Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Help, I Need Somebody

By Brenda Black

“And Moses' father-in-law said to him, 'The thing that you are doing is not good.

“'You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.

“'Now listen to me: I shall give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people's representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God,

“'then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk, and the work they are to do.

“'Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain and you shall place these over them, as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.

“'And let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.

“'If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.'

“So Moses listened to his father-in-law, and did all that he had said.” (Exodus 18:17-24)

I lived for a while thinking I could juggle all the balls thrown at me. I could be all things to all people. Wrong! It doesn't take long before the balls being thrown hit you square in the head and wake you up to your finite abilities. It was a humbling tumble with blackened eye and wobbly legs when I finally learned that there was only so much of me and there were others quite capable of stepping up to the plate if I would just get out of the way. I learned it the hard way. But I became so much wiser. Later in life, when I saw myself in a younger person headed down the same self-destructive path, I recognized the problem a whole lot quicker and gave it a name: Pride.

Self-reliant, confident, talented people can forget Who is truly in charge. Over achievers can lose sight of the One for whom they are working. Progressive thinkers, poetic writers, flamboyant singers are easily sidetracked from giving glory to God. And worst of all, we make pathetic listeners.

I love the verse 24 of the passage in Exodus 18. “So Moses listened to his father-in-law, and did all that he had said.” What a brilliant son! What a smart move!

Moses must have felt tremendous relief to have someone older and wiser to advise him after bearing all the leadership burden for so long through so much. Jethro was a breath of fresh air. Moses is not the only one who can benefit from the wisdom of elders. We all could learn a lesson or two.

Before you convince yourself that the buck stops with you, get an outside perspective from someone who's been around the block a time or two. As an old wives tale once declared, “Many hands make work lighter.” In the case of managing an entire Israelite nation, I think this is one time when that old wife was right. And the remedy holds true in most things we do in modern times. Mentors and mothers, big brothers, fathers, grandparents and teachers all have something to offer to those younger and less experienced. But will we listen?

It's time to take good advice and submit the counsel to prayer just as Jethro suggested to Moses. He was wise enough to present his opinions with one overriding condition: God needs to authorize it.

“If you do this thing and God so commands you,” Jethro clarifies.

Old doesn't make a man wise. Wisdom comes from God. From the outside looking in, Jethro brought a fresh and holy perspective and many, many people benefited. Who can you turn to when the load gets too heavy to carry and will you listen when they bring you a God suggestion?

All rights reserved © Copyright 2009 -2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Story by Brenda Featured in New Chicken Soup for the Soul

Coming in February - Release of
Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Latest Title
Grieving and Recovery

Losing a loved one is painful and can be overwhelming. The journey to healing and recovering takes time and everyone goes through the grieving process their own way. When you’re hurting, it helps to read stories from other people who have been through the same thing. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery (Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC, February 1, 2011, 978-1935096627, $14.95), contains 101 inspirational and comforting stories about surviving the loss of a loved one. Readers will take comfort and find inspiration in these personal and revealing stories from people who have been through the grieving and recovery process already and who generously share their tips about coping with loss, regaining strength, appreciating life, and finding new joy.

I am honored to have my story about a dear friend included in this beautiful and inspiring book and hope you’ll be encouraged when you read it.

The View Up and Down Here

By Brenda Black

Do you find it hard to be amazed these days? It's understandable when the term awesome has been reduced to sidewalk jargon for slick skateboard moves and wonder is defined best as the side-to-side head shaking a parent uses when pondering their teen's latest cell phone bill. We've lost the wow factor once reserved for the supernatural by the overload on our mind and emotions in this busy world, not to mention the total infatuation and over-estimated perception of ourselves. Maybe that's why I was awestricken and humbled when I took the time to size up this big planet and right-size myself compared to it. A couple of hours in a window seat on a plane did the trick for me.

I asked myself some tough questions as I stared down at hair thin rivers and sections of land interlaced together like miniature puzzle pieces. The shear enormity of sky and earth viewed from up above quietly put me in my place and left me wondering just what does the Lord see when He looks down on me.

I'm just a speck in the grand scheme of things. How can His love be so personal, tangible and present from far above in Heaven? He knows my name. He traces my face with the same finger that fashioned the entire human race and every created being on land, in sea, in air, in time and space.

God on high is the God here below. He is ever near, totally here as much as He is there. And that still amazes me! I'm never alone, never forgotten, always loved and valued. Though I am but a speck on the planet, I'm still the apple of His eye and He sees me with divine supervision.

Every move I make, every breath I take, every thought I ponder. Every hurt or joy I harbor is seen by the heart of my Heavenly Father.

Where can I go, what can I do to ever make Him blind to my place or position? How can I hide, why should I lie when I need nothing more than to abide.

Right here in my humble existence. Right here in total confidence. Right here on my little, tiny, miniscule, corner of earth is where I'm sought by a Father, bought by a Redeemer and helped by the Holy Spirit. What does the Lord see when He looks down on me? His child, an heir to the King.

Now let me tell you, my only glory, my only worth, my only purpose or pride is in the fact that the God of all is Lord of my life. I can't accept any other logic for thinking that anything I could do would make one ounce of difference if it weren't for the Lord's hand in it. If the mansions built by man are mere flickers of light to the eyes of a traveler flying across the night sky, then the one who poured the foundation and the one who built the walls are even less significant unless they understand the bigger picture. “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

It's time for a new perspective, a heavenly vision of the order of the universe. God is God and I am not. He is on the throne and He is in charge. He blesses and guides and heals and helps with an almighty hand and outstretched arms. And He does it solely out of love for this itsy bitsy humanity who get too full of ourselves and too busy to stop and take note that there is a Creator worthy of awe. He alone is holy and righteous. God is bigger than all of us rolled together, yet cares enough for every single one of us right here, right now, down here.

