Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Blessing or A Lesson?

"We met for a reason, either you're a blessing or a lesson."
Frank Ocean
In 1975, the following poem appeared in the December issue of New Wine magazine.  It was written by Sylvia R. Evans.  A friend typed it out for me and I have carried it in my Bible ever since.
Drink Offering
Yes, Lord,
I said
That I would be
As wine poured forth
Upon Thine
But I did not
That pouring forth
Would be complete -
The emptying
Of the full cup.
Upon Thine altar -
What a place
For dregs to flow
And uncrushed grapes
To show so clearly
In the liquid life
I gave Thee there.
No effort that I made
Could gather up
The total life outpoured
And put it back into the cup.
You saw it, Lord
In all its imperfection,
Though I turned to run
From priests and
I did not know
Their ministry of
Crushing grapes
Poured out
Upon Your altar
Would crush me, too.
But they are Thine,
With task divine,
And Thine
is my NEW WINE.

My friend gave me this poem at a particularly difficult time in my life.  I had given my heart wholeheartedly to God and told Him to do what He needed to do to change me, to mold me into His image.  I had told Him I wanted to walk through the "narrow gate" and learn to "die to myself" so I could be used by Him in His purposes for my life.
I was too immature to understand what I was really asking of the Lord, but He knew what my heart truly needed and wanted and He began the strong work of sanctification in me.  Never did I realize God would use those I considered my closest friends.
God does send people into our lives to either be a blessing or a lesson and we need to embrace both when they come.  The greatest lessons we will learn is when we "rub up against one another."  That is the time God shows us what's truly and deepest in our hearts. 

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
Proverbs 27:17

And isn't this what we pray for?  For God to change our hearts.  These times come hard; we feel betrayed; we feel deeply hurt; and we even feel that God has forsaken us.  BUT, the work He does is deep and ever lasting.  The deliverance God wants to do comes with a cost.  And we need to be prepared to pay it.
I've learned over the years that when I am in a relational struggle with someone, I need to ask the Lord -

"Lord, what are you wanting to show me here?  What's in my heart that you are touching on right now?  Reveal it to me, Lord and do your best work." 

God is using the person (or people) that we struggle with as Sanctifiers in our lives.  He has a perfect plan and He uses all to fulfill those plans and for His glory!
When we bow to the Lord and cooperate and refuse to see the person as the problem, God can do mighty things in us.  But if we rail against the person, we, in effect, rail against the Lord and He can't accomplish in us what He desires.  And rest assured, you will go around that mountain again!!
I've also learned the hard way that God is not "for" me and "against" the other person, when I have a problem.  He is also not "against" me and "for" them.  No, in these situations, God is for God - to work in each heart to accomplish His will.
Our hearts need only to cooperate with His will and let him perform the "surgery" necessary and we will see the great and mighty things of the Lord accomplished right in our own heart!!
Is there someone in your life right now that is becoming a lesson?  Cooperate with God and you will see that person become the blessing!!
I am truly thankful for all God has done in my heart and for those He used in the process.  God taught me a lot in and through them.  That said, I am thankful I learned the first time around because I certainly don't want to circle that mountain again!!  :)



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

He Notices Me!

Do you ever feel very small and insignificant.  In the big scheme of things, do you often wonder if you really matter?

Sometimes, I feel that way.  I'm just a grain of sand on a whole beach full of sand, how could anyone ever "notice me?"

But Scripture tells us that God not only sees us, but that "the very hairs of your head are all numbered."   (Matthew 10:30) 
Can you imagine that?
Have you ever tried counting the hairs on your head?
Last month, I had a couple things happen to me that really caused me to see that not only does God notice me, but He cares for me and is always watching over me.
When the weather here in Vermont first starting turning cold, sometime in November, I felt like I wasn't getting much heat out of my car, but I really didn't give it a lot of thought.  Then I had to take a trip an hour and a half away and I noticed that it took a long time for my car to warm up, but when it finally did, the heat was so intense, it was about to drive me out of the car!  As the weather turned colder, I realized I was indeed not getting any heat.  I called my regular mechanic who told me I would have to take the car to the dealer.   Not knowing how much that would cost, I figured I would just wait until after Christmas.  A couple days later I happened to mention to a friend of mine that I didn't have any heat in my car.  She, in turn, mentioned it to her husband and he asked me about it the next time I saw him.  He checked my car and found that my radiator was almost empty.  He filled it and wonder of wonders, I had heat, wonderful heat!

