a godly person who honors the Lord with your mind, body and soul. Choose friends who demand godliness from you; someone who wants less is not a true friend and will certainly make you stumble. Give your concerns and pressures to the Lord, He will make diamonds from them. Stay strong. Keep focused totally on the word and He will direct your paths and your thoughts and actions. Listen to God’s voice in your heart and heed to His hand on your life.

If you allow Him, He will hold His umbrella of amazing grace over your head to protect and preserve you! It’s up to you to stay under that umbrella! Once you walk out from underneath His grace you become fair game to the devil and the world. If that’s your story, and you walked out from underneath the umbrella of God’s grace, it’s time to take back your rightful place under His grace. Do it now.

Dear Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God and that you died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin. I turn away from my sin and choose to live a life pleasing to You. Dwell in my heart as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving me and for the gift of eternal life!

Grandma’s Pots, Pans and Pyrex

Not sure when I got them, Grandma’s pots, pans and Pyrex; but I’m sure I have had them since the late 1970’s. I do not remember the day I received them nor the circumstances that surrounded that special event. Nonetheless, 45+ years later, they are my still my “go-to” pots, pans and Pyrex. They are tried and true, fail proof.

Some things just don’t need to be updated or changed. Over the past 45 years, I am certain I have purchased, used, and thrown away a minimum of 10, yup 10, sets of “the best” pots and pans on the planet! All the newest and best “non-stick” pots and pans have depleted my wallet, graced my stove and ended up in the trash. Martha Stewart, Ina Garten, Emeril, Rachael Rae, you name it, I’ve tried it. Always, without exception, I default to Grandma’s pots, pans and Pyrex.

Grandma’s pots and pans are copper bottomed. They clean up easily with a dip in tomato sauce for a few minutes. They do not have some secret super-special non-stick, super-slide even-cook attribute to lure on-line shoppers to bite the “But wait! There’s more!” bait that so easily sucks the money out of our wallets via PayPal’s “buy now, pay later” plan.

And then there’s Grandma’s Pyrex, a set of nesting Pyrex bowls that Ina Garten would die for. Apparently, according to the current selling price on eBay, a lot of people would die for these old bowls. Mine, however, are not for sale. They are priceless to me, and they will grace my kitchen until, well, until I don’t. Then, I hope and pray my kids and grandkids will continue to be blessed by the magic that these pots, pans and Pyrex have blessed this family with for so many decades.

I love to imagine my grandma busily making pancakes, bacon and eggs for my then-toddler mom; or making her delicious clam chowder, filling her home with the fragrant aroma of bacon drippings, onions and clams! I love the memory of my mom, now a great-grandma, busily making pancakes, bacon and eggs for the then-toddler me and my siblings, and the fragrant aroma of bacon drippings, onions and clams which meant delicious clam chowder for dinner. And best of all, how I cherish the memory of me, now a grandma, using the same pots, pans and pyrex to feed my family the same old recipes. These pots, pans and Pyrex have definitely earned a permanent place in this family’s kitchen.

Why are we continuously striving for a pot that is bigger; a skillet that is slicker? Why do we desire something that promises to give us “more”? And really, does it? If so, why do I always default to Grandma’s pots, pans and Pyrex? I am perfectly content using these decade’s old pots, pans and Pyrex. There is literally no product that is better than my Grandma’s pots, pans and Pyrex. They are tried and true. Nothing can make them better.

It is important that, not just in the kitchen, but in every aspect of our lives we guard against being lured in to the “But wait, there’s more!” sales-pitch. It’s the same bait that satan used in the Garden of Eden. He lured (there’s that word again) Eve, and tricked her into eating from the one forbidden tree. He tricked her into believing that in doing so, there was more in store for her than that which God had purposed for her. And she bit the bait. Literally. Hook, line and sinker.

Mine is a fishing family, and any fishing family understands the purpose of a lure. It is used to trick and kill unsuspecting fish.

The Hebrew word for lure is “yaw-koshe'” and it means “to draw to the lure; to allure or invite by means of anything that promises pleasure or advantage; to entice, to attract, allure, tempt, solicit, lead on, decoy”.

We must be very careful to not be lured away from biblical truth. the Bible doesn’t change, and does not need to be replaced or updated with some newfangled concept. We must carefully guard our hearts and minds and continually ask the Lord to protect us from that which would lure, tempt, solicit, and lead us on a path of compromise and discontent. We must examine everything through the lens of the Holy Word of God, the Bible. If the shiny new pot, pan or Pyrex which lures you does not sync with God’s Word, it is a decoy, it is a lie. There is nothing new under the sun, and like Chuck Smith has said, “If it’s new, it’s not true. If it’s true, it’s not new.”

The Word of God is tried and true, fail proof. It provides all the spiritual food we need, and if anyone says “But wait! There’s more!” know this – there isn’t.

Father God, protect our hearts and minds. Help us to not be lured away from the solid rock of Your son, Jesus. Cause us to keep the truths of Your Holy Word hidden in our hearts. And Lord, protect our children and grandchildren. Lure them straight to Yourself. Amen

Stuff Happens

My dumb dog chewed a hole in his new super fluffy bed and stuffing was everywhere! I stuffed it all back in the hole and pulled out my ancient little sewing kit. As I mended Ricky Bobby’s bed, I reflected on the times in my life when I felt like my stuffing was everywhere; like something chewed a hole in me and left my heart in pieces all over the floor. Eviscerated like every squeaky toy I have ever given to Ricky. My heart punctured and deflated laying raw and exposed in a pile of stuffing. Stuff happens.