The best way I've discovered to get a clear vision for the wonder of and the wonders brought by a Holy God is to see the view down here from up there. It's amazing!

“I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene. And wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean. How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be: How marvelous! How wonderful is my Savior's love for me!” (My Savior's Love, Charles H. Gabriel)

Up, up and away! It's time we again were amazed.

copyright 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cindy's Smile

By Brenda Black

I had already noticed the tall stranger from afar, but now she crossed right in front of me before taking a seat right next to me. She looked young and beautiful, fit and energetic. I would learn shortly that her name was Cindy, but not before I discovered many other things first. She paused from working on her laptop and excused herself by asking me to protect her purse and belongings. She said, “You look like someone I can trust, would you mind watching my things.” I took her assessment as a high compliment and vowed to not disappoint her.

When the lean and long-legged woman returned, this seemingly confident woman told me about her hectic morning. Frozen pipes had launched her into a shower-less start. That explained the pretty, pink ball cap and the bouncy pony tail out the back. She'd been at the airport since 8:00 a.m. on this frigid day, only to learn her morning flight was cancelled. And here she sat next to me, at 12:30 in the afternoon, outside gate 7, a place and a time she never anticipated.

As she divulged her frustrations, with more humor than aggravation, she revealed her greatest distress at the moment: that someone she knew might see her in this less-than-perfect condition. I could relate, but I couldn't believe her anxiety. She was beautiful and I told her how the cap and the hair do made her look youthful. She laughed at the comment and it helped alleviate some self-induced stress. But I wasn't just feeding her empty compliments to pacify her or allay her negative self-analysis. I meant it!

“Even if you looked as bad as you think,” I told her, “you would still be beautiful.”

Before I'd left the house that morning, I grabbed a book I've had for at least a half dozen years. It was one of the few on the bookshelf that I had not already read and was small enough to stick in my purse for emergency material to pass the time while on the plane or waiting. I pulled it out and managed to read one chapter just minutes before Cindy entered my world. I selected that section based on the simple bookmark I found that indicated I'd come this far at some point before now. And as the Lord would have it, the chapter fit perfectly this moment.

As Cindy proceeded to pull her hat down tighter and work at invisibility, I told her what I just read about the true value of a person. “We're not objects that have their worth in function,” I shared. “We're not valued because of performance or good looks. It's how the Lord sees us that matters.”

She flashed a beautiful smile and said, “Thanks, I needed to hear that!”

As we exchanged more info about one another – career, family and some faith - she took my business card and said she'd check my blog for more encouragement. And when we parted company, she said, “If we never meet again, have a nice...” Cindy paused before she finished, then added “Have a nice life.”

As long as the Lord uses me this way, I'm sure it will be. For little does Cindy know that I asked my Lord the night before to make me an instrument of blessing. Give me someone to encourage or minister to in my journey, I prayed. And I asked again that morning to be His hands and feet and to show His love to a stranger.

I hope Cindy does check out my blog. Because I want her to know when she reads this column that God saw her that morning and He loved her without clean hair and polished make-up. He loved her as is. And He loved her enough to bump her to a flight that would position her in such a way to hear Him tell her through the mouth of a stranger. How cool is that!

I prayed for her before I knew her. Now, I'm praying that when Cindy reads this story, it will make her smile that gorgeous grin.

copyright 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Second Chance at Life

Second Chance at Life

By Brenda Black

“And it will be said: 'Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.' For this is what the high and lofty One says – he who lives forever, whose name is holy: 'I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me – the breath of man that I have created. I was enraged by his sinful greed; I punished him, and hid my face in anger, yet he kept on in his willful ways. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him, creating praise on the lips...'” (Isaiah 57:14-19a)

Shame for sins committed, grief for time wasted, humility when forgiven and genuine repentance - we rarely see any of these. Until today. Over three million have witnessed one man's magic moment by watching a viral internet clip and the related news story behind Ted Williams, an ex-radio announcer. The homeless man with the golden voice was discovered panhandling in Ohio behind a sign that read: “I have a god given gift of voice. I'm an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times. Please! Any help will be greatfully appreciated. Thank you and God bless. Happy holidays.

A news reporter discovered the thin man with shaggy hair who sacrificed his career to drugs and alcohol, but who's been clean now for over two years. His subsequent video interview on CBS' "The Early Show" flings wide the doors of opportunity for Williams to get a second chance with his booming larynx and his life.

My heart was so warmed by his sincerity and I couldn't help but think how grateful he seems for the simplest of things. He wants a home or an apartment so he can cook. He wants a job and to be responsible and pay taxes. When was the last time you thanked God for the ability to pay taxes? Does it ever cross any of our minds that the heat blowing through vents in our homes or the boss who demands a solid day's work for a fair pay check is not a guarantee for any of us? Thank God for heat! Thank God for jobs! Thank God for the food on our tables and the shoes on our feet! Thank God for the talents and abilities and intellect that positions us for useful service. Thank God for everything!

I was already convicted when I compared my wants to his simple list of needs. Then he shared with quivering voice the most important thing he desired. He wanted to see his 92-year-old mother and tell her he was back on track – clean and sober. And in unashamed broken and contrite fashion, Williams praised the Lord with his silver lips and golden voice. I can only imagine how God is pleased to be glorified by one so humble and appreciative of the turn of events. But when you hear this man's story, pay special attention to the fact that he found the Lord while he was at the bottom. He praised the Lord when he yet had nothing. He thanked the Lord, not CBS for discovering him.

“'Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live...

“'Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.'” (Ish. 55:1-3, 6-11)

May the Lord fulfill His purpose in Ted Williams. May the Lord fulfill His purpose in each of us so that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess the golden truth that God is good.