Posted in Christian Living, Faith

How Do You Cope? : Turn Your Mind to Jesus

A mind focused on Jesus learns to cope

God is awesome. He deserves our love and our praise. If we are wise, He also deserves the courtesy of our fear. Do you doubt it?

Sitting in the comfort of a home this week that kept the unending rain at bay, I thought about the mightiness of our LORD, how the strength of terrible weather, which I think goes part and parcel with a fallen world, reflects the awesome power of our Creator.

But God’s greater strength showed itself through His people, who reached out from all over Houston and this country to help those who have lost everything, washed away like so much refuse as the rain continued to pour.

Long after the news cameras tire of stories about boat rescues and flooded highways, people in Houston and across the Texas coast will be doing the most important work of all, which is learning to cope with the challenges that will continue for months and even years to come. God will show His strength in helping people cope, too.

Coping is a skill I’ve been honing the last several years. My grandmother, father-in-law and brother-in-law have all died, the latter within days of each other. My mother is battling ALS. Had I not learned to cope, I wouldn’t get out of bed.

Christ is the avenue to our best coping skills. When your mind begins to wander into worries you can do nothing about, think on Him. Draw your mind to Christ by thanking Him for the things around you, for the blessings you are most grateful for. Before you know it, He will bring your mind to a place of peace that pushes away the worry. He may give you the next step to take. He may send you to a scripture that expresses just how you feel. He may simply help you to just be still.

Time with the Trinity is more important than anything. Spending time in God’s word is the only way to learn just who He is. If you know your Bible, you know if the messages you feel are truly in alignment with that word or just the murmurs of your own heart’s desires. When you truly bend your will to God, you learn to accept the times when what you want is not what God says you need.

In Houston, there is a religious venue for every 1,000 people. This is a big city with a big heart for God. I like to think this belief plays a large role in our reactions to natural disasters. In these last few days, images of neighbor helping neighbor reflect the kind of things that happen when we take the love Christ has for us and pay it forward.

A mind set on the things of this world is subject to worry and angst. A mind set on our awesome God is destined to calm and peace. I know which mindset best serves me in times of ease and conflict. I hope you also prize your time with God so that no matter how the rains and winds blow, your mind is at heavenly peace.

In Christ,
Ramona  

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Posted in Christian Living

Kind Words: The Little Things That Mean A Lot

Running on the treadmill earlier this week, searching as usual for anything to think about other than the sweat making its steady stream down my back, I remembered a sunny day many years ago when I had just finished an outdoor run in the park at my hometown.

“You have really good form,” an unfamiliar voice wafted past the pounding in my ears to me.

I looked up to see a younger girl in perfect shape. She had no reason to compliment the thirty-something bookworm who had just jogged around the track at a speed many could walk. Still, she took the time to let me know I was doing something right.

I thanked her roundly and headed back to my car to drive home, my back a little straighter, my heart filled with the warmth of human kindness. I was the kid whose third-grade teacher gave her a ball and jacks to work on her eye-hand coordination. When others were perfecting dodge-ball moves, I was the one with her nose in a book, watching enviously from the sidelines. I did not get compliments on anything athletic. Ever.

But, ever since that day, I have always felt that my jogging form is good, worthy of compliments. I have some foundation for this confidence besides one stranger’s kind words. My husband actually has taught me the running form the young lady admired that day on the track. Still, her words, which took only a moment of her time, have stuck with me through the years. Laboring on the treadmill in the gym, I know I am not the fastest person in the room, but I also know I pump my legs like a real runner, all because a stranger decided to compliment me on a windy, West Texas day.

Words really are just that powerful. They can build up or destroy with minimum effort on the speaker’s part. No wonder the Bible warns us: But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken (Matt. 12:36).

Knowing the power of words is one reason I try to speak my compliments to strangers instead of just thinking them in my head. I admire a scarf or jewelry, I note the pretty eyes or hairstyle, I praise the young boy who holds open the door. So far, no one has rebuffed me for saying something nice to them. It’s literally one of the smallest things I can do to spread the love Jesus feels for all of us.

