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Everybody’s done it from time to time, you drop that plate or glass and suddenly you hear that awful crash. What was once whole, useful, and maybe even pretty, now lies broken and shattered on the ground.  What a mess!

Once we bought this beautiful handmade vase, and before we even got it home it was in two or three pieces. I did my best to glue the pieces in place, but you can tell.  I can see it right now if from my desk.  We keep the unbroken side turned out, but turn it just a little and you can’t miss the cracks.

Most of us are sort of like that aren’t we? We’ve all fallen from time to time.  We’ve all been chipped and had pieces broken off here and there.  Some of us have even been shattered and we wonder if we will ever be whole again.

We all deal with those heartbreaking situation in our own way. I guess you could say we each have our own favorite kind of glue.  Some of us just use that plain old white school glue, we know it won’t hold for long, but maybe it will get us through for a little while.  Some use industrial glue, it doesn’t look that great, but it will hold forever.  And then some of us will try the newest fad, that super duper miracle glue advertised on TV for only $9.99 plus shipping and handling!

The truth is no matter what we try, we can’t really put the pieces together. No glue can fix a broken heart, and even when we do manage to patch ourselves together, the scars remain.  For  some of us the scars become hard, and our hearts grow hard and cold with them.   For others the scars seem like open wounds, every little thing seems to tear us apart all over again.

Broken hearts and broken dreams are a part of our lives. But we do not have to do all the repairs ourselves.  The Bible tells us that the Lord, “…heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3 ESV)  When He is our healer, when He puts us back together, then our hearts work as they should.

He takes what breaks us and transforms it. So instead of becoming hard and bitter, we learn compassion and caring.  Instead of falling apart, we find faith and hope to give us confidence in the future.  When we turn our wounded hearts over to Him, He makes them even better than before.

When I repair a vase, I have to turn the broken part to the wall. The scars are ugly.  When the lord heals our broken hearts, the scars become part of the picture, they become beautiful. In another place we read, “He has made everything beautiful in its time…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV) Trust Him, even in your sorrows and let Him turn your brokenness into His beauty.

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I remember when I was a kid I loved snow days. An extra day off from school!  The snow falling was magical and beautiful and getting wet and cold playing out in all that white stuff didn’t seem to bother me.

Now I am a little older, and I admit, that little child is still inside somewhere enjoying the snow.  But now I have a different viewpoint.  Back then snow meant a day off from work, now it usually means extra work.  Then it was snowballs and snow forts and snowmen.  Now it is shoveling the driveway, scrapping the cars, and spreading salt just in case.

Admittedly I still throw a snowball or two, and the other day helped build a snow fort (Aren’t grandkids amazing?).  But by and large, getting out and about in the snow can be a chore.

Our perspective changes as we get older.  Hopefully we can still see the fun and enjoy it from time to time, but now we have responsibilities.  We might get the kids to help now and then, but let’s face snow and kids usually means playing.  They might shovel a scoop or two, but making snow angels or tossing a snowball is a lot more fun!

As we get older we have to take up the responsibilities of life.  And, if we do it right, we remember the joy along the way.  The Bible tells us, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”  (1 Corinthians 13:11 ESV)  As adults, we have to think differently than children.  A child can afford to ignore things and leave them to others.  The child knows that the adults around her will take care of things.

When Paul wrote that verse he wasn’t talking about snowballs, he was talking about our walk with Jesus.  There is a time when others, people like our parents, or pastors, or even Sunday School teachers, teach us about the Christian life.  And then, even as we learn, we are called to start living our faith.

And here is the amazing thing.  Growing into that responsibility doesn’t take away from our joy, it multiplies it!  Listen to this verse, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding.” (Proverbs 3:13 ESV)   Wisdom is knowing and doing the will of God.  Blessed are those who know and do the will of God, who understand the things of God and follow them.  And blessed simply means happy or joyful!

