I had the privilege of helping to pressure wash a pool deck the other day.  Really, it was kind of fun, until afterwards when I thought my arms were going to fall off.  I never knew pressure washing was so physical.  It looked like I was just going to be squirting water on things.  I did not know that it would take so much strength to hold the spray of water in place.

I had a few thoughts as I worked.  (I told you, working makes me think.  I should try it more often!) 

First, I realized that ants get very angry when you pressure wash them.  That’s not really useful information, unless you are planning on washing something.  However, as I look at my ant-bitten feet, I can’t help but remember that lesson.

Second, I realized that spider webs are really, really strong.  I knew this already, but I had no idea how strong.  As the pressure washer was ridding the screen of mildew and gunk, it couldn’t get rid of the spider webs.  They just hung there, flailing about, avoiding the spray.  It was kind of irritating.  (Of course, the spider probably found it really irritating that I was trying to wash her hard work down the drain.)

Third, I realized something that might actually be helpful.  I realized that pressure washing is a lot like trying to live a Christian life.  Hear me out, and I think you’ll agree.

As I washed the deck, there was a lot of mildew and dirt on the tiles.  I would squirt the water and get the river of gunk moving towards the back corner of the pool.  I would get the area around me clean, and then I would look up to start pressure washing the screen.  As I looked back down, though, I would find the gunk creeping back into my clean area.  Then, I would squirt it again, a little farther.  I did this over and over and over.  As I went, the dirty water became cleaner and cleaner, because the grime and mud were draining out into the yard.  The more I squirted, the more dirt I moved out of the area, but some dirt was still there.  The longer I worked at it, the cleaner the water got.  Finally, I managed to get all of the mildew and grime out of the pool area, and I could look back and see a pristine, mildew-free deck area.  Victory was mine after a long battle with the grime!

I couldn’t help but think of the similarities to sin in our lives.  Those of us who are Christians are trying.  We really are.  We aren’t perfect, but we are trying to live in a way that God wants us to.  We work and work and work to move the river of sin out of our lives, but then we get distracted.  As we look away, just like looking up at the screen, sin starts to creep back in.  If we act fast, we can squirt it again to get it moving out again, but we have to do this over and over.  If we lose focus, the sin takes back over, so we have to keep working at getting rid of it.  The more we work at it, the cleaner our lives look, but some sin is still there.  Eventually, with the grace of God, we will be able to look back at our lives and say, “Victory is mine!”

The Bible tells us to keep working on pressure washing our lives. (Okay, maybe it doesn’t mention pressure washing, but you get the point.)  Read these verses:

Acts 20:24   But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus--the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

2 Timothy 2:15  Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

1 Timothy 6:12  Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses.

2 Timothy 4:7  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.

How is your pressure washing going?  Are you keeping an eye on the river of sin, or have you lost focus?  It’s not too late if sin is creeping back in.  Just spray it towards the exit, and your life will look cleaner and cleaner as you go.  It will get easier to serve God as you keep practicing, and your water will get cleaner and cleaner.  Don’t give up the fight.  Remember that we are working towards a goal.  We want to finish pressure washing so we can hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23)   -Al

I don’t know about you, but I do some of my best thinking when I am working.  If  I am doing housework or other tasks that don’t require a lot of brain power, my mind wanders to all kinds of topics.  Today, I was helping my husband finish a project.  My job was to grout a tile counter top.  I love to grout.  (Really, I do!)  It’s soothing to squish a mud-like substance into cracks.  For a while I made mosaic projects.  My two favorite parts of the projects were getting to break things and grouting.  Squishing stuff into the cracks is fun!

I started thinking as I grouted that it was very symbolic of what God does for us.  He grouts our lives, so to speak.

You see, we are broken.  We’re cracked.  We’re chipped.  The world and sin have busted us up inside.  Romans 3:23 tells us, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  We are all hurting in some way, whether it’s from our own sin or from the sin of others around us.  We are like mosaics; we are made of many broken pieces.

If you’ve ever looked at a mosaic project or a tile floor before it is grouted, it doesn’t look very good.  A mosaic looks like a bunch of broken pieces.  A tile floor just looks incomplete, and sweeping it is not fun because the dirt falls into the cracks.  Once it is grouted, though, it is beautiful.  A mosaic changes from a bunch of shards to a piece of art.  A tile floor looks complete and wonderful.

God’s love and mercy are our grout.  Until we allow Him to fill in the cracks, we look broken.  We are ugly and incomplete.  When His love fills in the cracks, we become beautiful pieces of art.  We are His creation, and we are made whole through Him.  Our speech becomes sweeter.  Our attitudes become better.  Our lives become happier.  He completes us.

Some other verses that talk about God completing us are Colossians 2:9-10 and Ephesians 3:19.

When we are at our most broken, God can fill the cracks.  He can fix things that others can’t.  He can use our problems, our trials and our sadness to make a beautiful life.  Romans 8:28 is one of my favorite verses.  It says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  I love that verse because it assures me that, no matter how badly I mess up, God can fix it.

If you are feeling cracked, let God fill in the cracks.  Let Him smooth over the roughness in your life, and you can be transformed into a beautiful piece of art.  Hold onto the promise that God will use all things to His glory if you love Him and follow Him.  You will be a finished creation soon.   -Al

A few weeks ago in church, I heard just what I needed to hear.  It’s amazing how God has a way of doing that.  He gives you just what you need when you need it.  (I won’t mention the speaker’s name, since I don’t have his permission to do so.  He probably got it from someone else, so I’m not sure who really should get the credit.  The credit goes to God anyway, so it doesn’t matter who said it first.)