Kind words serve me in other ways. When I spend my time thinking about kind words, I put myself in a place of love and thankfulness that pushes out anger and fear and ultimately draws me closer to God. When I am in His presence, I find it even easier to discover kind things to say. It is a cycle of love that we should all want to be caught up in.

In an old song, Kitty Kallen croons,

Blow me a kiss from across the room
Say I look nice when I’m not
Touch my hair as you pass my chair
Little things mean a lot

When it comes to living each day as Christ-like, embracing the idea that little things mean a lot can go a long way toward spreading the love of Jesus. In fact, if we concentrate on the little things, God promises He will do the heavy lifting:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Never underestimate what God can do with your kind words. His mercy is no little thing, but the little things are exactly what He calls on us to strive for, keeping each day’s worries unto itself, leaving the bigger picture to our awesome, heavenly Father.

You are special, and you are loved.  What kind words have made a big difference in your life? Think about God’s blessings in your life and be inspired to go forth and be kind.

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Christian Living, Faith

With God, Simple Things Can Mean A Lot

God makes even simple things into something magnificent, according to His purpose

I am very good at making things more complicated than they have to be. Pick almost any area in life, and I have figured out a way to look at the issue that gives it many more twists and turns than really exist.

Take salvation, for example. All I have to do is believe in Christ and His purpose and profess that belief, and yet I make that simple act of faith into something much more complicated. I tell myself I have more responsibility in this act of living my faith than God ever said I had.

For example, I think that it is somehow up to me to make other people believe about God and the Bible the way that I do. I get frustrated when people disagree with me, even angry when I think they are saying something wrong about the word of God according to the way that I understand that word.

God has led me to a focus shift this week, one that should help me quit taking on responsibilities that are not my own. Through my Bible reading and conversations with other believers, I have been reminded that God is the One who holds the responsibility for what others ultimately believe. He alone is Judge.

I must not apply my usual habit of shoulds in life to my plan for living my faith. A to-do list is not what being a Christian is about. Instead, we are asked to live through love.

In the Old Testament, we learn an important lesson about the simplicity of our salvation when we truly hand over the responsibility for that salvation to our Holy God. Naaman, the commander of King Aram’s army, goes to Elisha to be cured of his leprosy. When Elisha tells him all he has to do is go dip himself in the Jordan seven times, instead of being thankful such a simple task is all that is required, Naaman gets frustrated. He doesn’t understand how the solution could be so simple. Why wouldn’t a body of water in his home country be even more likely to heal him, if that is all it would take, Naaman wonders?

In fact, Naaman feels affronted that Elisha’s solution does not require more of him, as if his station deserves to be recognized by the level of responsibility required for healing. Naaman would have wandered through the rest of his proud life, full of responsibility and covered in his skin disease, if not for his servants, who asked the obvious but profound question:

“If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you ‘ wash and be cleansed?'” (2 Kings 5:13)

Luckily for him, Naaman realizes the truth to this statement and proceeds to follow Elisha’s instructions from God. In the end, Naaman walks out of the Jordan with skin as whole as if he had just been born. More importantly, he learns the profound truth that in even the smallest of ways, God can do great things.

As I was settling into the truth of these verses during the week, I was offered another important lesson when it comes to how God works in our lives, which is the comfort that comes when we believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to do good things in this world that is full of evil.

In this season of my life, I have as much reason as anyone to see the world in general and the act of living in particular as a losing struggle against forces that are gunning for my ultimate destruction. Beginning in 2014, in the span of some fourteen months, my grandmother died, my husband’s father and oldest brother lost their battles with cancer within a few weeks of each other, and my dear mama was diagnosed with ALS.

If I didn’t believe that the only way God can offer us the free will to choose Him is to allow for both evil and good to exist in this life, then I would have given up on the idea of a loving God a long time ago. But, in acknowledging the truth of the need for evil to exist in a fallen world, I realize that I have somehow lost the even stronger truth that God controls everything, even, somehow, the process of letting us tumble into His always waiting, open hands.

