Friday, December 19, 2014

PSALM 147 - What To Do With a Broken Heart

The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names. Great is our God and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure. The Lord lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked to the ground.   (Verses 2-6)

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion--to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.  Isaiah 61

Broken hearted? Ever? Jesus came to wrap wounded hearts in healing, binding the wounds for protection against infection. Broken in Hebrew is shavar. It literally means to burst, to break into pieces, wreck, crush, smash, to rend or tear into pieces. That's quite the train wreck!

Jesus went to Nazareth, where He grew up in the household of Mary and Joseph, played with his half-brothers, James and Jude. He strode one Sabbath into the synagogue where He'd gone each Sabbath all of his young life. Because by that time Jesus had done miracles the hometown crowd heard of, particularly in Capernaum, there was a larger than usual crowd that day when Jesus took a seat. When He stood up to read from Scripture, the elders handed Jesus the book of Isaiah. Jesus rolled the scroll down to Isaiah 61 and read, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me..." Then He rolled the scroll up again, handed it to the synagogue attendant and sat down. No further comments. Everyone stared at Jesus. No one spoke. Breathless with anticipation that Jesus would do some miracle, the congregation waited for Him to perform as He'd done elsewhere.

"Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." And they waited again. Waited for Him to go on.

Though the people marveled at the gracious words he spoke, they didn't understand that He was saying, "I am Messiah Who will heal and deliver you; turn your ashes to joy and bind your broken heart." This is Joseph's boy..."Do some miracles here, like you did in Capernaum!" Perform!

Jesus didn't do anything in Nazareth that day. His mission was to come to those who know they are broken. Shattered to pieces, wrecked, crushed, smashed by life and in need of God's love. It's not God's plan to come into the world to perform magic acts to make us wonder. Jesus was serious about taking our carnage and saving us from the addictions that imprison us. He was, and is, intentional about our hearts. We are to be more in wonder of the fact that He can take our brokenness and bandage it with the salve of His love than that the blind can see. Because, really, those of us who know what it means to be undone by the rending in two of our hearts, know that healing is as real as the lame walking and the deaf hearing. The impossibility of the pain we experience when life breaks us in two is at the root of all addictions--the captor that takes us bound into despair. Our broken hearts are the necessary place to start if we will ever know true freedom--physical or spiritual. Jesus didn't do any miracles in Nazareth because they didn't get it, and He wouldn't waste it.

When you think about it, the One Who knows the names of all the stars and the numbers of hairs on our heads, came to Mary the way all of us come into the world. Jesus knew us by name, created Mary to be His mother, chose Joseph to be his stepfather. Knew everyone in Nazareth before they were born yet, looked them in the eyes that morning in the synagogue and chose them as the people to whom He'd proclaim His mission, knowing they would only be able to see Him as Joseph's boy. Jesus knows us that way, too. Proclaims to us salvation by His blood and our release from the bondage of sin by His resurrection. Then He sits down again at the right hand of the throne of the Father (Hebrews 12:2) and looks into our eyes, waiting to see what we will do with Him.

Jesus specializes in brokenness. What breaks our hearts breaks His. It's why He chose to come to the manger. To get up close and personal with the things that make our lives quake with fear and our hearts lose all hope. To touch our leprosy because in our healing we see His love. To turn to the ones who just need to touch His garment and pronounce to them that their faith has made them well. To call a criminal down from a tree and eat at his house that day because Jesus knew the little man was a crook whose heart ached for more. To reach out from His own execution to a thief beside Him and declare the man saved forever because, in his wretched state, the criminal knew Who Jesus was. Our Savior doesn't pretend. Though by His Word the light show that twinkles every night in the heavens came into being, Jesus didn't come to Earth to entertain us with His tricks. No! He came because we are often torn in two, sitting amidst the ashes of our mourning, hopeless and helpless to get up and live. Expect the miraculous from the One Whom the Spirit of the Lord is upon when you cry out to Him for the dressing of your wounds. Though God won't hear the proud, He can't resist the cries of those who need Him. For those who know the train wreck their lives have become and know they need a Savior, God's understands it all. Knows how to fix it. And has omnipotent power to intervene in any way He choses to restore and protect those humble enough to ask.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

PSALM 146 - Who Will Save Us?