But not only that, what could have happened to my car had this not been done would have cost me lots of heartache, inconvenience and money!!
This, to me, was a story of God noticing me, caring for me and sending someone to help me!!  I was so blessed by His care for me.
Not once, not twice, but three times during the Christmas holidays, I left the house with a candle burning - not on purpose, for sure - I just forgot to blow it out before I left.  One time I was gone almost 5 hours!!  I was absolutely overwhelmed at God's grace in taking care of me through my carelessness.  The devastation that could have happened I don't even want to think about.  Needless to say, I have not burned a candle since then.  I am not going to tempt God. 
But I am so grateful, more than words can say, of His care for me in both of these recent happenings.
These convince me that God is indeed "noticing me."
My name is engraved on the palms of His hand.
Isaiah 49:16
  My name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life.
Revelation 21:27
I am significant to Him.  He notices me!

He notices YOU, too!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What's Your Focus?

This sign hangs outside the door to my daughter's house -

You see, my daughter has 7 children, yes, you read that right - 7 children.  Their ages are - an almost 16-yr-old, 14 1/2, 13, an almost 12-yr-old, 10 1/2, and the twins are 8 1/2!!!  To say that her house is busy would be an understatement!!  They are really good kids, but based on sheer numbers alone, the house is pretty noisy at all times!!
When I took the picture of this sign, I thought to myself, there's a story in here somewhere.
When most people approach a home that is unfamiliar to them and they see a dog, they are a little apprehensive, not knowing what the dog is like.  But most people don't approach an unfamiliar home contemplating whether or not the children could be dangerous, right??!!
So, this sign is telling you that you don't have to worry about the dog (he's an Icelandic Sheep dog, by the way, and very friendly, wouldn't hurt a flea), but you'd better be cautious around the children!!!

I was thinking of this in terms of how we sometimes approach life, or a problem in life, like that.  We are very focused on a certain thing, never thinking that another thing should be the object of our focus.  We put our focus in the wrong place.  We worry about the wrong thing; we give all our time and energy to the wrong focus.
Example - a husband may be so focused on providing for his family, wanting to give them all they need and even some extras, that he ends up spending so much time and energy at work and has little left for his family.   He never sees that all they really need and want is his actual, physical presence with them!!
I remember when Phil was sick.  There was so much involved with his care when he came home from the hospital - I had to change his drainage bag, hook him up to the feeding tube and IV, give him shots, take his temperature, keep accurate records of all his stats, etc., so I was always on the move, doing "this and that" for him.  One day, as I was quickly passing by his chair on a mission, he gently grabbed my arm and said, "Look at me.  I love you, thank you for taking care of me.  Can I have a kiss?"  In that moment, I realized I was so focused on taking care of him, that I wasn't actually SEEing him.
Forget the tasks
Beware of what you're missing!!
Forget the future
Beware of what is here right now!!
We charge through life so focused on our "To Do" list, that we often don't even see the people we pass by every day, even and maybe especially, the members of our own family!!
Are you so afraid of what's going to happen tomorrow, that you don't see the missed opportunity of today?
My husband spent the last 5 years of his life worrying that he would be laid off from his job before he reached retirement age, and guess what, he didn't even live to reach retirement age!
Are you fearing you will be laid off from your job, when what you should be focusing on is doing your best in that job "as unto the Lord" and trusting Him with the rest.
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Matthew 6:27, 34
Our focus needs to always be on the Lord.  Only He knows what the future holds.  Only He can take care of the cares of tomorrow.  Our focus needs to be in the here and now.
We need to be abiding in the Lord; constantly aware of His presence and His care for us.  Scripture also tells us that He cares for the sparrow, how much more will He take care of us!
"Look at the birds of 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?"
Matthew 6:26
Our Father knows we need food and clothes and shelter, but He doesn't want us to lose perspective in our pursuit of these things.
"...your heavenly Father knows that you need them."
Matthew 6:32b
He tells us our focus shouldn't be on providing those things, instead -
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
Matthew 6:33
If you have time, read Matthew 6:25-34.  It points us to our true focus - the kingdom of God.  It speaks to us about TRUST - trusting Him for all those things we need in this life and yes, God often even blesses us with those things we desire as we seek to live for Him.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

My Day With the Lord

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you.  Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering.  Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.  Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead, fix your attention on God.  You'll be changed from the inside out.  Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.  Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to it's level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, (and) develops well-formed maturity in you."
Romans 12:1,2 (The Message Bible)

I love this version of this Scripture.  It is so practical!

"God helping you....." 
We don't and can't do this on our own strength.  "In Him we live and move and have our being."  All that we do, from the time our eyes open in the morning until they close at night, God is helping us!