When Ricky shreds his bed, or eviscerates one of his toys, it is because he is a dog. He is professionally trained and well mannered. But, he is a dog, and to expect him to behave otherwise would be ridiculous. He is a dog, and dogs sometimes wreck stuff. It’s why we can’t have anything nice. He is not acting out to upset me, he is not doing something “to me”. In fact, his tearing the stuffing out of his bed has nothing to do with me other than the fact that I have to clean it up. Stuff happens.

It’s probably safe to say that 2020 has left most of us feeling like an eviscerated chew toy at one point or another. Maybe we lost a loved one to Covid-19. Maybe we caught the virus ourselves. Maybe we lost our job, our business, our home, or maybe we lost our joy. Fill in the blank, we’ve all lost something to Covid; at minimum, our freedom to do what we please, when we please, and with whom we please. Or maybe your broken heart has nothing to do with 2020 and all its weirdness, maybe it’s due to the fact that stuff happens. Two of my friends each buried a child this year, and two friends each buried a parent. Not Covid related, just life related. Life, even a great life, has its hardships. How we act and react when in those eviscerating hard times is what matters. Stuff happens.

Remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz where the scary flying monkeys attacked Scarecrow and pulled all the stuffing out of him? Poor Scarecrow was empty, unable to fix himself, completely vulnerable. All he could do was lay there, he was unable to even move. His insides strewn about like straw . . . oh, wait . . . it was straw. Have you ever felt like the Scarecrow? I know I have. What scary flying monkeys are causing your unhappiness, your pain? What scary flying monkeys are causing my sadness? What is it that is ripping the stuffing out of you today? And what are you going to do about it? Stuff happens.

Just like I picked up my ancient sewing kit and repaired Ricky Bobby’s bed; and just like Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion and Tin Man picked up the pieces of their friend the Scarecrow and repaired his brokenness, our heavenly Father longs to pick up the pieces of your heart and put you back together. We must trust God to deliver in His own way, after all, that’s His specialty.

When the children of Israel were trapped and afraid, ‘twix forbidding tides and Pharoah’s tirade, Jehovah commanded, and Moses obeyed.

As pitiful prayers filled an impossible place, as Moses gazed into Jehovah’s dread face, as the people of God need infinite grace.

The mighty winds howled, violent waves dashed. The seawaters quivered and the lightnings flashed. The thunders boomed and breakers crashed.

And when the sun arose on the terrible day, the children of Israel, through the misty spray, discovered their God had made them a way.

And many a Christian in the years that have passed, though doubled by fears, though tired and harassed, have found the same God strong, sure, and steadfast. (Robert J. Morgan)

But does He still deliver? Can He still part the seas? Can He deliver you from the scary flying monkeys that cause financial ruin? Marital problems? Emotional heartache? Self-destructive habits? Covid-19? Absolutely, but we must see “deliverance” through God’s eyes for He doesn’t always, or more accurately, seldom views things as we do. “My thoughts are not your thoughts,” the Lord cautions in Isaiah 55:8, “nor are your ways My ways.” His arm is never too short to save, His ear never too dull to hear, nor His eyes too blind to see, after all, His vision is 20/20. (bad pun, sorry)

Cameron Thompson said, “ We have a God who begins with the impossible and goes on from there.” So, when you feel like Ricky Bobby’s bed, chewed up and torn to shreds with your heart eviscerated from your soul, unable to stuff it back in your chest; or like the Scarecrow, empty, helpless and vulnerable, remember . . . our deliverance and hope is rooted in the God who promised to never leave us or forsake us; to protect, defend, avenge and deliver us; who loves, provides, heals and blesses us. Our deliverance and hope is rooted in the God who is gracious, merciful and just, faithful and true. Our deliverance and hope is rooted in the God who never breaks His promises. Our deliverance and hope is in the God who lovingly gets His heavenly sewing kit, and painstakingly, patiently and carefully puts our stuffing back in place and delivers us as only He can. Perfectly. After all, we are His beloved. YOU are HIS beloved!

This song has been hidden in my heart since I first heard it in 1977. True then, true now.

“When I think I’m going under, part the waters, Lord. 
When I feel the waves around me, calm the sea. 
When I cry for help, O hear me, Lord, and hold out Your hand. 
Touch my life, still the raging storm in me. 

Knowing You love me through the burden I must bear, 
Hearing Your footsteps lets me know I’m in Your care, 
And in the night of my life You bring the promise of day, 
Here is my hand, show me the way. 

Knowing You love me helps me face another day. 
Hearing Your footsteps drives the clouds and fear away; 
And in the tears of my life I see the sorrow You bore, 
Here is my pain, heal it once more.”

My patient Father, Sower of Eternal Life, till and tend my heart. In every pain, and in every opposition, open me more deeply so the seed of Your Word will penetrate deeper to the core of my being. Pour the Holy Spirit like water through me. Let Your truth be proven in the fruit of my life, in everything I say and do, for Your enjoyment, and to Your honor. Amen.

“NORTON STRONG!”

According to Amazon Prime, I have purchased this book 40 times in the last three years. That’s not counting the copies I bought before I had my Amazon Prime membership! It’s a great book, but a book no one wants. It’s a book that arrives in the mail days after your beloved dog passes away. While the book brings some joy, and an amount of comfort, the turn of each page reminds you that sweet Fido has crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and will not be curling up behind your knees tonight when you go to bed.

With the exception of one friend, who was emotionally unable to open the book upon the passing of her dear Daisy, the book has been a cherished addition to the memory of many a loved pup. Being the recipient of this book, however, puts you in a club in which no one wants membership. The Rainbow Bridge Club.

