Three Sieves

“Let nothing be said about anyone unless it passes through the three sieves: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” (Amy Carmichael).

I think we could avoid a lot of unnecessary conflict and grief if we paused before we spoke of others. There would be a lot less gossip and hearsay. There would be a lot less derogatory comments about others. In fact, there’d be a lot less talking (which is probably a good thing).

I think a certain passage from the Bible is helpful when deciding how to speak to and about others:

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies” (Philippians 4:8-9, The Message).

If you think on things that are true, reputable, authentic, and so on, you will speak these things. You will live these things. You will be known for these things. If you are constantly seeking God’s face through His word and prayer, then these attributes will become a part of who you are and will naturally flow out of you. Then you will be a true peacemaker.

God’s Message

But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you” (Isaiah 43:1-4).

I’ve noticed that whenever I’m anxious, it’s usually because taking a problem of mine and envisioning a future scenario without including God in it. It’s like when you think you’ve really messed up at your job, and the boss is going to call you into his office and yell at you and fire you, and then you’ll end up not ever finding another job and wind up homeless. That’s not a real life example of mine but a far-fetched example of where our minds can go if we let them.

The missing ingredient in this worst case scenario is God’s faithfulness. You’re not counting on God’s provision, even though you’ve probably seen it time and time again. You’re reverting to your default reaction of worry and fear.

But that’s when the Bible tells us to take every thought captive. You do that not by ceasing to think about it, but by stopping every thought and submitting it to what you know to be true about God as revealed in His word. You sometimes need to speak your fear out loud and speak against it in the name of the Lord. You rebuke Satan from your thoughts. You read and meditate on God’s word so that you can quote Scripture against these fearful thoughts.

Often, I will pray Scripture because God loves nothing than hearing His own words prayed back to Him. Plus, you are reminding yourself of what God has said about Himself and you.

The Way Way Too Early Christmas Post

Just so you know, there are 337 days until Christmas. Not that anyone’s counting. Except me.

I realize that we’re not even out of January yet, and here I am already talking about the next Christmas. I mean, we still have all the holidays starting with Easter to get through before we can even think of talking about Christmas, right?

I just love me some Christmas. I even love that I still drive by houses that have their decorations still up. You might call it laziness, but it makes my weird little heart happy that they don’t bow to conventional pressure to put up their festive holiday decor just because we’re almost a month past December 25. You stay strong, my friends.

I love that I can still go to DirecTV channel 858 to hear those holiday classics if I want to. And I am not ashamed.

By the way, I’m waiting on my Amazon delivery of that one last Hallmark Keepsake ornament that will go on my tree in about 300 days. God bless us, everyone!

Government Pizza

Back in the day, I used to live for the days when I bought my lunch at school. Not that I didn’t love my homemade lunches. But I knew that on certain special days, I could go into the school cafeteria and get me one of those square school pizzas, better known as government pizza, with a Jungle Juice to help wash it down.

I honestly can’t tell you the last time I had that special pizza, but I bet it’s been almost 35 years. Maybe longer. But someone on Facebook posted the recipe, so I had to share with all of you in case you ever want to relive the glory days of the elementary school cafeteria. You’re welcome:

The School Pizza Recipe- Don’t Lose This Recipe 😋
2-2/3 cup flour3/4 cup powdered milk
2 T sugar1 package quick rise yeast
1 tsp salt1-2/3 cup warm water (110-115)
2 T vegetable oilFilling:
1/2 lb Italian sausage
1/2 lb ground chuck
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 (8oz) block mozzarella cheese
Sauce (I make the day before):
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1 t salt1 tsp pepper
1/2 T dried oregano
1/2 T dried basil
1/2 t dried rosemary
Preheat oven to 475.
Spray 18 x 13 sheet pan with Pam and lay parchment paper down.
Add flour, powered milk, sugar, yeast, and salt to a large bowl.
Whisk to blend.Add oil to warm water.
Pour into flour mixture.
Stir with a wooden spoon until batter forms.
Don’t worry about lumps – you just want no dry spots.
Spread dough onto sheet pan with fingertips until even.
If the dough doesn’t want to cooperate then let it rest for 5 min and try again.
Bake just the crust for 8-10 min. Remove from oven and set aside.
Filling: Brown meats (add salt and pepper) until it resembles crumbles. Drain, set aside.Get out sauce.
To partially baked crust assemble:
Spread sauce all over crust.
Sprinkle meats.
Sprinkle cheese.
Bake at 475 for 8-10 min. until cheese starts to brown.
Let stand 5 min, cut into slices and serve.

The Next Step

“If we wait till we have clear enough vision to see the expected end before we stay our mind upon Him who is our Strength, we shall miss an opportunity that will never come again: we shall never know the blessing of the unoffended. Now is the time to say, ‘My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed. I will sing and give praise,’ even though as we say the words there is no sense of exultation” (Amy Carmichael).

