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Thursday, July 31, 2014

How Do You Do?


I was reading in Matthew chapter five this morning and as before, I was captivated by the little word “do” that seems to be only used in the King James Version.  Verse six declares "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." (KJV) To me that one word is the key to the point of the statement that Jesus was making.  It is another one of those action verbs found throughout the bible that compels us to suck it up and step out and “do” something.
According to Dictionary.com it means, “to perform an act, duty or role, to execute, to accomplish, finish or complete and to put forth or exert.”  In my years of ministry I have seen countless good Christian people who say that they hunger and thirst for the things of God, but yet “do” nothing about it.  And you know… what the scripture predicts about them is evident as they are NOT satisfied in their relationship with God and with their life in general!
On the other hand, I have joyfully witnessed those who don’t necessarily talk about hungering and thirsting for the things of God but just “do” it and the blessings of God working for them and more importantly, coming through them to others is very evident.  These are the ones who are truly satisfied in both the spiritual as well the natural realm.
It shocked me as I experienced those who when push came to shove, didn’t “do” when the revelations of my wife’s health needs first became public.  I was totally taken by surprise when some whom I thought would immediately come up beside us and stand or “do” with us in our stand of faith, walked away as they put their faith in what the medical profession said as the only hope (or hopelessness in this case) for her future.  Then I felt the consequences as their fear gave way to critical and false accusations toward what I believed to be God’s directions and actions for us to “do!”
It is interesting to note that the British website entitled “The Phrase Finder” describes the origins of the phrase “How do you do?” as relating to how a person prospered or thrived.  It also mentioned how John Foxe’s work “The Book of Martyrs 1563-1587, recorded the first known citation of a version of ‘how do you do?’ as an inquiry after someone’s health.” 
Those who actually step up and out and actually “do” the action required to live a righteous life are the ones who will thrive and be satisfied in this life and the one beyond!   That one little word “do” goes hand in hand with the thought I mentioned in yesterday’s post about our “serving” the Lord by believing in and acting upon His Word.
So, let me ask you today… Do you “do?” or do you just talk about doing?  When you’re hungry don’t you normally get something to eat?  And when you’re thirsty won’t you grab a glass of water?  The same goes for seeking after God’s righteousness.  You and I have to “do” something in accordance to His Word in order to satisfy the hunger and thirst that our spirits are crying out for and in so “doing” open the door for God’s blessings to flow to and then from you!
So, what are you going to “do?”  I’d suggest that you take action and just “do” it!  Have a great day today.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or for Whom am I expecting to ‘DO’ today?”

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Serving the Lord...


It dawned on me last night that I may have been fighting off some of the same symptoms of the bug that got to my wife a couple of Sunday mornings ago.  While she had a strong reaction and required some assistance during that day, she was back to her old self by Monday.  I on the other hand have had the lingering effects of being very tired with a jittery stomach, head ache and not much energy!  I was still feeling a bit woozy this morning when I reluctantly pulled myself out of bed.  I had slept in later than normal and I wanted to get some time in the Word before getting my sweetie up.
As soon as I slowly sundered into the kitchen, I was met by the sight of the dog who was unceremoniously throwing up next to the piano in the living room.  To say the least, that was not how I wanted to start my day!  I wasn’t really surprised though, because she had gotten into the cabinet under the sink while we were out yesterday and had devoured some pork rib bones that were in the garbage… but still… first thing in the morning!  It looks like the child-proof locks are going back on the cabinet doors!
So, after performing my responsibilities as a pet owner, I brewed a cup of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table.  I opened up my bible to where I had left off yesterday at Matthew chapter four where the Apostle told of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry.  I was impressed once more as Jesus repeatedly responded to the devil’s lies by declaring “scripture says…” (Matthew 4: 4,7,10 God’s Word ©)  Verse ten, in particular, caught my attention as He stated, “Go away, Satan!  Scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”
After meditating on that scripture for a while, I noticed that it was getting late and that I needed to get my wife up for the day.  And even though I felt like I wasn’t quite finished with my study, I put aside my desires and went in to serve my bride.  But you know… Papa God knew that and had something more in store for me…
When I knelt down at Piper’s side I noticed that she was really sleeping hard and seemed to be more “out of it” than is normal in the morning.  At times like that all kinds of thoughts can fly through your head!  But I forced them away and wished her good morning, sang a few choruses of my usual silly but cheery wake up songs, grabbed our confession sheet that I keep on her bed stand and began to speak God’s Word over her.
When I got down to the bottom of the first page, the light suddenly went on as I read a personalized version of Romans 8:2 to her saying, “It is written in Romans 8:2 where Jesus said that ‘the same Spirit that raised Me from the dead now lives in you Piper and has made you free from the adverse accusations and sentences of the law of sin and death.’”  At that point I just stood there mesmerized as I began to see that verse in light of what I had read earlier in that we should “Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”
As I looked upon my wife’s outward appearance and was tempted to be overly concerned, it dawned on me that “we are not to serve the lies of the devil but only what the Word of God tells us!”  We have been set free from accusations and bogus sentences that the enemy of our souls would try to get us to accept.  Remember that according to Colossians 1:13 “God rescued us from the dark power of Satan and brought us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” (CEV)  You and I have been set free from the lying accusations and sentences of sickness, disease and early death, just like my wife has!
So at that I began to smile, thank the Lord for His lesson and stated out loud for anyone to hear, “We will not serve this lie of the devil but will only serve the Lord our God and the truth of His Word, and continue to stand on what the scriptures say that “He Himself took Piper’s infirmities, bore this disease and that by Christ’s stripes Piper is healed and made perfectly whole!’” (Matthew 8:17, I Peter 2:24, Matthew 14:36 – personalized)
So there you go!  We don’t just serve the Lord by living a godly life and obeying His standards, but we also serve Him by believing and standing on the truth of His Word… no matter what the physical circumstances might be demonstrating that is opposite to His Word!  My statement of faith for today is going to mimic Joshua’s words as I continuously declare: “but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 KJV)  Who are you mimicking today?
Have a great day!  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

You're a Delight!


