Liar Liar

Many of us are familiar with some form of the child-hood rhyme: “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!” The complete version I learned was, “Liar, Liar, pants on fire, nose as long as a telephone wire!”

Though there are several iterations, and there are multiple “explanations” as to what this really means it does seem to be universally accepted as a taunting indictment, which is cast toward someone who has been caught in a lie. It would appear that the garment on fire is a judgment of sorts, and the elongated nose even a reference to Pinocchio’s nose when he lied.

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Fissures of Men

Scripture is particularly clear of the value which the Lord places on unity in the Body of God’s people. Psalm 133:1 gives us just a taste: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” John 17 is the Great Apologetic speaking to the fruit of that unity. In His High Priestly prayer Christ is praying for the unity of the apostles, that it may bear witness to Himself…“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).

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Love Gives

I know we’ve all heard people profess to really love pizza. Perhaps someone else absolutely loves to watch football. And then there are always those who really, absolutely love to eat pizza while watching football. Others love to read or do quilting or go fishing. But is love the right word to express what they’re feeling? Perhaps “enjoy” or “take pleasure in” are actually better choices.

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White as Snow

Love it or hate it we have had quite a bit of it the past couple of weeks. After an almost six year drought our state has had its fair share of precipitation with more on the horizon. As I look out my window at Tom, Basin, and Wheeler Ridge blanketed in white I’m reminded of God’s answer to prayer, in His timing. The Sierras appear dramatically different today than it did last summer. The snow has smoothed out the rough edges of the landscape and when you get into the thick of it, the land becomes blindingly white. Snow is symbolic of absolute purity and reminds me of the Lord’s appeal to Judah to return to Him in Isaiah 1:18, ‘“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”’

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True Church

I am sure we would be surprised to find out exactly why people actually attend church, or a particular church. Among the multitude of reasons that would be cited would be a nice building, a good youth program, an avid sports ministry, the use of visuals during the...

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What’s the Expiration Date?

It’s already January 7 and for some, the excitement of Christmas with all of its busyness is a thing of the past. For many the thrill of the season hit the floor along with the wrapping paper and unless food found its way to the freezer, leftovers have since dried up or gone south. If you have children, especially young ones, toys or games may already be limping along on one leg. With the tree and all the decorations as well as the outside lights put away, does the house feel empty? Does facing the New Year seem a bit daunting?

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Ticking Toward Eternity

Many people may not remember the old TV commercial about the Timex watch that was tied to a boat or car tire and taken for a ride after which a spokesperson would pronounce, “It takes a beating and keeps on ticking.” It was amazing. Still more amazing is the universes’ oldest chronograph- the Earth. Genesis tells us that the earth was the first planetary orb created. It was around before the sun. Time was being measured in days before the sun helped us out.

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Peace on Earth

As the legend goes, during the winter of 1914 in the midst of World War 1, along the Western Front on a battlefield in Flanders (Ypres, Belgium), the war raged on from the depths of the wet, muddy, cold trenches that extended for miles. The Germans were engaged in battle against the British and the French, when at some point during the evening hours of December 24th the shooting ceased. Germans began placing Christmas trees on the ground outside their trenches, illuminating them with candles. The wintery air was still. Gradually the words, “Stille nacht, heilige nacht” (Silent night, holy night) rose softly from the trenches floating across “No Man’s Land” to the ears of the “enemies” some 100 yards away. In turn, the British responded with “O Come all ye Faithful.”

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The Law of Diminishing Returns

It happens every year. The kids surround the tree, engulfed by a pile of presents. Their excitement peaks by the first several gifts and quickly wanes as they work through the mass. By the end of the morning they have more things than they know what to do with and they begin looking to each other’s presents and arguing. Mom overschedules the family because there are simply too many good activities to pass up. As Christmas draws near the family burns out and is ready to hole away for a few weeks until the New Year arrives. The stores have stocked their shelves with Christmas items since September thinking the longer they’re out, the better. The customer keeps buying because, well, it’s there. Mind you, I’m no Scrooge. I adore the Christmas season and all of its accoutrements. Yet there comes a point when the effort you expend to create an experience for your loved ones and yourself is greater than the outcome you expected. That’s the law of diminishing returns at work.

