Tripping Hazards

My neighborhood boasts a gifted artistic craftsman who hand paints ordinary rocks and turns them into works of arts. The artist sprinkles our streets with assorted rocks painted to resemble insects, fruits, vegetables and cartoon characters. Included in the artistry, are also inspirational rocks that contain simple messages of love, joy, peace and hope.

Until recently, my daily walks were for the sake of exercise only. A typical walk found me hoofing it at a brisk pace, head down to avoid tripping hazards while music flowed through my headphones, distracting me from my laborious breathing.

Not long ago, I momentarily shifted my eyes from my feet to appreciate a rainbow of beautiful flowers surrounding a fire hydrant. Nestled amongst the colorful flora I spied a happy little ladybug rock.

Upon my discovery, I couldn’t help but wonder how many other painted masterpieces I might have missed due to my regular downward posture? How many other sights, sounds or smells of the season was I missing because my goal was racking up steps on my fitness tracker?

From that day on, I decided to change up my routine. Rather than walking solely for exercise, I vowed to pay closer attention to my surroundings.

I quickly discovered many painted rocks and began noticing the beautiful colors of a desert in full bloom. Not only did I come to appreciate the smells of those desert blooms, but I soon delighted in hearing the trills and songs of the morning birds that nested in them. I also developed an ear for hearing from God as I started appreciating His artistic creation of nature.

While I’d previously spent much of my efforts tuning out my environment because of headphones, I was also guilty of shutting God out. He helped me to see that walking with my head down and concentrating on my foot placement was actually similar to the way I’d been dealing with some of my worrisome life trials.

I’d made a habit of focusing only on my problems, to the point that I was overly stressed and conjuring up a host of “what if” scenarios that likely would never happen.  I was trusting in myself to solve these difficulties rather than looking up and seeking God’s wise counsel.

We can walk through life, heads down, relying on ourselves, thereby missing all that God has for us - OR - we can trust HIM completely. God will direct our paths and teach us where we should walk and help us avoid tripping hazards if we will allow HIM to be our guide.

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8 (NLT)

Kathy Kurlin
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The New “Normal”

In the span of a few weeks, the world has been turned upside down. We find ourselves in situations that are completely out of our control. The things we’ve taken for granted like going to work, school, dining out, attending church or popping by the store for milk and toilet paper suddenly aren’t so easy. We’ve been stripped of life’s simple pleasures.

With little to no warning, we are living with a brand new normal that involves a great deal of uncertainty and a heaping helping of fear.

This is not the plot for a science fiction movie with an alternate universe. Our lives now revolve around alarming statistics and imposed directives to practice social distancing and remain at home. The craziness currently gripping our nation is stirring up a lot of unprecedented worries.

Feeling fear is something we all do – even Christians. The Bible doesn’t tell us we shouldn’t feel fear – but rather it directs us on how to respond when we are plagued by fear.  God knows the world is filled with evil and can be a scary place. That’s why His Word contains at least 356 “DO NOT FEAR” references - one for every day of the year.

As Christ followers, we have been presented with a unique opportunity because of COVID-19. We have more opportunities than ever to witness to our unsaved loved ones and neighbors who may be consumed with panic. Are we that beacon of light drawing the lost in and sharing our faith in Christ or are we cowering at home consumed with worry like much of the world?

We know this pandemic will end and that Jesus is still Lord. This pandemic is no surprise to God and certainly not too big for Him to handle. As we practice social-distancing and adapt to quarantine mandates, we can still be used by God in BIG ways. Social media and our smart phones are all great mediums for messaging, texting, calling and encouraging others during these difficult days.

Let us not forget the importance of prayer either. Many of us have more time on our hands than ever, so it’s important to pray for each other. We need to lift up the sick, the caregivers, first responders and our government officials who are tasked with making difficult decisions and risking their own health to treat the sick and beat this virus.

When all is said and done, brothers and sisters … I pray we can be the hope!

The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.

Nahum 1:7 (NLT)

Kathy Kurlin
Author

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Tied Up In “Nots”

When my kids were younger, they were huge fans of the movie, Bruce Almighty, starring Jim Carrey. In this movie, Bruce grapples with an existential crisis that has him doubting the existence of God. God summons Bruce (played by Morgan Freeman) and challenges him to see if he, Bruce, could do a better job at being God. God transfers all of his powers to Bruce for a period of time.

Initially, Bruce is overwhelmed with such power and uses his authority for purely selfish reasons. It doesn’t take Bruce long though, to discover that the job of supreme ruler over mankind comes with hefty responsibilities.

The writers of this movie most likely wanted to offer a comedic interpretation of God while peppering the story line with a few serious undertones.  My greatest takeaway message wasn’t so much about who God is and what He can do – but rather, what God IS NOT.

Throughout his stint as God, Bruce’s pursuit of selfish fulfillment is frequently interrupted by prayers from people all over the world. Millions of voices in his head praying constantly all at the same time. This at least, is not fictional as we know from Scripture God is omnipotent and hears all of our prayers.

The Lord is watching everywhere,
keeping his eye on both the evil and the good.