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. (Verses 3-4)

Will Obama save the United States from ruin? Will the GOP? Is government our ultimate redemption? Probably not. Very marginalized people run our countries, states and cities, because, let's face it, we are all pretty imperfect. Putting our lives in the hands of politicians or princes is necessary for our earthly day to day, but to expect them to change our hearts is another thing altogether. They can't make us loves each other; in fact, the opposite is generally true. Government smacks of partisanship and cronyism. If our world ever is going to change, it will be because each individual in it has changed. Great leaders die. Napoleon, Hitler, Churchill, JFK...They are vulnerable to the same things the rest of us are. A man on his way to the gallows can't save me in my cell.

And we need to be saved from more than the Taliban or ISIL. We need to be saved from ourselves. That salvation isn't political. It governs our own microcosm--the interior and exterior world that is our particular sphere. Me. If I can't intentional control my actions and reactions, no one else can. What God knows is that we need a salvation that doesn't die with the One Who brings it. So, He chose a baby boy. The Son of Man and Son of God. Impregnated by the Holy Spirit a teenage girl named Mary. Took her and the man to whom she was betrothed to Bethlehem on a cold winter night so that He could be born the Lamb of God in a manger. God can do that. Step into the world He created. It shouldn't shock us or make us think it mere myth. Kings and princes hadn't dealt with the real issues men and women have: their dark hearts. God knew we needed to be saved from ourselves.

The Jewish people thought from their interpretation of the Old Testament that the Messiah would be a king. An earthly ruler who would deliver them from the government that so enslaved them. That the Chosen One would shepherd them with a scepter and robe. So Who was this homeless prophet wandering the streets of Jerusalem and preaching by the Sea of Galilee? Who was He to forgive sin, to heal the blind and raise the dead? Why was this One touching the unclean and whipping the crooks for overcharging congregants for their sacrifices on the temple steps? They hated him for telling them their hearts were unclean though they looked all white-washed and perfect on the outside. But the people wouldn't give up the idea He was an earthly prince. They met Him at the beginning of Passover with a wreath of crowns and a donkey, praising Him. Hosanna! Hosanna! By the end of the week, they'd cry: "Crucify Him. Crucify Him!" He isn't what we thought.

Of course they didn't know. Know that Messiah was a Lamb, the sacrifice for His own Passover. Too close to the picture to stand back and see the lambs through the ages all pointed to this perfect One. Too short-sighted to remember the King was born in a manger in order to save them from the tyranny of their own sinfulness. This sovereign, though He came by womb to Earth, did not see His plans die with Him. His death was part of the plan. Jesus got up. Up out of the tomb, alive! The only prince to ever plant His seed in the ground and have it reap salvation. This King breathed His last earthly breath only to return and breathe new life into us. There is a kingdom Jesus rules today. It is here and it is there. We who are its citizens have the King's seal on our hearts, the Kings blood in our veins. We are not called to change the politics of this world. We are called to be princes and princesses here, ambassadors of the eternal realm where our Salvation rules and reigns. Our trust not in an earthly prince but in an eternal King.


Monday, December 15, 2014

PSALM 146 - Awakened by a Very Loud Song!

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.  (Verses 1-2)

Yet You are holy, enthroned upon the praises (worship) of Your people.  Psalm 22:3

I was awake in the night on Saturday as it turned into Sunday morning. It wasn't that things were weighing on my heart, it was that this song kept playing over and over in my spirit until it awakened me. My soul singing, I think. Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me...Over and over again. Louder and louder until I heard it and woke up. I lay there in surround sound soaking in the truth that I am loved...SO the God Who is my Father. I wished to look at Him...If I could only see Your face. It prompted this conversation with God about why He made it so that we must worship Him here, on Earth, while we have our being, in a very non-human, a-physical way. It's all interior--a matter of the spirit and soul. I don't discount that, though, because my interior, the soul and spirit that drive my actions and thoughts, is just as real as my body.

The woman by the well at Sychar was a Samaritan. A sinner to such a degree that the righteous women living in her town made her draw her water from the local well at noon so that they could avoid her unclean lifestyle. Married five times before, now simply living with a guy she hadn't bothered to marry, the woman was a pariah in the community. To this woman Jesus said: "I am He, your Messiah." The first pronouncement of His deity. There was an argument about religion between them. She thinking she'd defray her sinfulness with theology. But Jesus knew her. All about her. "Those who truly worship God, worship Him in Spirit and in Truth." We don't change from the outside in. It's not the plan. Jesus wanted a conversation with the Samaritan woman's heart, with the inner woman who so needed a different god--one not attached to some man--to live within her. Our needs are rarely all about the physical things we find ourselves doing. Knowing God is knowing Him because He invades our spirit with His. It's the way we come to know Him, and it's there God dwells. We are a living tabernacle in which the God of All sits enthroned.