As you read through the Bible you will come across scriptures where God spoke to His people.  He spoke through various individuals, through angels and in Matthew 3:17 He spoke directly to the people about His Son Jesus.  Although they could not physically see Him, His voice was clearly heard to all who were present.  After Jesus came up out of the waters of Baptism “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love – my Son with whom I am well pleased.” (God’s Word ©)
As I thought about that event this morning, it dawned on me that God is not only well pleased with His Son, but He is also well pleased with me!  In John 15:9 Jesus stated that “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in my love.” (NKJV)  So it only goes to prove that you and I are well pleasing to our heavenly Father as well.  The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible tells us that God has “been delighting” in us!  According to the Jamison Fausset and Brown commentary “the verb is put in the aorist (expressing action) to express absolute complacency, once and for ever felt towards Him” (or us!).  It further explains the statement saying: “The English here, at least to modern ears, is scarcely strong enough. ‘I delight’ comes the nearest, perhaps to that ineffable complacency which is manifestly intended.”
In other words, our Papa God really, really delights in you and me!  When’s the last time you dwelt on that reality?  You know, I can look at someone like my wife and easily comprehend how much God loves her, but I find it a little harder to say the same about myself.  You know what I mean?  Let’s face it, she’s got all the qualifications.  She’s giving and kind, always seems to have the right word at the right time, is a talented musician, successfully homeschooled our four kids, put up with me for over 44 years now, is good looking, likes hot cars, is adventurous and…
Do I need to say more?  She obviously has got what it takes for God to be well pleased with her.  Then there’s me  When I look at myself, I surely don’t have all that.  How can Papa God be delighted in me?  Have you ever felt that way?  Well, you know what?  It really doesn’t matter what you and I think.  What matters is what He thinks and the Word tells us in no uncertain terms, that He is delighted in us!  In fact, it goes as far to say that we are one of His favorites!
The King James Version of Matthew 3:17 starts out by declaring that “This is my beloved Son…”  In the Greek the word “beloved” literally means “esteemed or favorite.”  And as sons and daughters of God (See: 2 Corinthians 6:18) we can be included in that statement.  Remember Jesus said that He feels the same about us as the Father does about Him.  WOW!  Now that is something to rejoice about.  It is also something that could really shake up someone’s personal theology!
So, I would strongly suggest that you take some time to meditate upon this truth.  Let the knowledge of how much He loves and constantly delights in you sink in until it just becomes a part of your personal knowledge of who you think are.  God, your Papa God, delights in you to the point where He sees you as one of His favorite kids.  When you get dressed in the morning think about putting on that coat of many colors similar to the one that Israel gave to Joseph (Genesis 37:3) to prove how special he was to his father and then walk in the knowledge of His love and delight for you.  Then say, “My Papa God delights in me!”
Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to be a delight to today?”

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Here and NOW!


I am and as far back as I can remember have been a good organizer.  I can remember sitting in the shade of the tree on my parents front lawn while in junior high with a couple of my friends leading the discussion as we lazily tried to plan our activities during the heat of the summer.  During my senior year in High School I helped to organize, lead and cook a barbequed chicken dinner in honor of our teachers.  As a Junior College student I wrote and co-directed (with my wife to be) a rock opera that we performed for the community at our church on two consecutive weekends.  Then over the years in the ministry I have written numerous plays, countless puppet skits, wrote and organized Vacation Bible Schools, Family Fun Nights, and church dinners as well as a myriad of youth retreats.
I have discovered that I enjoy the planning stages of the events as much as I have enjoyed the events themselves!  Recently though, I began to see that I always seem to be planning for the future, and began to question that maybe I am living a little too much for the future.  It is a little bit like the old saying that “the grass is always greener on the other side!”  I am the type of individual that likes to have a project before me.  I guess it tends to keep me going.  But am I living so much for tomorrow that I am missing the full extent of today… of the here and NOW?
Have you ever thought about that?  Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “NOW faith is…”  Faith is always NOW, if what you’re believing for is in the future then its hope and not faith.  Current, active faith is always in the present.  It hit me as a little interesting while I read the conversation from Matthew 3:15 this morning.  Just as Jesus was stepping out into His  public ministry John the Baptist tried to correct His steps when Jesus came to the Jordan River to be baptized.  But Jesus knew His Father’s plan and “answered him ‘this is the way it has to be NOW.  This is the proper way to do everything that God requires of us.” (God’s Word ©)
Jesus was well aware of what had to be accomplished NOW according to His Father’s plan and purpose for His life.  He knew that how He lived His life today was an important key to how His future would unfold.  I sometimes wonder if I am so focused on tomorrow that I miss some of the small but important details of what I am supposed to be doing or the full extent of the blessings He has in store for me today.
Now that we are getting settled here in North Carolina I have found myself getting off into planning our future home, ministry, car, friends, and so on.  Then this morning as I took the dog out I suddenly stopped and sort of “smelled the roses.”  As I stood on the green lawn I paused and took in all the sights and sounds surrounding me.  I enjoyed the tall pines and other foliage, the singing birds, noticed the way the cool wind twirled the leaves, I savored the pleasant temperature, took in the scents that were in the air and thought about how nice THIS place, this apartment community is today… right here and NOW!
Do you ever find yourself pushing yourself through the week so you can make it to the weekend when you can relax and enjoy life?  Why not take a moment right NOW and in Christ, relax where you are!  His peace and His joy are not stored away in a container that you can only open on your day off or after your work day is over!  They are available anytime, anywhere.  It is up to us to take advantage of the blessings He has in store for us wherever we may be!
I can remember getting upset with the smokers that I worked with at the different jobs I had back in California over the years because it seemed like they were always taking a break so they could go out to the designated smoking areas for a ciggy!  Then one day it dawned on me that I could occasionally take a break just to go out and enjoy the fresh air for a few moments as well!  NOW I am coming to realize that I need to do the same today.  I need to take the opportunities that present themselves to enjoy the NOW in my life.  Why wait for the future when NOW is here at this moment… right?
So don’t miss God’s call for you in the here and NOW!  Don’t miss the opportunity to be blessed and be a blessing right NOW!  Have a great week… Have a great NOW!  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting… right NOW?”