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Best News Ever

What is the best news you have ever received? Was it the fact that you got the job? Or what is a call from your realtor telling you the escrow closed? Was it him telling you that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with you? Or her communicating that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with you? Maybe it was when you found out you were pregnant, or when a doctor called to tell you that the surgery was a total success.

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The Little Innkeeper

The following is not original with me and I don’t even know if it is a true story. But whether you’ve heard it before or not, I’m hoping it will make you smile. More than that, though, I’m praying that it will help you think about your relationship with God this Christmas. As the story begins, it’s the most exciting time of the year in a certain little town. Everyone is looking forward to the annual Christmas pageant. It’s a time of anticipation for the children because they are trying out for roles in the Christmas play and everyone wants a part.

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Apposite Thanks

If any culinary presentation is deserving of a blue ribbon, none is more so than the Thanksgiving Feast. Not the burger, shake and fries. Not a steak dinner. No sir. Art has its Mona Lisa. Auto racing has its Indy 500. Music has Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. And Hollywood the Oscars, but far and away the grand champion in food to be had is our Thanksgiving Meal. A Masterpiece. Turkey done just right. Mashed potatoes, dressing, cranberry sauce, rolls and green beans; it may just be the meal of perfection. Subtract one element, it would be incomplete. One additional element may just tip the scales to disaster, like an extra quart of fuchsia on the Mona Lisa, or 3 more miles on the Indy 500 (“The Indy 503”?). Surely the clear and distinct winner among rationally minded carnivores is this traditional holiday fare. Right?

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How Can I Keep From Singing

The memory of music I have loved is overwhelmingly strong. Each song spurs on specific recollections of people, places, and events. Memories like sitting in the car as a child listening to my mother’s Buddy Holly cassette tape or the endless hours squirreled away in my bedroom flooded with the sounds of the 90s. The music we consumed as young adults is neurologically powerful, cementing the words and emotions we experienced every time “that song” plays. In a sense, the music of our adolescent years is defining and serves as an expression of who we believe we are.

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#AlwaysChrist

Across the landscape of humanity one would expect perhaps to see the depths of depravity in many areas of life, in the media, arts, in law, even in politics, but when the depths have so risen to the top it causes great concern and despair. We see that today America is at one of those points. The “options” for the chief office of the land did not affirm what they would, could do or should do, but only how their opponent failed, and how they did not. Sadly, the character of the candidates is disheartening. And so we stand looking anxiously into the murky abyss of future despair. And yet we seem to be slightly surprised that the depravity and hopelessness could have somehow crept its way into our country- depravity and corruption that would usually be reserved for third-world country dictatorships (no offense to third-world countries). How in the world did we find ourselves here?

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Is Life a Little Blurry?

“Which is better? This one or (click) this one?” “What about this?” And after another click, “which one now?” Does this sound familiar? It’s the optometrist trying to determine what you’re seeing and, more importantly, how well you’re seeing it. The goal is to get the image in focus so your vision is clear and without distortion. Sometimes it’s difficult to make the distinction between lens 1 and lens 2, but eventually you walk out with a prescription for new eye glasses, pupils the size of dimes and sporting those stunning throw-away sunglasses to protect you from bright light. Focus is at the heart of the matter.

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Someday… Oneday

Of all the delusions mankind has perfected one of “the best” is the art of procrastination; it is an art you know- the ability to strategically put off until tomorrow what could just as well be performed today. The tools of our craft are those of rationalization, projection, and just plain laziness.

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Agenda of the Lamb

In just a few weeks the pulse of the American people will be taken in one of the most noble of democratic arenas: the voting booth. Elephant and donkey hair will fly among the carnage as sides face off to see who will set the course of America’s future. Citizens will make their way into the booths armed with voter guides, convictions, and opinions to assure their vote is not wasted. Once again candidates and propositions will be determined with the mighty wielded pen according to the amount of ink in the box. Will the results be according to your desire? Will they be better than past verdicts? Or, will America continue to navigate through the course of ever-increasingly familiar, yet murky, waters of uncertainty?