As we grow up in Christ, we should grow in responsibility for ourselves and for others.  But we should also grow in joy.  Becoming a new believer is amazing, helping someone else to meet Jesus is incredible!  Share the joy of your walk in Christ.  And next time it snows, maybe you need to toss around a snowball or two!

I must admit, in my life I have broken a dish or two, we probably all have.  But have you ever broken one of those supposedly “unbreakable” dishes? I won’t name names, because in fact these dishes do seem incredibly durable.  But they don’t just break, they almost blow up!

The other day one got dropped in our kitchen and shattered into hundreds if not thousands of pieces!  Some people glue broken dishes back together, but there is no way anyone could put that plate back together.  Cleaning up was tedious and a little dangerous!  The pieces flew everywhere and they were sharp as little razors.  With grandkids and a dog running around we wanted to be sure we got every little piece!

People can be like those plates.  A lot of us get chipped or cracked along the way, but a little glue, a little kindness, a little help along the way and we get put back together.  But there are other times when it isn’t so easy or neat.  Maybe we are stretched a little farther, wound a little tighter, and when the next blow comes, we shatter.

In that moment we just want to put things back together, to return things to the way they used to be.  But not everything can be fixed, not every wound can be healed.  Sometimes all we can do is sweep away the pieces and be careful not to cut ourselves or those we care about on the broken shards.

Maybe that is why we need God’s promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 ESV)  When everything falls apart there is someone that remains, someone we can cling to.  When we are shattered, He is there to pick up the pieces and help us move forward again.  He is the one who sorts through the shattered bits and helps us find our heart again.  He is the one who throws out the useless parts, the pieces that we no longer need.  He helps us to hang on to the things, the people, the relationships that really matter.  And, when we trust Him, He can make those things even better than before!

We are all broken and sometimes shattered, but there is a hope.  That hope is not found in a textbook or in a new job or a new romance.  Our real hope is found in the person of Jesus Christ.  It is not in knowing about Him, it is in knowing Him personally.  His promise to us is that, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. (Lamentations 3:22 ESV)

Every bowl can be broken, and every one of us can be broken as well.  A bowl may just need some glue, but we need the Lord.  When your life is broken and out of control, turn to Him and trust Him.  Let Him put you together the right way!

Have you ever lost anything and been frantic to find it?  The other day I lost a little security tag that turns off the alarm in my car.  I searched for it for over an hour!  Several friends came by wondering why I was searching my car, so they helped.  I had it in my hand, in the car, the door was closed, I bumped the gearshift, heard a clink and it was gone! A few days later I tore that car apart, took out the mats, vacuumed under the seats, checked in all the pockets and cracks I could find.  Now the car looks great inside, but that little security tag is still missing.

Maybe you lost a check someone gave you, maybe you lost your keys or your engagement ring, but all of us have lost things from time to time.  Sometimes they are useful things, like keys, sometimes they are precious things, like rings, and so we search and search.  Thankfully our searches usually end in success.  We find what we were looking for and generally shake our heads and say, “Oh Yeah! I remember putting that there!”

In the Luke 15 Jesus tells three parables about finding something that was lost.  First a sheep is lost from the flock, and when the Shepherd finds it he rejoices with his friends.  Then there is a Woman who loses a coin, she searches her house to find it and also celebrates.  Finally there is the parable of the lost son; you may have heard him called the “Prodigal Son.”

The prodigal son is not lost by accident or mishap; no he is lost because of his choices. He chooses to leave home; he chooses to waste his money and his life, and ends up reaping the terrible reward of his choices.  Only then does he turn his eyes toward home.  Only then does he run back to his father.

And all the time the father is waiting, looking down the road to see if his rebellious son will return.  Listen to God’s Word says, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20 NIV) The son was still a long way off but the father saw him coming.  The father ran to meet him and rejoiced!

In the grand scheme of things a little security tag doesn’t mean much.  In fact a lot of the things that matter to us don’t really matter in the long run, but people do.  You see Jesus died so that we would have a way home.