Friday, July 25, 2014

That's Not Right... Is It?


I had a sudden thought yesterday as I began reading in Colossians chapter one.  Verses 14 and 15 tell us that “His Son (Jesus) paid the price to free us, which means that our sins are forgiven.  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (God’s Word ©)  It was the visualization of Jesus being “the image of God” that got me thinking.  Hebrews 1:3 says that He is “the express image of His essence.” (MKJV)  As I meditated on this truth that is repeated in other verses throughout the New Testament, it dawned on me that everything Jesus did was a direct representation of His Father’s nature, ability, love and will.
So with that in mind I wrote a memo in my notes to remind me to begin reading in the Gospels from this point of view.  Today as I pursued that direction, I got as far as verse six in the book of Matthew and could not go on!  I had considered skipping the ancestry list and get right into the meat of the Gospel (so I thought) but had second thoughts and started reading from verse one to see who begot who!
As a continuing part of the long lists of names, verse six reads, “Jesse the father of King David.  David and Uriah’s wife Bathsheba were the father and mother of Solomon.” (God’s Word ©)  When I read this I stopped and began to ponder the question of why God would use individuals who started out their relationship in adultery to be parents of the wisest king in Israel’s history as well as being part of the line through which our Messiah would be born.  It definitely is not the way that most people I know would have planned it!
But then my entire being was flooded with a vivid picture of the exceeding love and grace of our heavenly Father, or I as have begun to call Him, “Papa God!”  The Apostle Paul talks of this characteristic of God in Ephesians 3:19 when he prays that we would intimately “know Christ’s (who is the express image of the Father’s essence) love, which goes far beyond any knowledge.” (God’s Word ©)
God did it this way to demonstrate His nature, will and desire for us as we walk through our daily lives.  His way is for us to go “far beyond” what our intellect may try and dictate to us in loving and extending grace to others.  It may seem absurd to us and stretch us way further than we are comfortable to go, but it is quite normal to Him!  I recently read that “The only answer that I can come up with is that I must look and act like the One I am following until it becomes normal.”* In other words, practice makes perfect!
So what do you think?  Is this the type of grace and love that you normally walk in when those around you do things that are considered sinful and wrong?  Is it the way you react toward people who may do things different than you would do them?  I have felt the sting of this and I would not want anyone else to ever have to go through what I did!
Consider hanging out with Jesus this weekend.  Since His actions were the express image of Papa God’s nature and will, see what He did and follow suit!  Have a great weekend, stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”
 

*“Signs, Wonder’s and a Baptist Preacher” © 2013 by Chad Norris. page 131

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Barking Dogs...


I had a tough time getting up this morning.  I guess yesterday’s event with our appointment at Piper’s new doctor took more out of me than I thought!  We had a great visit with her Neurologist.  He was quite friendly, laid back and very open in our discussion.  He actually reminded me of my best friend back in high school!  We went over my wife’s story beginning back in 2006, reviewed her current medications and our daily schedule.  He concurred that we were on the right track and suggested that I exercise her joints a little each day. 
The doctor also pointed out some other available medications, but again, felt that her present course of action was good.  He informed me of many of the other aspects of their office services including their ability to help in obtaining equipment needs and home help. So, needless to say, I was satisfied with the appointment and feel good about my wife’s medical care here in our new home. 
I enjoyed driving through the city of Durham where the clinic was located.  It definitely has the feel of southern charm about it.  I would like to go back and drive around its various neighborhoods sometime.  There were many older homes that definitely looked like they had been around since the 1800’s!  It would be easy to visualize horse drawn carriages parked in front of them!
On the way home we stopped at our local Super Walmart and did our weekly grocery shopping just like we used to do in Oklahoma.  Super Walmart’s play an important part in the economy out here, much more than they did in our California hometown.  By the time we got home I was feeling pretty worn out and still had to deal with a leaky water heater as I had discovered water seeping into the kitchen and living room just before bed last night! 
So, by the time the maintenance crew came by and rectified the problem, which ended up being a plugged drain for the air conditioner (it seems that the downstairs apartments have the communal drain for their own air conditioners as well as for the two apartments above them!), fed my wife and unintentionally the dog lunch since the pooch helped herself to my sandwich while I was working with the maintenance guys, I was ready for a comfortable chair!  When I jokingly questioned my wife about her letting the dog eat my sandwich, she just looked at me and grinned which instantly dissolved any frustration I was feeling at the moment!
When I dragged myself into the living room this morning the dog was uncharacteristically lively compared to her normal morning sleepiness and jumped up and wagged her way up to me!  Her attention helped me to wake up and I enthusiastically jumped into the Word and had a great time with the Lord.  A little later as I was helping my wife get ready for the day, I found myself singing aloud the chorus to the song “Holy Ground.”
“We are standing on holy ground
 And I know that there are angels all around
 Let us praise Jesus now
 For we are standing in His presence on holy ground”
As I sang the words I could physically feel a change in the atmosphere in the house.  I could sense His presence in that place!  I continued to sing the song of worship as I walked Piper into the kitchen and prepared her breakfast drink.  After I had Piper all set, I took the dog out, fed her and then worked on my breakfast.  When the dog finished gulping down her bacon topped chow, she bounded to the couch, rolled over on her back and began barking!
At that sight I immediately started to rejoice and told my wife that even the dog was rejoicing in the presence of the Lord!  You know, I think the Lord knew that I would need some extra encouragement after our long day yesterday and only needed a little opening into our lives by the singing of a worship song to Him in order to open wide the flood gates of joy, which according to Nehemiah 8:10 brings His strength onto the scene! 
Jesus declared in reply to the Pharisees as they whined about the praises that Jesus’ disciples were singing, “If they keep quiet, these stones will start shouting.” (Luke 19:40 CEV)  And I think that if He was able to make the stones shout praises, then He could make a happy dog bark praises as well!  What do you think?  Like I said the other day… it works for me!  I can’t think of any other explanation.  The sun even popped through the dark overcast and 60% change of rain that was forecasted for this morning!
Wow!  What a way to change the flavor of the day!  So, I encourage you to give it a try when you need a boost in your spiritual attitude or physical energy.  Begin singing or shouting your praises to Him and watch and see who or what joins in with you!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Roadmap