The speaker stood up to lead the contribution on Sunday morning.  I have struggled for a while now with the passing of the contribution plates, because I never feel like I give enough.  We have been living on a shoe string budget for so long, and I just feel like my measly little donation is inadequate compared to what Christ has done for me.   In life, I have felt like I have been on the receiving end so many times.  I look forward to (and pray for) a day when I can give to others as they have given to me.  I think that’s why the speaker’s message struck me.

Matthew 6:26 says, “Consider the birds in the air.  They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?”

I have always thought about that verse as saying that the birds don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, and if they don’t have to worry, we shouldn’t either.  I still think that is what was meant by this verse.  However, the speaker I heard brought up another good point.

Have you ever seen geese migrating?  They fly in a V formation.  They do this because they are drafting.  The lead bird is doing most of the work, while the ones in the back are not working as hard.  Then, when the lead bird gets tired, he falls back and another takes the lead.

This is how it is in a church family, a physical family or a circle of friends.  Sometimes, one person seems to be doing the leading, whether it is through their financial donations, through their time they are giving or through their resources they are using.  Meanwhile, other members are benefiting from their work.  Then, when the lead person gets tired or gets sick or runs out of money or resources, another person steps up to take the lead.  It’s amazing how many times in church you see a new family move into the area just in time to take over a ministry that is faltering.  God knows what he is doing.

Many years ago, I think I was one of the lead birds.  I don’t mean that in a bragging way.  It’s just a fact.  I was involved in just about every way possible in church.  I cooked for others.  I hosted showers for others.  I taught others’ children.  I sent cards and made visits to others.  I did for others non-stop.  Then, one day, I got tired (more accurately, I got emotionally hurt, and we became financially broke all around the same time), and I had to fall back.  Other birds took the lead, and I began benefiting from their work.  Over the years, they have cooked for me and taught my kids and sent me cards.  They gave us tools when ours burned, and they have given us money and help when needed.

I have felt guilty that I have received so much instead of giving.  I have looked back at the time that I was able to give and to do, and I have wondered what is wrong with me now.  I have thought that I am failing because I am not able to lead and to give and to do like I was then.  However, the illustration about the birds helped me to realize that it’s okay.  I don’t have to be in the lead all the time.  That’s what it means to be part of a church family.  That little 5 minute blurb before passing the contribution plates has helped me so much!  The guilt of receiving from others has been replaced with the knowledge that someday, I’ll be the one giving again.

I think this illustration applies to our lives in many ways, whether we are talking about our church family, our physical family or our friends.  There will be times that we will b
So, if you are feeling like the bird in the back of the flock, and you are feeling down on yourself, stop it!  Just know that you are resting up so that when the lead bird gets tired, you can soar.  -Al

I always find it amazing how children can look just like their parents.  People say the Goose looks just like her father.  (Other people say she looks just like me.)  I think it depends on who she is standing close to, because she looks just like both of us.  The Beetle is the same way.  Most people say he looks just like his father, but I see my side of the family. 

What is more amazing is how adopted children grow to look like their families.  Have you ever noticed it?  It’s strange how, even though there is no blood relation, they grow to look like the family they love.  I’ve actually said to a mother, “She looks just like you!” only to be told that the child is adopted.

I realized tonight in Bible class that this is how we as Christians are with God.  The Bible tells us several times that we have been adopted into God’s family.  Some of these verses are:

Ephesians 1:5 “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”

John 1:12 “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

1 John 3:1 “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!”

Just as adopted children grow to look like their adoptive families more and more, we will grow to look like God more and more.  The closer we get to him, the more we will resemble him.  The question is, how can we get closer to God?

1. We can talk to God.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.”  I don’t believe this means that we are to kneel in prayer day and night.  God expects us to get work done.  We have to live life.  We can’t spend every waking moment in prayer.  I do believe this means that we should have a constant conversation with God.  Though sometimes we need to stop and be still and talk to God, we can also talk to God throughout our day while we go about our lives.  For example, did you lose your keys and then find them?  Thank God!  Did you get an unexpected bonus at work?  Thank God!  Did you see a car accident on the way to work? Ask God to be with those involved.  Are you feeling nervous and tense?  Ask God to help you through your day.  Talk to him!  He is a friend, and he is there to listen to you.

2. We can listen to God.  This listening can be in the form of Bible study.  Although a sit-down study session is great in theory, it doesn’t always happen.  Even if you read only one scripture, it’s one more than you knew before!  You can also hear God by listening to good music.  Sign up for devotional emails.  Talk to Godly friends.  Sit and look at nature.  These are all things that God can use to speak to you.  Are you listening for him?

3. We can look for ways to share God.  So many times, we run through life, just reacting to the situations that arise.  When is the last time you planned to do something for God?  I don’t mean agreeing to teach a Bible class because someone asked you.  While that is still good, it is a reaction to their asking you.  Instead, decide ahead of time how you will serve God tomorrow.  Will you do a good deed?  Maybe you’ll do something as simple as handing a bottle of water to a homeless person.  Will you encourage someone?  Just sending a card can make someone’s day.  Will you let someone else see Christ through you?  Making the decision to respond nicely to that person you know is going to be rude to you at work will change things.  You never know.

As we talk to God, listen to God and look for ways to share God, we will become more godly.  We are the adopted children of God, and we will grow to look more like him.  Maybe we will be fortunate enough to overhear someone talking about us and saying, “She looks just like her Father!”    -Al



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