The Root of Bitterness

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV

Where I live in Texas, Mesquite trees are an invasive and often destructive problem.  Ranchers have been known to refer to them as “Devil Trees” or “The Devil with Roots.” They are hard to destroy.

We can cut them off at ground level. That solves the problem, for about a day, because they come back—with enthusiasm. The Mesquite tree has a tap root that reaches deep underground. Far down the root is a knot, and in order to get rid of the tree for good, we have to dig down to that knot and cut it out.  Anything less, and we’ll be dealing with that tree again before too long.

Bitterness in my soul is the same. It comes in so easily, a comment made, or a look given. Sometimes it floats in like the soft weightless seeds of the dandelion, so lightly that I don’t even know I’ve allowed an offense to settle in and turn to bitterness.

But once it takes root and starts to grow, it interrupts my fellowship with God.

Less than ten seconds of watching the news tells me I’m not alone in this. The urge to be bitter is a temptation—and we know from whom temptations come. We want to give in to the bitterness, because it is our justification for feeling anything other than love towards another.

Sometimes we must distance ourselves from the source, if we aren’t yet able to withstand the temptations: social media, certain people, or even the news channel. As long as we are still feeding the root of bitterness with the fertilizer accessible from these sources, we can’t begin to dig down and remove the root.

I know some situations are impossible to avoid. Your job, your neighbors, family members. But what if it’s your church?

Paul wrote: “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:26-27 NASB). Holding a grudge and refusing to forgive gives Satan a foothold—not only in me, but in God’s Church.

I suggest that sometimes we need to step away until we can recognize where the bitterness is coming from. My tendency to be fertile ground always stems from something in me more than anything someone has done to me. Perhaps the offense spoke into one of my insecurities or threatened the control I try to keep on my life—or highlighted the fact that I’m not really in control anyway.

My bitterness will be contagious. Perhaps I will spread it through the way I respond to a comment or answer a question, what events I choose to attend, or where I sit. A little look here or there. Body language that reflects something other than joy and love. On a bad day, I might be tempted to make an innocent remark that isn’t really innocent at all. Like the weightless seeds of the dandelion, my bitterness can spread with very little effort. And Scripture tells me that the seed will grow to cause trouble and division, and become the burden of many.

Keeping myself in the same environment that feeds my bitterness only distracts me from getting to the true source. Like the pesky mesquite trees, I can be so busy fighting what is above the surface that I don’t take time to dig down below and get to the real source of the problem.

Paul wrote: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice…” (Ephesians 4:31 NASB).  Don’t allow that invasive, stubborn root to remain in you. Ask the Lord to help you forgive, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

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The Root of Bitterness – insight on #FollowingGod from @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: How do you deal with bitterness?

Facing My Fears by Learning to Look Up

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.                                                                                                                                   2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV   

Acrophobia, the fear of heights. And the curse of a woman whose husband and offspring seemingly fearless.

They do, however, get a mutual enjoyment out of tormenting me by dangling themselves from high places. Of course, it’s not the height that scares me, so much as the possibility of falling from the height. The landing is the real issue.

But I have found that it is good to challenge myself by facing some of our fears. When we do, we often experience something we would have otherwise missed, and we allow God to grow our faith.

That’s why a couple of years ago I found myself on the entirely too wobbly and far too high platform for a zip line at a women’s retreat. I didn’t want to do this, and I was sure God would still love me even if I backed out. But ever since I had registered for the event, knowing it was a completely optional activity, I had the unmistakable feeling this was something I was supposed to do. I felt God was extending an invitation to experience something new. I waited until the last minute praying the feeling would pass. But God seemed to keep whispering in my ear, “Do you trust me?”

I harnessed up, climbed the unstable steps, sat, and yes… scooted myself inch by inch to the edge. I knew my legs completely freeze up when my fear kicks in, so there was no way I’d be stepping off the platform like all the fearless people were doing.

It wasn’t a pretty launch, but I managed to lean forward enough to let gravity do what I couldn’t. I won’t lie, the instant I left the platform was nothing short of sheer terror. But in the next moment, I was flying and free. And I was aware that as long as I kept looking up to God, the distance between me and the ground would no longer concern me. For a few moments, I was swept away in a moment of surrender to the Lord. Yes, Lord I trust you.

God had not given me the fear of heights, but He would use it to teach me.

Recently I had another opportunity to do something that scared me—a helicopter tour of the island of Kauai. I had never flown in a helicopter before, and I’m not a fan of flying (the acrophobia thing again). But I knew my husband wanted to, and that he wouldn’t if I didn’t. So being the Proverbs 31 wife that I am, here I went again.