I think that I may have mentioned in Tuesday’s blog that it has been raining on and off for a few days now.  This morning we played it just right and we’re able to sneak out between the downpours and take a walk to our community compactor in order to dump the trash we weren’t able to get rid of yesterday because it rained most of the day!  Then I got a little too cocky and loaded my wife into the car with the thought of extending our good fortune and get some shopping in before it started raining again.
Well… it didn’t work!  Just as we pulled into the parking lot of the grocery store it began to come down in buckets!  But I figured we would just wait it out as I could see some blue sky in the distance.  Well, yup! You guessed it!  The blue was quickly swallowed up in dark clouds so we decided we’d go off to an early trip to Wendy’s instead!  Once we got back home the downpour had let up some, so I was able to get my wife back in the house with a minimal exposure to the raindrops!  She’s a real trooper though, and it didn’t seem to bother her at all!
Later this afternoon we did get a break in the weather so we were all able to get out and stretch our legs with a brisk walk around the neighborhood.  Now I sit before my laptop writing my second blog of the day as we are heading off to Durham NC and the campus of Duke University tomorrow in order to visit with my wife’s new Neurologist and won’t have time to write to you all then!  One of my wife’s specialists in San Francisco had told us that Duke had a great Neurology Department and since we were going to be so close, it would be a good place for my wife’s medical care.
So, I am all ready to go!  I’ve done my research, worked with Piper’s new GP here in Morrisville to attain the right physician, got my map and we are off and running!  Kind of like what I do every morning when I get up!  I get ready for the day, grab a hot cup of Java, pet the dog who is usually slumbering on one of the Lazy Boy chairs in the living room, open the blinds and begin to do my research in the Word of God!
You know, I wouldn’t know where to go in life if I didn’t study God’s directions each day.  No criticism intended here, but I am always amazed when Christians tell me that they just don’t have time to read the Word each day.  To me that would be like getting in our car tomorrow without a GPS, Map or any other assistance and think that I can find Piper’s new doctor!  Bizarre don’t you think?
I am a firm believer in the theory that we humans always tend to find the time for the things in life that we really want.  So what do you think?  Are you ready to hit the road each day with a reliable set of directions?  Something to think about wouldn’t you say?  Have a great day and Happy Trails!  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting (to follow) today?”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Live Long and Prosper!


My wife and I went out the other day and purchased a red geranium to replace the one that we had to leave behind in California.  That particular plant was one of many given to me by my Mom and was the most prolific plant we had in our patio!  In the late afternoon when the sun would peak over the roof top, the red flowers seemed to glow with an almost fluorescent sheen to them!
Our newest patio guest has a little ways to go before it reaches that same potential.  After checking out numerous stores we finally found one that even carried red geraniums… and the selection was not very promising!  This plant seemed to be calling out to me though, and I just had the feeling that we could help it along by nursing it back to vibrant health.
When we got home I dug around the plant, added some fresh potting soil, picked off all the brown leaves, and gave it a shot of Miracle Grow liquid plant food.  Then we prayed life over it and hung it on a hook from the top of our patio cover.  So now we have a compliment of four plants visually gracing our view outside from the living area of our apartment home.
The next morning as the dog and I stepped out on the patio with a cup of hot coffee (I had the coffee, not Mandie!) I think that the plant actually looked better already!  And now a few days later, even though it has been cloudy and raining for the last couple of days, the red petals of the flowers are starting to gain that fluorescent look!
As I read from Jeremiah 9:24 this morning I began to feel a little like that little geranium growing out on our patio.  In this verse the Lord is speaking to the Prophet explaining that “If they want to brag, they should brag that they understand and know me…”  (God’s Word ©)  The word “know” is the same word that is used in Genesis 4:1 when it is told to us that “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived.” (KJV)  It describes a very intimate activity.  A sort of hands on experience you could say.
That was the type of hands on activity that I had with that struggling plant.  In order for it to “live long and prosper” (We’ve been watching some of the early Star Trek movies over the last few weeks!) I needed to intercede and spent some time getting my hands dirty!  That is how God sometimes operates with each of us!  At times He has to get personally involved with our lives.  According to Jeremiah, it is the intimate interactions with Him that give us something to brag about!
Notice also that I said interactions!  It is not just a onetime experience.  Our little plant is looking better, but it still has a ways to go… which means a lot more hands on, dirt under the fingernails involvement from me!  Which is exactly what we need to have with our heavenly Father on a regular basis!  You know… I actually miss having the opportunity to mow my lawn.  I have an almost four hundred dollar lawn mower sitting in my garage with absolutely nothing to do!  I enjoy being in the garden.  I like expending the energy, sweat and dirty hands (although I usually wear gloves…) that it takes to work a yard.  I guess it is just therapeutic for me!  And the rewards are fantastic!  There is nothing to me like sitting back at the end of the day and looking at the finished product of all my labors!  The green, healthy manicured lawn, beautifully shaped trees, abundance of color emanating from the flower beds, and the fruits of the vegetable garden sitting on the kitchen table.  All of this is a delight to me!
I think that it must be similar to the feeling that God has after we spend some hands on time with Him.  It is the intimate, one on one experiences that bring a lasting reward to the garden of our lives.  Hummm… I think I see a leaf starting to turn brown on our new plant.  I’d better go attend to its needs… and you can do the same with your life today!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Monday, July 21, 2014

