SOUP OR SALAD

Three friends, whose names I have changed to protect the guiltless and slightly goofy, and myself visited our local IHOP after church one Sunday evening. When our server arrived to take our order we were engaged in conversation about the soon coming of the Lord and the changes we are experiencing here in the States.

Bob’s choice was from the dinner menu. Making note, the server asked him if he preferred the soup or salad with his meal.

“No, thank you,” Bob replied, “that’s a lot of food already.”

“That’s fine, but it comes with the meal if you want it.” The friendly young man was making sure Bob understood there would be no extra charge.

His mother, Naomi, helped talk him into it, “You may as well get it, Bob. If you don’t eat it here you can take it with you and have it later at home.” Bob’s girlfriend Mary seconded the motion.

“Okay, then,” Bob gave in, “I’ll take it.”

“Soup or salad?” The server dared not speculate which it might be.

“Yes.”

Pause for a moment of silence and join four out of five people in this scene who are now looking at Bob through confused expressions, but saying not a word. He doesn’t notice a thing because he’s looking downward across the table as he gathers our menus to return to the server.

“Okay, so you want the soup or salad?” the server tried again.

“I said, ‘yes’, I’ll take it.” Aren’t you paying attention?

“Right, soup or salad?”

Still preoccupied, Bob looks up at the server determined to get through to him, “I’ve already told you to bring it.”

A hushed, but desperate cry for help was evident in the server’s eyes as he looked around the table at the rest of us. “Please, help him understand. I’m a good server. I need a good tip. Pushing him to make a choice isn’t making him happy. Help me.” Yep, I believe all three of us heard the poor guy’s silent plea, the final SOS resounding long and slow in desperation.

Bob obviously noticed the silence and looked up at the rest of us.

Though I instructed my matter-of-fact poker face to expose itself, sheer bewilderment was stronger and pushed out my “are-you-kidding-me?” expression.  After all, this was no dummy here. Bob is intelligent and usually right on top of things, the kind who often catches things others miss. So while I did manage to subdue laughter with a hand over my mouth, I couldn’t help staring at him baffled.

Naomi and Mary could not conceal the fact that they were just as perplexed as I, but their expressions were accompanied by chuckles and giggles they were no longer able to contain. They tried to assist, in unison asking, “Do you want the soup or salad?”

Bob had enough. Frustration demanded, “I said ‘yes, I do,’ so why is everyone giving me such a hard time about a salad?”

Finally Mary was able to dissolve the blockage. “You have to tell him which one. Which one do you want, the soup or the salad?”

The save of a lifetime. Immediately composed, Bob looked nonchalantly up at the server as though the previous minute or two had never taken place. “I’ll have the salad, please, with ranch dressing,” he offered calmly as he handed the menus to the young man.

Anxious to get away from our table, the server expressed his thanks and announced that the salads would be right out. He turned and headed for the kitchen where I’m certain he wiped the sweat from his brow. With him out of earshot, Bob’s exasperation returned.

“I feel like such an idiot,” he confessed as his hands formed a plate sized circle in the air to illustrate. “I thought the whole time he was asking me if I wanted the super salad!”

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

23 Let the person who has ears listen!”
24 He (Jesus) went on to say, “Pay attention to what you’re listening to! Knowledge will be measured out to you by the measure of attention you give. This is the way knowledge increases. Mark 4:23,24 GOD’S WORD Translation

All of us make a lot of mistakes. If someone doesn’t make any mistakes when he speaks, he would be perfect. He would be able to control everything he does. James 3:2 GOD’S WORD Translation

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.   1 Corinthians 14:33

Till next time,

June

Improv Gone Bad

Though I can’t remember why, my young friend Bobby Reynolds and I decided to act out the often told joke Forrest Gump Goes to Heaven at church one evening. A spur of the moment idea with no rehearsal, but we were both familiar with the joke and both a little on the hammy side (Bobby more so than I) so we knew it would be fine.

Young, handsome, and never without a quick-witted response, Bobby played Forrest and I portrayed the angelic host at the pearly gates. “Fine” sounded like this:

“My name’s Forrest, Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump.”

“Well, hello Forrest Gump. Welcome,” I looked for his name on my imaginary list. “Ah, here you are. Says here that before I can let you into heaven you have to pass a test.”

“Didn’t know nothing about no test.”

Responding to the concern on Bobby’s face, I continue. “Oh, don’t worry. It’s just three simple questions for you to answer. I’m sure you’ll pass with flying colors. Ready?”