God’s control negates my need to be responsible for outcomes. Notice, I did not say actions. Free will means I am inherently responsible for everything I say and do. But, when what I say and do is in alignment with the life of Christ and His teachings, I can trust the outcome will be according to the will of God, even when things look farthest from that conclusion. His Holy Spirit can so easily bring to fruition whatever seeds my Christ-like words and actions may plant. But, I have to live like I believe that, even in simple ways, mostly in simple ways.

What a powerful realization this working of the Holy Spirit in our lives is for those who believe. When we forget about His power or try to usurp it by manipulating situations toward our own desired outcomes, we do a disservice to our faith. We also overlook the little, simple things that God can make truly great, like the mustard seed that grows into a mighty tree.

God is always able

 

Just like Naaman, I am guilty of wanting something more difficult than the simple truths of God’s promises. He wants me to know that He has things under control in accordance to His Master Plan, a plan my human mind is incapable of fully understanding. When I contain myself by worrying about only my actions and words instead of putting myself in the role of judge over others, I give myself the light burden and peace that Christ promised as the gift of believing in Him. I grasp God’s simple solution to life’s complex problems.

In Sunday school, we reached the point in Romans where Paul asks why we think we have the right to judge those who serve God. We are not their masters, after all. But for those who allow God to be master, the promise is clear:

To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. (Romans 14:4)

The Lord is able to bring about our success in walking by faith. Not long after Naaman discovered that God’s truths can be powerful even in simplicity, the prophet Elisha faces a dangerous situation that further underscores God’s ability. When the King of Aram sends an army to harm the prophet, God provides His own, conquering army to protect the servant of our heavenly King:

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them. And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:13-17)

When I profess my faith, when I show love in the face of hate, when I turn the other cheek, God is able. He is surrounding me with His angels, looking out for my ultimate good. If I live each day knowing this truth, I will simplify my walk with Christ. I will be free to love other people in full knowledge that the paths of their lives and their ultimate judgment are in God’s hands, not my own.

Christianity is simple. We humans are the ones who tend to complicate things, forgetting despite all His promises, that God is able.

Posted in Christian Living, Faith

Finding His Strength in My Weakness: this Broken Road

My grandmother’s life of hardship offers lessons about learning to lean on God’s mercy and power.

We fickle humans do not thrive in abundance. Sitting in my fancy easy chair typing these words, I have more in my possession today than past generations of my ancestors ever hoped to possess. And yet, I daily struggle with doubts and fears, pride and anger that are incongruent with my economic “wealth.”

I have fallen victim despite the roots of my practical raising to the dream of finding happiness in a world where evil dwells. Even though I know that God’s reason for me has nothing to do with my happiness in this life, I still keep trying to find it.  Even when I embrace the idea of seeking to thrive despite the pitfalls of living in a fallen world and I strive toward becoming what God needs of me for my eternal home, I too quickly fall back into the mind traps of the transient peace that happiness offers.

I don’t think it takes a scientific analysis or Gallup poll to figure out that those who face the most challenges tend to be the most at ease with themselves and the God they worship. My grandparents didn’t have time to contemplate their mental states on a regular basis. They were too busy scratching out a living on unforgiving soil, stitching up clothing well beyond its use-by date, laboring with hands cracked by years of exposure to sun and wind, doing without when crops failed, stealing pecans from the pack rats’ nests to sell to the grocer for thread.

When a bath takes more work to make happen than the pleasure being clean subsequently brings, tell me of your repugnance to the smell of those who adhere to the once-a-week bathing regimen. When the only light you can afford is the billowing, blackening heat of a kerosene lamp, you’ll understand the wisdom of a sun-up to sun-down mentality.

