Remember, O Lord Your Great Mercy

Psalm 25:6

She was bent over in pain that day, the result of years of unmet expectations and disappointments with life. It’s not that she had not tried. She had. Others, however, always made it to the finish line first, got the best deals, played the winning hands, found the better bargains. Some days she felt like she could win. She started the morning with anticipation, entered into the day with confidence, but before the evening came she sensed, once again, that defeat rested on her shoulders the way a bird rests on its perch, claws clutched confidently around the small round wooden swing, holding tight and never letting go. That’s what defeat felt like. That’s what discouragement looked like. It held on and never let go.

In the night, a Bible verse called out to her. Psalm 77:9 asked, “Has God forgotten to be merciful?” She answered with a loud, “Yes! He has pulled away all mercy from me!”

Morning came, and with it a fresh breeze from the north. It fell lightly on her shoulders, reminding her of summer days when she ran in the sand down the beach, giggling as the waves splashed at her feet. Happier times. More simple times. Days when her mother ran with her, holding her hand and bringing security.

“Has God forgotten to be merciful?” she called out to the breeze, as a yellow butterfly landed on her foot. She stood more still than she had been in days. Quiet. Pensive. Thoughtful.

“No,” the answer came from somewhere in the stillness. “God cannot forget to be merciful. Mercy moves everywhere God moves. Mercy steps everywhere He steps, moving softly but confidently, just as the butterfly now moves to rest on your shoulder. God cannot forget Mercy. He is Mercy. That’s His Name.”Miraculously, gloriously, she suddenly felt covered in love, bathed as if a sprinkler had been turned right on her. It was a Mercy Bath, and she laughed as she kissed the wind that fell on her face.

Life was not over for her. She stood up straight, grabbed confidence by the hand, and walked into a new day.

Women Need Each Other

Women need each other. We have a special kinship, a unique understanding, a tender concern for what each other goes through in this life. The nurturing quality that God so beautifully placed inside of us seems enhanced when another is hurting.  We want to be there for each other.  When we are with a dear friend, our problems don’t seem quite so tough, our pain quite so intense.

Cherish the friend with whom you can cry, laugh and be yourself.

Thank the friend you can call any time of the day or night.

Bless the one who never tells you what to do, but listens instead with a heart of love, helping you to think through the difficult choices you need to make.

Honor the friend with whom you are safe. You know she will never betray your confidence.

And then…pray for the friend around whom it is hard to be yourself.

Pray for the friend you know will get upset if you call her any time day or night.

Pray for the one who has never learned to listen to you, but wants to always tell you what you should do.

Pray for the friend who has betrayed you.

Ask God to forgive the one who has hurt you, made you cry, lied to you or about you, shunned you, broken your heart, dropped you as a friend, or crucified you with mean actions.  You might want to use words similar to what Stephen and Jesus said. “Forgive her. I think she probably did know what she was doing. But, forgive her anyway.”


The Sweet Scent of Forgiveness


How do we know the right time to go to someone and ask them to forgive us? I don’t want to go to an angry and dissatisfied person and ask forgiveness if God has not prompted me with his perfect timing. Only He knows when that person’s heart is ready to accept my apology. Only God knows if that person’s discontent has softened enough to hear my request for forgiveness.

Prayer paves the way for forgiveness to happen. When we allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in our lives and when we are in communion with Him about broken relationships, you can know that He will let you know when and how this is to take place

We make forgiveness out to be so hard, when actually, it is easier than you might think. The thought of having to go to that person produces a larger than life scenario. In our own strength, we dread it. We fret over it. We put it off. We wonder how that person will react. We question what people might think of us if the confrontation does not turn out as you hope. What if he/she has no plans to forgive you? What if this person laughs at you or even yells at you, calls you a name and tells you to go away? What then? Well, you do it anyway, but only if you feel God has told you to.

To ask for forgiveness does not mean that this person will change, hug you, smile at you and say, “Of course.” It might mean that he will turn away from you, say something mean, or laugh at your attempt. That doesn’t matter. If God has told you to, then you do it anyway, leaving the results to Him and accepting the fact that you might never know how it all turned out. Your part is to be obedient; God’s part is to receive your obedience.