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with One seated on the throne. And He Who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald...From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire (Revelation 4). Before this glory are living beings praising God constantly: "Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created (vs. 11)." A bit of what is going on in heaven resides in me. Far-off homage coming near. Stirring me up to worship with those in heaven who see Him now. I couldn't adequately worship God with my physical body, although my devotion to Him should make my life an act of worship. Obedience out of reciprocated love. There is something within those of us who know Him that yearns to be engulfed in emerald splendor amidst the flashes of lightning and the claps of thunder. Worship brings me there and my God here.

It's no wonder God comes near to those who join with heavenly beings in acts of worship. He doesn't show up because it feeds His ego to hear us praise His name. God comes near because our spirit is joined together with His in eternal unity. He hears, from His throne, the familiar strains of worship borne of love--spirit to Spirit. When I awoke on Saturday with my heart singing so loudly, I thought of Zephaniah 3:17: The Lord your God is in your midst, a Mighty One Who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet You with His love; He will exult over you with loud singing. Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

PSALM 145 - God is Watching You

The Lord preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless His holy name forever and forever.
(Verses 20-21)

"Behold! I am the Lord, the God of all flesh! Is there anything too hard for me?"
Jeremiah 32:27

 It is really an impossible thought that the God Who hovered over the atmosphere even before there was primordial slime or even the slightest glimmer of a star would deign to step onto a tiny planet that exists in obscurity among the billions and billions of galaxies that He imagined before He placed a tiny dot into nothingness and it blew up into the observable and unobservable universe. God is so big that He stands apart from time and space and looks down onto the massive creation that spans millions of light years. And God is watching. What is He looking for? Those who will love Him.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (1 Peter 3:12). God is watching us. But not to do us harm. He is the Father of all who have given their hearts to Jesus. That's the only thing that makes us righteous. The omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God of All is making sure I'm okay today. Nothing in my life is too hard for Him to straighten out; nothing going on that my Father can't see. And my God promises to preserve me.

My mom used to make preserves. Strawberry was my favorite. She'd wash the fruit then slice each strawberry into several pieces. Into boiling water they'd go where they simmered for several minutes, filling the house with their scent. Then she added lemon juice and sugar and make the pot boil until the strawberry mixture was thick and bubbly. After the jam cooled, Mother scraped off the film that formed on the top and poured the syrupy red goo into mason jars and sealed their lids tightly. And that is what made them preserves. They were set aside and kept for later.

Because I love my God, He is keeping me, preserving my current life and saving me for later. I can't get the picture out of my mind that my Father has put His hand on my head and guided me to a position behind His back, like an earthly father would when he is protecting a child from a dangerous dog or approaching traffic. It's a protective stance. Let Daddy deal with this. Only this Abba is in control of everything, everywhere and has the power to do extraordinarily more than I can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). Because God is goodness, is holiness, is justice, the wicked need to watch out! Those who continually set their faces against Him will know God's wrath. That's fair. For those who rail against God for being mean, I have a question: Would you prefer justice or mercy? We are all pretty self-centered and prideful. We all screw up. Fall down. Make messes. Do we want God to give us what we deserve for the things we do wrong, or would we rather have Him give us the grace to get up and try again? If we reject Jesus, the miraculous provision for our entry into God's family, we don't have anything left. God gave us the ultimate, out-of-the-box, nothing-is-too-hard-for-Me answer to our deepest need. Born to a virgin in a stable in Bethlehem. Come from eternity into time and space to wear flesh and bare it to His executioners. Preserved in the grave, the Spirit Who was the force behind creation called Jesus up from death to return to eternal life. If the story sounds far fetched, it is. But so is the big bang. The very stars we gaze upon every night blasted out into what was nothing, the spontaneous combustion of a dot smaller than a period. That God can do whatever. Whenever. Forever. Parting the Red Sea. Raining manna from heaven. Healing a man born blind. Raising a dead child from his funeral bier. Telling the lame to get up and walk. Purchasing my forgiveness with His own death. God thinks out of the box! If you doubt the truth of the story the Bible tells, your thoughts are way too small.