Living in a world where abundance is hard to come by makes you appreciate and recognize blessings. You’ll walk miles in bad weather to catch the matinee on Saturday. You’ll eat bar-b-que you didn’t have to make off of strips of brown, butcher paper as if you were dining in an elegant restaurant with linen tablecloths instead of the planked, rough boards where strangers sit elbow to elbow, dripping sweet, savory sauce from puffy lips.

God understands the importance of our weakness to make use of His strength. He offered abundance to His people as they wandered in the desert. For forty years, He gave them sufficient food for each day, food they did not have to labor for or worry about. In this abundance, His people forgot about Him over and over again. They worshiped false gods even though the proof of the One, True God descended upon them in harvest every morning. They married outside of their own faith despite His warnings to the contrary.

We read about the wanderings in the desert with a little contempt today, but are we any different? Even the poorest among us in this country have more than most of the rest of the world and instead of thanking God for our abundance, we shun His very existence. We let others mock His power and forgiveness. We put up with those who would silence us when we want to call out His name.

When I am weak, He is strong. When I am most aware of my human frailty, I am most likely to feel gratitude to a God that saves me from even greater evils than those I face. In weakness, I will understand the satisfaction of a life lived as testimony as opposed to a life lived for my pleasure, the difference between a broken road and a road that will break you.

I asked my grandmother once about the invention of such time-saving household tools as the vacuum cleaner. My textbook said women loved these things because it gave them more leisure time, after all.

Grandmother had lived in houses whose floors were hard-packed dirt. She had worn clothes made from flour sacking and been the cook and cleaner and clothes washer and butter churner and quilter and more in her childhood family of three brothers and her dad since her mother passed away when my grandma was a toddler. She had cooked over campfires and seined coal from the river, walked miles to the mill where gathered grain could be ground for flour and plucked chickens she had slaughtered for the evening supper table. She worked seven days a week from the time the sun rose to the time the sun set in a world where all the people around her were eking out the same kind of existence.

These were the greatest generation, those who fought for the freedoms of people a world away, sacrificing life, limb, and the little things at home to make sure the world was a safer place. People planted gardens, learned to like margarine, rationed everything, saved even the dirty grease from the stove to donate to the factories for the cause of making rubber. The Depression had taught them how to make an onion and some parsnips last to a week’s worth of suppers, inspired the pickled mesquite bark in their cupboards and the repurposing of everything so that years later, my grandfather saw nothing wrong with using the same pan for his famous popcorn as the family also utilized for upchucks.

So, did Grandma think the vacuum cleaner was a gift sent from God? Definitely not. This abundance just meant she had more work to do. Standards of cleanliness rose along with our ability to clean until she was left with even more work than she had experienced before.

God’s enough is defined by our weakness turned toward His strength, which manifests itself in our love for Him and His Word, and the resulting love we then have for ourselves and others. If I can concentrate on being thankful instead of on the electronics I have surrounding me or the pretty clothes or the nice car, perhaps I will finally find that core of strength that is woven in my DNA from those who lived when abundance was only found in weakness. I appreciate the lessons they taught me by merely surviving amidst untold hardship and tragedy. I appreciate even more that they survived in full knowing of the gratitude they owed the Divine for every victory He allowed them, even in the midst of sandstorms and rain, of brown, crispy harvests and loved ones laid much too soon into the hard, cold ground.

Despite a lifetime of hardship and loss, my grandmother never gave up on her belief in God. She treasured the large print Bible I gave her on her 90th birthday because it gave her the ability to read more of the Bible daily than her cataract-challenged eyes had otherwise afforded her.

The capacity to find God’s strength in our own weakness might be summed up in a photograph I found among my grandmother’s belongings, a color snapshot of a chihuahua, my grandmother’s long-time house dog long-since passed, sitting on a plaid blanket, with these words written on the back in a steady hand:

A small brown dog with big, beautiful eyes that wanders through the halls of my memory.  Helen

If she, who had lost mother and husband and son and father and brothers, and yet never lost her faith in God, could find sweetness in the memory of loss, then what other proof of the value of accepting my weakness do I need?