Maybe you have a friend or a child who has made some terrible choices, keep hoping, encouraging, and praying for them.  Be ready to run out to meet them on the road home. Or maybe you have been the wayward child, making all the wrong choices and ending up in terrible places. Remember this; we all have a heavenly Father who waits for us.  He is looking for you.  When you take that first step toward Him, He will run to meet you.

Recently I had the chance to help with a building project in West Liberty, a tornado ravaged community in Eastern Kentucky.  Now I can use a tape measure and hammer a nail or two, but I am in awe of the men and women who just seem to know how to handle a hammer and saw!

Some people can drive a nail as easy as breathing.  Tap it in to get it started, than a couple swings of the hammer and move on to the next one.  It doesn’t work quite that way for me, I tap it in and then take a good lick, straighten the bent nail, take another lick, straighten the even more bent nail, take another lick, straighten again and hope that I get the nail in before it is bent too badly!  Actually I got better as I went, the nails bent less and I started hammering them in with less effort.

But as I watched I realized that even professionals sometimes bend a nail or two!  Maybe the nail is a little flawed, or there may be a knot in the board, or the hammer swing might be a fraction off and suddenly, a bent nail. A carpenter always wants to drive the nail straight, but they’ve learned that sometimes nails just bend.  They pull it out and hammer again!  That is just the way it is with hammers and nails.  It really is the same in life; we all want to get it right every day, but sometimes the nail just bends!

After a hard day, worn and tired, suddenly harsh words fly out at the family and our relationships bend out of shape.  A pop quiz catches us unprepared, but we can see the answer on someone else’s paper and our integrity bends a bit.  A wrong key stroke surfing the web and our purity is compromised.  Bad news weighs us down and hope is bent into despair.

Our lives are full of temptations and tests, but there is a way to keep straight.  Proverbs tells us, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:6 NIV)  When you come home after a hard day, turn your eyes toward Him to find the strength to love your family.  When worried about failure, trust in God and keep your integrity.  When lust threatens purity seek His face and find the way out that He promises to provide.  When bad news is ready to overwhelm you, remember the good news that if you will trust in Jesus, He will never forsake you.

And even when you do bend a nail now and then, don’t give up. Pull that bent nail out and start over fresh.  That is why the Bible tells us to, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.  (Acts 3:19 NIV)  Bent nails, and even bent lives are not the end, with the Lord there is always hope for a new beginning!

It’s been raining a lot lately and mud seems to be everywhere.  Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get things muddy and how hard it is to keep things clean?  Some people even have a mud room at home, a room to kick off muddy boots or shed muddy clothes before going into the rest of the house, but I bet it doesn’t work that way all the time!

When it is muddy outside the mud gets on your shoes, it splashes onto your jeans, it gets into the car and into the house.  Did you ever wonder where those muddy footprints on the carpet came from only to realize it was you?  The mud and dirt just spread all by themselves, we don’t have to help much at all!

On the other hand it takes hard work, unending work to keep things clean.  Wipe up the mud on the floor with a clean rag, then you’ve got a cleaner floor, but now you have to wash the rag!  And make sure you rinse out the rag before you wash it or the washer will get mud in it.  And then before you know it, the floor is muddy again and it starts all over again.  Getting muddy, dirty, filthy is easy, keeping things clean takes work!

Just taking a walk in our world means getting your feet dirty.  In the same way sin can stain our hearts and souls.  Every day there are temptations and trials that test our faith.  Our own pride, our own desires fight against us and sin marks us with its sad reproach.  Perhaps this is why John reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV)

We need purification, we need to be washed on a regular basis, because sin finds its way in. Just as dirt and dust, mud and grime find their way into the most carefully kept house, sin finds its way into the purest of hearts.  John also warns us, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:10 NIV)

We should wash our hands regularly to keep them clean and to fight infection and disease.  In  the same way we need to cleanse our souls daily, for the disease of sin so easily infects us.  Jesus came so that we might have victory over sin, so that our hearts could be cleansed.  All we need to do is trust Him.