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The Olive Tree

My childhood home, located in the Central Valley, was surrounded by mature, fragrant, green-orange groves. I often rode my bike down the service road next to our home through these groves. In between the seemingly endless rows of citrus were several rows of olive trees. I always thought they appeared dull in comparison to the oranges. Their leaves didn’t shine and their branches and stump were gnarled. While they were less than aesthetically pleasing in my memory, I have learned how useful, hearty, and resilient these trees are. There are olive trees in existence today which are thousands of years old.

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From the Top Down

There is an interesting little story in the Book of Genesis chapter 11 in regards to a group of people building a tower in order to reach God. We know this as the Tower of Babel. These people are so enthusiastic about encountering God that they take it upon themselves to build an incredibly tall tower so as to facilitate the meeting. Though it is debatable if they are trying to climb to heaven themselves, or merely providing a descending staircase for deity to utilize, the point is that they think they can do something to invite the presence God or heaven.

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Good News/Bad News

When someone tells you something they don’t think you’ll want to hear, they often begin with “Which do you want first, the good news or the bad?” Human nature being what it is, we often choose the bad news first, hoping that the good news will cancel out how bad the bad really is. “You have cancer—but we caught it early.” “We’re eliminating your job—but offering you another position with better pay.” “Something is definitely growing inside your dog—and it’s puppies!”

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Brace for Impact

I recently saw a documentary on U.S. Airways flight 1549. It was the plane that needed to land in the river shortly take-off at La Guardia Airport in New York due to birds damaging the engine. The passengers knew they were in for trouble as they saw the aircraft losing altitude. The passengers were resigned to die. Some confessed their sins. Others wondered if they had done everything possible to take care of their spouses. In any case they felt death was eminent. The captains calm voice came over the speaker, “Brace for impact.” In less than 90 seconds the 50-ton aircraft would strike the earth at nearly 200 miles per hour.

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So Rich a Crown

Last fall, I was going for a walk around Millpond Park when I stopped at the grove of trees located between the two play structures. On the ground and the trees were branches of thorns. I recalled my husband joking about the curse on the ground found in Genesis 3 (both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you). He had just finished loading up our trailer with an egregious amount of tumbleweeds the week before! With this in mind, I began gathering those thorns that I found on the ground. When I had gathered all there was, I tried to remove the still fresh thorn branches from the tree. It was impossible for me to remove them without being poked.

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We are All Theologians

For the most part, people can be divided into categories; male/female, Americans/ Europeans, tall/ short, rich/ poor, etc. There are extreme lines of delineation between the two categories. When it comes to theology, this doesn’t hold true. People cannot be divided into theologians and non-theologians; WE ARE ALL THEOLOGIANS. One way or another, everybody is seeking to identify who “god” is in his or her life. Everybody is in search of God, everybody.

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Notes in the Margins

Several years ago I met a woman blessed to have three daughters. Each of her adult girls admired their mom and her walk with the Lord. Each had one request of her. Although she was nowhere near the end of her life, they all wanted her Bible when she died. They knew their mom wrote notes in the margins next to passages that expressed her love for the Lord. These notes were a personal reflection of what God’s Word meant to her. When we attended a Bible study together she had just purchased her third Bible and was faithfully writing all that God’s Spirit was teaching her. Each girl would receive a Bible and each girl would be richly blessed.

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Simple Faith

When we think of the great hymns of the faith, our minds likely go to such songs as “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, “How Great Thou Art”, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, and “Amazing Grace”. As pillars of truth, bearing amazing depths of theology, they stand high on the hill of hymnody.