Strength verses Joy


Yesterday turned out a whole lot different than I had expected it to.  During breakfast my wife suddenly took ill and I spend the majority of the day tending to her needs.  She was almost back to her old self by dinner and was able to enjoy a lite meal.  Her weakness earlier in the day meant that I had to exert a lot of energy and strength to physically help her.  At one point when in the midst of helping her to complete a task, I could sense my stamina rapidly declining and I quietly began to ask the Lord for more strength.  Then it hit me…
As the words found in Nehemiah 8:10 came to mind saying, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” I suddenly exclaimed aloud, “I don’t need to be praying for strength, but for JOY!” And with that I began to laugh and sing for JOY.  Then I began to think out loud declaring that since His JOY is my strength, what I really need is His JOY and the physical strength will automatically arrive on the scene.   So I asked Him for His JOY and began to thank Him for it, when I felt a new burst of energy flow into me, my arms and back suddenly felt more relaxed and my attitude began to change from not being too happy about the situation at hand to being thankful that I had the opportunity to assist the one I love.
Afterwards when things had calmed down and my wife was resting comfortably, I began to think about all the scriptures that talk about strength and being strong with the idea of interchanging those words with JOY and/or the JOY of the Lord.  Our old friend Ephesians 6:10 that I wrote about last week came to mind first and I spoke out that “I am JOYful in the Lord and therefore stand in the dominion of His ability.” (KJV – personalized using the original language)
In God’s eyes strength and His JOY go together like peanut butter and jelly!  According to Nehemiah 8:10 it is difficult to have one without the other.  And when you think about it, the combination makes life a lot easier to go through having a smile on your face instead of a frown!  It makes the sometimes hard tasks to become much more palatable and enjoyable!  It sure worked for me yesterday, and I am assured that it will work for you as well.  So… the next time you feel like you can’t go any further or that your strength is zapped, just begin to ask the Lord for His JOY and the strength will most certainly follow suit!  Have a great week.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?” 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Your Driver's License


Well, as usual I over-studied for my North Carolina driver’s license exam!  Since I haven’t had to take a written test for renewals of my California license since I was sixteen, I figured that I’d better do a little bit more than just brush up for this one!  But after all that, the examiner only asked me about a half a dozen questions pertaining to regulatory signs and that was it!
So I am officially a resident of our new state and go can forth and get license plates for the car and register to vote!  And after five years of using an expired license, my wife now has a current legal government ID card!  Which means no more long winded explanations needed at doctor’s offices, airports, for insurance and so on!
It was interesting that in order to apply for the driver’s license and Piper’s ID card, I had to provide numerous legal forms of ID like my California license, social security card, as well as a current utility bill to confirm our address.  For my wife I needed to produce her birth certificate and official correspondence from Social Security that listed her SSI number.
That experience got me to thinking about our legal identification as members of the family of God!  Ephesians 6:10 tells us, “Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord; and in the strength of his might.”  That scripture to me is like the right I now have to drive in North Carolina.  Sure, I could have kept my California license and driven around just fine, until I got pulled over for something!  Then I’d get in trouble for being a permanent resident using an out of state license.  I had that happen in Oklahoma when we were going to school there a few years back.  The officer was not real happy that I was driving a car that had been given to us with Oklahoma plates and I still had my California license.  Although I didn’t get a fine since I was considered a student and therefore a temporary resident, he still was not pleased and let me know it!
As a permanent resident in God’s kingdom, you and I have legal rights to stand on as one of those whose strength is in the power of God’s might.  If one was to write Ephesians 6:10 as it was meant according to original Greek, it would state: “Finally my brothers and sisters, be empowered in or by the Word and stand in the dominion its ability.”  In other words, in Him and His abilities we have the approval to go forth and be blessed to be a blessing! 
That scripture is our license to go forth in the power and ability of Christ!  To go anywhere He tells us to go and successfully do whatever He commands us to accomplish for Him… and if the devil pulls us over and questions us, all we have to do is pull out Bibles (or more likely the Word that we have hidden in our hearts) and show him our official license (or standing in Christ), and he’ll have no other course of action but to let us go.  Just like that Broken Arrow, Oklahoma police officer driving an unmarked vehicle had to do with me and my daughter who were going to be late for our finals!
So keep that scripture license with you at all times.  When you come under scrutiny by the enemy of our souls, just tell him that “I am empowered by the Lord and stand in the dominion of His abilities… and you have to flee from me!”  Have a great weekend.  Go for a drive and have some fun!  And keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Holiday


So… let me ask you a question.  How seriously or maybe better said, how personally do you take the Word of God?  Now understand, I am only asking you this because I recently had to ask myself the same question.  As I was speaking the Word over my wife the other day, I suddenly had some revelation about what I was doing.  It was one of those things that you know… but suddenly drops into your spirit, the light goes on, the thunder claps and you “know that you know” as Oral Roberts used to say.
I was confessing according to Ephesians 6:10 that my wife is “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” (KJV)  As soon as the words left my mouth I remembered John 1:1 where the Apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God.” (KJV)  My instantaneous thought was that I could also state that my wife is “strong in the Word and in the power of the Word’s might.”
At that moment I had that “know that you know” understanding of the power that is resident in the Word… because it is Jesus personally talking to and about me!  So… back to my original question.  Is that your understanding when you spend time in the Word? 
When I spend time with someone who is special to me, I give them all my attention.  Whenever my wife and I went on one of our two night holidays to the coast, she always got 100% of my concentration.  And it usually started before the getaway time even began as I would usually buy her some new clothes, plan fancy meals, special activities unique to the area we were going and think about all that time alone with her without any distractions! 
I have mentioned before that I have had my quiet/study time first thing in the morning for almost as long as I can remember.  But over the last four years, with everything going on, it has taken on an even greater significance.  In some respects this time alone with Jesus has become my lifeline.  This morning was a little different as I woke up from a deep and restful sleep only to notice that it was 7:45 am, and I did not want to get up.  (Usually I awake from a fitful sleep before seven and am too restless to go back to sleep)  My first thought today was to roll back over and sleep in.  After all I deserved it… right?  I haven’t slept particularly well for a long time and this was a like a gift… right?
Well… I quickly discerned that it wasn’t right… at least for me.  I needed and deep down inside really wanted to spend time with the Lord before I got my wife up.  If I slept in I would still need to get my wife up on time and thereby give up my personal time with the Lord.  Going back to my other example, that would be the same as going away for a holiday with my wife and then leaving her alone at the kitchen table while I slept in or spent time just doing what I wanted!
Jesus and His Word are one in the same.  When we spend time in the Word we are spending time personally with Jesus.  When I sit at my kitchen table with my Bible, notebook and laptop it is just like He is sitting at the table with me.  You could say that we share a cup of coffee as we discuss His course and instruction for my life.  At other times we just chat, talk about how things are going, and encourage each other.  When you look within the pages of your Bible, do you see Jesus sitting there with you?
So… what do you think?  How are you going to look at and experience your next time with the Word?  Are you just reading and/or studying a good book, or are you physically spending personal time with the Lord?  Let me know!  Have a good day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Storm