In my family, the book has been a treasured part of our puppy history for nearly thirty years. When a family member’s dog passes away, the book is given to that family member. Written in its pages are 30 years worth of names of dozens of pups who loved us well, and passed away too soon. Condolences and sweet memories, dates of births and deaths, paw prints, cards and notes fill the book to overflowing. But no one wants to be “the one” who is the current keeper-of-the-book.

My sister, and current keeper-of-the-book, once wrote a handwritten, page-long note and placed it in the book. She wrote that although the book has often been regarded as the “dreaded book”, it’s really a “book of life”. The book immortalizes the lives of so many wonderful dogs! The book provides a place where all the memories and names and dates can be easily found in one place and treasured and remembered.

Gifting a copy of the book to my friends and family who have lost a beloved dog has become my go-to-bereavement-gift for many years. It has blessed many families and given them a bit of joy during a very sad time. Maybe you’ve received this book from me! Today, however, I am at a loss. There is nothing on Amazon that I can purchase to send to my dear friend to minimize her unspeakable loss.

My friend and I have much in common! We are married to firemen; we have two sons; we love Jesus, family, dogs and America! She has been a dear friend for more than 25 years. Her beautiful, brave, strong son, Cory, passed away today after an incredible battle with cancer.

Cory and his brother were childhood friends of my two sons. They rode bikes together, they rode motorcycles through the desert together, they went dove hunting together, Cory vacationed with us in San Diego where we visited the San Diego Zoo and Sea World. Cory and my sons were out of control in San Diego’s Hard Rock Cafe, chugging Shirley Temples, and playing their air guitars. The boys spent hours fishing in Big Bear, or at the ponds at Jess Ranch, and hiking around the desert with their BB guns until the sun went down.

Cory and both of my sons grew up to be firemen, just like their dads. That’s how we all met. Their dad’s worked together at the same Fire Department.

A few years ago, Cory had an accident during training at his Fire Station and broke his back. Pretty soon a very rare form of cancer attacked his body. Cory, his beautiful wife and children were in for the fight of their lives, literally, a fight for Cory’s life! They were surrounded by a multitude of family and friends who supported them and loved them! They were “Norton Strong”! So full of hope, faith and love!

Now Cory’s fight is over. His beautiful wife must lay him to rest. His parents must come alongside her and the children and be “Norton Strong” for them while they themselves are in the deepest darkest place a parent could ever imagine.

Is there a book I can buy them? Can I log in to Amazon and click on “buy again” and send them the “book of life” as my sweet sister calls it? Of course I cannot. But in the midst of this deep, deep pain and grief, it gives me great joy to know that God Himself holds a much better book, and has Himself entered Cory’s name on the pages! It is The Book of Life! Because his name is in the Book of Life, Cory is immortalized, eternal and alive and well in heaven!

We all have a built-in need for immortality, a craving for an eternity, to be eternal. God placed it within us when He created us. He created us as eternal beings. D.L. Moody once made the statement, “One of these days you are going to hear that I’m dead and gone. When you do, don’t believe a word of it. I’ll be more alive then, than at any other time in my life!”

Each of us wonders about eternity. What is death like? What happens when I die? Is there a hell? a heaven? a God? a devil? What happens? We all want to be around tomorrow. The only guarantee we have of a future is to have the Eternal One in our heart! The Eternal One is Jesus Christ, the Son of God! And He wants to give you a future and a hope!

Romans 10:9-10 says “If you believe in your heart that Jesus is the Son of God and that God raised Him from the dead on the third day, and confess that with your mouth, then you will be saved.” What does the word “saved” mean? It means “removed from danger”. It simply means if you respect and recognize the worth of Jesus Christ and give your life to Him, God will take you out of the danger zone and receive you as a child of the Most High God.

“For God so loved the world (YOU!) that He gave His only begotten Son, (FOR YOU!) that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have EVERLASTING LIFE.” John 3:16

Everlasting life is ours for the taking, we can be removed from danger! God will, Himself, with His own hand, write YOUR name in His Book of Life if you believe in Him. THE BOOK OF LIFE! Eternal, everlasting, immortal life!

While Cory’s wife, parents, brother and all of “Norton Strong” weep and grieve at his passing, let us find comfort in knowing Cory is eternal, in heaven with God and we will see him again!!!

“NORTON STRONG!”

His Eye is on the Sparrow, and I Know He Watches Me

My hands still hold the warmth of the little bird who just drew her last breath. I first noticed her tucked into a little safe spot in the roots of my Brazilian Pepper tree. Fully feathered, I was hoping she was being tended to by her parents who were, no doubt, near by. Excited to see what I thought would be a beautiful time of nature-watching, I poured a cup of tea and settled in near the window to watch the sweet baby bird.

Photo by Tina Nord on Pexels.com

Hours went by. Mama and Papa bird were nowhere to be seen. Not once had they checked in on baby bird. Intending only to do a welfare check, I went to have a closer look. Baby bird was clearly distressed, with what appeared to be a bulging bubble on one side of her throat. Very carefully, I picked her up and staged her in an area where I frequently saw the birds which I presumed were her parents. Again, I settled in to watch.

Matthew 10:29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father, but the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”

Matthew 33:26 ” Observe intently the birds of heaven; they do not sow or reap or store into storehouses, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are?”

Sparrows are cheap. Birds are cheap. Recently, we traded oranges and macadamia nuts for 2 dozen fertile eggs, which are currently incubating, and in a week, baby chickens will hatch! Talk about a cheap trade! No matter the monetary value or lack thereof, God knows the comings and goings of each and every bird on earth . . . in great detail! He knows what each bird eats, where they nest, where they roost, and when they die. Not one feather on one bird goes unnoticed by the God of the universe who created them. The 24 eggs in my incubator are currently being cared for and nurtured by THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE, and . . . . you may need to sit down for this . . . YOU are worth more than they!