Wrapped in Such an Ordinary Package – A Christmas Story

Wrapped in Such an Ordinary Package

A Christmas Story By BJ Funk

Because God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit always have had complete reign above the earth in a land called heaven, then it is reasonable to assume that the kingdom of heaven was and is where the Trinity lived and reigned. Wherever the Triune God was, then that’s where the Kingdom of heaven was and is. That lasted all throughout time from Genesis through Malachi, and then through four hundred years of silence before the New Testament.

In that land called heaven, the Son, Jesus, stood up one day, gave the Father and the Spirit a temporary hug and good-bye kiss, opened His hand to receive the tiny seed His Father placed in it, and made a bold, gigantic decision, all in obedience to the Father. The Son stepped off of the glittering soft streets, outside of the abundance of rainbow colors that dripped wonderful smells of beauty, became small inside the womb of a young woman, and moved into the sin, dirt and humanity of earth. Upon first opening his eyes, he saw darkness. He took his first breath and smelled stench. He opened his ears and heard animals oinking and braying and screeching. This was His temporary new home. He already knew the length would be thirty three years.

And, so on an ordinary night in an ordinary town in an ordinary and rough cave used for a stable, surrounded by ordinary animals, and two very ordinary parents, God became man and this world of ours would never be the same again.

Before the shepherds were given this celestial message by the angels, those very ordinary shepherds stood on a very ordinary hillside, dressed in quite ordinary clothes and would now be sent to find a baby that was anything but ordinary. These shepherds reeked with strong, offensive odors, carrying always on their person the smells of their job. Smells of sheep. But on that night, they were the ordinary wrapped in royalty. Later, when Jesus began His public ministry, He selected as His disciples several who carried on their person the smells of their job. Fishermen, whose clothes reeked with the smells of raw fish. But, when Jesus chose them, they were the ordinary wrapped in royalty. It’s a trademark of God, accepting those others feel are unacceptable. He does the same for us. Aren’t we glad you and I don’t have to clean up before He invites us into kingdom?

God seldom does what we expect Him to do. And so it was to ordinary shepherds that God assigned the job of locating this extraordinary baby boy who was God Incarnate.

Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical situations. On this very ordinary day in this ordinary world, God has a message for ordinary people like you and like me. His message is “I love you. No matter what your sins or transgressions in 2016 or before that, I love you and I forgive you. I reach out especially to the poor, the hurting, the lonely, the unsuccessful, and I say, “Come unto me all ye who are burdened and heavy laden. I have come to bring you peace.”

Today, because of God’s extraordinary reach to ordinary people, you and I are caught up in the wonder of seeing royalty wrapped in ordinary humanity, lying in a manger and saying to you tonight, “I came for the ordinary. I died for the ordinary. Never let anyone make you feel that you are not worthy of my love.”

Thanks be to God. Because of Jesus, ordinary people like us will forever be wrapped in royalty. AMEN

The Peace Lily’s Reminder

Do you have a Peace Lily in your home? This beautiful green plant seems to have only two requirements: proper lighting and water. I have three in my home now, one on my kitchen and dining room table and a larger one by a window in my living room. They ask so little of me that I almost neglect them until I realize their leaves are beginning to wilt. A good, full drink of water always seems to take care of that. My Peace Lilies keep a surprise from me, and I am always taken back when I pass one of my plants and see a long-stemmed white teardrop flower. That’s when I think to myself, “Well, where did you come from and how come I hadn’t noticed you before?”

The reason I hadn’t noticed it is because it’s the Peace Lily’s prerogative to bring out its white surprise whenever it desires. I like to think that the little white flower has its reasons, that on that particular day the Peace Lily wants to remind me of the peace we need in our nation, in our communities, in our churches and in our homes. I also like to think that perhaps the teardrop shape has a purpose, too.

Sometimes, peace comes through tears. We might have to change something, leave someone, take someone in, face our giants of intimidation, or repent and cleanse inner grief or sin before the tears can stop and new life begins.

Take a lesson from the Peace Lily. Your life does not have to continue in bitterness, unforgiveness, turmoil and stress. Don’t give up. Bloom a white flower in your life as you shed tears that will eventually bring you peace.

Rainbow Promises

highway-rainbow-590x442A soft rainbow graced the blue sky above as my friend and I traveled on the highway. We couldn’t help but look, feeling that something deep within demanded it. Not to do so would have been like disobeying our daddies when we were little girls and were told to stop at the curb before crossing the street. A command sprang up from somewhere deep within. Stop. Look. Listen.