"Your everyday, ordinary life......"
How many of us want to do great things for God?
How many of us just want to live our everyday, ordinary lives for God?
Scripture says if we are faithful in little, God will trust us in much.  Are you faithful in the little, everyday, ordinary, hum-drum things of life?

Do you curse at the guy who cuts you off in traffic?
Are you the one who does the "cutting?"
Are you Christ-like at the check-out line of your local supermarket or department store?
Are you faithful when no-one is looking?
Are you as kind and thoughtful to the "little" people as you are to the "big" people?
These everyday, ordinary moments are what reveal our character and typically produce our greatest challenges.  I know they do for me!

Sometimes it's easier to do the "great" thing for God than it is to walk out the everyday, ordinary.  Life can be boring, hard, full of trials and drudgery; it's hard to feel "special" when we are walking through those times.

"Your sleeping, your eating, your going-to-work and walking-around life..."
Oh, oh, it's getting personal now.
Do you need God's presence during the time you are sleeping?  Do you have trouble sleeping?  Do you experience nightmares, night sweats, sleep apnea?  Do you need God to help you fall asleep and stay asleep?  Do you long to wake up refreshed, ready to meet the day?

Do you have problems in the "eating" part of your day?  Do you struggle with this?  I certainly have.  Do you need to eat more, eat less, eat healthier?

Are you a loyal and faithful employee?  Does your boss get the time from you that he is supposed to?  Do you "work as unto the Lord?"  Do you bad-mouth your boss or other employees?  Are you around the "water cooler" when you should be at your desk?

Are you sick of picking up one more sock, one more piece of dirty clothing?  Do you find it difficult  planning and fixing one more meal?  Are you weary of the day-in, day-out sameness of your day?
Do you plan your day without taking God's desires into consideration?  Do you ask God to order your steps?  Do you seek His direction?

"Place it before God as an offering..."
Give Him your day; place it all before Him.  Seek His input.  Seek His direction.  Are you open to God changing your plans for the day or do you just "plunge" right in to "get it done?"

"Embracing what God does for you..."
Do you recognize that EVERYTHING that happens to you during your day is ordered by the Lord?  Do you embrace the bad as well as the good?  Do you see God's hand in all?  Do you thank God for His presence through it all?

"Well-adjusted to your culture..."
Are you well-adjusted to the culture of this world or are you well-adjusted to the culture of God's world?  Are you right in among the unbelievers discussing American Idol or Survivor?  If you are, are you able to view them as God does and offer another perspective in a loving and gentle manner?

"Fix your attention on God...."
Let God transform and renew your mind.  Spend time in the word to saturate your mind, so your thinking will become God's thinking.  You will begin to see things with God's perspective and not the world's.

"Changed from the inside-out...."
Unfortunately, people recognize outward change quicker than inward.  But as God renews your mind, you will be transformed inwardly and it will begin to show.  As you walk daily offering your life to God and then responding obediently to Him, people will notice that there IS something different about you.  Most of all, God will know there is something different about you!

"Readily recognize...."
Are you in tune enough with God that you are able to readily recognize what He wants from you and when?  In any given situation that you are faced with, can you hear His voice?  Are your reactions responses to Him?

"Quickly respond...."
Do you quickly respond or do you have to think about it?

"God brings the best out of you...."
"It is God who works in you to will and to do of His good pleasure."  God will continue to draw out of you what He wants to make you Christ-like. He is continually developing His character in you, maturing you so you can be an accurate representation of Him to this lost and dying world.

"Develops well-formed maturity..."
Maturity that shows foresight and forethought, wisdom and character, virtue; experiential knowledge as well as head knowledge.

Wow, this Scripture is rich, full and extremely thought-provoking.  Let God examine your heart in light of this Scripture today.

Lord, I fall short in so many ways, in the little things, the drudgery of every day.  Help me see your hand in everything today.  Help me see you in the moment and give thanks for your presence precisely in that moment.  Thank you for your grace!


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Storms of LIfe

Did you ever stop to think that most of what you do every day takes faith? 

By faith, you get out of bed in the morning, trusting that your body will stand you up!
By faith, you stand under the shower, trusting that hot water will come out of the showerhead!
By faith, you eat breakfast, trusting that what you eat will provide your body with the fuel it needs and that it will not be harmful to you!
By faith, you get behind the wheel of your car, trusting that it will start and take you where you want to go!
By faith, you go to the bank, trusting that your deposit will go into your account and will be there when you need it!
Every time you leave home, you believe by faith that you will return.