The hairs of your head are numbered, not one falls to the ground without your Father being aware, and causing another to grow in it’s place. He loves YOU with amazing detail!

Baby bird was not doing well, and was growing weaker. I decided to offer a drop of water, which was accepted well; she enjoyed 4-5 drops. Once again spotting the birds I thought were her parents, I placed her where they could easily find her and again, I settled in to watch nature work.

As the sun began to set, I realized her parents were not going to return for her, and she would certainly die during the night. Scooping her up in my hands, I cradled her and gave her my love and my warmth. It was clear she was dying, and I knew I could not let her die alone.

She had worked so hard . . . breaking out of that shell, growing her feathers, leaving the nest, attempting independence, but it was all too much for this little bird and for whatever reason, it was time for her to go. I cupped her in my warm hands, and talked to her and stroked her throat and head until the moment she exhaled her last breath. Then I cried.

I held her little feathered body to my lips and cried because I knew just how deeply the Father loved this little one, and how perfectly He created this little masterpiece.

Isaiah 49:15 “Although a woman can forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the son of her womb, I will not forget you!”

You, my friend are so entirely loved by your Father! He knows and loves everything about you! He created you to be with Him forever! He counts your tears and preserves them in a bottle. He has numbered and loved every hair on your head, no, your entire body!

It is HE who gives you HIS warmth and love and holds you in HIS hands to comfort you.

Some may not understand why I would weep at the passing of the sweet baby bird who I cradled in my hands. I am sorry for those who don’t understand, for they don’t understand the deep, deep love of the Father for His creation. The deep, deep love of the Father for you. For you. YOU.

If You Can’t Say Something Nice

Oh how I love to watch the many hummingbirds buzzing around my feeders! Four of the feeders I have on the property are in a small, contained area in the plumeria courtyard, just outside my kitchen windows. Two of the feeders are inches away from a window.  At dusk, the lighting is such that the hummingbirds cannot see me through the window.  I can literally have my nose 8 inches away from the sugar-seeking little hummers, and they have no clue that I am there!

More than a dozen hummers have been at one feeding station at the same time, and for the most part, they get along just fine!  Unlike many hummingbirds, mine seem to respect each other and will even relinquish a coveted spot at the sugar-hole when another hummer comes in for a landing.  I imagine them chatting to each other, “You first!” “No, YOU first!” “After you! I insist!” They are extremely kind to each other.

One hummingbird in particular stands out.  She is not very colorful, and she is smaller than the others.  She is not afraid of me, and will enjoy sugar from the feeder while it is in my hand!  She never grumbles when “her” feeder gets crowded, and happily helicopters near by to make room for someone else to get some sweet nectar.  She is warm, welcoming and hospitable. She’s my favorite. When I grow up, I want to be like her. Goals.

Among the other hummingbirds who grace the grounds of Calmin Cottage is the Black-chinned Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, Allen’s Hummingbird, and my beloved Anna Hummingbird.  The Anna is the one I mentioned who is my favorite.  She is sweet, sharing, kind, hospitable, and seems to put the needs of the other hummer’s before her own. She’s like the Mama-hummer, taking care of everyone else! She will readily give her sugar-hole to another hummer without argument.  Sweet Anna loves her sugar-seeking friends with a giving, selfless, expect-nothing-in-return kind of love. I could watch her all day long!

If only we humans would choose to love like Anna. But no, instead, we often demand our own way. Our love is offered with expectations. “I will love you if . . .” or “I will love you when . . . ”  You can fill in the blanks.  We withhold our love and affection from those who don’t behave how we want them to. We punish them by shooing them away from our sugar-hole.  We respond to those who disappoint us in a punitive manner, intending to hurt them to teach them a lesson.  God is never punitive.  This kind of response is human, to be sure, but God calls us to a higher response.  A response of LOVE. Unconditional love with no expectations or requirements attached. The manner in which my sweet Anna loves.

1 Corinthians 13:4-13   “LOVE suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself; is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.  But whether (where) there are prophecies, they will fail; whether (where) there are tongues, they will cease; whether (where) there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is LOVE.”

Mark 12: 30-31  “‘And you shall LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. and the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall LOVE your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

If my sweet Anna was human, I know that she would exemplify the biblical description of love.  My little Allen hummingbird . . . well . . . not so much.

The Allen is a spectacular hummingbird whose tail and sides are an Autumn-y orange-brown.  It has a green back and crown, and has a red iridescent throat with a white collar.  The Allen is stunning!  I first noticed this particular Allen when it was performing its spectacular U-shaped dive display rising 25 feet up on each side!  After several swings, it spirals 75-100 feet high then dives, making a loud whistling sound at the bottom of the U-turn.  The male tries to impress females with this dramatic display, and the female frightens territorial intruders with the same maneuver.  It is truly amazing to watch, very dramatic, very powerful. Quite self absorbed and demanding his own way, he often finds himself alone, sadly sipping sugar and probably wondering why he has no friends.

My particular Allen perches on a Bird of Paradise leaf near his favorite feeder.  He sits there all day, all puffed up, just waiting for someone to come near. When another hummer comes near, he lashes out, and chases them away.  The only neighborhood bird who can match his bossiness is the oriole. When the oriole comes in for a sugar fix, the Allen stays put, not wanting a fight with the magnificent yellow and black oriole.