I will try to recognize my abundance and its concurrent enemies of seeking happiness and fulfillment for what they are, which are obstacles to my ability to know and give the love God so freely offers to all who believe in Him, especially to those who allow Him to show His strength through the very weakness we usually fight to keep away. As I heard Rick Atchley preach just recently, we cannot ask God to make us stronger Christians and also ask Him to make everything all right. Only through the suffering that weakness brings can God truly do His work in us.

My grandparents’ generation proved the truth of this theology. More importantly, Christ sealed the truth of it when He willingly died in weakness on the Cross so that all humanity might be saved through faith by the love of the Almighty. That’s the strength I lean on. Won’t you join me?

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Christian Living, Faith

No Plot Twists Too Great for the Greatest Storyteller

We cannot know what God does

In the classic satire, Princess Bride, a very young Fred Savage plays a little boy listening to his grandfather tell him a fantastic story with so many twists and turns that Fred interrupts him at one point to exclaim in exasperation, “Gee, Grandpa, what are you telling me this story for?”

So often as I study my Bible, I find myself empathizing with little Fred. I am so engrossed in the action and emotions of the story that I am reading, that I often do a double-take when the narrative shoots off at a wild angle, completely different from anything I might have predicted or expected. In those moments, I find myself asking God, “Why are you telling me this?”

A case in point is the wonderful exposition of the life of King Solomon. David’s son begins with the greatest of intentions. He asks God for the wisdom to properly rule the kingdom of Israel. This wisdom is something much more than being a walking encyclopedia. Instead, the type of wisdom Solomon asks for and receives is the discernment to “read” the world from a holy perspective. It’s the kind of wisdom that allows him to know that the true mother of a child would rather see that baby given away than cut in two. It’s a wisdom that allows Solomon to amass a fortune and demand a level of respect around the world heretofore unknown in the Jewish experience.

And yet, even with all this wisdom going for him, we read that Solomon acted not so wisely as well. He married women, so many women, even those outside his Jewish religion, despite God’s express command against such unions, a command that included the warning in no uncertain terms that such unions would lead to the nation’s downfall. At one point, we are told, Solomon had some 700 wives and 300 concubines!  Especially in his old age, these women from foreign lands were easily able to lead Solomon into worship of other gods—gods the scripture defines as detestable to the Lord.

So we come to my why are you telling me this moment involving Solomon. As I read for the umpteenth time this morning the story of Solomon’s lack of judgment which ultimately led to the splitting of the kingdom of Israel and its eventual downfall, a lesson from Solomon’s folly came to me that I had not quite considered before.

My “God messages” and “Holy Spirit lessons” have been coming to me lately involving the themes of grace and becoming. I am saved because I believe in Jesus as my savior. I spend the rest of my grace-covered life becoming what God has pre-determined I need to be for that heavenly home that lasts forever and makes this earthly existence look like the blink of an eye. But, nothing I do in the process of becoming has anything to do with the promise of my salvation. The two processes are locked together and yet intricately separate. And, if I can get this truth clear in my emotional as well as logical response to people and situations, I feel that I will be so much better at loving the world around me instead of judging it.

From Solomon’s folly, I am reminded that no matter how smart I think I am, my brain is an unreliable vessel for my salvation. I cannot stay in relationship of good standing with my Creator unless I go through His son, Jesus, and that process involves my faith, not my wisdom. Despite a mind gifted with discernment known far and wide and across time, Solomon’s choice to move out of relationship with God by turning to other idols cost him dearly.

grace is God wanting to be in relationship with us, no matter what

Even with discerning wisdom, look how quickly Solomon fell into the trap of thinking he could manage his own relationship with God. What other explanation would there be for a man so wise to ignore the clear rules God had laid out for His people? Don’t marry the women who are native to the land you are entering, lest you fall into the trap of worshiping their gods, He told the wandering Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. Despite being wise, Solomon allowed the temptation of his attraction for these foreign women to over-rule the knowledge he had of God’s law.