Faith is actually believing in what you know!
Do you know God? 
The amount of faith you have in Him is based upon how much you know about Him!
When life is smooth sailing, it's easy to trust God and have faith in Him, but what happens when the storms of life threaten our peaceful world?

 Several years ago, I planned a cruise to Bermuda with some friends.  We were ecstatic about the arrangements.  We would be sailing out of Boston so there would be no extra costs, like airfare or hotel fees, no restrictions on luggage.  A bus would be provided to take us to Boston and best of all, the cost of the cruise was very affordable.
So we made plans and preparations only thinking of sunny skies and sitting by the pool; smooth sailing, relaxing, enjoying the warm temperatures before the long Vermont winter.  When I left home on October 19th of that year, I had every expectation of returning on October 26th.

Who knew we would encounter a storm that would cause colossal sized waves to rock the "boat" like it was a toy?!? 
TVs were falling off the walls, dishes were crashing in the kitchens, waiters couldn't balance their trays and dishes of food fell on several unsuspecting victims!  The deck was closed, the elevators were closed and many, many people ended up confined to their quarters with severe cases of seasickness!  The water in the pool was spilling all over the deck and walking became a competitive sport!
In our room, the trash can was rolling around, cosmetics and toiletries were falling off the shelves in the bathroom and I even slid right out of my bed!
The Captain continually came over the intercom to assure us that things were fine and to give us updates on the storm.  This went on for a little over 24 hours.  Much to our relief, we eventually arrived safely in Bermuda several hours after the originally scheduled time!
Then when we finally got into Bermuda, I thought we were safe at last, only to get on a bus to head to the beach to find it driven by a woman who I swear was trying to qualify for the Indy 500!  I said, "God, did you save me on the high seas only to kill me here in the hills of Bermuda?"
God was building my faith and increasing my prayer life, for sure!!
Life's journey is a lot like that.  We envision sunny skies, warm temperatures, smooth sailing, relaxing and enjoying life.  Little do we know of the storms ahead!
When the storms of life come - where do you put your faith?  In whom do you put your faith?
Christians and non-Christians alike - we are not guaranteed sunny skies, warm temperatures, and smooth sailing!  Sometimes, as Christians, we think walking with the Lord is our guarantee of a good life; a guarantee that nothing "stormy" will happen.
But, rest assured - the storms will come.  What happens when they do?

Is God the God of the storms as well?
In Matthew 8:23-27, Jesus calms the storm and his disciples are amazed and said, "What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!"

Indeed, what manner of man is He? 
Is He worthy of our trust? 
Is He worthy of our faith?
The storms of life come to draw us closer to the Lord, to build our faith and to increase our knowledge of Him.  Each time we come out of the other side of a storm, we are strengthened and our faith builds to face the next storm. 
Don't be surprised at the storm. 
Face it with faith in God and the fact that He is who He says He is!!
Notable quotes:
Even God's will can take us on a rocky journey.
Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.  It's about learning to dance in the rain.
God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

I Am a "Kept" Woman!

The following was not written by me, and I'm sorry I can't give credit due to the one who did write it but I have no idea who she was!
I Am a 'Kept' Woman
You see, there were a few times when I thought I would lose my mind,
but God kept me sane (Isaiah 26:3).
There were times when I thought I could go on no longer
but the Lord kept me moving (Genesis 28:15).
At times, I've wanted to lash out at those whom I felt had done me wrong,
but the Lord kept my mouth shut (Psalm 13).
Sometimes, I think the money just isn't enough,
but God has helped me to keep
the lights on, the water on,
the car paid, the house paid, etc. (Matthew 6:25-34).
When I thought I would fall,
He kept me up.
When I thought I was weak,
He kept me strong (I Peter 5:7, Matthew 11:28-30).
I could go on and on and on, but I'm sure you hear me!
I am blessed to be 'kept!'
I'm 'kept' by the love and grace of God!