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Sweet Tooth

Perhaps, one the greatest ironies growing up as a dentist’s son was the fact that I had an incredible sweet tooth and I was surrounded by a vast amount of sugar. I craved untold amounts of sugar. I knew where the hard candy bowl was, and where the Pop Tarts and donuts were. Oreos, soda and Frosted Flakes were the order of the day. We made home-made ice cream with my mom’s home-made chocolate sauce which was unbelievable with its chunks of delectable goo (I am sure it was off the charts health wise, but hey what did we know? It was the 60’s). The good news is that in the end I ended up with only two cavities. The sad part is that I still have an insatiable sweet tooth.

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Hey, It’s Dark in Here!

In the book of Judges in the Bible, there comes a time after the death of Joshua, where the Israelites find themselves in a state of darkness-spiritual darkness. “All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals” (Judges 2:10-11). Plain and simple that means that after their leader was gone, and the generation that had both seen the works of the Lord and followed Him had gone, the next generation began to serve other gods.

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The Backside

Unless you’re talking about the Sierras, being on the backside of something is usually not a good place to be. It typically means you’re in the middle of nowhere—remote, isolated, and cut-off from the rest of the world. That’s how some of us like it in the Owens Valley, but for the most part, people usually want to get off of the backside of whatever it is they’re on as soon as possible.

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God Has a Name

The default moniker for deity by most people is “God”. When people are referring to the Creator of the universe, a higher power, or any number of other proposed identities, the most common term referenced is “God”. Generally “God” would be considered the supreme being, moral creator and ruling authority of the universe and beyond. Whether in a monotheistic religion or even polytheistic one, the favored term is “God”, and this is no less used when constrained to the Christian faith, but “God” is not His name, it is more so His nature. So, did you even know that the sovereign, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient deity of the Bible actually has a proper name?

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Power Poured Out

Once a month, a little green package arrives in the mailbox for my daughter full of crafts teaching around a science theme. July’s theme was hydropower and she constructed her own miniature water wheel. As she poured a small amount of water over the wheel, it spun and pulled on a string attached to a boat. She was able to witness moving water acting as a power source to accomplish a task. Without moving water a life size water wheel accomplishes nothing, and with moving water it has great power. As I watched the wheel effortlessly pull along the little boat, it served as a reminder of how the Holy Spirit operates in a believer’s life, offering His power and energy to live like Christ.

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It’s Our Choice

When I was a child my family found a kitten. It was hungry and looking for food and finally allowed us to bring it into the house. We made every effort to provide a safe, loving home for the stray, but as hard as we tried, it just didn’t work. Part of the time we had success, but as the cat got older, it would switch from contented purr to attack mode without warning. The shock factor was definitely there as the hissing cat launched itself at one of us with claws extended and eyes filled with fury. We finally realized that our only option was to let the cat go. Our intentions were good, but the cat didn’t understand that we were trying to help it.

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One God and Father

One hallmark of the millennial generation is that many were raised in homes without fathers. Whether that means the fathers were absent physically or emotionally, my generation has largely been at a loss for godly and strong male leadership in the family. There are numerous statistics chronicling negative trends in youth without fathers. Fathers are vital to society. They are vital to their children and the mothers of their children. And while it has been more common in recent years, fatherlessness is not a new phenomenon. Psalm 68:5 describes God in His holy habitation as father to the fatherless. Regardless if a person has a good earthly father or not, the heavenly Father offers us adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. God the Father and God the Son have a relationship that precedes the foundation of this world. It is a relationship so intimate that Christ tells us if we see Him, we see the Father.

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Desert Experiences

With the Sierras to the west and the White Mountain range on our east, Bishop is enveloped in beauty, grandeur, and a rain shadow. Our mountain ranges block the passage of many weather systems which have the potential of rain, leaving Bishop in the dust of a high desert. The Eastern Sierras are a gorgeous but harsh environment. God has led His people, Israel, through many desert and wilderness experiences and consequently, Scripture has much to say about His purposes and what man’s response should be in them.

