“Listen to Me!”

My brain has been filled with a lot of information today. Among that information is something that I already knew, but it has become clearer and more readily explainable.

One of the things that people want more than anything is to be heard. People have a deep seated need to express themselves. We need to tell people what we need, what we are thinking, and what we are feeling. We love to tell people our opinions, ideas, and desires. We like to know that our needs, thoughts, opinions, ideas, desires, and feelings have worth. We need to know that someone hears us, that they actually listen and understand when we communicate, and that they actually care what we have to say.

Why do we feel so compelled to tell people what we feel, what we need, and what we think? Well, how else would we let someone know what we need? How else would someone know what we think or feel if we didn’t tell them?

But do we also like to listen? Sometimes we would rather do all the talking and none of the listening. But that’s not how communication works. Communication implies that something is shared between two or more people. How would you know if someone is listening if they do not reply or respond to you? How would they know you are listening? Hearing and being heard are both very important.

But sometimes hearing and being heard are not enough. If you have an expressed or communicated need and it goes unmet, then your communication has done nothing. Perhaps someone didn’t care.

But what if they did care and they just can’t do anything about it? What happens then?

I’ve asked a lot of questions already, but let me ask you a few more. What if I told you there was someone who could supply your need any and every time you expressed it? What if there was someone who could listen to your thoughts and give you the best guidance on what to do with them? What if there was someone who cared about you more than anyone else can, and also had the limitless means to help you?

God is this someone. He’s not some supreme being up in the sky waiting for you to do something wrong so He can chicken fry your shorts. He’s not some supreme being that neglects the people He has created. He cares about you, and He will listen to you if you call for Him. He almost never does things they way you think He should, but – believe me – He’s done some extraordinarily epic things!

How do we know God cares about us? Well, He created us, didn’t He? Why would God create something if He didn’t care?

He also knew that we would be horrible people, so He prepared for it before it even happened. He knew that He would need to have a sacrifice to take our punishment, so He gave His Son for us. (John 3:16-17)

So if you need someone to listen and no one else is there or seems to care, talk to God. He cares more about you than anyone and everyone else. The God who knows about all the little sparrows cares so much more about you. (Matthew 10:29-31; Luke 12:6-7) He cares and can help you. (I Peter 5:6-7)

Children’s Version – Feeding of the Five Thousand

In Sunday School, the two and three year olds have been learning about Jesus feeding five thousand people (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13). A little boy shared his lunch with Jesus, and Jesus made a miracle. To see how much they’ve learned so far, they were asked questions.

“Jesus had been on a boat with His disciples. They were out on the sea of what?”

“Water,” one replied.

“Yes, it was water. It wasn’t milk or Kool-Aid. But it was called the Sea of Galilee.”

“Gatorade. The Sea of Gatorade,” said another.

I giggled as quietly as possible.

After that was straightened out, we moved on. “People followed Jesus wherever He went. So Jesus taught the people about how to love God, and how to live your life, and how to love your neighbor. He taught them a lot of things. Well, it was getting late, and it was supper time! The people were hungry. So Jesus called all His disciples. ‘Disciples, come here,’ he said. ‘Yes, Master?’ said the disciples. The disciples called Jesus ‘Master.’ And Jesus said, ‘These people are hungry. Give them something to eat.’ So what did the disciples say?”

“Oh, hey Jesus!”

I giggled again and exchanged a glance with the other teachers.

The lesson continued as normal, and the account was told without much further humor, but I was still snickering about it afterwards. Children are the best at re-telling the Bible!

Anyone else have a child’s version of the Bible?

Equal, Same, Different

We talk a lot about equality. But sometimes we mix up equality and sameness as if they both mean the same thing.

Sameness is when something is identical to another thing. For example, two blue triangles of exactly the same size and dimension; or three green squares of exactly the same size and dimension.

Equality is when something comes to the same value as another thing. For example, (4 + 4) = 8; (2 + 2 + 1 + 3) = 8. Many other math equations equal 8, using many combinations of math techniques. But I’ll spare you all that.

Two or more things can be completely different, but still be completely equal. Why is that so difficult for us to understand? We can get it with math, so let me try something.

There is an equation for humans that works with any skin color, any culture, any personality, any gender, and any whatever else you can think of that makes up a human being. The equation always equals the same thing. It doesn’t matter what you put into the equation; it always equals a human being that God loves very much.

You equal a human being that God loves very much.

Your best friend equals a human being that God loves very much.

That person you just can’t stand equals a human being that God loves very much.

You have never met a human that is not your equal.

The Speed of Forgiveness

How quickly should I forgive? When I think about forgiving someone, I tend to think about a particular situation in the 2 and 3 year old class at church.

Two little boys who are best buddies were about to sit at the table together. I don’t know what happened, but they suddenly had an argument. They turned their backs to each other and stated that they would not sit next to each other. “I don’t want to sit by him!”