I (Donna speaking now) remember something a speaker at our church years ago once said; I can't remember who he was, but I remember something very powerful he said that day.  
Paraphrasing, he said:
There is a big difference between faith and religion:
religion is man holding onto God, faith is God holding onto man. 
Picture a small child getting ready to cross a busy street with his father.  If the child is holding onto his father, but then decides to let go, the consequences could be fatal.  But if the father is holding onto the child and the child tries to run out into the street, the father's grip pulls him back.
This, to me, is what the "keeping power" of God is all about. 
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
I Peter 1:3-5
He holds tight onto us and never lets go.  Even when I am unfaithful, He remains faithful.  He is always reaching toward me; He is always wooing me to Himself.
He keeps me even, or especially, when I  can't keep myself!
There are times when I have been unfaithful and I'm sure those times will happen again.  I have no power to keep myself, but He is faithful!
"If we believe not, yet he abides faithful: he cannot deny himself."
2 Timothy 2:13
When we feel far from God, it's not God who has moved; it is always us!
When we are tempted to walk away from God into something potentially dangerous for us, God's grip pulls us back.  When we wane in our commitment to God and seem drawn to things of the world that temporarily satisfy, God's love never stops reaching out for us. 
He never gives up on us!
He keeps us in His sight at all times!

I don't know about you, but this brings me great comfort. 
I have been wooed away from God at times by the shallow promises of the world.  At times, I have not wanted to "pay the price" that it costs to obey God and walk in His will.  But He has never forsaken me; He has never given up on me; He has never stopped loving me!
At times, He has left me to my own devices so I could come to the realization of just how desperately I need Him.  At times, He has chastened me, but His Word says that God chastens those He loves.
I am extremely thankful for the chastening of the Lord.  I am extremely thankful that He loves me enough not to let me go my own way.  His love continually reaches out to me, to draw me onto Himself because He knows His ways are so much better, so much richer for me than what the world may offer me.
I truly am a 'kept' woman and I am so thankful I am!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Victory is IN the Struggle

There are so many people I know of who are going through some sort of struggle right now - physical struggles, spiritual struggles, financial struggles, etc, etc, etc.
It seems like every day I hear of another.  I have a very good friend who has been struggling with cancer and is fighting the good fight every single day.  As she was sharing with me one day a couple of weeks ago, she was expressing that she felt so unspiritual because she continually has to battle the fear that threatens constantly to overtake her and she continually has to fight to stand on the promises of God and trust Him in the face of unfavorable reports.  And then she has to battle the accusations from the enemy that she is not strong in her faith and she is not victorious!
As I was praying for her one day, I felt the Lord rise up within me and show me that she is indeed victorious because -
The Victory is IN the Struggle!
Most times we don't feel very victorious when we continually have to battle our thoughts and the voice of the enemy; we don't feel very victorious when our first reaction is not godly; when our first thoughts are not godly. 
But I think the fact that we DO struggle means we are victorious already!
The fact that we struggle means that the Holy Spirit is speaking to our conscience.
The fact that we struggle means that God is working in our hearts to build our faith, to strengthen us for the victory!
The fact that we struggle means that we are "working out our salvation with fear and trembling."
The fact that we struggle means that God is working in us "perfecting our faith."
The fact that we struggle means that we are aware of our imperfections and aware of our sin and know that we "fall short of the glory of God."
The fact that we struggle means that we are aware there is something greater to struggle for!
Ungodly people typically don't struggle with wrong thoughts, wrong actions, selfish ambitions, entitlement attitudes, lack of faith or trust, etc because they don't think those things are wrong; they don't have the revelation of the Holy Spirit to know these things are ungodly!!

In the midst of their fears, they often succumb to them and are bound in lifestyles severely limited by those fears.

Or they turn to the idols of food, drugs, alcohol, sex, TV, etc to try to fill the turmoil of the struggle.
As Christians, most times, we are all too painfully aware that we fall short, but that is exactly what God wants us to see so He can reveal our need for Him!

We need to depend on Him always - in all things - through all things.  His greatest desire is for us to be dependent on Him.  Dependent upon Him day by day - hour by hour - moment by moment!
We all struggle with our shortcomings and our lack of "fruit" at times in our Christian walk.  God comforts us with these words -
"For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."
Philippians 2:13
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
Philippians 1:6
"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everylasting."
Psalm 139:23,24
It's as God searches our hearts and reveals to us those things that He finds in our hearts, that we see them and can repent and seek Him to change in us what only He can change; seek Him to strengthen in us what only He can strengthen; seek Him to sanctify us by His Word and His Spirit.
We are totally at His mercy - and that is precisely the best place to be!

One other thing we might struggle with in dealing with life's challenges is the misconception that because we are sick or have financial problems or other issues, God must be unhappy with us.

He doesn't love us anymore,
we must be in sin,
or the best one of all -
we are being punished for our "bad behavior!"

All of these are lies of the enemy, meant to discourage us and keep us even further from God.

The ultimate struggle is for our faith - our faith in God, in who He is and what His word says.  If Satan can get us to live in unbelief for any reason, then he keeps us far from God.