This leaning on one’s own understanding by acting outside of the dictates of an omnipotent God is a kind of arrogance in one’s own knowledge that makes me think about the modern world in which we live, where scientists are sure they have explained the unexplainable and intellectuals flick the ashes from their cigarettes and disdain the quaint belief systems they see as naïve at best and evil conservatism at worst.

If we really want to be wise, we would concentrate our whole selves on the goal of loving God and appreciating the close relationship we have with Him because Jesus died on the Cross for us. Anything that gets in the way of that love should be cast to the side so that we do not fall victim, like Solomon, to letting the ways of this world get in the way of our much more important connection to the next.

The “twist” in Solomon’s wisdom story isn’t so much a twist, then, as it is the wisest thing we might learn from a king famous for his mind. Seek discernment on your path toward righteous living, yes, but lean on the grace of Jesus’ gift of salvation if you expect to remain in a right relationship with your Creator, especially throughout a long life full of the pitfalls that can trap a man, or woman, bent on thinking his or her way out of the scrapes that ensue when we start listening to our own hearts instead of the heart of our ever-present and oh-so-loving God.

In Christ,
Ramona

 

Posted in Christian Living, Faith

Live In Full Knowledge Of Your Becoming: God’s Perspective On A Life Lived Well

God is interested in my becoming, not my being

I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.

Poet Theodore Roethke sums up life in this refrain to his famous poem. A life fully lived takes the most advantage of every waking moment, squeezing out of every experience as much learning and joy, love and hope as is possible.

God longs for us to live this way, in constant communion with Him. He wants us to seek Him on our best days, our worst days and every day in-between. He promises that if we concentrate on Him, on His blessings in our life, on His dreams for us, on the kind of actions that bring Him glory, we will know a kind of peace that supersedes any challenges this troubled life may offer.

How unfortunate it is that when bad things happen, we flawed human beings tend to rationalize our way out of our relationship with God. We wonder how a good God could let such bad things happen to us, especially when we have spent our lives worshipping Him, studying His word, praying.  Some, like seed planted in thorny ground, give up on knowing God at the first sign of real hardship. Others continue reluctantly in the path of righteousness, maintaining a wary contact, wondering what is left for us in this world if even the worst of things can happen to people who believe.

But these reactions are in antithesis to how God is really acting in our lives. For God, the point of us lies not in our being but in our becoming. When I first had that said to me in a Sunday school class on Romans, I jotted it down in my notes and then promptly went on with the busy-ness of living. Then, I read a similar sentiment in the devotional, Jesus Calling, and something inside me clicked. So, let me say it again:

For God, the point of us lies not in our being, but in our becoming.

My limited perspective wants to settle into the being part of living. It wants to wallow in self-pity when things get rough, give in to pain, and sometimes just give up. But, if I faced a problem knowing that God can use each situation to help me become the kind of soul He needs for His kingdom, imagine how my concentration shifts from why me, to how might I grow.

I don’t believe God causes pain. Pain is a natural part of our fallen, evil-exposed world. But, I do believe God feels my pain, and that He approaches my pain from the perspective of what the sum total of my experiences will eventually make of me. No wonder Paul assures us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

Realizing that God is always working in my life to make something of me that only He knows the full ramification of and need for puts tragedy and pain into a completely different, mind-blowing paradigm for me.

Romans 8:28--God works for the good, always

Our being, our pursuit to stay in the moment of being us is where our limited human brains stay most of the time. When we set goals, they tend to reflect our most limited human perspective: we want to exercise more, eat better, follow God’s commands by being more loving toward others or increasing our volunteer time or giving, reading the Bible more consistently. It’s not that these goals are unworthy or should be cast aside. It’s not even that these goals won’t also teach the perseverance that leads to stronger character.

Even from our limited human perspective we know that a life lived without challenges is a life that is hard-pressed to grow. God, who has His heart set on what we are becoming, is the only One who grasps the full picture. He is the One who tells the oceans they can only come so far. He is the One who underscores our limited-ness by always giving us just enough. We have exactly what we need to know about Him and our reason for becoming in His Word and through our open communication with Him through prayer.