The rainbow demanded our attention. To ignore it would betray our better judgment. No matter that we were searching for exit signs on an unfamiliar highway, we had to look. Against a beautiful blue backdrop, the colors appeared as if a paint brush had dipped into pastels of cotton candy and then spread its catch in three long simple curves right in front of our car. We stopped. We looked. And then, a few miles down the road as our car was pelted with a strong, unrelenting rain, we listened.

Susan said, “Usually, we see the rainbow after the storm. This time, we saw the rainbow before the storm.”

Her words sank deep within. How many times have I trudged through one of life’s storms, fighting my way to the other side and trying to handle it all by myself before looking up to recognize God’s desire to help me? When the storms of difficult circumstances are raging in my life, I can see nothing but the pelting rains of discouragement. Often, I search for a rainbow through tears that dim my view. But, the rainbow was actually there for me before the trouble began. God’s promises don’t begin during or after the storm. God’s promises begin before the storm.

Our place is to stop, look and listen. Stop to recognize God’s faithfulness to guide us. Look for his promises to strengthen us. And listen for his whispers of encouragement.

Frogs and Pearls

small pearlWhen I was around eight, my maternal grandmother told me a story about the importance of talking nicely. She said when we talk ugly, frogs come out of our mouths, but when we talk with love and kindness, pearls come out. The same mouth can either hurt people or show them love.

What she said made a great impression on my young life. With her words, she painted a clear picture. I visualized those frogs, and I wanted no part of them! The thought, however, of pearls coming out of my mouth sounded much better. I only saw Mama Newton when my family drove to Live Oak, Florida to my Grandparents’ large two-story home. I rocked in huge rocking chairs on their wrap-around front porch, studied the lovely stained glass window at the curve of the oak stairway, and played in all of the upstairs bedrooms. One of the best memories I have of her, however, is the lesson of the frog. She made a believer out of me!

Other than the frog/pearl story, one other memory stands out. She did not have a driver’s license, but when she learned of a friend with cancer, she walked all the way across town to pray for her. Her friend recovered. This left a strong impression on my life. From her I gained two valuable lessons. When we feel led to pray for a person, we must pray, even if we have to walk a ways to get there. When we speak to others, pearls are better than frogs.

The book of James puts these two teachings in perspective. James 5:16 reads, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James even has a pearl/frog story when he speaks of the power of the tongue. “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing….this should not be.” The next time God impresses you to pray for someone, do it. The next time you start to speak critically or hastily, think “pearls.”

Four-Way Stops: Demonstrating the Golden Rule

By B.J. Funk

Have you heard of the Parable of the Four-way Stop Sign? It’s the Golden Rule in action. Four vehicles can reach the stop sign around the same time, from four different directions. Each stops, allowing the first that arrives to be the first to move forward. You stop and wait your turn. Another waits his turn. In this world of law suits running rampant because someone has violated another’s rights, the four-way stop brings a pleasant reminder that ‘doing unto others’ actually can work. I go through one every day on my way to work, and I’ve yet to see an angry motorist exit his car for a fist fight with the driver of the car who got there first.

We teach our children to take turns. While a child is bursting to always be first, we tell them they cannot. How many times has a parent said to small siblings, ‘You take a turn. Then give your brother a turn’? In homes that value guidance, the Golden Rule is taught daily. Yet, I grow weary of TV talk shows where grown-ups have forgotten what they were taught as children. Men and women engage in nightly battles of interruption to see who can be the loudest. Sometimes, I want to write them and tell them the Parable of the Four-Way Stop Sign!

Me, my and mine seem to have become the buzz words of our era, and the message of the Golden Rule gets pushed aside. Instead of the admonition of Jesus to ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ we often hear ‘Do unto others before they get a chance to do it unto you!’

Taking turns is not the only aspect of this rule. But it’s a beginning. Start a Matthew 7:12 Ministry in your Sunday School class, and watch the differences that can come when we treat others the way we like to be treated.

Mercy Kept the Light On

By B.J. Funk

Motel Six television commercials are known for their ‘We keep the light on’ advertisements, which might not mean much to some, but which send a comforting beacon to many for whom the light has been turned off. For those who have ever had a door slammed in their faces, or a rejection that feels like hard fists in the stomach, the encouragement of  finding a place that actually keeps the light on is an oasis of hope, a contrast to their desert of darkness.