We experienced our second summer thunder and lightning storm yesterday.  I guess that is still a novelty for me since our just north of San Francisco West Coast weather patterns did not allow for this type of demonstration by the elements.  Then again, I have always enjoyed a good rain storm!  I hate to admit it, but as a kid I was fascinated when it rained like crazy for days to the point when the local river would overflow its banks.  I still remember the Christmas Flood of 1964 that devastated many of the river communities from our home county up to the Oregon border.  Many of the little towns were either never rebuilt or ever returned to their former state.  We would be reminded of this catastrophic event every time we would go camping up in the Redwoods as the economy of the area was permanently affected.  Wherever you would go, you could (and still can) see visible signs of the carnage.
A more humorous memory is the time my future wife and I were walking to class at the Santa Rosa Junior College in 1972 in the midst of a winter downpour.  I was trying my best to be gallant and shield my girl from the worst of the pouring rain by keeping her covered by the umbrella (as I got soaked…) when a strong gust of wind grabbed at my hat and unceremoniously dropped it in a huge puddle and at the same time blew my trusty umbrella inside out leaving it in a rather grotesque shape! 
Well, needless to say it was a wild scene as everyone around us got a giant opportunity to laugh at us!  But you know… it was kind of funny!  I must have been quite a sight as my normally curly hair (yes folks… my hair was thick and curly when I was young!) lay flat on my head and my strikingly beautiful girlfriend looked like a drowned rat!  I can’t remember a time when Piper and I laughed so hard at our misfortune as we stood in the middle of that walkway in the midst of the deluge bent over with glee!
Yesterday’s storm was unique to me as it suddenly got very dark… just like it was night even though it was only 5:00 pm.  It wasn’t scary or anything like that to me, in fact I had my camera out and was trying my best to capture a frame or two of the lightning.  I did though, have a thought in the midst of it that we are not alone.  That Jesus the living Word is with us and that His light is always present to illuminate our path.  And even though it suddenly became like the night, His light was still present on the scene and would not allow the darkness to prevail. 
John’s words in the first chapter of his epistle saying “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5 English Standard Version) came to mind and its significance was very real to me as I got wet standing in our patio as the wind blew the rain, and the thunder boomed around me.  Ha!  Even the dog deserted me to the comfort and security under the table in the kitchen.
It seems like the daily summer time weather forecast around here always includes “a chance of thunderstorms.”  I think that we could probably say the same thing for the daily forecast of our lives.  There is always a chance for a storm to hit, but we don’t have to be afraid about it, knowing that the Light of our lives is always present with us and that His Light will illuminate our way and not allow the elements to overcome us.  Have a great day!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Leap!


Many years ago I took a temporary job helping a friend with a lot of repair work on a large dairy farm that was located in the rolling hills near our county airport.  We started out by painting the long fence that ran up the hill to the farm house, repaired the various stalls that housed the young calves and then refurbished one of the mobile homes that some of the workers lived in.  It turned out to be hard work with long hours and at times was almost unbearable with the aromatic fragrances that surrounded the barns!
But, one of the fun parts of the job was when we worked around the calves.  Whenever we worked on their stalls, the little critters would stretch out their long wet (kinda slimy…) tongues and lick us!  Then if we had to let them out in order to further repair their temporary homes, they would leap and jump like little kids going out for recess at school!  It was quite enjoyable to watch and made the job a little more meaningful!
Malachi 4:2 explains how “The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in his wings for you people who fear my name.  You will go out and leap like calves let out of a stall.” (God’s Word ©)  Maybe that is why my friend John and I liked that part of our job, because it was a picture of how we are to live as children of our Almighty Father.
Is that how you live?  Do you look for opportunities to be happy, confident and blessed because of your relationship with Jesus?  Hummm… it might be more accurate if I asked if you MAKE opportunities to be happy, confident and blessed!  I know many good meaning Christian folks who quickly turn to complaining and self-pity when things don’t go as they think they should.  I must admit that this is probably the biggest obstacle that I face on a daily basis as we stand in faith for my wife’s total and complete healing.  It can be all too easy to dwell on the way that things SHOULD or COULD be if  Do you know what I mean?
Last night as my wife and I sat on the couch watching TV, I burst out laughing at a funny part in one scene, turned to my wife and she instantly burst into laughter as well!  I tell you, it was like a shot in the arm!  It was just what I needed to boost my faith as the “old Piper” came to view!  It was just like Malachi 4:2 and those “fearing my name (that)… shall leap as young calves from out of bonds (of sickness and disease).” (Apostolic Bible Polyglot – Greek translation of the OT)
This is that same Word that I spoke of yesterday that was there “in the beginning, was with God… and was God.” (God’s Word ©)  John also mentioned that “with this Word, God created all things.” (CEV)  And as far as I know, it is just as powerful and creative today as it was back then. (See Hebrews 13:8)
So my advice to each of you is to speak the powerful truths of His Word into the situations of your life on a daily basis.  Then let its power change and empower you!  I can’t think of a better way to be happy, confident and blessed… can you?  Wouldn’t it be funny if you suddenly leaped and jumped for joy at work… in the middle of the store your shopping at… or as you walked across that busy thoroughfare in your hometown?  You’d definitely have the people’s attention when they asked why you did it!
Have a happy, leaping for joy day today!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting (to leap for) today?”

Monday, July 14, 2014

Who's Your Daddy?