There he sits.  All day.  Alone. Maybe not even realizing that the reason he is alone is because he chases everyone away.  Sadly, he may even think he is somehow helping the other hummers to behave appropriately by pointing out their faults to them. He is the only hummer I have witnessed actually open his mouth wide in an aggressive manner at another hummer. Literally dozens of other hummers are enjoying each other’s company and sharing nicely at the other feeders. Not so for the lonely aloof Allen. He is opening his beak and spewing accusations and slurs at anyone who draws near to him.  Sorry, Allen, you’re not much fun to be around.

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Of course, I cannot begin to understand the motive behind the Allen’s behavior, but if he were human, my guess would be it’s all about control. He wants to control who comes and goes, and which hummers get to feed together and which hummers are rejected. He wants to control the feeding times and habits of all the birds because, clearly, he owns the patent on sugar control and others-control.  But not self-control.

Galations 5:22-23 says: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” SELF- control.  Not others-control, not spouse-control, not friend-control, not colleague-control.  Get the picture? Once we get a grasp on the SELF-control part, everything else falls into place.

Let go.  Let God.  Be nice.  Be considerate. Love others.  Don’t demand your own way.  Love suffers (is patient) for a long time.  True love puts up with people who would be easier to give up on.  That means, don’t be an Allen and chase them away.  Be like the Anna and love them regardless of their differing opinion or way of thinking.

Let’s take a minute to go back and replay some past conversations in our minds.  Replay a recent conversation with your spouse.  A child.  A family member.  A friend.  A co-worker.  Do you like what you hear? Are you OK with that? Did you speak love? Lovingly? Selfishly? Demanding your own way? Consider for a moment all of your current relationships.  Are they filled with conflict? Do you have conflict at home, at work, in your neighborhood, within your extended family, with your friends?  If so, what’s the common denominator? What one thing does all of your conflict have in common?  Is it you? Wouldn’t it be nice if that conflict was gone? Let it go!

We are called to be salt and light to this world, in order to do that, we must represent Jesus well!  To represent Jesus well, we must LOVE God and LOVE others. Listen to the words you use to respond to those who visit your feeder.  How do you sound?  What do you say? Do you sound loving and kind? If not, it’s time for a heart check up. When we speak love, not only do we represent Jesus well, but we have JOY! Our hearts are happy and produce good things!  The words that come out of our mouth indicate what is in our heart.

Luke 6:45 “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Love does not envy.  If our love is truly directed toward others, we will rejoice in the blessings they receive rather than allowing it to annoy us.  In fact true love does not seek it’s own way, rather love makes a way for others. If we truly love others, we will set aside our own plans, agendas, comfort zones, and so called entitlements for the good of another.

Love is not provoked.  That is, love is not easily angered or overly-sensitive.  When we love without expectation, we are seldom disappointed.  When we love with the requirement of expectations, oh man, what disappointment awaits. Love means being like the Anna, and graciously sharing our sugar-hole with those who God brings into our lives.img_1794

Are you like the Anna? Are you graciously sharing your love,  your time, your gifts and your spot at the sugar-hole? Or are you like the Allen, arrogantly judging and ridiculing those who enter the spaces of your life; allowing the root of bitterness and discontent to take root in your heart?  How do you react to your spouse when they make a decision you don’t agree with?  How do you treat your parents when you don’t see eye to eye? How do you treat your children when they misbehave? How do your treat your adult children when they choose a path of which you disapprove? How do you respond to your friends who don’t agree with your point of view?  Are you going to drive them away like the Allen, aggressively opening wide your beak and spewing ugliness at them? Do you continue to educate others about their many faults, knocking them to the ground with the log in your eye while pointing out the speck in theirs? Or do you speak love and invite them to your table like the Anna?  Just asking.

There may be people who cross our paths whom we would be better off avoiding. Maybe they are abusive, or just mean, and it’s not healthy for us to spend time around them.  That’s OK, we are not required to be BFF’s with everyone.  It’s like this: your neighbor has a dog.  You want to make friends with the dog, so you put your hand over the fence to pet it.  The dog bites you.  You never have to put your hand over that fence again!  BUT, you can’t walk by and kick dirt at the dog, or throw rocks at it.  You can, however, walk away, and never be in contact with that dog again.

Lord, help me to be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove as I seek to re-gift the wonderful gift of love you have bestowed upon me. Teach me to be a good steward with such a valuable gift, while still being generous with it.  Help me to see others through the lens of Jesus Christ, not through the lens of my selfish ways.  Forgive me for the times when I have behaved like the Allen hummingbird, and help me to be more like the Anna.  Thanks for putting up with me and my miserable ways.  Without You, I would be doomed to be like the Allen.   I love You and Praise You, my Lord and Savior, my God and Father.

The Love of God in a Sheep’s Pen

Years ago, I heard a story about life and death on a little sheep ranch in Barstow, California. It’s a wonderful story, albeit bittersweet, and although I have not been able to confirm the facts, I want to share the story with you. Grab a cup of something you love, sit down and enjoy.

Once upon a time, on a sheep ranch in Barstow, little lambs were being born. The ewes were sniffing and nudging and cleaning their newborn lambs, and the lambs were awkwardly getting up on their spindly legs and looking for the milk they could smell on their mama’s warm belly. Funny how babies are born with the innate knowledge of who their mama is and instinctively cling to her and suckle from her. As well, a mama recognizes the scent of her own baby the moment he is born.

Rows of pens, each with a ewe and her newborn, were in a covered barn protecting the sheep from the brutal desert sun and the frosty desert mornings. Day by day the baby lambs were getting stronger and bigger and were almost strong enough to venture outside of their sheltered pens and explore the ranch.