“Except colors don’t really fly. Mama always said stay ready for anything, so ready, set, go.”

“Okay then, the first question is, how many days of the week begin with the letter T?

Bobby – oops, I mean Forrest – tilted his head upward, eyes squinted, and rubbed his chin. “Hmm…days of the week that begin with T…hmm.” A huge smile brightened his face, “I’ve got it! Two. The answer is two.”

“Two. That’s corr–”

“Today and Tomorrow,” he quickly interjected with no doubt in his tone.

“Today and Tomorrow? Well, that’s not exactly…oh never mind, let’s just stick with ‘two’,” I said, shaking my head. “After all, I didn’t ask you to name them, just count them. Moving on to the next question.”

Forrest nervously rubbed his hands together and awaited his next question, which I read from the invisible paper on my invisible clip board. “All right, Forrest, now this one is a bit tougher. How many seconds are in a year?”

Seeing his distress, I reassured him, “Just take your time and think about it. We’re not in any hurry here.”

So he did. He paced and mumbled and worked imaginary math problems in the air with his finger. Then he popped his forehead with his hand as though reminding himself he could have a V-8®. “I know the answer. This was a tough question, but I have figured it out in my head. There are twelve seconds in a year.”

Staying in character despite wanting to laugh at the expression on his face, I asked in bewilderment, “Twelve? How on earth did you conclude there are twelve seconds in a year?”

“We’re not on earth, sir. This is Heaven.”

Oh great, I walked into that one. Okay, I’ll play along. “I beg your pardon, Forrest Gump who people call Forrest Gump. Let me rephrase the question. How in Heaven did you conclude that there are only twelve seconds in a year?”

It was becoming more difficult not to snicker along with the congregation as so matter-of-factly Forrest replied, holding up one finger at a time so we could count along, “January second, February second, March second–”

“Enough!” I grabbed his hand before finger number four could release itself from the fist.

“Maybe I need to be more specific when I ask these questions. However, I am going to give you credit for that since I was not specific and your answer is – well, it isn’t wrong. But now Forrest, it is very important that you get this last question right, and it is the most difficult of the three. So be very careful and remember, you can take all the time you need.”

“Okay, sir.”

“For the right of passage through these great pearly gates into the majestic wonder of Heaven…” I asked as though I were auditioning to host a game show, “tell me, Forrest, what is God’s first name?”

Without hesitation Forrest blurts out, “Oh, that’s easy – Howard,” he rocked heel to toe in triumph.

The bewilderment on my face was not part of the act. “Howard? Howard? What are you talking about, ‘Howard’?”

“That’s His name, Howard.”

It’s not Howard, it’s Andy!”

“Andy?” He was not willing to accept that answer.

Unbeknownst to the people occupying the pews, Forrest and the angel left the building at that moment. Bobby and June now stood before them. I’m sure they were all thinking what great actors we were as our confused tones were now loud and genuine. The debate continued with neither of us willing to budge.

“Andy? Are we telling the same joke, here?” He was as muddled as I.

Uh-oh. The people figured it out. Amidst the hilarity we heard a few call out, “Well? Which is it? Do we call Him Howard or Andy?” “Yeah,” another inquired, “does Forrest get to go to Heaven or not?”

I directed my response to Bobby’s question, “Yes, we have to be telling the same joke. You just don’t know the punch line.”

“Yes, I do,” he argued, “it’s Howard. Andy? Where does that come from?”

Time for a song. I burst into the much-loved hymn, “Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me…”

Laughing so hard he had to brace himself on the dais hand rail, Bobby was determined to have the last word, “Oh! I get it.” He composed himself in order to stand his ground, looked me in the face, and assured me I was wrong. Calmly, but firmly, he explained.

“The correct answer is Howard. And not because of some song, but because the Bible says so. Our Father who art in heaven, Howard be thy name.”

Touché Forrest, touché.

I will bow down [in worship] toward Your holy temple And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word together with Your name. Psalm 138:2 AMP

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. Colossians 4:6 KJV

Robert “Bobby” Reynolds, I am blessed to know you. Thank you for your dedication and service to God, country, family, and friends.

Till next time,

June

 

 

Some Facts About Fruit

Christians speak often about the importance of bearing good fruit, and important it is. Galatians 5 provides a faithful reminder of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.
Fruit to be evident in our lives.