Proverbs 15:3

Bruce’s solution to receiving millions of prayers at one time, was to simply reply “Yes” to every request. His simple “Yes” destroyed a lot of people’s lives, as so many of the prayers were for completely selfish reasons.  Like composing a group email, God (Bruce) said “Yes” to millions of people who prayed to win the lottery. Every prayer was answered, but because so many people prayed for a lottery win, the giant Powerball was split between millions of people, totaling winnings of a little over $12.00 per recipient.

In the “real world” innumerable people pray for lottery winnings or get rich quick schemes. We know, however, God is NOT some sort of Genie who quickly grants our wishes for wealth and material things.

God is NOT going to get even with an ex-friend or spouse because you’ve prayed for revenge.

God is NOT going to supernaturally erase your obesity overnight because you are ashamed and miserable with yourself.

God is NOT going to give you everything you want when you want it.

God is NOT to be mocked (Galations 6:7) and Hollywood-ized for the purpose of selling tickets or turning a profit.

Kathy Kurlin
Author

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Jesus Loves Me, This I Know?

“Jesus loves me, this I know …”  

This song in its simplicity provides us with a basic foundational Christian principle. It’s a song we learn as children, yet how many Christians do you know that have difficulty grasping this simple concept?  I know I’ve certainly struggled in this area on more than one occasion.

I became a believer as an adult, so I didn’t have that early childhood reassurance to remind me of Jesus’s love. I grew up “semi-religious” in a church that portrayed God as an unreachable deity that was more fire and brimstone than love and all the good-feels. Consequently, I feared God, anticipating lightning bolts every time I messed up. If I’d been taught the love of Jesus as a child, I wonder if I would still struggle with doubts regarding my relationship with Christ.

Having children and grandchildren is kind of a “do-over” for me in this department. Through a great Bible-believing church, kid’s programs and being able to model the love of Jesus, my kids grew up knowing Jesus on an intimate level. Now as adults, whenever they have a challenge or trial, their first inclination is to call and ask for prayer. With confidence and certainty, they know Jesus is the ultimate “go-to” for any and all situations.

I provide daycare for my baby granddaughter. I’m a grandmother/nanny or “Granny,” which allows me to pour Jesus into her young life. I pray over her, I speak blessings for a bright future over her and I sing Christian songs to her at nap time. Most days whenever I sing “Jesus Loves Me” to her, I’m barely able complete one stanza before her little eyes start to flutter and close. Literally within minutes, she’s fast asleep. Every time!

I like to think that the love of Jesus is some sort of miracle sleep potion. It’s uncanny. I promise, it’s not because I have an amazing singing voice, either. My grandmotherly reasoning believes this little babe feels so secure in my arms as I speak blessings over her and sing about Christ’s love for her, she is able to fully relax. She sleeps restfully swathed in my love and the love of Jesus, as well.

This song is more than a lullaby. It soothes even someone like me whenever I feel stressed or doubtful of my place in God’s kingdom. 

Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His faithful love endures forever.
Psalm 136:26 (NLT)

What a great “go-to” reminder for us all. Jesus loves ME, this I know!  Do you KNOW this to be true in your life? It’s simple … but it’s true!

Kathy Kurlin
Author

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A Legacy of Love or Lies?

It happens more than I care to admit -- those dreaded bouts of insomnia.  When it’s really bad, I’ve been known to resort to late night television. During one such spell a few weeks ago, I tuned into one of those ridiculous “Real Housewives” shows. After just a few minutes, I determined that the people on this show were anything but “real.”  I’m ashamed to admit, the story line drew me in like a toddler chasing a shiny toy.

One story in particular regarding a housewife’s so-called “legacy” both intrigued and shocked me. This woman boasted about the great legacy she would someday leave behind. She had no children, had never been married but recently had become engaged to her longtime, live in boyfriend. She appeared to be in her 50s, so the likelihood of motherhood seemed pretty slim. Her “great legacy” was some sort of dress she’d designed that could be worn multiple ways.

This woman gushed over how proud she was of her design and how she’d accomplished this “great thing” (in her eyes) completely on her own. Sadly, she thought the most important contribution she could provide to the world was … a multi-purpose dress.

There were so many things wrong with this whole scenario. You’ve got someone with a huge pride issue who wasn’t about to share credit with anyone else – even though she had help along the way.  In my mind, the worst part was she truly believed making money and leaving this fashion legacy to the world was a magnanimous achievement.

I’ve never seen anyone who needed Jesus more. Are there really people in the “real world” who act and think like this “Real Housewife?” Without Jesus in our lives – the answer is … yes! Without Jesus - money, achievements, accomplishments and possessions are the things that drive worldly ambition.

As children of God, Jesus tells us our real pursuit and the most important commandment is:

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’  The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (NLT)

As ambassadors for Christ, our “real” life purpose is simple: love God, love others and share this real truth with everyone we can!  If we fulfill our purpose - someday we can look forward to meeting people in Heaven who have benefitted from our commitment to share our legacy of the love of Jesus.

Are you working on your legacy? It’s never too late to start …

Kathy Kurlin
Author

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