So I crouched down next to them and said, “But you’re friends, aren’t you? Shouldn’t you forgive each other and sit by each other?”

“Okay. I’m sorry.”

“I forgive you. Let’s go sit by each other!”

And that was it. That was all of it. Whoosh! Forgiven! I think they even forgot what the argument was.

So how quickly should I forgive? As quickly as a child who wants to sit next to their best friend.

Sometimes it isn’t that easy. But if you let God help you and you let go of your hurt and pride, you can forgive that quickly. In some cases you may have to go through a process of forgiveness. That’s okay, as long as you keep reminding yourself that you have forgiven, and that God has given you the strength to release the offense. God knows all about forgiveness (Luke 23:34).

Be quick to forgive. Drop the offense at the speed of forgiveness.

Horse Thief

This is a little story I made up a while ago. I’ve told it to a couple of little kids and they thought it was funny.

There was a girl, and she was on a farm with lots of horses. She was standing outside eating an apple, and one of the horses was standing nearby. Someone needed help in the barn, so the girl went to help them. She set her apple down so she could use both hands.

When she came back, the horse that had been standing nearby was right next to her apple. The horse looked at the girl.

“Don’t you dare take my apple,” the girl said.

The horse looked at the girl, and then he went chomp! and ate the apple in one bite! He tossed his head as if to say, “What are you gonna do about it?”

The girl put her hands on her hips. “I’ll show you what I’m gonna do about it!” she said, and began to chase the horse around the field.

The horse whinnied like he was laughing, and the girl laughed as well. The two ran around the field for a while, and then they both stopped. The horse turned around and put his head down, walking slowly towards the girl as if to say, “I’m sorry.”

“Are you really sorry?” the girl asked, catching her breath.

The horse touched the girl’s shoulder with his nose.

“Okay,” the girl said. “I accept your apology.” She then went to get another apple.

The horse had followed her, and watched as she ate the apple. When the girl was halfway done, the horse looked at the girl and stretched out his neck. He pointed his nose at the apple in her hand as if to say, “May I pleeeaase hab dat apple?”

“Oh, all right,” the girl said and held out the apple. “But only because you asked nicely and didn’t steal it this time!”

The horse grinned a horsey grin and ate the apple happily.

Talking to Yourself

Anyone here ever talk to themselves?

If you said no, I don’t believe you.

Whether you talk to yourself out loud or not, you do talk to yourself. It happens when you think, “I can hit the snooze button one more time,” and, “I can probably do that tomorrow.” It happens when you argue with yourself, when you really want that cake, but you made a New Year’s resolution. It happens when you realize it’s probably the most intelligent conversation you will be having today. It happens when you have a brilliant idea that you need to practice before presenting. It happens when you have an important decision to make and you are weighing the pros and cons. It happens frequently throughout the day in many of your decisions.

Talking to yourself is a good thing, as long as you are saying good things. Sometimes you can convince yourself that a bad idea is a good one when you talk to yourself enough. Sometimes you can avoid doing something bad if you talk to yourself. But you’ll only have good self-talks if you have good thoughts, and you won’t have good thoughts unless you talk to the God who keeps your thoughts clean. Let God in on your self-talks. He makes them more interesting and more intelligent.

Sometimes we don’t let God in on our self-talks. This usually happens when He has told us something that we don’t like or don’t want to do. We talk to ourselves about how to justify what we are currently doing, or how to justify not doing what we should be doing. Don’t let yourself get away with talking like that. Ask God to correct you and to teach you the correct things to say to yourself. It will make things easier. Things won’t always be completely easy, but they will be easier.

So by all means talk to yourself, but don’t forget to let God teach you wisdom. You’ll keep your sanity a lot longer that way!

God’s Sense of Humor

God has many attributes: love, mercy, justice, righteousness, patience… and even humor. If you think God is this enormous being in the sky that looks down with a grumpy face at the world He has created, you would be mistaken. God loves us – that’s why He created us. He also has a sense of humor, which is why He gave us senses of humor. It’s a little hard to enjoy life to the fullest without a little humor!

So, one day my siblings and I had a fight, and I went to be alone. I asked God to help me figure this out and show me a Scripture that I needed, and I opened my Bible. The first words my eyes found were, “Ye have need of patience.” (Hebrews 10:36) I smiled and chuckled, and thanked God for the help. Not soon afterwards, my siblings and I had made up and weren’t upset anymore.

I’d like to hear from others about this. Does anyone have a story of their own to share?

Learning from Animals – Dogs

I’m convinced that one of the reasons God created animals is so we could learn from them. Sometimes I am particularly struck by how much you can learn from your own dog. While dogs do have their own bad habits, I’m going to point out the good ones.

I should probably also point out that I do not currently have a dog myself, but I have family and friends with dogs. That’s close enough, right? Of course it is.

Dogs are generally happy and carefree. They get excited about little things and loyally love their people. Many dogs are happy to just play a simple game for hours on end, or to just sit and do nothing as long as they are with their best friend! They are also very grateful in their own way. Just look at your dog. Look at your friend’s dog if you don’t have one.