The ranch hands were busy checking each pen and assessing whether or not the mama and baby were ready to go outside when they discovered a ewe loudly crying over the still body of her baby lamb. The ranch hand quickly entered the pen and checked the little lamb for signs of life. Sadly, the baby was dead, and could not be revived. The ewe was frantic with grief and inconsolable. The ranch hand gathered the baby up in his arms and removed him from the grieving mama. Her wailing was non stop, and could be heard throughout the ranch.

Several pens down the row, another ranch hand made a similar sad discovery. In the back of the pen lay a shivering, weak and severely dehydrated baby lamb, snuggled into the now cold belly of his dead mama. The ranch hand removed the body of the poor dead mama, and cradled the orphaned lamb in his arms. He took the baby to the nursery and prepared a bottle for him. The little baby was so weak he was not able to suckle more than a drop or two. The ranch hand put the baby in an incubator to get his temperature up to normal hoping that would help the little lamb to be able to take the bottle. If not, the baby would surely die.

This sheep ranch now had a sickly orphan without a mama; and a grieving mama without a baby. Seemed like a perfect match! They needed each other! A plan was formulated to introduce the two and pray for mother nature to work her magic.

Later in the evening, the grieving mama was placed in a neutral pen, one that did not have the scent of any other sheep or animal. There was fresh water and food. This pen was in the 1st class section of the barn, an upgrade from the maternity ward. After she acclimated a bit to her new pen, a ranch hand came in to the pen with her and sat down. In his arms lay the little orphaned lamb. He was getting weaker by the minute, and would not live much longer if this plan didn’t work.

Every ranch hand on the ranch was gathered near by, but out of sight. Watching silently, waiting hopefully, to see if this would be successful. A match made in heaven! The grieving ewe came over to see the baby and sniff him. She sniffed and nudged him right out of the ranch hand’s arms onto the straw floor of the pen! She was frantically checking and sniffing every inch of that little lamb, rolling his tiny body on the straw bed. She was searching for any sign or scent that would identify him as hers. The ranch hand took his queue from the ewe, and quietly and slowly left the pen, leaving them alone, and joined the rest of the staff out of sight. Like children watching for Santa, the staff watched the mama and orphan, hoping and praying for them to bond.

After what seemed like an eternity, the mama lifted her head from sniffing the baby, turned her back on him and walked away. She resumed her despondent wailing by the gate; wanting out, wanting to be away from this strange baby, wanting to find her baby. Her teats were painfully full of milk, and she wanted to nurse her baby.

The staff and ranch hands were baffled! They had been certain their plan would work! Then one seasoned old hand said this: “She doesn’t recognize him. She doesn’t know his scent. She knows the scent of her baby. She won’t be appeased by any other essence other than the one she shares with her baby.” Then he walked away.

When he came back, he was holding the freshly skinned coat of the sweet little dead lamb. Without a word, the seasoned old ranch hand entered the pen and walked straight to the orphaned baby. He placed the coat of the dead lamb on the back of the orphaned lamb and secured it there. He placed the coat, this precious sacrifice, blood-side down on the orphan’s back. Carefully, he picked up the orphan, now covered in the coat of the dead lamb, and placed him under the grieving mama.

Immediately, the mama recognized the scent of her beloved and sniffed and nudged him to her teat where he latched on and enjoyed the life saving milk from his new mama. The ranch hands celebrated with hugs and silent high fives, then quietly left the barn so the new little family could continue to bond.

What a beautiful picture of atonement. At-one-ment. The reconciliation of God and humankind through Jesus Christ. But why, exactly, do we have to be reconciled to God?

When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, it resulted in separation of humankind from God. Like the separation of the ewe from her baby.

But God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life”. John 3:16

God allowed His son to die on the cross so that we could “atone” or be made “at one” with Him! Jesus’ death on the cross provided for us His essence, the only essence that God recognizes as His own! He loves us so much that He provided the covering for us, He cloaked us with His own essence through the death and resurrection of His only son! He “at one-ed” us with Him! He loves YOU so much that all you have to do is believe in Him and His son, Jesus Christ, and He will recognize you as HIS! He will call you His own child!

“I am the good shepherd: and I know My sheep, and I am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so, I know the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15

“To all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” 1 John 1:12

There it is. That’s it. That’s the love of God in a sheep’s pen.

DON’T BE THE FLY!

Sitting in the back yard I noticed something very strange. There was a lizard sitting on a piece of dog poop, seemingly sunning himself. I almost didn’t see him there, lounging on the fecal matter. He was very camouflaged and the only reason I noticed him was that he was doing little lizard push-ups while sunning himself. I watched him for awhile and thought about how dumb he was! In a yard full of grass, sand, rocks, walls to climb, trees to lounge in, he chose to place his little body directly on top of a pile of . . . . well, you get the picture. Why? I asked myself, and, I can’t lie, I might have asked him too, why would a lizard choose to perch himself there, in the absolutely worst part of the yard? Then it happened.

A fly was circling the poop and coming in for a landing. The lizard saw the fly and immediately quit his current set of poo-poo-push-ups. Slowly and deliberately, he lowered himself into the poop making himself virtually invisible to the incoming fly.

The fly never saw what hit him! The lizard’s tongue appeared out of nowhere and snatched the fly right out of the air just inches from his landing spot on the poop. GENIUS! That lizard was genius! He knew that if he waited patiently in an area that would attract his victim, surely his victim would come. He was right, the fly came.

Flies love poop. I don’t know why. But that’s something I want to get to the bottom of (no pun intended.) I mean, you have to agree this is fascinating stuff! The dog poops, the lizard does push-ups on the poop, the fly comes to the poop, the lizard eats the fly. This is repeated until the lizard has a full belly, or until someone picks up the poop.

