Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Calm in the Storm

Matthew 8:24-26 - Suddenly, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But, Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

Unlike the disciples who lived two thousand years ago and could not have reliably predicted inclement weather, we know, through abundant technology, that the storms are coming tonight. We have been glued to weather radar on the internet and reports on the television since this morning. Tornadoes and thunderstorms have wreaked havoc in Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama (25 dead in this state confirmed at the time I post), and have now set their sights on Georgia. The northwestern section of our state has already been cruelly pummeled and, within a day's time, while still in shock and disbelief, people are battening down the hatches for yet another assault. Additionally, there are those in Tennessee, Kentucky, and the mid-west who are bracing for even more flooding in this fresh rampage of extreme storms. There is, it seems, no rest for the weary, the afflicted, the victims of a tempest tossed.

When storms are in the offing, we are most definitely proactive in preparing for what might be. Our laundry room substitutes as a basement. It is underground, with no windows, and a door that can be closed against flying glass. As I write, our family necessities are already placed there. Cartersville and Rome in Georgia already have tornadoes on the ground. We are in alert mode. We are prepared: weather radio; LED lantern; flashlights; cell phone and chargers (plus our weather radio will charge cell phones!); back-up drives, checkbooks; wallets; purses; Bible; jewelry (priceless, because Danny gave this to me); change of clothes, and the irreplaceable photos already on the shelves in this room. I'm sure there is something we have forgotten, but if we have, it probably doesn't matter in the long run. There might not be a "long run", only a "short sprint" in the wake of a "furious storm".

Make no mistake about it - the storms of life, physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, will come and, sadly, when you are in the midst of a blissful calm upon the mountain-top, ravage and ruin can enter before you are prepared to descend into the valley. In times like these, do you wake Jesus, or do you try to survive on your own? Are you drowning in your fears, or do you expect Him to calm the storms of this world, the storms within your soul? Can you pray for His sustenance, His comfort, and believe that He can calm any tempest, any temptation?

Let us pray for our brothers and sisters affected by this horrendous weather endured throughout the south. Let us look at one another and know how life and love is the priceless gift our Lord has given to us. May Christ Jesus calm the storms and, His peace that passes all understanding, heal and inspire us in all the days to come.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Truly Gorgeous Spring Day . . .

Romans 13:6-7 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Let's imagine for a moment that April 15th is just another glorious spring day. You have no forms to fill out and file, no checks to write, no midnight deadline at the post office, no threats of an audit from the IRS. Why? Because there is no IRS, yet the federal government is thriving, the deficit is shrinking dramatically, and private sector business is booming. Politicians have no more power to raise taxes on the so-called rich. Fewer people are dependent upon welfare and Medicaid because job opportunities abound. Trillions of dollars hidden overseas by corporations are flooding back to the United States, restoring our country to its former economic greatness. And, best of all, your paycheck is yours, ALL yours! Not one penny has been deducted from what you've honestly and rightfully earned. Are we still paying taxes? You bet we are, but we only do so when we purchase new goods or services.

Alright, I know what you're thinking: This sounds fantastic, but it could never really happen, could it? Think again. H.R. 25 has been slowly but surely gaining support in the House of Representatives since it was introduced by former Georgia legislator, John Linder. It calls for the abolition of the IRS and the implementation of a 23% federal sales tax on items you buy. It's called the Fair Tax and it is, I believe, our country's only hope of escaping the mountain of debt and crippling deficit we are fast accruing.