Next time you track a little mud into the house, ask yourself, are there any stains on my heart?  If you are honest with yourself you might find a spot or two.  Take a moment and call on the Lord to cleanse your heart and renew your soul.  Maybe that will make wiping up the mud a little easier!

 

 

As some of you know, I have a pretty big dog and every day she gets walked 3 or 4 times.  It doesn’t matter what the weather or how we are feeling, Molly gets her walk!  Today I walked her wearing a t-shirt, a regular shirt, a sweater, a hooded sweatshirt, and a coat, gloves and a scarf!  It almost takes me longer to get dressed than to take her for a walk!

In the summer I come in drenched with sweat.  On rainy days I try my umbrella and if it is too windy I just hope my jacket is waterproof enough!  But every day, several times a day, Molly gets her walk.  The weather doesn’t matter, and neither does my health.

Thankfully my wife gives me a break when I am really sick, but the truth is most of the time if I have a cold, I walk the dog.  If my back is out, I walk the dog!  If I am coughing up a lung, the dog still has to be walked.  I know if you have young children at home you have the same thing, no matter what, you have to take care of the kids.  On the other hand, you probably don’t have to take the kids out in all kinds of weather just so they can use the bathroom!

What is my point?  Simply this, in good times or bad, in health or sickness, in good weather or pouring rain, some things still need to be done.  Walking the dog, taking care of the kids, taking care of ailing parents, whatever it may be, there are things that we do no matter what.

But what about our relationship with the Lord?  Is it “No matter what?”  In Psalms David tells us, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.” (Psalm 34:1–2 NIV)  To extol the Lord means to exalt His name, to praise Him.  David says to do it always.  Rain or shine, sickness or health, riches or poverty, give praise to God.

So does God get a part of your day every day?  Dogs and kids, bosses and clients, friends and family all demand our time.  The kids will yell, the dog will bark, your boss will look over your shoulder, and God’s quiet call can be drowned out by all the other busy-ness of the day.

So today, make the Lord a priority.  Maybe offer a prayer while you are walking the dog.  Maybe after you put the kids to bed at night and before you collapse yourself, you could just spend a moment or two praying or reading His Word, a moment or two when God is your priority.  He is always there for you, rain or shine, and He loves you.  Take some time to know Him better!

Once upon a time the Christmas buying season began after Thanksgiving and that seemed to work out for everybody.  Then it began to seep over into November, earlier and earlier, and now we barely get past Halloween before the Christmas sales start!

And then this year I notice that Thanksgiving day itself is being sacrificed.  Perhaps this began a year or two ago and in I simply didn’t notice, but now it is hard to miss.  It seems that every major chain of stores is starting “Black Friday” on Thursday.

I understand that in a rough economy retail chains are fighting for every dollar, but I wonder if we aren’t sacrificing too much to the almighty dollar.  Family life is so terribly busy these days, even the nuclear family, Mom and Dad and their 2.2 kids have trouble sitting down together for a meal.  Gathering the extended family together is an almost impossible task.

Thanksgiving was the one day in the year when almost everyone had a day off.  Thanksgiving is really a pretty simple Holiday, we just gather with our families and friends to enjoy one another and perhaps, for just a moment, reflect on our blessings.  We don’t have to worry about getting the right presents or buying the right costumes, it stays pretty simple.

And I know I am taking a simplistic view, there are always people working on Thanksgiving.  But those nurses in the hospitals, those police officers, even those football players were always the exception and not the rule!

Paul tells us that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10 NIV)  What does all kinds of evil mean?  It means that perhaps we can’t see how our desire to make a few extra dollars hurts our families.  It means that when we are tempted to sacrifice a few hours with our family so that we can save a few dollars at the local big box store, we give up something precious.