One day the Lord will destroy wickedness forever. For now we live with it, but don't have to succumb to its perversions. All flesh, everything with a beating heart, is precious to God. It is precious to me that my Father is looking for those who will to love Him. Why would anyone say no? Choose even the mundane, forget the wicked, over a relationship with the most powerful and loving force anywhere? For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him (2 Chronicles 16:9). I want my Father's eyes to rest on me today. He's looking for us so that He can be our strength. I will bless His name forever and forever. I love you, Abba.


Monday, December 8, 2014

PSALM 145 - Is Anyone Always Right, All The Time?

The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all Who call on Him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him; He also hears their cry and saves them.   (Verses 17-19)

God is always right. That goes against our fallen nature. We butt up against His being right about everything all the time with a mutinous desire to "do it our way." It's like deciding to build a Mercedes Benz without the plans for where every bolt and screw goes. Because, Hey, we know what one looks like! Or believing, without blueprints, we could erect a safe, sturdy and beautiful home. We know what we want, so we go to Home Depot and buy the stuff we need. It couldn't be that hard. If we aren't already designers and architects, we aren't going to create squat. Same with our lives.

Why does it disturb us so that God is always right? He doesn't flaunt it. It is simply a fact of Who He is. And why wouldn't God always know the right and good way As the mastermind of all that is, He best knows how it works and what our place is in this particular time and place. God has compared it to a lump of clay talking back to the potter. We can wriggle off the potter's wheel, but we will wind up a wet blob of mud on the floor somewhere. Yep. We got our own way. Good for us. If God is always right, it somehow makes us feel less. Like we don't actually control our own lives anymore. We want to make our own decisions, forge our own paths, make our own mistakes and say we did it ourselves. Smacks a bit of pride to me. It's what made Adam and Eve succumb to the same devil we listen to today. "You will be like gods." (Genesis 3) And that is what we really want deep down. Control. The ridiculous thing about our deciding to rule ourselves is that we don't do it very well. I know this. I have taken over the reins and landed in a ditch so deep our Father had to slide down a very steep bank to retrieve me. Because in His rightness, He is also kind. Most of us would leave a willful soul to pay the consequences of her own rebelliousness. I told you so! Not my Father. He is kind in all His works. Even in the toil of restoring us to Him.

I do have control. It's my choice what I do with it. I choose now, every day, to give it over to Him. I don't want it anymore. Why would I go it alone when the God of All is ready to fulfill the desires He puts within me, to hear me when I need Him, to save me when I am in trouble? The road of life is rocky enough without my having to navigate blindly every turn, every mountain, every valley. I can hold the hand of the One Who knows the way...IS the way. I'm very happy about my choice to cede control to my Father. It's not that I don't sometimes hop back into the driver's seat and get all excited about an excursion into stupidity. But at this stage in my walk with Him, I get tired of driving pretty quickly. I'd rather ride shotgun...or blow bubbles in the back seat.

The idea of being right all the time makes us mean. Take the Pharisees, for example. Jesus said of them, "You are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness (Matthew 27)." Very religious. Doing all the right things, many of which they'd made up to make the task of being right as hard as possible so that their rightness was a thing achieved by hard work. The more right they were, the more they looked down their noses at those who just didn't cut it. Hitler was right in his own mind. Stalin and Lenin, too. Worlds are toppled by causes that appear to be right. But...aren't. I know parents who put their hands over their ears, unable to hear their children because they are always right and their kids, even as adults, are wrong. That is control. And it is mean. It tells others they are not as smart as we good, or well meaning, or kind.

God's rightness is predicated on the fact that He is kind. Those of us who know Him as our Father know this about Him. Love this about Him. The fact that He is right all the time, even when everything looks all wrong, is not a thing about which we want to fight our Father, but is actually a thing that gives us comfort. I can relax a bit in circumstances that I don't understand. He "works all things together for good for those who are the called according to His purposes (Romans 8)." Though God, because He is also all-just, punishes the wicked and corrects His children when they are wrong, He isn't sitting up on a throne in heaven with a whip in His malicious hands just waiting for the world to screw up. He wouldn't have to wait long...God is patient with us because, in His kindness, He wants the world to be saved. God's kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). In my natural state, I'm not even kind to myself. So how can I be expected to do what is right for me or others if I haven't allowed the One Who knows everything to inform my life? I need rescue and wisdom. I need a guide and a Helper. I could go it alone. He gave me that choice. I control the option. But my self-made Mercedes has ended up in too many ditches and my house was about to fall apart despite my best efforts. I choose to let go of the idea that I'm always right and listen to One Who is never wrong.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

PSALM 145 - Trying to Keep It Together...