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Under the Big Top

When I stepped under the flaps of the Big Top for the first time I was totally mesmerized. The circus had come to town and my uncle took my cousins and me to see The Greatest Show on Earth. Okay, it wasn’t Ringling Brothers so it wasn’t the “greatest”, but I was still impressed. I remember being amazed as a young child by the animals, the acrobats and, of course, the clowns. Over the years details of that event have more or less faded into just a good memory. I can’t really be sure if the lady dressed in pink leotards was actually standing on the back of two enormous white horses as she raced at breakneck speed around the arena. Somehow she got into this special memory and I’d like to think she was really there.

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No Need of Anything

My day began with a lukewarm cup of coffee. Mind you, it was hot at some point this morning. Yet in the midst of frying up eggs and hash browns, sitting down to eat, getting back up to get a drink for my daughter, then sitting back down to eat, it cooled off. It didn’t taste like that delicious iced coffee I ordered yesterday either. It was not hot and not ice cold. It tasted gross and reasonably, I was peeved. I nuked it for fifteen seconds then sat down to eat and read. Coincidentally, my study this morning was on the church in Laodicea, commonly referred to as the lukewarm church.

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A Cow Conundrum

I don’t know if they are amazingly intelligent or easily deceived. I’m talking about cows, and I know that whatever I say I’m bound to irritate cattlemen and cow lovers alike. On the one hand they know the danger of trying to cross bars placed at gates or on roads to keep them from wandering—the ubiquitous cattle guard. But bars just painted on the highway? Really? In my mind I see a herd of heifers trotting along with freedom in their sights coming to a confused halt because of nothing more dangerous than a few white lines painted across the road. See what I mean?

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Transcending Meh

Words enter into and depart from the arena of our vocabulary all the time, many which describe, and succinctly capture the changes, or mood of our culture. One of the more recent entries, which lexicographers have officially welcomed into the annals of diction, is the utterance, “meh”. Meh is generally an interjection communicating indifference; lack of enthusiasm, or simply, apathy, a verbal dismissal to the level of “whatever”, or “I don’t care”. One source communicates that meh is a “verbal shrug of the shoulders”.

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Refined

“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace for gold, and the Lord tests hearts. “ Proverbs 17:3

The California Gold Rush. With it brought some quarter of a million 49ers that arrived with an expectancy to strike it rich. They first exhausted their resources in the riverbeds and then refocused on blasting away quartz veins in mountain sides, rich in gold. After excavation, the gold was processed on site before final refining was to be done. One refinement method required the gold ore to be placed in a furnace heated to around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As the gold ore melted, the impurities rose to the surface and were removed. This was done repeatedly with constant oversight by the refiner to ensure the gold was specifically heated to release different impurities. A refiner used heat to produce the genuine article of gold; too much heat would destroy it. After this process was completed, the gold ore was now pure and extremely valuable.

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The Christmas Cross-Over

Are Christmas tunes still rambling around in your head? Even though the holiday is over I find myself humming snatches of my favorite songs. It’s a shame we only sing these songs once a year, what a waste of great music! There is one song, however, that’s perfectly okay to sing any time of the year and that’s because it really isn’t a Christmas song. No one seems to know that though because as of the late 1900s, it was the most-published “Christmas” song in North America. Performers such as Andy Williams, The Supremes, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Patty Loveless, Clay Aiken and many others have all included it in their Christmas albums or CDs.

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Pride

Over and again in my mind, I have come to the conclusion that one of the most unattractive sins in the human race is pride. It’s ugly, repulsive, intolerable, and offensive. Pride is the sin we can quickly identify in others but is positively blinding when it is living and breathing within our own members. Pride is what keeps fallen mankind from accepting Christ’s sacrifice. Pride is what keeps Christians from growing in Christlikeness. Pride is prevalent in every age, gender, income bracket, social status, and ethnicity. Pride is comparative. Pride does not necessarily even call itself the “best” but simply “better than.” Pride is bristled by others’ successes and secretly savors others’ failures. As C.S. Lewis words it in Mere Christianity, “…each man’s pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride.” When your pride snubs my pride, watch the fireworks fly. And when pride speaks to our hearts, it speaks subtly.

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