Dogs are just happy to have food. They are excited every time they are fed, even though it is exactly the same thing as yesterday and the day before, and the day before that – and it will probably be that way tomorrow and all the days after that.

Dogs are happy to just spend time with their people. They are happy to see any friend that walks into their space. It doesn’t even matter what you’re doing together. Your dog friend will love it just because you are there.

Most dogs love making new friends, and have a strong loyal streak. Even if they are reserved at first, if a dog becomes good friends with you, you have a friend for life.

Most dogs are also very forgiving. They get upset when you yell at them or are mean to them, but they quickly forgive if you show signs of friendliness. Sometimes you don’t even need to apologize.

Some of the things that dogs do so easily are actually difficult for us humans, especially when we have more than enough. But just take a moment to be thankful. You have food! (Even if it’s leftovers.) You have friends who love you and care about you, and you can return the favor! There are a lot more people out there that you can be friends with, too! But perhaps the hardest thing for us to do is forgive – even when there was no apology.

Jesus Himself forgave without receiving an apology (Luke 23:34). He can give us the strength to do so ourselves. He can give us the strength to do any and all of the good habits that a dog has, and can help us do them even better.

So take a look at a dog today and see what else you can learn.

Adventure!

I have a tendency to gather lessons from everything. Today I have a lesson that I learned from a book and a movie. This one is from The Hobbit.

At the beginning we are introduced to Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit, in his cozy little Hobbit hole in the Shire. This is a comfortable place where everything is predictable, dependable, and quiet. One morning a man named Gandalf comes and tells Bilbo that he is looking for someone to go on an adventure. Bilbo replies that he wants nothing to do with adventures. “Uncomfortable things,” he calls them.

But that’s it! Adventures are very uncomfortable. They aren’t predictable, and you must always be on your toes, ready to move. No one likes to be uncomfortable, so we have a tendency to stay in our safe, comfortable Hobbit holes, and have no adventures at all. Bilbo intended to to just that. He wanted no adventures at all.

But he is again given the opportunity for adventure when a band of adventuring Dwarves comes to his home. They offer him a contract for their adventure, stating that while there will be many dangers, perils, discomforts, and the distinct possibility of death, he will get a share of the treasure they find. Bilbo again refuses to have anything to do with adventures. The very idea frightens him. He goes to bed with great unease.

Bilbo awakens in the morning to find his home empty. The Dwarves have gone, and have left him – just like he wanted – in his safe, comfortable house with no adventures.

Except he has one last chance.

The adventurers have left the contract behind for him. They are waiting just a little longer for him to catch up before they go on without him.

Bilbo realizes that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. He can’t just stay in his Hobbit hole for the rest of his life and never do anything! He hurriedly signs the contract and quickly rushes to catch up with the band of adventurers. “I’m going on an adventure!” he shouts excitedly as he runs.

To me, this is a picture of what it is like when Jesus calls you. He gives you ample chance to come on an adventure with Him. He lets you know that there will be dangers, perils, and discomforts. But while the Dwarves’ treasure was unsure, Jesus’ treasure is promised. If you go on an adventure with God, you will find the rewards are great and wonderful! The troubles it takes to get there are painful, but God promises that the treasure is worth it. And do you know what? It is.

Don’t let life pass you by. Take Jesus’ hand, and run! Go on that adventure!

It’s God’s Job to Know

Sometimes God puts a person in your path and tells you to introduce that person to Him. After all, He created them and loves them. Sometimes this dear human being is glad to meet God. Sometimes they want nothing to do with Him. Sometimes they seem indifferent. Sometimes they are curious, but go on their way.

God might put this person in your path on another occasion. So you get to talk to them again about God and answer their questions. Sometimes you even get to see God save someone. Sometimes you find out about it later.

But sometimes you never see this someone again, and you never know what your words did. You never know if they went back to God after you introduced Him.

I’ve had this last experience twice. I told someone about God, they were somewhat receptive and discussed things with me, and then I never saw them again. I have prayed for them every single day since then. At first I asked God to let me know how it went. But He said no.

“But I want to know. May I have the tiniest clue? A tiny inkling, may I have that?”

“No, My child.”

“Will I ever know how it went? Will I ever know in this life?”

“Does that matter?”

“No…”

“Do you trust Me?”

“Yes.”

So then I learned. I may never know in this life, but that’s okay. It is God’s job to know. One day in Heaven I will know, but it is God’s job to know the whole time.

Every once in a while I talk to God about it. I tell Him that I’m okay with not knowing. But if He’d like to share, I’m all ears whenever He feels like it. At this point, I imagine He just smiles. Then I ask Him to keep an eye on these people. I know that He watches them whether I ask Him to or not, but I feel better talking to Him about it. Sometimes God brings up these verses: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:6-7)

This is God’s business. He gives the increase.

In this life, I may never know.

But God knows.