You see these companies wouldn’t be open on Thanksgiving Day if they didn’t think we’d show up!  They are counting on our desire to save a buck or two.  They are counting on us cutting our holiday celebration short so that we can shop ‘til we drop.

My prayer is that you will do your best to preserve Thanksgiving Day.  Make it a real family day, a real day off, a real day of rest; we have so few of those!  Enjoy a day of Thanksgiving and if you have to shop, I hope you can wait until Black Friday.

Not long ago I was stuck on an elevator.  It reached the floor I wanted, but the door wouldn’t open!  After a long day I just wanted to get to my hotel room and call it a day.  Instead I spent the next 45 minutes trapped, just waiting for someone to get me out of that little box! Someone had to come with a key to get me safely out of the elevator.

That simple word “trapped” describes a lot of people these days.  Hopefully not physically trapped, but emotionally, spiritually, and perhaps even psychologically.  Trapped by addictions that eat at their souls.  Trapped in broken and bruised families.  Trapped by a seemingly endless cycle of debt and despair.  Many even feel trapped by their own choices, regretting the consequences, but unable to see a way out!

We are usually trapped in snares of our own making, when pride or selfishness blinds us to the consequences of our actions.  I walked into that elevator willingly, but then again, it was just an elevator!  Sure, there are always predators out there, but they always tempt us with something we want.  And like the mouse staring at the trap we think, “I can get away with it this one time!”  Then SNAP!  Caught with no way out

But I am reminded that Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  (John 8:36 NIV)  While I was locked in that elevator I needed someone with the right key to set me free.  My wife had car keys and house keys, but they couldn’t open that door.  I had keys in my pocket, but none of them could open that door.  Someone had to come from outside with the right key to set me free.  Jesus is telling us that He is the key that sets us free.

We can try and try to free ourselves, and sometimes, for a short time it seems we may succeed.  But that addiction crawls back, those bruised relationships bring new pain.  The trap holds us tight.  Our own strength is not enough, but His strength is more than enough; enough that He can change us from the inside out.

Jesus helps us with His strength to overcome addiction.  He is strong enough to save us from destructive relationships, even strong enough to restore broken hearts and broken lives.  He is wise enough to lead us out of debt and despair if we will follow.  He is the key that opens the door and sets us free.  Place your faith in Him and be free!

Today I was at the store and I noticed that a half gallon of milk cost about $2.20, while a gallon cost about $2.90.  Does that strike anyone as a little strange? Only 70 cents for that second half gallon?

But then again a couple of days ago I was buying some canned dog food.  Now it is certainly easier to buy a shrink wrapped package of 6 or twelve cans, but then I looked at the price!  For the same dog food, the individual cans were considerably LESS expensive per can!  Does something seem wrong with that?

And let’s not even get started with things like payday loan companies.  I thought a credit card with an interest rate of 25% was crazy, but many of these payday companies charge up to 900%.  So if you borrowed $100 for a year, at the end of the year you owe them $1,000. I even looked and the best rate I found was about 364%, so that $100 loan would only cost about $400 to pay back.

One of the passages in the Bible that disturbs me is when Jesus tells the parable of the dishonest manager who uses his position and influence to protect himself.  Jesus even says, “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.”  (Luke 16:8 NIV) This is a warning to us to be on guard.  Not everyone is looking out for your best interests. Some are out to make a buck no matter what it costs you or your family.

Pay attention as you shop and as you take care of your family.  Sadly some people care more about money than about people.  The bible also reminds us “Owe no man anything, but to love one another…” (Romans 13:8 KJV)  Bills and credit cards quickly pile up and overwhelm even the most careful.  Easy cash isn’t so easy and doing a little math at the grocery store can save you a lot of money!

The Lord God Almighty cares for you and your family, so He warns us to be careful.  He has given us principles on handling money that protect our hearts and our families.  Take time to learn those principles.  Trust God, even when He talks about money!