Poop is definitely NOT a safe place to hang out if you are a fly. Yet they can’t seem to resist it!

Clearly you would never be found sunning on poop, nor would I. But there are other things: people and places; that are potentially dangerous poop piles for us. In fact, co-workers, neighbors, friends and other people with whom we come in contact on a daily basis may lead us to a proverbial pile of poop where satan sits; patiently waiting for us to circle over and come in for a landing.

Make no mistake, if we attempt to land there, he, satan, and/or his minions will strike. satan would like nothing more than to make a meal out of you, a precious child of God – even if it means waiting in a nasty pile of defecated matter for a long period of time. To satan, it is worth the wait, it is worth the stench. The soul of one of God’s children is a great reward for the evil piece of . . . . . well, you get the picture, I do not need to be vulgar, right?

Psalm 1:1 “Blessed is the man who WALKS NOT in the counsel of the ungodly, NOR STANDS in the path of sinners, NOR SITS in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.”

According to the Nelson Study Bible, the parallelism in this section of scripture speaks of an increasingly deeper involvement with wickedness; “walking beside,” “stand with,” “sitting beside.” When we walk, stand and sit with evil, we will end up in his bed. The contrast is strong, instead of finding enjoyment in walking, standing or sitting with wicked persons, we must find our deep enjoyment in the things of God, particularly the Word of God.

Clearly, we are not to walk, stand or sit anywhere near the the lusts of the world; and most certainly, we should never circle and come in for a landing. Please recognize that the pile in your yard (life) may look and smell much different than dog poop, but the same spiritual danger lurks there. Make no mistake, if you or I choose the poop, the vile lizard from hell will snatch us up and never look back.

1 Peter 5:8-9 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”

James 4:7 “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Where does satan wait and watch for you? What lures and attracts you? What beckons you to walk, stand and sit with it? What is it? Drugs? Alcohol? Gambling? Hatred? Fear? Jealousy? Unforgiveness? Porn? What is it? Is it misuse of social media? Is it an eating disorder or improper view of your self image? What is it? Whatever it is, know this, satan lurks there, in full camo, waiting patiently for you to circle and come in for a landing. But before you can even touch ground, he will devour you, and you will be his.

Don’t be that guy, don’t be the fly! Don’t walk, stand or sit with the enemy. Rather, consider this: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper.” Psalm 1:2-3

SOOOOOOOO much better than being eaten by the poopy-push-up lizard, right?

A true friend will expect godliness from you; no, wait, a true friend will DEMAND godliness from you and settle for nothing less. If you have something or someone in your life who is luring you to a pile of poop, that person is NOT your friend. That person DOES NOT have your best interest at heart. That person is a liar and a fraud, that person is the lizard lying in wait on fecal matter.

If it LOOKS like dog poop, and it SMELLS like dog poop, DON’T TASTE IT; it IS dog poop! Just say “NO!” Don’t walk, stand or sit . . .RUN!

Dear Lord, please help me to recognize the dangerous areas of my life. Help me to identify them and avoid them. Remind me to find my deep enjoyment in the things of You, particularly Your precious Word. Remind me to hide Your Word in my heart, where I can quickly and easily find it when I am faced with raunchy satanic excrement. Please Lord, guard and guide me to be influenced by the Holy Spirit, not the world. Help me to draw near to You, and You to me. I love you!

Disclaimer:
No living creatures were injured or eaten during the writing of this blog. I mean, a fly was eaten during my research, but . . .

I purposely do not capitalize the name of satan, the great deceiver. Not sure why, I guess I feel he just doesn’t deserve the recognition.

HELP! I NEED PANCAKES!

My dogs smell like Maple Syrup. My house smells like Maple Syrup. All. The. Time. If not all the time, at least much of the time. Not that I mind, I LOVE Maple Syrup! Warm Maple Syrup poured over my pancakes makes me happy. Very happy!

For the longest time, we could not figure out why our dogs smelled so delicious! My son finally googled “Why does my dog smell like Maple Syrup?” and got to the bottom of the mystery! A local herb in our yard, known as Pseudognaphalium californicum (Cudweed) was the culprit.

“Pseudognaphalium californicum is an annual or biennial herb growing a branching stem reaching 20 to 80 centimeters in height. Stem branches bear linear to somewhat lance-shaped leaves 2 to 20 centimeters long. The green herbage is glandular and scented. The leaves produce a distinctive aroma like maple syrup. The inflorescence is a wide cluster of flower heads, each enveloped in an involucre of rows of bright white phyllaries.”

Cudweed has a pretty flower, is edible, medicinal and well, smells great! Cudweed is a main food source to the Painted Lady Butterfly as well, and our yard was one of the stops those beauties made on their recent migration! There are so many fabulous things about having Cudweed growing in the yard! What I find interesting, though, is how its fragrance rubs off on my dogs, who come into the house and make me crave pancakes! Recently my Mobile Vet paid a call and said she smelled like Maple Syrup and craved pancakes for the rest of the day after visiting our little cottage!

It’s interesting to me how our surroundings can impact us so. We may actually smell like a specific environment in which we spend time. Many years ago I worked at McDonald’s, and I smelled like greasy fries until my next shower! We absorb what we immerse ourselves in and begin to smell like it, and then we start stinking up those we love, and places we go. I had a friend who drank so much Kombucha Tea, the smell was literally coming out of his pores!