And it was spectacular. I saw parts of the island I never would have seen, had I not done this. Beautiful, breathtaking scenes that could only have been created by the hands and creativity of the Master Creator. Things that could only be seen from a sky view.

We can’t avoid every disease, accident, job loss, or loss of a loved one. We will face things that scare us, whether we want to or not. I believe God gives us opportunities like ziplining and helicopter rides to teach us to trust Him. Taking a risk is an opportunity to build our faith muscles. By trusting God in facing some of these fears, we learn to trust Him in those we don’t choose.

Facing the things that frighten us, we step off the edge and let go, and God brings us to places of victory we wouldn’t have otherwise known.

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Facing My Fears by Learning to Look Up – insight from @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: What fears have you faced head-on?

Puzzled No More

by Lori Altebaumer by @Lori_Altebaumer

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. ”                                                                                                                                                      1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV

Winter puzzle season. In early November the jigsaw puzzles make their appearances. With create confidence and enthusiasm, we clear off a spare table, dump out the pile of pieces, and begin working the tiny fragments together in gleeful harmony until we have a beautiful picture.

That is the vision anyway.

This year we added a new one to our collection. A one-thousand-piece picture of the Swiss Alps at sunset. Since only three colors were needed to print it, they could afford to sell it at a discounted rate.  A little black along the bottom edge where the landscape is in shadows, shades of orange as the sun bounces off the mountains, and blue sky.  At least one half of this puzzle is nothing but amoeba shaped tidbits of blue cardboard. And this is why my husband no longer has the privilege of picking out puzzles to buy. But we were able to use the money we saved for marriage counseling afterwards.

Now because I’m a problem solver—or maybe because I am impatient and easily frustrated—I often try coaxing a piece of the puzzle into the place I need it to go. But we all know what happens when I do this—anything less than a perfect fit throws the entire puzzle off. The piece made to go there now must find another place where it wasn’t really meant to be, and so on and so forth.

I believe God appreciates a good puzzle too. He designed each of us—all our curves and edges—to fit exactly where He needs us in the bigger picture. I admire the artistry and creativity that goes into making the mosaics of faces using tiny tiles of other faces. I wonder if this is how God sees humanity.

Every person has a specific place they fit. When they aren’t in place it leaves a hole. When they try to fill a place that isn’t theirs, it throws the picture off.

The world tries to shove us into places we aren’t intended to be, jamming our hearts into a hole too small, too tight and confining, bending and battering us until it looks like we fit. Or it pushes us into a hole too big for us, leaving too much room to wiggle, to much open space around us, eventually wearing us down. The world doesn’t care about the bigger picture of God’s creation. It seeks to serve its own needs by telling us we should go here, be on this committee, serve this ministry, stay in this job and sign our kids up for XYZ.

But when we find the place we were uniquely designed to fit, everything clicks. We cease to struggle against our inner nature trying to fit a role not meant for us. A piece of God’s puzzle in the perfect and proper place, filling the role only it can fill in order to make the mosaic of God’s Kingdom the flawless masterpiece He intended.

Sometimes it’s not easy to find the place we are meant to be. I often pick up pieces of the puzzle that are close fits, they look like they might be the one, only to find that isn’t their place after all. Sometimes we need to try different things before we find our perfect fit. Sometimes learning where we don’t fit is a part of discovering where we do.

And we have the Master Puzzler Maker to help us.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB

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Puzzled No More – Learning to See Where I Fit In God’s Plan – @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: Has God shown you where you fit in?

March Madness

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.                                                                              Ephesians 6:12 NIV

Confession time. I’m a Texan, but basketball is my favorite sport. College basketball specifically, and that means March Madness as the NCAA Tournament takes center stage at our house (after God, of course).

My kids played basketball in school, and one thing that always amazed me was how passionate the fans could get. I don’t mean passionate as in “Go Team!” I mean outright nasty about the opposing team, players, and especially the referees.

These were often the same parents who didn’t have a clue about what was on the video games their kids played, or the music they listened to, or the content that came at their kids like water from a fire hydrant through the cell phones that were never far from their reach.

Eager to yell at the referees over a bad call, the players for a bad pass, or the coach for a bad play, but what about the real enemy in their kids’ lives? Where was the passion and righteous indignation then?

