All posts by Kelly Maynard

Lessons from an Oven for My Heart

Posted on Apr 27, 2016 | Download

I was inside the oven. Just like Hansel and Gretel, except that I'd put myself there rather than being shoved inside by a witch. There I was, being overwhelmed by fumes from the chemicals of the oven cleaner I'd sprayed on because my oven is ancient and has no self-cleaning cycle. It was nasty. I tend to procrastinate when it comes to oven cleaning, which makes the task I avoid because it's gross even more disgusting by the time I get around to spraying it, waiting, and then wiping out the toxic greasy mess. Even though it’s unpleasant, it's something I do before Passover every year. God commanded the leaven to be removed from homes in ancient days, and declared it to be a command forever. While I'm not Jewish, I observe God's feasts. I’ve decided to follow the God of Israel and for our family, that includes (as it did for the mixed multitude that left Egypt and observed that very first season of bread with no leaven) the instructions for His Holy Days. We eat the frozen pizzas and cookies and use up the baking mixes in the days leading up to Passover. I lament the almost-full jar of yeast that gets thrown away because I should've planned better...again. Still, we get rid of it - because God told us to. Most scholars agree that in the Bible leaven is usually used as a metaphor for sin. The examples of leaven in Scripture paint a picture for us of staying away from behaviors that are contrary to God's word and God's will for our lives. We go through Passover avoiding all the yummy bread, instead eating the flat, yeast-less variety to remind us of the sin that we are also commanded to avoid. I wasn't thinking about this while I was cleaning out the oven, though. All my efforts were focused on the task at hand. Until something pressed so deeply into my heart and thoughts I couldn't escape it. Why don't I approach the "leaven" in my own life as diligently as I do the oven cleaning? Why am I so determined to rid that oven of every crumb, every spill, every bit of burnt-on cheese, and every trace of cleaner yet when it comes to my own life, I have a very different approach? I am willing to stretch and strain and end up with greasy black marks on my arms and brown chemical sludge on the front of my shirt to prepare my home for Passover. Why am I not willing to do the work, to endure the effort it takes, to dig deeper and reach farther when it comes to my own mess? I would rather do a bit of light duty cleaning on the outside. But real cleaning that requires elbow grease? No, thank you. We all come to a season where God says, "It's time. Time to get the leaven out. Time to clean house." We have to be willing to take an honest look at our messes and do the work to rid ourselves of the sin in our hearts. We have to want the leaven to be gone. We have to determine that whatever it takes, it's time to rid ourselves of what's built up, stuck on, and burnt on. If we're serious about walking with God, we have to be serious about reaching into the corners, however dirty they've become, and using heavy-duty cleaners until the job is done and all that's left is what God made us to be. It's not pleasant; it's messy and difficult but it's what we need to do. May this season of Unleavened Bread prompt us to clean out more than the leaven in our pantries and may we work as hard to be like our Messiah as we do to ready our homes for His feast.   Get rid of the old hametz (leaven), so you may be a new batch, just as you are unleavened—for Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.   1 Corinthians 5:7

What To Do When You Lose Focus

Posted on Feb 25, 2016 | Download

Philippians 4:1-8 has been a passage of scripture I’ve clung to for as many years as I can remember.  The reason is simple. I can’t stay focused. Not in an ADHD sort of way, but in a way where I let life overwhelm me and dictate my focus instead of keeping my thoughts and heart turned toward the One who can give me what I truly need no matter the circumstance. Recently, because life is good at giving us challenging situations, I turned to these verses again.  There are instructions in these verses that are almost like a blueprint for how to find God’s sweet spot of Shalom. Stand firm in the Lord (vs. 1) Standing firm could also be translated as persevere. In the Greek, the word literally means ‘to be stationary, unmoving.’ We are to persist, unwavering, in godliness. Be in harmony (with others) in the Lord (vs. 2) It’s almost a sense of sharing one mind, rather than creating discord. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything everyone else thinks, but rather, intentionally choosing to live at peace with others, remembering that we are part of one Body. Rejoice in the Lord always (vs. 4) Be cheerful! Reflect happiness! The hard part comes with the “always.” At all times. Every time. The Apostle Paul repeats this instruction, which tells us it is vital! We need to remember that the joy of the Lord is our strength, no matter what we’re facing, and know that we can reflect that joy with God’s help. This is the third instruction given that is coupled with “in the Lord.” Our own strength isn’t enough. To stand firm, to be in harmony with others, to rejoice in whatever circumstances surround us, we must take up a fixed position with our God. Let your gentleness be known to all people (vs. 5) Gentleness can also imply patience, mildness, and fairness. This is so difficult when we’re stressed, annoyed, frustrated, and tired of dealing with difficulty, but it is so important. Be gentle with others, be gentle with yourself, just as God is being gentle with you. Do not be anxious about anything (vs. 6) Another way to say this is to “take thought of nothing.” Do not let things trouble your mind. Empty your mind of your own troubling thoughts and let God replace them! The next verses even tell us what God would have us think about instead of the broken record of our own defeating thoughts. Finally, dwell on these things AND put them into practice (vs. 8): Whatever is true (accurate, exact) Whatever is honorable (worthy of respect, with high morals) Whatever is just (based on what is morally right and fair) Whatever is pure (unadulterated, free of contamination) Whatever is lovely (having a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye) Whatever is commendable (deserving of praise) These verses are packed with guidance! What does Paul tell us in verse seven will be the result of our decision to put these things into practice? “The peace of God, which passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Messiah Yeshua our Lord!” That word “guard,” or “keep,” is worth looking at. At its simplest, it means that He will protect. The Greek word used indicates protection by a mounted military guard posted to keep watch. How amazing that God would do that for us! We are not alone! All it takes from us is a little re-focusing.