Fact is - God loves you because God is love; He can't do anything but love.
Fact is - God doesn't punish; he disciplines - there IS a big difference!

"My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him.  For whom the Lord loves he chastens....If you endure chastening, God deals with you as sons..."
Hebrews 12:5,6,7

God chastens those He loves!
Fact is - life happens; bad things happen to good people!
Fact is - God never promised us a "rose garden."

Fact is - God is perfecting our faith in and through all our trials.

"Wherein you greatly rejoice though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:"
I Peter 1:6,7
Be encouraged as you struggle.  God is in the struggle with you.  He has not abandoned you and left you to your own devices.  He will continually lead and guide you and deliver you!

Remember -

the Victory is IN the Struggle! 
We are victorious!


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Packing Up Christmas

Yes, I know today is January 15th, but I'm still packing up the Christmas decorations.

This is truly a sad day!  I really don't like putting all these decorations away.  I just barely took the lights out of the windows yesterday and I'm still singing Christmas Carols!
Obviously, I like to drag out the Christmas season as long as I can.
I love Christmas!  I love the true Spirit of Christmas and I hate to "pack it away."  As I wrap each decoration, I reflect on the Devotional and Advent Tree I did this past Christmas and pray that my heart would take the gentle, quiet Spirit I received during this time with me into the new year.
I am learning, with God's help, to slow down, to quiet my spirit and savor the moment and savor the presence of the Lord in each moment.  It's a life-long learning process, I know, and I'm signed up for the duration.
I am very mindful, as I take down the lights, put away the candles and wrap up the special ornaments, that all too often, the One whose birth was celebrated somehow gets "packed away", too!
The One - Emmanuel - God. Is. With. Us.
The One who is born anew in our hearts every day - not once a year!
He is still with us today - January 15th - 21 days after Christmas - and He will continue to be with us.
"...for he hath said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5c
But, will we be with Him?
Will we continue to be aware of His presence in our lives? 
Every. Minute. of. Every. Day.
Will we be consciously aware that He is aware of us and all we do?
Today, as I was leaving the gym, I got into a long line at a redlight and knew I was going to be there awhile.  As I slowly moved closer to the light, I noticed a car trying to swing into the lane of traffic from a side driveway.  My first reaction was -  I was here first; I am not letting you in! 
Then - I was gently reminded by the Holy Spirit that God was aware of me and was hoping I would choose to do the right thing - I did!  I let the driver go ahead of me, but I did tell God I was not happy about it! 
You know what - I don't think He really cares whether I was happy about it or not; His desire was for me to be obedient and I am so glad I was.  My true heart's desire is to do God's will, whether I like it or not, and I am so blessed that He chooses to let me know He is aware of me - at. all. times.!
I want God's presence in my life at all times and I want to be in His presence, too.
So, I pack up my Christmas decorations and put them away for another year,

but I will not pack up Emmanuel.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth."
John 1:1, 14

Let's keep the Spirit of Christmas in our hearts each and every day - the awareness that

God. Is. With. Us.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Cure for Aging

Two elderly ladies had been friends for many decades.  Over the years, they had shared all kinds of activities and adventures.  Lately, their activities had been limited to meeting a few times a week to play cards.  One day, they were playing cards when one looked at the other and said, "Now don't get mad at me..I know we've been friends for a long time, but I just can't seem to remember your name!  I've thought and thought, but I can't remember it!  Please tell me what your name is."  Her friend glared at her.  For at least 3 minutes, she just stared and glared at her.  Finally she said, "How soon do you need to know?"

We joke a lot about getting older and losing our memories.  Joking helps to take the sting out of the real fact that oftentimes, we just don't remember things like we used to. 

My poor Dad spent this morning at the nursing home traveling around in his wheelchair trying to find my mother who died almost 12 years ago!  When he was reminded that she had died, he was upset that he hadn't remembered that!

I am going to be 64 my next birthday.  Some days I still feel like I'm 16; other days, not so much!  Other times I feel every day of those almost 64 years. 
Seems like I wake up with a different pain almost every day.
I try to stay active.  I walk and take Zumba classes, try to eat right and get the necessary rest (okay, this one I'm still working on!), but, funny thing, my body is not impressed - it is still aging at what seems to be a very rapid rate!!
I've been pondering on the following Scripture verse for the last couple of weeks:
"Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."
2 Corinthians 4:16
I feel like I am living this verse!  My outward man is perishing; there is nothing I can do to stop the aging process, but - my inward man IS being renewed continually as I spend time in prayer, meditation and feasting on His Word.