Satan is playing an even more important game with our children than anything that will ever take place on a court or field. One where a lot more than bragging rights or a possible scholarship are on the line. It’s a game for their very lives. He won’t play fair. To kill, steal, and destroy—that is his victory—and he plays to win.

The enemy prowls around seeking to devour our kids, and we give him a set of keys—social media accounts, cell phones, the internet—to their hearts and minds, turning a blind eye because…well, what can we do about it anyway. We don’t come out of seats, shaking our fist at the enemy, with veins popping from our foreheads, yelling at the top of our lungs for justice.

But let a referee make a bad call and we’re on our feet yelling every kind of derogatory statement we can think of.

Of course, Satan isn’t fazed by our ranting, yelling, and name calling. We aren’t going to hurt his feelings or shame him into leaving our kids alone. What he is fazed by, though, is the power of the name of Jesus Christ. And by our actions as Christians when we call on that power on behalf of our children. That is the first thing we need to do.

We yell at the players on our team to “D-up” meaning go into defensive position against their opponent. But are we teaching them how to D-up in their everyday life? Do we tell them to D-up on their way out the door to school or to watch a movie with their friends? Teaching them how to D-up for themselves is the second thing we need to do.

Then we need to constantly watch for wolves. In the basketball league our kids played in, a “wolf” was an opponent sneaking up in a player’s blind spot to steal the ball. In the game of life, Satan is a wolf lurking everywhere, eager to attack and cunning in the way he gets close.

When we yell at a referee over a call we don’t agree with, but look the other way at the lies the world is selling our kids…well, it feels a little like suiting up for the enemy’s team.

Instead of giving the game more importance than it should have, I think it may be time we get out of the stands and start channeling our anger at the real enemy who has the power and the desire to steal, kill, and destroy our children.

TWEETABLE
March Madness and Preparing Our Kids to Face Life from @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: How do you help your children to D-up against the enemy?

Love Notes from God

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

God wants us to pursue Him. He wants us to search for the evidence of His favor in the first light of dawn, in the dew on the grass and the web of the spider, in the taste of an apple, and the smell of honeysuckle on a warm evening breeze. And He promises us when we seek Him with our heart, we will find him.

Because God wants us to seek and pursue Him, He instilled in us the same desire to be sought after, to be pursued. Dare I say, to be romanced?

The desire to be romanced is the desire to be pursued. It is not a weakness, but a God given gift that reveals God’s heart for us. Similar to the pursuit of a boyfriend or husband—and yet so much more. God longs for us to know He is pursuing us—relentlessly.

Jesus told three parables in which God was portrayed as a seeker (in Luke 15). The shepherd determinedly seeking a lost sheep. The woman turning the house upside down in search of a lost coin. And the father of the wayward son, forever watching the horizon for his son’s return home. In each story the seeker was relentless. Something was so valuable to them, it was worth the effort to look. And there was great joy in the finding.

God seeks out what is valuable to Him. Us. And He does it with love notes.

Oh, but he doesn’t use a generic box of pre-made valentines. He created each of us as a one of a kind original and would never use a one-size-fits-all kind of note to express His love.  As unique as we are in so many ways, so too God crafts His love notes tailor-made  for us.

I have twins—a girl and a boy—and the only thing they have in common is they share the same birthday. He loves chocolate cake. She loves plain white cake. I am not going to communicate my love to her by baking her a chocolate cake, nor would I let him know he was loved by baking him a white cake. I speak to each of them in the individual ways I know mean the most to them. And yes, this does mean that we have two birthday cakes every November twenty-ninth—as if we weren’t already stuffed full of Thanksgiving leftovers.

I know someone who says prime parking places are her love notes from God. I like to park a little farther out and walk. God isn’t going to use a parking space for me. I wouldn’t recognize it as a love note. It would be just another vacant spot of asphalt.

For me, a love note from God may be a gentle breeze, soft against my cheek, gently tugging at my hair. It is the tender touch of a lover. A lover who knows me like no other can because He formed me, knitting together my very being in my mother’s womb. I can assure you, my husband could blow air on my face and the feeling it would trigger would not be even close to the same no matter how lovingly he did it.

How about sunsets, tulips, the taste of chocolate, or the sound of a child laughing? The smell of rain, light through a stained-glass window, a phone call from a friend, or just the right song on the radio at just the time we need to hear it?

God is speaking to us.  And when we hear Him, we should turn our faces to Him. Take our focus off the problems of the world and instead look into the face of our greatest love and most powerful hope.

God is calling, “Come to me.” And waits with arms opened wide.