God cares about my becoming. And I only go through becoming like experiencing the pains of childbirth. I cannot think my way into another person. I must experience joy and pain, triumph and tragedy in order to change.

No wonder His word admonishes me to seek Him with a grateful heart, casting each need in the light of the thankfulness I owe my benevolent Creator. If my mind is set on being thankful and loving, my becoming will remain in the all-important arms of the One who knew where my becoming would end even before I was born.

I wake to sleep and take my becoming through the grace of my loving God. Next time you are tempted to wonder why bad things happen to good people, wonder instead at the mystery of your becoming in the arms of a God so loving that He knows all your flaws and yet willingly died for you anyway.

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Christian Living, Faith

Avoid Once-In-A-While Theology

holy-word

The temperature outside dropped dramatically a few weeks ago, giving Houstonians a chance to dig in the back of our closets for those few items of winter wear that we only get to use for a few days each year.

Too bad too many of us treat our Bibles like out winter wear in a hot, humid climate. We place them on a shelf and let them gather dust for much of the time, only pulling them from their nests when we trek to church on Christmas Eve or Easter.

The problem with approaching our Bible like our winter clothing is that when we reach a day when we really need the Words that are our most direct connection to the living God, we have no idea how to find the answers that would serve us best.

What a comfort it is to know, for example, that even a man like David, who loved God with everything that was in him, who was referred to in the Holy Word as a man “after God’s own heart,” could stumble spectacularly. When we stumble and think that God won’t want to hear from us, we can turn to the example David set for us. Even knowing that he deserved to be punished for his sin of adultery, David continued to plead with the God he served, whom he knew to be loving and good, to spare the life of the son who was the result of David’s sinful union with Bathsheba.

David’s life gives us even more insight into God’s love for us. With his heart, so much like God’s, David not only doesn’t hate his son Absalom when that rebel kills his own brothers and tries to usurp the throne from David, but also mourns Absalom’s death as if Absalom were the most perfect child on earth. Only a truly, deeply-loving heart could mourn the death of this rebellious son as David does. In fact, David is so overwrought when he is told of his son’s death, that he has to be told to buck up before he makes his own triumphant soldiers, who have backed him and protected him, feel like utter failures instead of the victors they really are.

If you rarely crack open this Book that is your most visible, accessible link to an Almighty, All-Knowing God, you are vulnerable to the lies this world and the devil, who has full reign in this fallen world, love to tell you. You believe that the only thing a person has to do to get into heaven is be basically good. As long as the good things you do outweigh the bad things you sometimes participate in, then you’ll turn out all right in the end. You start measuring yourself against the wrong yardstick, which is the people around you who also claim to be mostly good as opposed to measuring yourself in view of the lessons and dictates of the Holy Word in its totality.

A person who rarely cracks the thin pages of the Word may fall victim to blasphemies that sound comforting and reasonable from a secular perspective but have no foundation in the truth of the Word. You might believe, as a friend explained to me once, that as long as someone who really loves you asks for your soul to be with Jesus, then you are saved, whether or not you actually accept Christ as Savior yourself. You might find that the concept you have of heaven and hell are more in line with Milton’s Paradise Lost or Dante’s Inferno than the heavenly throne in Revelation where the angels dance.

It is a universal truth that failing to believe in anything makes you vulnerable to the fault of falling for everything. Never has it been more important to have a knowledge base of truth that allows you to weigh that truth against the vagaries of an internet-driven world. You cannot recognize the truth according to God if you only ever study His truth every once in a great while. And the only place to find that truth is in His Holy Word.

Cold-weather theology is like assuming you could learn three chords on a guitar, play them once every four to five months and then give a concert of guitar playing that would make the audience weep. You’d be much better served treating your Bible, not like cold-snap sweaters and scarves, but like the crisp, clean underwear you never leave home without. Even a little daily attention to your Holy Bible can go a long way toward growing your relationship with the Holy Creator.