The moral of the story is this: be very careful where you go, be mindful of what you absorb. Be aware of the influence you are having on those you love.  People come to my little cottage and crave pancakes! They feel warm fuzzy’s as they breathe in the wonderful Maple Syrup fragrance, and they want to come back! They tell their friends and family about the little cottage that smells like Maple Syrup!

This is all fine and good, but I want people who come to Calmin Cottage, or otherwise spend time around me to crave Jesus! I want them to feel warm fuzzy’s as they breathe in the wonderful essence of God’s unfathomable love! I want them to tell their friends and family about the little cottage that smells like Jesus! That means I am going to have to walk uprightly, on the paths He puts before me! Paths that take me through fragrant fields of His unconditional love and immeasurable grace! Paths that take me toward Him, soaking up the fragrance of Him, and far away from the vile odors of this world. Paths that lead me to a place where I absorb only Him; to the point of His essence coming out of my pores.

I want to be like the character Pig Pen in the Charlie Brown movies.


But rather than leaving a trail of dirt and dust wherever I go, I want to leave a trail of God’s unending mercy, grace, love and, well . . . maybe a little Maple Syrup.

What is the essence people get from being around you? What are others absorbing as a result of being around you? Are you giving off the the sweet aroma of God’s love? Or are you passing on the pungent smell of hatred, bitterness, arrogance, jealousy, worry or fear? If your essence is not that of the Lord’s, then you are walking on the wrong path.  Any path that leads you away from your Heavenly Father is dangerous indeed.

Proverbs 3:5,6  ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”  

Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

Let God lead you through the sweet and fragrant paths He has intended for you and be blessed!

Can we eat some pancakes now?

appetizing bread breakfast close up
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Filters and Fig Leaves: I’m a Fake and Your a Phony

Not long ago, I received a “friend request” from an old friend whom I had not seen in years. We had been in contact through social media over the past few years, and I was impressed with how well she had aged. She was aging with grace, to be sure. As a matter of fact, I think the social media images of her are much more attractive than how I remember her from High School! Oh to be like her and get better with age! She invited me to meet her for lunch. I can’t lie, that sounded terrible to me, because she looks 30, and I look, well, I don’t look 30.

I may not be aging as gracefully as she is, however, I have become a near expert at figuring out exactly how to hold my phone camera to take an appropriate selfie! If I hold my arm up this high and take the picture from exactly this angle, with the camera looking down at my face, it hides, or at least somewhat minimizes my pesky double chin. It also seems to thin out my face a little and take some texture off the noticeable crows feet poking out from the corners of my eyes. Then, if I apply certain filters, the puffiness of my old and tired eye lids and the unflattering bags under my eyes seem to miraculously deflate, taking years of wear and tear off my appearance! But alas and alack, it’s all an illusion.

I agreed to meet her for lunch.

When my old friend waved at me from her seat at the table for two in the restaurant where we planned to meet, I didn’t recognize her! At. All.

As I looked at the middle aged woman waving at me, my first thought was “Okay, wow, the lighting must be really bad in here!” I mean, I knew it was her because this lady was wearing a blue floral blouse, exactly like my old friend said she’d be wearing, and of course she was smiling and waving enthusiastically at me! So there’s that, but seriously, had I put the social media image of my friend side by side with the image of the woman at the table, never would I have guessed they were the same person! Never.

Not wanting to call the kettle black, I must confess that my friend was probably thinking the same thing about me! Had I not been wearing the solid fuscia blouse I’d described to her, and entered the restaurant alone, at the agreed upon time, she may not have recognized me either!

She was a fake, and I was a phony, exposed by the noticeable absence of the filters of social media! Each of us had become masters of disguise, master manipulators of our appearance, posting not-exactly-accurate images of the truth.

Not-exactly-accurate” can also be translated . . . LIE.

Of course we all want to represent ourselves the best we can, but, we need to represent ourselves honestly. That’s not to say we can’t take extra measures to look our best, after all, as my pastor once said, “If the barn needs painting, paint it!” So applying some makeup and styling our hair etc. is not bad, in fact, it’s good! It makes us feel better about how we are representing ourselves to the general public and our friends and family, and, well, let’s face it, it makes them feel better too! We should definitely take pride in our physical appearance, but what about our spiritual appearance?

We need to be mindful of the spiritual appearance we are presenting. C.S. Lewis said; “When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the out side world.” We must take measures daily to insure that our spiritual appearance is one that will honor God, and draw attention to Him, not us!

If we are covering our sin-appearance with filters, using smoke and mirrors to convince our friends and families that we have achieved a certain level of spirituality, we are in big trouble. We may be fooling them – probably not; we may even be fooling ourselves – not likely; but one thing is for certain, we are NOT fooling God! God is immune to the illusion of filters, and He sees deep down to the depths of our soul. No filter or fig leaf can keep God from seeing the truth.

When we walk in to the throne room of God with a filter of good works, or a fig leaf of kind deeds covering our wickedness, God sees right through. He will look at us and say, “Good job with the works and stuff, but this I have against you . . . you have forgotten your First Love, ME. You’ve made it about appearances. You’re using filters and fig leaves instead of my Word. You’ve made it about YOU, instead of ME.”

Scripture tells us “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). No sin, not even a whispered curse or a fleeting evil thought is hidden from the view of God. In fact, if we realized that God Himself is the only audience for such secret sins, we might be less inclined to hide them under the useless cover of a filter.

When I walked in to the restaurant to meet my old friend, I saw through her filters and she saw through mine. We hugged, and enjoyed lunch together. By the end of our time together, the filters had come off, our wrinkles and crows feet where exposed, and we truly saw each other for the first time in 40 years, no illusions, no filter, no fig leaf.

I must say, she is stunning. As am I.