TWEETABLE
Love Notes from God – thoughts from @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: What love note has God given you recently?

Warming My Soul

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.  Isaiah 60:1 NKJV

Winter in Texas is as dependable as a monkey on Mountain Dew. Thirty today, eighty tomorrow. Or worse, eighty in the morning and thirty by lunch. People in Texas do not plan out the weeks’ worth of outfits on Sunday night. Last week we had a string of days where the temperatures never got out of the upper twenties with precipitation and freezing rain. Miserably cold. In Texas these are the conditions that inspire panic, food hoarding, the updating of wills, and gas shortages.

But as quickly as it came, the cold left, and the sun shone through. Having spent several days writing in the climate-controlled comfort of my office, I was ready for some sunshine. I grabbed a light jacket and headed out to catch what sunlight I could. When I stepped from the trees surrounding our house into the open, the warmth of the winter sun wrapped around me like the embrace of a beloved friend.

I turned my face to the sun and let the rays soak into my skin. This was not the heat of the intense summer sun that hits like a furnace blast. No, the winter sun reached through the chilly air and settled against my skin like butter melting onto a piece of warm bread. Delicious. Slow. Soaking.

I am keenly aware of the warmth steadily reaching deeper into my body, feeding my soul. I feel as if I’m being filled with a golden glow.  The warmth makes me smile. The tension in my body releases, my arms open, hanging loose and ready to receive. I feel the radiance of the Lord washing over me.

Then I hear a commotion behind me—the dog and cat were having a disagreement about which one was more important, I think. It distracts me and I turn to look, my back now to the sun.  The warmth disappears in an instant, much faster than it came. I wrap my arms around my middle, holding myself tightly, trying to preserve the warmth and protect myself from the chill.

Then it hits me.

This is exactly what I do with God. I turn my face to Him and feel His love radiating through me. I relax my anxious worrying. I stand open to receive whatever He has for me. I glow.

Then something captures my attention. Distracted, I turn my face from Him. Perhaps it is an unexpected event—a diagnosis or job change. Or it could be a series of small things turning me slowly by degrees. An overcommitted schedule. A wounded heart I refuse to address. A television show I won’t stop watching or friends that pull me toward things that aren’t God’s best for me. Soon my arms no longer hang open to receive from God. I hug them tightly against me for protection. My body becomes tense, uncomfortable and aching.

I have two choices. I can grow accustomed to the cold and learn to live with the ache until I accept it as normal.

Or I can turn back to the Son.

Oh the unmistakable beauty found in the everyday rising of the sun!  Is it possible that God has established this as a picture for us? The writer of Lamentations thought so. “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every monring; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NASB). The Son is always there. We have only to turn to Him and be warmed.

Turn your face to Him today and feel the warmth of His love.

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Turn your face to God and feel the warming of your soul – hope from @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: What tends to distract you from soaking in God’s love?

The Season for Seed Catalogs

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12 NKJV

The holidays are past, and the long cold nights of winter are upon us. Do you know what that means? It’s seed catalog season—that time of year when we race to the mailbox everyday hoping this will be the day the offering of botanical bliss will be waiting for us. (Actually, I don’t even know if that’s still a thing.)

It’s certainly not for me. The universe seems to have caught wind of my horticultural history and deemed me unfit. In fact, my husband has forbidden me from buying plants, claiming it is cruel and unusual punishment for the plant.

But I remember my grandmother and my mother receiving these catalogs, pouring over them for the newest variety of sweet corn or most intriguing color of Iris for the coming Spring. Once the selections were made and the order placed, the work began. Every effort was made to make sure the best possible conditions were available for the seeds or plants once they arrived. Ground cover was removed, debris cleared, rocks dug up and relocated, and the soil was tilled. Sometimes borders were built, or material such as compost or sand would be added to the existing soil to help create the right growing environment.  As the ground began to thaw in the Spring, they tilled it until it was a soft and suitable place for something good to grow.

God is a gardener and the place He seeks to sow His seeds is in our hearts. But just like soil of the earth must be prepared, so too our hearts must be made ready to receive His seeds and provide a nurturing place for what He plants.

Sometimes our hearts are overgrown with weeds that need to be removed. What we listen to and watch, the things we fill our time thinking about: all these can cause things to take root that are destructive to the good things God would like to plant there.

It is easy to let parts of our hearts become like fallow ground. Fallow ground is land that has never been tilled or has been tilled but is now left to idle. Whether our hearts have never been tilled, or they once flourished with growth but have since been ignored, both conditions will make it difficult for seeds to penetrate and take root. We must plow the unbroken ground of our hearts until it is a soft, fertile place for good things to grow.