The Lord is faithful in all His words and kind in all His works. The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to You and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing.
(Verses 14-16)

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He Who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He Who keeps Israel will not slumber nor sleep.  Psalm 121

Our God is faithful in all He says and all He does.

I'm growing accustomed to having my time with the Lord in the middle of the night. There are days when I whisper a quick prayer to Him before I get out of bed, but don't spend the time I need to in His presence. My heart gets lonely. Needs refreshing. And so it wakes me up to pray. This happened last night. I realized in that time with Abba that I have many things on my mind that I often push down into my subconscious and don't deal with. It was a battle last night to grasp God's love. Satan rushed onto the scene throwing fear at me...the kind that knots my stomach. I know the enemy's ploys by now, though, and there was a palpable calm after I demanded he leave me alone in the name of Jesus. Some might think this weird, but I felt the enemy leave. In the calm that resulted, I realized I needed to intentionally trust for things beyond my control. Again.

Vanessa had a friend in high school who was very troubled. I loved her, as Vanessa did, but Heidi (not her real name) was just bad news. The high school years are not the best for many kids, and our daughter was no exception. Heidi's gothic clothing and strange habits were a real draw to Vanessa. Adopting a new persona would be an escape, I thought, from the fact that Vanessa wasn't too happy with being Vanessa. "You can't spend time with Heidi except here at our house." That was my rule. The lure of drugs and Heidi's rejection of Jesus made her relationship with Vanessa a powder keg waiting to blow. We argued about this. But, for the most part, she kept the deal. Since I taught at the same high school to which my daughters went, I knew the kids they knew. As an adult, I could see the road Heidi was going down. I had perspective Vanessa wasn't old enough or experienced enough to have cultivated. I was, in this instance, way ahead of her. My rule was for her safety. My rule was set in place because I love her. It looked mean to her. Like I was judging her friend. Against all she felt, Vanessa obeyed the rule. Heidi's life ended sadly with suicide several years later despite several attempts to draw her to Jesus.

Will was in a hard core Christian band, which means he was the drummer for a band that made very loud noise with a lead singer who screamed (literally) instead of singing. They were beating the drums, banging the guitars and screaming for Jesus. And I could often feel the Spirit of God at their concerts. But also at the shows were kids with foot long mohawks, whose bodies were covered in tattoos and piercings. So when our son, who is six feet, four inches tall, wanted his first piercing, we said no. "First of all, you would look ridiculous with an earring, Will," I reasoned. "You are a really big guy." And more importantly, "It would look, at least to your mother, like you are giving in to the world you hope to bring to Jesus." I know this is simply my opinion, so don't judge me. Will has tattoos on his back and arms. His choice. They are all about Jesus. But the earring thing was a gut feeling that a line would be crossed. Will obeyed. He didn't have to. He could have rebelled. Would the earring have plunged our son into a life of debauchery? Probably not. The point is, he was willing to listen to me and do what I asked though everyone else in the band had piercings (which they now regret because the spacers ruined their earlobes for life.)

In the years since these rules of mine, both of these children have said, "We obeyed because we loved and respected you." That's really all I had. The gift of their respect. It's what drove them to do what I asked. To trust the decisions were for their good. Because they knew I loved them and because I always try to keep my word to them. I wasn't about to let them satisfy their every whim if it meant there was a danger to them involved. I would be a horrible mother if I just let my kids do whatever.