My Spirit is refreshed, renewed and rejuvenated!
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect will of God."
Romans 12:2
Our minds are renewed as grow in the knowledge of God.  As we quiet our souls and spend time with Him in prayer, we behold His character and our hearts are renewed.  We begin to think like Him, talk like Him and walk like Him.  We begin to reflect Him to those around us.

In that same chapter of 2 Corinthians 4, verses 17 and 18 read:
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
Wow, isn't that exactly the opposite of how most of us live?  We look at what is seen and either esteem it or condemn it!  But the Word tells us the things we can see are temporal.

We need to learn to stop valuing the temporal over the eternal.  To stop trusting in the principals of the visible world more than we trust the principals of the invisible word.
Beauty fades, skin sags and wrinkles, clothes get old and worn out, cars rust, paint peels!!

We need to learn to seek those things that are of eternal value - the inner and progressive conversion of our soul.  This ultimately is God's work, but we need to cooperate.  We need to focus our energy on renewing our spirit man and not on satisfying our temporal fleshly needs.
The work God does in a heart is eternal!  And that's the work He's impressed with because it's the work of His hands!
"..for the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart."
1 Samuel 16:7

It's a man's heart that God is concerned about, because that's what we take into eternity with us. 
Proverbs 4:23 tells us to "Guard your heart with all diligence; for out of it flow the issues of life."
When we attend to feeding our Spirit, He works in us to renew our inward man daily and it grows stronger and stronger as our bodies wax weaker and weaker!!
This is such an encouragement to one who is aging!
Augustine expresses it this way in the devotional book Early Will I Seek You  -

"Now I will tell you:  You will make greater progress by secret prayer and meditation than by reading or hearing spiritual teachings.  By these two crucial practices, you build up the inner man, receiving words of spiritual insight that feed your soul and renew it day by day.  Therefore, lift up the spirit of your mind, so that this daily renewing may begin.  Set your thoughts on the character of God himself - think on the One who is full of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12).  Think on these things until you find yourself entering that secret chamber of the heart where Christ dwells in you by faith (Ephesians 3:17). 
If you do not let your inner man waste away by neglect, then you will grow strong and vigorous inwardly.  Spiritually, you will never die as you learn, by prayer and meditation, how to become liberated from all exterior pressures.
All our success in this, finally, depends on divine assistance.  For it is God's Word that comforts and instructs: 'Without me, you can do nothing.'  John 15:5"

Quiet your soul now and enter its "sanctuary" with Him...... 

Thursday, January 9, 2014 Be Filled

"Make me broken so I can be healed
'Cause I'm so calloused and now I can't feel
I want to run to You with heart wide open
Make me broken.
Make me empty so I can be filled
'Cause I'm still holding onto my will
And I'm completed when You are with me
Make me empty.
'Til You are my one desire
'Til You are my one true love
'Til You are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making me."
Make me lonely so I can be Yours
'Til I want no one more than You, Lord
'Cause in the darkness I know You will hold me
Make me lonely.
'Til You are my one desire
'Til You are my one true love
'Til You are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making
I know You'll keep making
Lord, please keep making me."
(Keep Making Me - words and music by Ben McDonald, David Frey and Sam Mizell)
(Sung by Sidewalk Prophets)

We don't usually request these things from God, do we? 
These three things are probably things that we avoid at all costs.

We don't want to be broken
We don't want to be empty
And we certainly don't want to be lonely.

But it's in these very things, that God meets us. 
It's when we are totally broken, that our hearts are open to God. 
It's when we are completely empty, that we consider maybe He has the answer.
And it's when we are utterly and devastatingly lonely that we invite Him, maybe even plead with Him, to comfort us.

As I was reflecting on these words this morning, I was thinking particularly of the verse that says, "Make me empty so I can be filled."
I was thinking of the so many things that we try to fill ourselves with - food, TV, video games, movies, drugs, alcohol, working, shopping, sex, reading, sports, fitness and exercise, ipods, iphones, ipads, all kinds of tecnological toys, relationships, a particular person, etc.  The list can go on and on. 
We desparately don't want to be empty, we don't want to be quiet,
so we do and we go
and we do and we go
and we do and we go some more
so we don't have to face the fact that we are empty and that we are lonely and that we really are broken, too and need fixing.
I remember a friend of mine writing a song many years ago; I've never forgotten it.  And although I may not remember the exact wording, it went something like this:
Lord, I'm looking for love, but if you don't give it, then I guess I will have to learn to live without it because I'm not going to look for it anywhere else!
Being willing to live in a state of brokenness, emptiness and loneliness and not reach out for the psuedo cure is getting real serious with God.  To forego temporary pleasure is not easy in this world that continually seeks instant gratification. 