The work isn’t easy. Pulling weeds, breaking up the dense soil, digging up rocks, carting in good soil if needed—these things are not necessarily fun, either physically or spiritually. We may have to distance ourselves from certain situations or old friends. We may have to give up unimportant things we enjoy but rob us of the time we need for what is important. We may have to dig deep in our past and take a painful look at the things we have wanted to keep hidden. But it is the only way we can turn our hearts—our whole hearts—into the fertile ground needed for the seeds of God’s love.

We should be prepared for sore backs and blistered palms. We can’t be afraid to get a little dirt under our finger nails. But if we are willing to work, we can anticipate the harvest of righteousness that will come.

Lord, I want a soft heart toward you. Please give me discernment to spot the things currently in my life that need weeding and the strength to deal with them as I should. I want to make You my highest priority in 2019. Amen.

TWEETABLE
The Season for Seed Catalogs – @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: What have you found to be helpful in keeping your heart soft toward the Lord?

The Lion Monument

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer 

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:11 NIV

Mark Twain referred to the massive stone carving in Lucerne, known as The Lion Monument, as “the saddest and most moving piece of rock I have ever seen.”

From the moment it comes into view, there is something gripping and poignant about the dying lion carved in the sandstone side of a former rock quarry. Even before I knew the story, the expression of grief—a mixture of pain and sadness and regret—on the lion’s face resonated with something deep within my heart.

The inscription above the lion translates: “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss.”

Curious as to know what inspired such a moving monument and inscription, I did some research upon returning home.

In the eighteenth century, the Swiss upper class generated their income streams by enlisting young men as mercenaries to other countries. This is how nearly one thousand of these mercenaries, known as the Swiss Guard, came to be protecting the French monarchy of King Louis XVI at the time of the French Revolution.

On August 10, 1792, a mob of angry citizens numbering in the thousands overtook the royal castle. There were approximately seven hundred of the soldiers stationed there at the time. The king, hoping to placate the rioting crowd, ordered the Swiss Guard to lay down their weapons. The soldiers did not immediately obey, but continued fighting until their ammunition ran low. The King’s order became a death sentence for these men.

The carving of the dying lion has a wooden stake driven through his heart, but it also shows his paw lying protectively over the shield bearing the Fleur-de-lis of the French royalty.

The story behind this monument fascinates, moves and inspires me. But I couldn’t help but note the resemblance to me as a soldier in God’s Kingdom. Would loyalty and bravery be noted in an inscription about my life? I certainly hope I live in such a way that it would.

But I do know my King will never tell me to take off my armor or lay down my weapons. Not when I’m sitting in church. Not when I’m teaching Vacation Bible School. Not even when I’m in the midst of praise and worship at a Mercy Me concert. Never.

Our enemy does not quit. He is no respecter of battle lines or boundaries. And our King knows this.

Sure, the enemy may allow me periods of peace where I can get comfortable and overconfident–convince myself I’ve won. That’s the trap he uses to catch me without my armor on.

Flash forward from the massacre of the Swiss Guards to only a few decades later, and we find ourselves at the battle of the Alamo. When Santa Anna came to San Antonio in preparation for the siege of this small mission, he rode in under a black flag: take no prisoners. Even to surrender meant certain death.

Satan, too, rides under a black flag—the flag of no quarter.

The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians, “Put on the full armor of God so that you may take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” I haven’t yet found the verse that tells me to take it off this side of eternity.

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What the Lion Monument can teach us about the armor of God – @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet) 

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: Each of the pieces of armor is important to us in battle. Which piece has meant the most to you when you have been under attack?

Why I Think I Have Been Reading the Wrong Scripture at Christmas

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

Christmas is over. The tree is down, ornaments stored, presents unwrapped, and the calendar that felt stretched tighter than my waistband breathes a sigh of relief.

Perhaps like me, you too are now analyzing our successes and failures and formulating a strategy for making Christmas 2019 even more spectacular.

But before we get to deep in the planning, I’d like to share with you the most valuable gift I received this year.

The gift was from God—as are all the best gifts. It was a revelation I’ve been starting my holidays by reading from the wrong place in Scripture.  Like me, maybe you took time to read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke this year. And like me, maybe you read it in a hurry because your to-do list was full of the things you believed were important and necessary.

But what if we had started the holidays by reading the story of Jesus visiting the house of Martha and Mary?