When I read this morning, "You satisfy the desire of every living creature" I waited there for a few minutes. The verse doesn't say God gives us all our desires. It says He is our satisfaction. It is He Who satisfies our deepest longings. In Him we find our peace, not always in the decisions God makes for us. I don't always...or ever, for that matter...know what my God is doing. Why things are working out the way they are. But He does. So if my satisfaction is in Him, and I'm preaching to myself right now, then whatever He chooses, wherever He leads, I know that God is kind and His word is trustworthy. God doesn't promise that we will never falter or fail. He does promise to uphold us when we do, though. To take us through the storm, if it's not His will to take us around it. God, our Source for life...all of it, even our daily always aware of our struggles, our needs, our victories and our failures. He's also aware of where we are going, the direction we've set our faces toward, and God will be as kind as He can in taking us down the path that is best for us. We may not see it now, the confusing maze of His will, but if we trust enough to put our hand in His, take a deep breath, and go where our Father leads, there's a good chance that further down the road we will see the wisdom of His decisions for our lives. Remember, God isn't sleeping and our prayers awaken Him. He was in my room last one in the morning...and He is here with me now. Filling up the largest space in our planet ruled by time and able to narrow Himself down into the tiniest crevice of my heart. Just as "Christ is before all things, and in Him all things hold together," so He keeps me in one piece for His glory and my good.

Monday, December 1, 2014

PSALM 145 - I Wish The Dog Could Talk!

All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, and all Your saints shall bless You! They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and tell of Your power, to make known to the children of man Your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
(Verses 10-13)

My eight-year-old grandson, Alexander, wanted a puppy. Heather has been dog walking and marketing her homemade dog treats for about a year now, and Alexander has dog fever. I have to admit, Heather walks some pretty cute pets. One even has her own bedroom, complete with an adult-sized single bed and a television that plays all day long to keep the doggie happy. What Heather knows that her son didn't until last week is that dogs are a whole lotta trouble. Their family volunteered to take care of a three-month-old Yorkie mix puppy for several days. Though it slept in a crate in their basement, during the day the dog, which wasn't potty trained, roamed the house looking for a place to pee...or worse. Often it fell to Alexander to wipe up the mess. But more importantly, my grandson felt it was his responsibility to entertain the dog. Up early every morning of the puppy's stay, Alexander headed to the basement to set it free. Played with it before school. Exhausting himself in an effort to make the dog happy. Helping to feed it. Pushing it around all over the place in his toy truck. Wanting more than anything to make the darn dog happy.

By the end of the dog's stay with their family, Alexander was ready to send their visitor back home. "It's exhausting!" he declared. "And the worst part of it is, the dog can't talk!"

Heather was bemused. "What does that have to do with anything. Of course, dogs can't talk."

Alexander explained his frustration further. "I know they can't talk, but I wish they could! I didn't know if that puppy was enjoying anything I did for him. If he could talk, he would tell me whether he liked riding around in the truck or going outside. I don't know if I wasted my time or not."

I'm thinking we might make our God feel that way sometimes. We are supposed to be operating out of a thankful heart all the time. Our God is so involved with arranging our lives and positioning us for blessing, but I wonder how often we go about like a puppy who can't relate. Like we deserve to be pushed around the house in a toy truck! No thought to thank God for all He's doing not just to entertain us, but to bless and guide us! Alexander wanted kudos for his efforts. He wanted the puppy to say, "Great job, man! I loved that ride we took!" Without the positive feedback, Alexander was over it. It was simply work with no reward.

So I want to take a minute to properly thank God, Who stepped through time and space and entered the world He'd made in order to save me. More than a lotta work, it is the ultimate sacrifice. Miraculous and compassionate. Thank you, Jesus. See my face this morning, Abba, lifted up to You? I am in awe of Your power, Your generosity of heart, Your prescience and Your plans. I don't forget, though sometimes I seem to go merrily on my way without looking back...or up...when You've blessed me so. Thank you that fear and worry don't have to ever define me again. In the palm of Your hand is my safety and joy. You have made me Your child, not Your slave. Though I'd count it a privilege to be a slave in Your home just to be near to You. I thank You that, like Alexander and the puppy, sometimes You do things for me that are just for my pure happiness. No purpose other than to go on an outing with Your daughter. That You laugh with me when I laugh and cry with me in my distress. That as Zephaniah 3:17 says, you sing over me with joy. That as Psalm 131 so aptly describes, I can simply be with You as a weaned child with her mother, safe and confident because You are near. I thank You that the events of the world, though they trouble me, are in Your hands. You have a plan outlined in my Bible for the nations as well as for us, individually. God, You are so big. Spirit, Whose reach is vast, beyond all we know or could even conceive, You know about even the tiniest of Your creation. Your breath gives me life. Father, I don't want You to ever feel about me like Alexander feels about the puppy visitor. I don't want You to wonder if I appreciate Your efforts on my behalf. My heart is thankful beyond measure. May I never, ever ignore Your love and grace poured out without measure on this child of Yours.