Already today, you have probably passed by someone in the grocery store or at work who longs for a light to be left on for them. You likely did not notice, for many searchers of light are masters at covering up their need. They mix their hurts with an addiction to numb the pain, taking on excessive swallows of poison as they grow deeper into their belief that they don’t really matter to anyone else; why, then, should they matter to you?

Or, perhaps it is the opposite. They laugh a little too loudly, tell a few more jokes than anyone else, and maybe, if you look deeply enough, they never allow you to really get into their lives. We only see portions of them, the sunny side of them, the ‘I’ve got life, and I’m great’ side of them. One gets the feeling that honesty has never rested its head on their heart, as they cake on layer after layer of ‘Everything is okay! Really, it is.’

Then, on a night when no one expects, a crash comes through their cover-up plans, and a raw pain that hurts deeper than they ever imagined comes forth. Pretense falls, and truth walks in. It is not fun. It’s not fun to realize that all your hidden secrets are hidden no more, that now your family and friends will see the dark side of you. It is more than you can bear. You want to climb in a closet, and shut out the world.

Except for one giant, marvelous word, you might. One word that dares to break the closet door open and pull you out. A soothing, yet forceful word that is claimed by the One who made it, the One who is the very same, the One who is over and above all others. Mercy. Mercy takes the same hammer that nailed Him to the cross and yanks out the nails that hold you captive inside the closet. Mercy paid too much for you to live in an embryonic state inside of mold, dark and nothingness, inside winter clothes crammed together and falling on the floor.  Mercy claims you, holds you, enfolds you and calls you His own.

Come out from hiding. Your life is not over yet. Mercy will always keep the lights on for you.

Mayberry Every Day

By B.J. Funk

I have always enjoyed reruns of the Andy Griffith Show, especially when his deputy, Barney, added his unique touch of humor. After Andy died, I started taping all of the Andy Griffith Marathon shows. I don’t want to miss a one. It’s not just that I lose myself in laughter, but I lose myself in thirty minutes of peddling backward into the simplicity of another time. My mind and body slow down when I walk into Mayberry. There’s nothing quite like a visit with Andy on his porch, with Aunt Bee in her kitchen or with Opie as he rides his bike in complete confidence that nothing bad could ever happen on the streets of Mayberry. I loved Barney’s favorite expression dealing with life’s trials: ‘Nip it in the bud!’

Ah, those were the days! Even if you are not a fan, you still realize that the relaxed life portrayed in this show is something we would love to have today. How did we lose that tranquil pace that characterized life in the l950’s? How wonderful if those slower days of yesteryear would reappear. My friends say to me, however, ‘Those days are gone, never to return.’

I’m not sure about that. I believe there is a way to salvage the peace of Mayberry. Just as a script guided Andy and Barney through thought-provoking situations in which they never seemed rushed, you and I have a script that guides us into that same slowed-down feeling. The Bible’s script says to us in Isaiah 32: 17-18, ‘The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.’

While my study notes point to this time in Isaiah as occurring when the worldwide kingdom of God is established for all eternity at the end of time, we can also know this quietness and confidence now. There is a way to bring that awesome peace into your daily hustle. Outer circumstances might not change. A fast pace society is here to stay. But, Scripture tells us that the inside of us—the part in which the Holy Spirits whispers His peace– has a great chance of living in Mayberry again.

I think of my late mother often, but always when I think of inner peace. If her peace could be marketed and sold, the world would pay anything to buy a bottle. She knew the secret of staying connected to her Source, Jesus Christ. I never saw her frustrated or ‘out of sorts.’ She carried peace inside, and it dribbled out on every body who passed her way. I was so blessed…am so blessed…that she was my mother!

I remember a time when everybody around me was in a tizzy! Suddenly, I looked at my serene mother, and she said, ‘I’m perfectly content.’ She was not bragging. She was simply stating a fact. She was content. I think she was not sure why everyone else was not!

The reason most of us do not know this kind of peace is that we are trying to find peace in all the wrong places. Gleaning daily from the Bible’s amazing promises will give us a different perspective on anything troubling us. For today, make this your Bible assignment: read Isaiah 32:17-18 and ask for that inner peace that truly can surpass all earthly understanding.

God’s Word will be better than Mayberry as you allow Him to help you with your anxiety. Allow your heart, soul and mind to concentrate on God and the tremendous truths of His Word, and watch your fluttering and anxious life find peace that you did not know existed. Circumstances likely won’t change. But you will. Who better than God could take your worried heart, replace it with inner peace and “nip your worries in the bud!”