There seems to be something, though, not often included in our fruit-bearing training: what happens to the fruit once it is ripened on the tree. Through everyday experience and exposure, our great Teacher has enlightened me to some important truths about fruit.

For starters, it will be inspected. Just as we check for bruises, our lives will be examined. Like we squeeze to make sure the fruit is ripe and juicy, people will critique our attitudes and behavior. They will pay attention to how we respond to the world around us and situations in our lives.

Most of us don’t like that at all. We call it “judging”. Jesus expressed it as acceptable to evaluate one another’s actions when He said, “…for the tree is known by his fruit.” (Matthew 12:33)   Judging as we should not runs deeper, to the root.

Once our fruit has passed inspection the real fun begins. Somebody needs or wants it. We feel good about that, happy to be of service to the kingdom of God – until the reaping begins.

Think about how fruit is removed from a tree. Occasionally, a gentle hand reaches up in appreciation of its find and ever so carefully confiscates the needed nutrition. But that’s not the norm.

Usually It’s twisted, pulled, and plucked. Often the tree is violently shaken until the coveted fruit falls to the ground where it can be easily gathered.  Remaining joyful or gentle is seldom easy. I’m sure you can think of at least one someone who has tried your patience and pushed your self-control to its limit.

Feel like you’ve been pulled on, plucked, and shaken?

And that’s not all.  Think about what you do with your own fruit once you get it home.

It gets chopped, diced, and drained. It is pulverized into smoothies or smashed into juice. As if that’s not bad enough, sometimes it just sits until it rots, after which it becomes food for the sharp blades of a garbage disposal or thrown in the trash.

I used to get angry about the way people treated my fruit once they removed it from this tree. You know you’re feeling this same way when thoughts of being taken advantage of and unappreciated cross your mind.

There may be times when the Holy Spirit will direct you to back away, at least for a while. But make sure the Holy Spirit is the Director. Too often when we feel like our good nature is being abused and misused, we fence it off or stop producing altogether.
We are to yield the fruit, not dictate what happens to it. When it gets tough, God’s grace is sufficient to see us through.

One more thing. The tree doesn’t choose who gets the fruit. It’s usually easy to love those we deem lovable, to be gentle with those we are fond of, and patient with those we care about.

Yet, those to whom it is harder to offer fruit are often those who need it most. The lack of love, joy, and peace in their own lives is frequently manifested by nasty, hostile behavior. Letting them consume your fruit may be the very thing that initiates a change of heart.

After pondering these truths you might wonder if bearing fruit is really worth the effort.
It is.  You see, we have promises of great reward when we bear fruit.

John 15:16 records one such promise spoken by Jesus, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”

Wow! Anything we ask in Jesus name can be ours if we maintain a fruitful life. Anything in line with His word, yes, but that includes everything we need and could ever desire – plus some!

And the greatest payment of all for our fruit? It makes us more like Christ.

Till next time –
June

Hello World!

Hello everybody!  Since this is my very first of what I plan to be many BLOG posts, I’d like to tell you a little about me and what you can expect from them.  Hopefully we will become good friends.

I tried to choose just a few words to describe my intent and plans for this BLOG.  Because it is difficult for me to answer a yes/no question in less than 500 words, that was not an easy task.  So then I simply asked myself this question, “Why are you writing?”

That answer was easier.

The reason I have so much to say and the reason I choose to write is to help change people’s lives for the better.

I can only do that if I write about the one thing and person that has done that for me – Jesus Christ and the Word of God; and then only if I do so effectively.

And just how I will do that highly depends on a lot of factors:

  • What’s on my mind today.
  • What Scripture spoke to me in a special way.
  • Questions or comments from others.
  • Something that happened in my life – whether it be an embarrassing moment or a long term struggle.
  • How God used creation to illustrate His word to me.
  • Something caught my attention for a specific reason.

You see, I am a person with a huge array of interests and methods.  I have way too many favorite animals, favorite colors, favorite foods, favorite everything – especially Scriptures.   My writings are not about the same thing or presented in the same way every time.  I am not real brandable, I guess, except to say that I just try to keep it real.

Sometimes I tell stories (I have included one at the end of this post, so keep reading), sometimes I speak and write in a more studious and methodical way.  Sometimes my message is wrapped around a laugh-out-loud memory, other times a heartwarming display, and at times even around difficulties.  And there are those times when a simple observation sets my sharing gears in motion.

So, I won’t tell you that you will find a laugh-a-day here, though I hope you find many.  I won’t tell you that you will always be challenged by this BLOG, though at times you will.  I won’t promise you by any means that I have all the answers, but I can promise you this – I know the One who does.