Have you ever done something you’re not too proud of and regretted it profusely?  I know that I have made some decisions that I wish I never had!  I’m sure that we all have at one time (or two) in our lives!  When my wife was initially diagnosed with the early onset of Alzheimer’s back in September of 2009, there were a few individuals that actually accused me of being the one responsible for her situation.  And while this was quite ludicrous, there still have been many times since then when I have pondered if there were things over the years that I could have done better when it came to the well-being of my wife and family.
Sometimes at night I will look deeply into the eyes of my wife in a picture I captured from our dating days or the early years of our marriage and question if I always put her first in our relationship.  Did I do my best?  Did I afford her a happy and successful life?  If I answer myself honestly, I would have to say that for the most part, the answer to many of those probes would have to be yes!  In describing my wife’s attitude and demeanor over the years I would say it would be a smile on her face, words spoken in encouragement and laughter, a song of praise and thanksgiving on her lips, and the contentment in knowing that she was able to successfully complete her personal dream of homeschooling our four children through high school.
As far as the Alzheimer’s, I would call it what it is… an attack from the enemy of our souls!  I read a report from the Yahoo news page this morning that talked of the findings of a new British study describing how 1 out of 3 Alzheimer’s cases could probably be avoided and sighted seven things that increase the susceptibility of falling prey to the ravishes of the disease.  They are:
Diabetes

Mid-life hypertension

Mid-life obesity

Physical inactivity

Depression

Smoking

Low educational attainment
 

I had to laugh as I read the list because my wife’s lifestyle was in complete opposite to these activities.  She was very health conscious, has always had low blood pressure, stayed slim and trim, walked and exercised daily, never let depression have any hold in her life, didn’t smoke and has a college level education.  So, like I said, let’s point the blame where it belongs… and yield the solution over to the Living Word!
And speaking of the Living Word… John 1:1-5 talks to us about the pre-existence of this Word saying:  “In the beginning the Word already existed.  The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (God’s Word ©)  Verses 4-5 continue declaring, “In him life lay, and this life was the Light for men; amid the darkness the Light shone, but the darkness did not master it.” (Moffatt)
When I read that last line this morning it was as if someone tossed a pail of ice water on me!  I jumped from my seat declaring: “The darkness will not master me!”  You see, according to the Word of God, we may do things we regret, but when we repent we are forgiven and are afforded a fresh start!  We don’t have to be afraid of being a bad person knowing that the darkness will not master us!  For Christ is our master (Who’s your Daddy?)… No one, no activity and no sin can be master over us as we yield ourselves to the living, loving, grace-filled Word of God!
Remember, He is greater, He is stronger, He is more freeing, more loving and endlessly filled with grace – just for you and me!  He is the Light, and the light always dispels the darkness.  So rejoice!  Don’t let the darkness lord over your mistakes, your bad-judgment calls, and allow any shortcomings to prevail over you.  Quickly turn those activities over to the Light and let Him burn off the fog of darkness that may be attempting to get the best of you.
It’s at times like this that I like to picture the Sun of righteousness arising with healing in his wings, burning off the dark lies that the enemy is trying to get us to believe!  (See Malachi 4:2) Have a great week.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting (to prevail over) today?”

 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Surprise!


We had a couple of surprises awaiting us as we walked around our apartment community yesterday afternoon.  As we came to the end of one stretch of sidewalk, I carefully guided my wife and her chair over the edge and was proceeding across the parking area when I heard a voice saying, “excuse me sir!”  When I stopped and turned to see who was calling to us I noticed that it was a gentleman of Indian descent who had been sitting in his car as we passed by.  He had noticed that my wife’s feet had come off of the stirrups on the transport chair and was concerned that she might hurt herself.
I thanked him profusely and explained that she always pops them out when we walk.  Sometimes I think that it is a little game that she plays with me when we walk!  On many occasions I will stop, come around to the front of her chair and gently place her feet back and then by the time I get up and around the chair she has pulled them out and is stretching them straight forward… with a slight grin on her face! 
After I had humorously informed the gentleman about this, he laughed and then asked what Piper’s name was and bent down to pet the dog, asking for her name as well, as she was tugging at her lease to get near him.  I normally keep her pretty tight at my side when we pass people as many folks around the apartments have tended to shy away from her.  Our new friend explained that his daughter has a pet dog and he many times will take care of the dog for her.  After we had a pleasant conversation we moved on to the sidewalk across the lot and walked a ways until we neared our building.
At that point we came across another older man who began to walk back toward his stairs and then suddenly stopped and waited for us to come by.  When we got to him, he said hello to my wife and bent down to touch her shoulder.  It was interesting that as we began to converse, my wife instantly responded to his kindness and reached out her hand to him.  He gently took her hand in his and held it for our entire conversation.  As it turns out we both had four kids and loved to camp with our families.
He asked about my wife’s condition and when we were about to move on, he said “you know… just pray every day for her!”  At his encouragement I smiled brightly and told him of our stand of faith.  In the midst of the conversation I also stated that I had been a pastor.  Then as we began to walk away he stopped and called back to us, repeated our names, committing them to memory and smiled.
As I said earlier, those two incidents surprised me and made my day at the same time as it was the first time that someone stopped us and initiated a conversation since we have been here.  When I was reading from the books of Mark and Matthew earlier today, I noticed a couple of times that Jesus was also surprised by something out of the ordinary.
Like I wrote about yesterday, Jesus was amazed or surprised, as the Contemporary English Version puts it, when He came into contact with the unbelief of His family and friends when He returned to His hometown.  On another occasion Jesus was surprised when He came face to face with the faith of an individual in whom He expected to find none!
In reference to His conversation with the Roman Centurion, Matthew reported that “When Jesus heard this, he was so surprised that he turned and said to the crowd following him, “I tell you that in all of Israel I’ve never found anyone with this much faith!” (Matthew 8:10 CEV)
According to my quick research, the word amazed or surprise is used 43 times in the gospels and Acts.  Of those, only the 2 incidents just mentioned speak of Jesus as the subject of the amazement.  It is interesting to note that both of the events concerned His reaction to people’s faith.  In one He expected to see faith and in the other He didn’t!
This got me to thinking about how Jesus responds to me.  Is He surprised when He expects to see faith in action in my life and doesn’t… and on the other hand… are there times when He doesn’t expect it and I surprise Him?  While a surprise can be a good thing, I kind feel that I would rather my life be a constant to Him and not a series of positive and negative surprises.  I would want Him to know that He can use me in any situation He needs me to be a part of without wondering how I will respond! 
It is obvious that our faith catches Jesus’ attention.  The Centurion’s faith literally made Jesus stop what He was doing and turn to tell His followers what had just happened!  I want to make sure that my faith is always within His range of vision… How about you?  I want to rest in the peace of knowing that my ever increasing trust in Him is something that He can always depend on… and not just be an occasional surprise to Him. 
So when Jesus looks at your life is He going to stop in surprise and exclaim to those around Him, “Geez!  Did you see that?”  Or will He simply smile and say: “See, I told you that he or she would respond that way!”  Have a super weekend.  Be a surprise to someone by reaching out in the love of Christ.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Movin' On!