You want that - go buy it. 
Oh, you don't have the money for it, well, go to this bank for a credit card.
We shouldn't have to go without for any length of time. 
We want what we want when we want it!! 
I think the Bible calls this......lust.
We lust for what we don't have, we lust for what we can't have!
Finding the cure for our brokenness, our emptiness and/or our loneliness from anywhere or anyone else rather than God is a false fix!

It won't last!

Once it grows old, we look for the next thing to do in our hearts what this last thing couldn't. 
Lust is never filled; it is constantly seeking the next new thrill!
Asking God to break us, empty us, and make us lonely so He can fix us, fill us and make us whole is an acknowledgement that we have seen the revelation that.....
only He can

fix us, fill us and whole us!

"Thou opens thine hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing."
Psalm 145:16
My biggest lustful desire over the years has been food.  I have used food to self-medicate myself too many times to count.  It was my comfort, my fulfillment, my friend - or so I thought!  It was a long hard battle to overcome the ungodly lustful desire - the greed - of overeating.

It took me years to be willing to be empty so God could fill me.  I had always turned to the food to fill me because I couldn't bear to be empty. It wasn't until I was finally willing to be empty and stay empty until God chose to fill me, that I could actually live with the emptiness and refuse to turn to the food.

Refuse to turn to the food and instead turn to Jesus!
Turn to Him and ask, sometimes plead and beg for Him to fill me,
Turn to Him and ask Him to fill me and keep making me...
Turn to Him and ask Him to change my heart that I could and would
seek Him as my one desire, as my one true love..

Not the food!!

"I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it."
Psalm 81:10 (bold & underline mine)

Today, I am thankful for this "addiction" because it drove me to the One that has the power to heal and deliver, the Only One whose love satisfies like no other.  By allowing me to try to find comfort in other idols and then tasting the failure of each one, the Lord turned my heart to Him and found true satisfaction.

"I found the one my heart loves."
Song of Solomon 3:4


Tuesday, January 7, 2014


"It's easy to be strong
I've done it for so long,
but this time, I have to remember.
This time to get what I need,
I have to surrender." Him His will His plan!
Surrender.......give up; give over; cease and desist.

We live in such a performance-centered world. 
If you do this, you will get this. 
If you don't do this, you won't get that!
But, wait, you can't just expect to do and get, unless you do it.....perfectly and better than everyone else!
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!  Right??!!
BUT - God speaks upside down -
He says - cease from striving....
cease from constantly trying....
cease from all your dead works.....
trust Me!
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
In all your ways, acknowledge Him
and He will give you the desires of your heart."
Proverbs 3:5-7
"Come to me all you labor and are heavy laden
and I will give you rest."
Are you weary of trying, are you weary of always falling short?
Are you just plain weary?

January 1st came and probably most of us made the famous New Year's Resolutions and vowed that we were going to do and be better in this coming year.  Today is January 8th and I bet a lot of those resolutions have already been broken!!  Are you weary from trying already???

When you've lived your whole life, "pulling yourself up by the bootstraps", you learn how to be strong.  You learn how to "put on a good face".  You learn to just keep going, even when you're falling apart on the inside.  So being strong has become easy and surrendering has become almost impossible!!
When what you really need can only be given to you by God, you  have to learn to
Surrender your ways to His ways!
Surrender your plans to His plans!
Surrender your thoughts to His thoughts!
Surrender your desires to His desires!
Surrender your will to His will!
Surrender your strivings to obtain His peace!
There is nothing you can do to win His love and His favor!  God doesn't love you because of who you are.  He loves you because of who He is!

I remember a time in my life when I was trying so hard to do something better, to be something better and I was failing over and over again.  Finally, one day, in sheer desparation, I threw my hands up and hollered (yes, I did holler!) at the Lord - "I can't do this, Lord!"  And very softly and quietly, I heard (I truly did!) this voice say to me - "I never asked you to!"

What freedom came with that one statement from the Lord!  We can't accomplish in the flesh what only the Holy Spirit can do in the Spirit when we only surrender to the Lord.

Lord, I give up!  I trust you! 
Please change my heart...
Please change my "want tos".......
Change my heart's desires to become the desires of your heart!

God works quietly, gently in our hearts.
Daily, as we continue to surrender our flesh and all its desires to Him,
He changes us!

Until one day, we realize something has changed inside of us, but we don't know when and we don't know how; all we know is it has!! 

All praise be to God!