I have known Jesus for a long time and I have spent many, many hours in His presence and His Word.  My hope is to share the awesomeness of our loving and supernatural God with you that you may be inspired and encouraged and grow closer to and stronger in Him every day.

Over  the years I have learned far too much through poor choices and failures.  That is not God’s preferred way for His children to learn.  I didn’t set out to be a problem child, but He never stopped loving me or working with me when I turned into one.   If through my own experiences I can help someone else avoid them, then all those mistakes can be put to good use.

And if I can help open your understanding to God’s word and help you develop a deeper personal relationship with Him, then my work will not be in vain.

Now, for the story I told you I was going to share.  It’s the story about why I call my site JYB Inspired, and about one of my favorite Scriptures.

Not too awful long ago I was finishing a very taxing and studious work on the Book of Revelation. I had fallen seriously behind my completion goal. The finished project was awaited by a Christian school in the Philippines where it was to be added to their curriculum.

I was at last nearing the final chapters when it happened: I couldn’t get a clear and set belief in my heart over a topic. Although one of the attributes of the work is that it presents different viewpoints on interpretation of the prophecy, I was always able to prayerfully study to draw from Scripture and from the Holy Spirit and know what I believed, or at least how to present the subject at hand in such a way that it could be understood.

But not this time. I studied. I paced. I prayed. I paced. I knelt. I paced. I reasoned. Then, I paced.

Confusion the only result.

Now this particular issue is not by any means a matter of salvation. It dealt with some of the attributes of eternity in heaven – not anything that would stop someone from entering in. In essence, it is interesting, but not vital to our eternal souls.

Still, I wanted to present it accurately from both angles.  I just could not seem to gain enough insight to  do that without confusion to the reader because I was confused.

When I could stand it no more, I got down on my knees and almost in desperation, I cried out for help – which I rarely, if ever, do without my Bible in hand or at my side.

Turn to the book of Job.

The voice in my heart was too profound and seemingly too off the wall for me to question that it was the Lord, but I did question what He said.

“Job?” I asked, “What on earth does Job have to do with this?”

Of course, when hearing “Job”, my mind went to the account of his tragic plight of losing everyone and everything, his patience and refusal to discard His faith in God, and his ultimate double restoration.

I wasn’t experiencing any of that, I just needed some understanding.

Turn to the book of Job.

So I did. I flipped the pages to the book and then let them fall open. I didn’t know where I was going so I didn’t worry that I wasn’t at the beginning of Job, just that I was there somewhere.

“Okay, I’m in Job. Now where?”

Right there.

“Right there?  Right where?”

Right there, look.

With that, my eyes fell onto the page and there, illuminated before me was this verse:

But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. Job 32:8

Immediately, I was at peace. I just needed to relax and let God be God in me. He would help me understand and then He would inspire me to write it in an understandable way.

I was so thrilled that I took just a minute before going back to work to read this verse in another translation. I am so glad I did because – wow! That’s all I could say at the moment, “Wow!”

Listen to this:

But there is [a vital force] a spirit [of intelligence] in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives men understanding. (Job 32:8, The Amplified Bible)

The breath of the Almighty! He breathes on us and gives us understanding. Incredible.

And the thing is, we have it even better than Job had it, because now the Spirit of Understanding lives inside of us. If you are a born-again believer, He dwells in you to help you, to teach you, to inspire you.

The Holy Spirit will teach us and lead us into all truth. All we have to do is relax and listen. We just need to stop fighting against Him in our own understanding, and let Him enlighten us with His.

I very soon finished that work and knew it had been done just the way God wanted me to do it. And this verse became my ministry “motto” if you will.

God has called me to impart His word, and I want to do that only as inspired by Him because only then will I be able to share His life changing word in a  life changing way.

And even though I know His inspiration now comes from within me where the Spirit dwells, I just like the idea of Almighty inspiration that comes from Him breathing on me.

So while my heart is saying, “Holy Spirit, enlighten me and inspire me today. I want the Spirit of Revelation within to quicken me and help me in every decision I have to make, in understanding your Word and Your will for my life, and effectively getting it across to others…”

While my heart is saying that, my mouth is saying simply, “Breathe on me, Almighty God. Inspire me. Give me understanding.”

And sometimes I wonder if I’m imagining it when I feel that faint wisp of air on the back of my neck.

Visit me at jybinspired.com to read more.