I think sometimes the life of faith would be easier if I caught a glimpse of God’s five-year plan for me. I think I could believe more fervently if I knew how the next 12 months were going to play out. But no, just as God provided manna just for that day and not the next, so He calls me to trust Him in this 24 hour cycle. He calls me to follow and believe today while it is still called today.

I think Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. Sometimes, it is a step by step journey. If we could see the road from beginning to end, we wouldn’t need faith. We wouldn’t need God. Or at least we would convince ourselves that we had no need for God. Plus, if we saw everything we’d face at some point, we’d be instantly overwhelmed and quit.

You don’t need to see the whole path as long as you can see the hand of the One who is leading you. You don’t need to know the entire itinerary of your life as long as you’re tuned in to the voice of the One calling you forward. All you need is to trust and follow.

Trusting in the Lord

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track” (Proverbs 3:5-6, The Message).

Tonight at Kairos, guest speaker Eric Reid spoke about a very familiar passage of Scripture. I think anybody who’s familiar at all with the Bible has probably heard, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” at some point in a Bible study or a sermon or a Sunday School lesson. It’s something that we pass around tritely, sometimes without really meaning it — “Oh, trust in the Lord!”

But it occurred to me while he was speaking, what if you switched the verbs. I think it still speaks the same message, but just in a different way. “Lean on the Lord with all your heart, and trust not in your own understanding.”

In other words, don’t trust in what your mind thinks or what your heart feels, because they can lead you astray. Lean on God — put all your weight on the Almighty — and He will guide you in the right way.

The way you “lean not on your own understanding” is to take every thought captive. When you try to play out a scenario in your mind about a situation you’re in, it often leads to fear and anxiety. You often end up worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet — and may not even happen at all. But when you take that thought captive and hold it up against what God’s word said, you see the truth.

The more you know God, and not merely know about God, the more you trust Him. The more you abide in God’s Word, the more you see through experience of God’s faithfulness, the more you will lean on Him in times of trouble and the less you will trust in your own understanding.

Then God will make your path straight. Not easy, not pain-free, but keeping you on track toward what He wants for you and finally to where He is in heaven. Then you will know that God is not just at the end of the road but with you at every step along the road.

A Reminder from 9 Years Ago

“It’s funny how strength works when it comes to faith. Most of the time, I am not strong at all. My faith is weak and I am prone to doubts and fears. But when I need it, just right when I need it, the strength I need is there. Exactly what I need in that moment. God is good like that.”

I don’t normally quote myself, but this is something I wrote 9 years ago that could have been from yesterday. I can’t tell you how many times this truth has shown up in my life. I think the Bible has something to say about how God’s strength is made perfect in our weaknesses, so we can boast in those weaknesses. But that’s not something we’re supposed to do.

This culture values strength. This culture puts a premium on showing your best self at all times, even when it’s not your true self. Social media has taught us to present an edited, idealized version of us and our families and our lives that leaves out all the flaws and blemishes. But that’s not reality.

Reality is that we are broken and flawed people. The Bible calls that having a sin nature. We do what we don’t want to do and don’t do what we want to do that we know is right. But God loves us as we are and not as we should be. God sees us at our worst and loves us anyway.

God’s strength becomes present in our weaknesses the moment we say yes to Jesus. In the moment we confess our frailty to God and His holy otherness, we find that God’s strength becomes our own. When we accept God’s love, we find ourselves living out of the reality of being God’s sons and daughters.

God truly is good like that.

Another Snow Day

Back when I was a kid, I lived for snow days. I’d get so excited when there was even the remotest possibility of snow on a school day. We didn’t get a text the night before. We had to watch the news channel and read the list of school closings to see if our school was on the list. It was almost like watching the NFL draft, except for seeing who got to stay home the next day.

I still love a good snow day. I realize now that I’ll have to catch up later for missing work, but all that snow is still so pretty. Plus, there’s nothing I can really do about it at this point. I can’t very well ask God to take back all the snow, can I? So my response is to relax and enjoy it and not worry about tomorrow’s problems while it’s today. I seem to recall a Bible verse or two about that.

Also, actual snow is rare in this part of the country. I mean, we get flurries from time to time, but actual snow that sticks to the ground and accumulates? That’s rare. I should probably take pictures to document this historical event or something.

Trusting Along the Journey

In my case, I think I prefer to say that I trust the Guide more than the journey itself. I know enough of myself by now to know that if it were up to me to follow the road, I’d lose my way or get lose or wander off the road at some point. It’s not the journey in and of itself that compels me to keep traveling but the destination and the One who is waiting for me at the end as well as leading me along the way.

“All the way my Savior leads me–
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me–
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for ev’ry trial,
Feeds me with the living bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the rock before me,
Lo! a spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me–
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way” (Fanny Crosby).