I think it interesting when studying Mark 6:1-6 that the home folks were not only upset at Jesus for being different than they were, but they also took offense to His actions!  The Message Bible says that the people declared, “Who does he think he is?  They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling.  And they never got any further.”   (Mark 6:3)
From personal experience, I can also understand why Jesus “marveled because of their unbelief.” (Mark 6:6)  Robertson’s explains that “Here he marvels at the lack of faith where he had a right to expect it, not merely among the Jews, but in his own hometown, among his kinspeople, even in his own house.”  It is pretty clear that Jesus expected a different response from His own family and friends as did I when my wife was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  I too “marveled” at some individual’s lack of faith, negative reactions and hurtful words.
But you know… Jesus moved on from there… as did I.  Although it took me a lot longer to sort through things and get passed the trauma of it than it did our Master!  The scripture accounts of Jesus’ hometown encounter say nothing about Him getting upset.  Yes, He was surprised, helped a few sick folks and then simply moved on to the next place the Father sent Him.  I wish I could say the same thing about me!  No, I went through a lot of human emotions before I could understand and yield to the overcoming power of God’s love working through the situation, forgive and thereby allow that same love the freedom to work in the people involved.  And now like Jesus, we too have moved on. 
Immediately afterwards, Jesus used the event as a lesson for His disciples.  As He sent them out to minister to the people of the surrounding towns and villages He instructed them saying: “Whenever you go into a home, stay there until you’re ready to leave that place.  Wherever people don’t welcome you or listen to you, leave and shake the dust from your feet as a warning to them.” (Mark 6:10-11 God’s Word ©)  He didn’t give them any provision to be angry at the people or to think and or say nasty words to them.  He simply instructed them to quietly pack up and move on.
I think that moving on is sometimes the hardest thing for some of us to do when we’ve been wronged, but God’s love and forgiveness is one of the most powerful weapons at our disposal!  We may think that we would feel better or even justify ourselves by telling them a thing or two about how we felt about the situation… but the best way would probably be to simply let them know what God thinks about the event (and about them) by our loving words and actions!
Not real easy… but it works!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Who Does He Think That He Is?


Have you ever been so amazed at something or someone that it literally shook the very core of your foundation and forced you to look at what and why you believe certain things?  That seemed to be the situation that the folks in Jesus’ hometown faced when they listened to the words He spoke and observed the miraculous works that followed Him.  Only… these homefolks never got to the point of self-examination.  They expressed the natural reaction of amazement which was followed by confusion, but then quickly replaced it with anger at what they saw and finally rejected it as false doctrine… because they felt that their understanding was the only way!
What would you have done?  What have you done in similar circumstances?  It has been my experience over the years in both secular management as well as in church leadership that most of us don’t like change!  Having spent twenty years in the volatile test and measurement/electronics industry and ten years in the retail business all intermixed with over thirty years in church leadership, I have been right in the middle of initiating the change process on almost a continual basis! In fact it was in the secular sector that I came to understand the saying that "the only constant we have in this life is change!"
My wife and I have relatives that strive to always keep everything the same in their lives, even as their kids grew up and got married with kids of their own who now are almost all married and literally living all over the country!  Change has always been difficult for them.  I finally came to the place after spending many hours in meetings with disgruntled employees, church members and disagreeing extended family where I decided that in order to succeed in this life, I needed to embrace change!
As I have mentioned before, the greatest change in my personal life came with the attack on my wonderful wife’s health.  Not only have I had to deal with my own feelings, beliefs, and the sudden change of direction and priorities of our lives, but I’ve also been forced to deal with family and friends who have been less than helpful or encouraging when they have had to face the tremendous change.
Mark 6:2-3 tells us that “Many of the people who heard him (Jesus) were amazed and asked ‘How can he do all this?  Where did he get such wisdom and power to work these miracles?  Isn’t he the carpenter, the son of Mary…’  The people were very unhappy because of what he was doing.” (God’s Word ©)
It was obvious to the people in Jesus’ hometown that miraculous events happened when Jesus spoke, but they could not break through their own comfort zone in order to receive the blessing that He emanated.  Robertson’s Word Pictures states that to be amazed literally means that the people “were struck out of themselves.”  But once out… these individuals refused to look back inward and got angry instead!  Hummm… I’ve become very accustomed with that reaction in others!  But I can also say in all honesty that I fell victim to that same process but thankfully was able to submit to the Lord’s direction in discovering why I was upset with my (and their) reactions, looked at why I really did and believed things the way I did, make whatever changes or adjustments and then move on!  I guess I am still in that moving on process!  I don’t think that it is necessarily a place that one ever attains in this life!
Self-examination is a good thing… Change can be a good thing and with Jesus at our sides it doesn’t have to be a scary thing!  That I can wholeheartedly attest to!  So what change are you facing today?  Will you choose to get angry and not yield to the inner changes… or will you embrace Jesus and allow Him to guide you through the good changes He has in store for you?
Have a wonderful day!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself…
What or WHOM am I expecting today?”