I invite you to visit the official website for the Fair Tax at www.fairtax.org for facts and figures that will astound you; but first, I'd like to share with you a few more of my favorite aspects of this tax reform not mentioned above:
  • There is around a 23% imbedded tax right now in everything you buy. You didn't think corporations actually pay taxes, did you? No! You pay the taxes for them in that 23%. Remove the imbedded taxes, replace with the Fair Tax at the same percentage, and you're breaking dead even.
  • Everyone who purchases any new good or service PAYS TAXES! This includes illegal and temporary residents, tourists from other nations, underground drug operators, cash-for-services cheats, and any persons who have previously evaded paying their taxes. Talk about fair!
  • Every American family, depending on size, receives what is called a "pre-bate" each month to assist with necessities such and food and medicine. Think the government might just be rolling in it under the Fair Tax?
  • Keeping your entire paycheck means that you have more buying and saving power. If you are a Clark Howard or a Dave Ramsay, you may discover that you're hardly paying any tax at all.
  • No death tax, no capital gains tax, no tax on your retirement savings, no payroll tax - no ANY tax you are currently paying.
  • Implementation of the Fair Tax would result in the largest transfer of power from the federal government back to the people where it belongs. Perhaps, then, as Romans 13:6 states, our elected officials could reclaim their rolls as God's servants of the people and not their puppeteers.
Have these perks peaked your interest in learning more about the Fair Tax? I certainly hope so. Visit the website and decide if this is something you wish to support. If so, find out if your Washington representatives and senators are on board; if they aren't, urge them to join the Fair Tax movement. I truly believe that passing the Fair Tax will be a win-win situation for the country now and in the generations to come. Can you imagine April 15th as simply another beautiful spring day?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Blind-Sided!

John 9:25 - One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!

I love a clean house, but I can't say I love to clean. When I was working outside the home, it was all I could do to maintain a semblance of order that I could tolerate and learned to turn a blind eye to chores for which I simply didn't have time. Nowadays, the bathrooms are spruced daily and scrubbed once a week, the dusting and vacuuming, sweeping and polishing, are executed as needed, and the laundry and dishes never pile up. Yes, I have come a long way in maintaining a neat, clean, organized home for Danny and the boys, at least on the surface. It wasn't until the announcement by Anna of AskAnna (see my extended profile for a link to her blog) about an upcoming spring cleaning project that I began to seriously consider our home's need for a major overhaul.

Anna's blog is dedicated to the arts of cleaning, organizing, and decorating; she invited all her followers to engage in a spring cleaning extravaganza she dubbed "Spring Fling". Starting April 2, she would post daily tasks to tackle in our homes, trusting that these would be made less intimidating because we were "all in this together", and we were encouraged to share before and after photos of our accomplishments. Even for someone like me who doesn't enjoy cleaning, I have to admit I was pumped and eager to truly give our house the facelift it deserved. I could hardly wait for Anna' first instructions so I could launch full throttle on this new adventure.

Blind-sided! Yes, indeed, my friends, Anna's first project for us was cleaning our blinds. I cringed inwardly, embarrassed by the fact that I had neglected mine for a shamefully long time and daunted by the prospect of restoring to dignity the fourteen blinds in our home. That's right - fourteen! I immediately knew this would not be a one-day undertaking and would set me behind in the Spring Fling agenda, but I was committed to follow through with each assignment no matter how long it took.

For sanity's sake, I decided to break this odious task down to two blinds per day; this has worked well so far as I, at this point, only have four blinds to go. It is painstaking to wash, wipe, and dry each slat on each blind, but I keep reminding myself that I only have myself to blame for the state they are in. Before Spring Fling, I was like a horse with blinders, recognizing obvious dirt in the straight-ahead path but unable to see the peripheral dust and grime hindering the health of my home. The blinders are off; my sight is restored.

In last Sunday's service, our pastor's sermon focused on Jesus' healing of the man blind from birth. He challenged us to think beyond physical blindness, to consider those areas in our lives that are blinding us, hindering us from walking fully in the abundant life of Jesus' promise. Is there someone we refuse to forgive? Are we nursing an unfounded prejudice? Are we weak in our prayer life? Do we see a need in another, yet choose not to help? Like it or not, we all have blind spots in our lives that, if ignored like my window blinds, will only grow darker and more insidious as time goes by. As Lent marches toward Easter, I pray that each of you will recognize your blind spot and ask for God's healing grace to remove that stumbling block. May we all, like the man born blind, be able to joyfully shout, "I was blind, but now I see!"

The Reason for the Season

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be call...