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” Luke 10:38-40

I’m not going to criticize Martha. I probably would have done the same. Let’s be honest, it’s exactly what I do. As the calendar moves into the Christmas season, where is my attention? The decorations, the gifts, the baking, the parties, the schedule, and so on.

“’Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.’” Luke 10:41

I can just imagine Jesus looking at me and my frantic list making and scheduling. He shakes His head and with a sad smile says, “Lori, Lori, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.”

Only one thing is needed. Don’t miss the word needed here. He doesn’t say that only one thing is good or important. Jesus and His disciples had to eat, and someone had to prepare the meal. There may be nothing wrong with our holiday hustle and bustle. There is certainly nothing wrong with celebrating the birth of Christ or expressing our love for others through the things we do at Christmas. But only one thing is needed. Only one thing is necessary.

And what is that one thing?

It is Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. Listening, worshiping, soaking in the presence of her Lord and Savior.

What would my Christmas look like if I focused on the one thing needed this year? What if I refused to be distracted away from sitting at the feet of my Lord and Savior?

What if I lived the entire year this way?

The New Year is here. Resolutions have been made, gym memberships purchased (not by me, but I’m sure someone out there has), and goals set. It invites us to a new beginning. An annual do-over of sorts. I have my pristine new day planner and dates on the calendar to meet with writing friends and set our goals for the coming year. I feel the abounding and buoyant hope of a successful year crowned at the end with a near perfect Christmas. After all, I’ve analyzed what went wrong with the last one and formulated a strategy to do better this time around.

But have I taken into consideration the one thing needed? Or am I trying to wedge that in to the left-over nooks and crannies of my days?

It is easy to let my planning become a distraction, pulling me away from the one thing needed. But this year I’m going to use my plan making and goal setting to form a hedge of protection around the only thing that is needed.

In fact, I think I’ll read the story of Martha and Mary, not just first next Christmas, but often throughout the year to make me mindful of choosing what is better.

Move over Mary. I’m coming to join you.

You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures. Psalm 16:11 CSB

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Why I Think I Have Been Reading the Wrong Scripture at Christmas – @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: Can you remember when a time of instability or change resulted in something beautiful?

It’s Okay if You Don’t Remember Me

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

 For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” James 4:14 NIV

It was a simple act of kindness, but its effects continue to ripple on into people who never knew its giver. All it took was a bottle of water in the hands of a man not just willing to give but prepared to do so.

We met him on a hike my husband and I had no intention of taking. We just wanted to look around, but one scenic view led to another, and soon we were miles from the car, beneath the desert sun on a trail headed to the summit of Camelback Mountain. No map, no water, no plan.

A man coming down the trail stopped to offer a bottle of water. He explained he always carried extra for sharing. We never knew his name. The interaction took less than two minutes. But his kindness is remembered.

The wisdom we gained that day—and there was a lot to be gained—was that willingness to help isn’t always enough. We need to be prepared to help.  Thanks to his one small act, we chose to begin to live in this same way. The fruit of his kindness now manifests itself in the lives of our children. They don’t know the stranger on the mountain, not his story or his name.

But his gracious generosity continues through their purposeful actions, often to strangers who will never know their names. Who knows how much one small act of kindness on the trail will impact this world?

The world tells us that having a long- remembered name is the evidence of a meaningful life. But this is not what the Bible teaches. The world says earn my favor. The Kingdom of God says share my favor.

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain…” (John 15:16 NASB) Not that my name should remain, but my fruit.

What is the fruit that lingers on?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” Galatians 5:22-3 NASB.

I’ve seen the love of Jesus in faces of people whose names I’ll never know. But the love of Christ reflected through them is imprinted on my soul forever. It is not the fame of their name, but the love in their hearts that influences everything I think and do.

God isn’t glorified by my name being an entry on Wikipedia or any of the countless other things we might chase—even some of the things we chase in the name of Kingdom building.

“By this My father is glorified, that you bear much fruit…” (John 15:8 ESV)

It doesn’t say great fruit, impressive fruit, look-what-I-did-and-remember-me-forever fruit. It just says much fruit. God can do great things with the ordinary things we may think too small to notice. A thousand small acts of kindness may have more impact on God’s Kingdom than anything else we can think to do.

Don’t remember me. But if by my life, you remember Jesus, then I will be content to one day hear “well done my good and faithful servant.”

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“A thousand small acts of kindness may have more impact on God’s Kingdom than anything else we can think to do.” wisdom from @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: What ordinary act of generosity has had an impact on your life?