December 13, 2011

Special Delivery

With Christmas shockingly near, maybe you've been cramming with online shopping as I have. The UPS trucks in the neighborhood confirm I'm not the only one! Inspired by our usual UPS driver I have a "brown" devotion on Internet Cafe Devotions today. Happy Christmas!
…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, NIV)
Tess, my yellow lab, hears it before I do and runs to the window barking. Her response is more urgent than the usual ruckus aimed at dog walkers and taunting squirrels. This is a full-blown, red-alert, “Hurry! Let me out! It’s time!”
I read her obvious signals and drop what I’m doing to open the door.

Tess runs to the edge of the yard and sits patiently. She waits hyper-alert and expectant. Her tail quivers with excitement. Her head cocks as she listens intently. As the familiar rumble gets nearer and the target appears in view, she barks frantically, “Over here! Over here! Over here!”
See, every afternoon the UPS truck comes into our neighborhood. Personally I think the daily arrival of the big brown truck is fairly exciting because it means something fun could be on its way to me—like a book or clothes I ordered, or even a present.

But to Tess, our UPS driver brings something waaaaay better than packages. He brings dog bones.

And every day—whether he has a delivery for us or not—this driver stops at our house to give Tess a Milk Bone. The other day he even backed down the street because he wasn’t turning our way and didn’t want to overlook his furry, frantic friend.

This routine makes Tess so happy and it tickles my heart as well. The man’s kind gesture is a bright spot in my day. Now I too look forward to his daily visit.

More than that, his example shows me how a simple yet faithful act of kindness can make a big impact. Something we may brush off as “no big deal” can encourage someone just at the moment they need encouraging, or lift their spirits just when they need lifting.  <Read more...>

December 8, 2011

Awesome Sauce

This devotion got lost in the Thanksgiving festivities at Internet Cafe Devotions so I'm offering it as a second helping. Admittedly it's not very Christmas-y, but the message is a tasty treat any time of year. 

At the end of October my spindly tomato plants gasped their last breath. The tomatoes’ cracked skins, rot and dark spots told of the ravages from too much rain, cooler temperatures and lessening sunlight.

Although they’d be rejects at any produce market, I picked what I could and brought my battered harvest inside. Since they didn’t look appealing to slice and eat, I decided to make sauce.

I concocted a simple recipe, added the chopped tomatoes, and left the sauce to simmer for a long time. When the time seemed right, I nervously took a taste.

I was amazed! The sauce was awesome—nuanced, sweet and delicious! It shouted, “Blasphemer!” to the jarred sauce in my pantry. I marveled at how a bowl of ugly, half-rotting tomatoes became something so magnificent.

Sometimes I feel like one of those late season tomatoes--overwhelmed by imperfections, cracks and flaws. I feel battered by bad habits, rejection, insecurities and the lies of the enemy. Certainly God, you’d rather choose someone more perfect and appealing.

But I know in my heart this isn’t the way God sees me. Or any of His children.

During His ministry, Jesus’ went out of His way to find the “bad fruit”—like Samaritans, prostitutes, adulterers, lepers and tax collectors. Those who’d been stamped “unacceptable” by society, He gathered them close to forgive, teach, heal and love. It was to the most flawed and the most unlikely that Jesus revealed His Truth and amazing grace.

When the grade A fruit—the Pharisees—asked Jesus why he wasted His time with the rejects He answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

My translation says: “I have not come to pick the reddest and most perfect fruit; I’ve come to gather the bruised, rotting and broken to make something glorious with them.”

Jesus says this to me and He says it to you.

Maybe you feel like you’re less than perfect. That you’re more bad fruit than good. That you belong in the compost pile. Know that this is where our Savior does His greatest work. His grace redeems our spots, cracks and rot. His strength makes our weakness perfect.

Where we see ugliness, God sees beauty. Where we see failure, He sees possibility. Where we see flaws, He sees perfection.
But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV)
Just as a pot of half-rotting tomatoes simmered over a flame was transformed into magnificent sauce, our broken, sin-filled lives refined by the fire of the Holy Spirit are transformed into glorious new creations.

That is Awesome Sauce!