Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Time of Refreshing

Well, tomorrow morning, bright and early, I will be boarding a plane Florida bound.  I am very much looking forward to it.  Looking forward to seeing green grass, smelling the ocean air, putting my toes in the sand, WEARING MY FLIP FLOPS!!!, sitting by the pool or by the ocean.  All sounds so good, doesn't it??  It's been a long, hard winter.
 
 

But what I'm most looking forward to is unplugging from the responsibilities of life for a time, working on my book, and spending quiet time with the Lord with no time constraints!!
   

I'm looking forward to just sitting still in His presence with nothing more to think about than His love for me!
 
I'm looking forward to a time of refreshing!
 
"....when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;"
Acts 3:19b
  

 
We all need our batteries recharged from time to time, and while I don't believe it's necessary to go away for that to happen, I think it sure helps!

We get so entangled with the cares of life from day to day, that I believe it's necessary to pull away every once in awhile to reflect on what really matters and experience true communion with the Lord.  Jesus was our example of that.  He regularly took time from the crowds of people seeking Him to steal away to be with His Father.  He even left His disciples behind most of the time.  If Jesus needed that time away, how much more do we??

On a daily basis, there are so many things that pull at us - family issues, work, errands to run, a house to keep clean, kids to take care of, car pools, social activities, etc, etc, etc.  Even Jesus had demands made upon Him.  People were seeking Him for healing or because they were curious.  And then there were others who sought Him out because they wanted to catch Him in some travesty so they could "get Him out of Dodge!"

In other words, daily pressures are normal and a part of life, but when we allow them to entangle us and trap us, consistently keeping us from the Lord, then we have a problem.

Oswald Chambers said it like this:

"Solitude with God repairs the damage done by the fret and noise and clamour of the world."
 
And damage it is for sure; sometimes so severe, we don't even realize we are damaged.  The fret, noise and clamour of this world robs our hearts of rest and peace.  We find ourselves marching to the beat of the world instead of the beat of Jesus' heart.  We lose sight of the things that truly matter.
 
A few days ago, I was walking on the indoor track of a local gym trying to get my 3 miles in.  As I rounded a corner of the track, I saw two women up ahead, one lagging behind the other.  The one behind was talking, almost hollering to the other one.  As I got closer to them, I realized the slower women was mentally retarded (I'm sorry, I know no other way to express it; I don't know the "politically correct" term to use.  I'll refer to her from now on as the lady in red.)  Anyway, she was asking the other woman where she got her shorts.  The other woman was being very kind to her, but I could tell that she was anxious to get moving and on her way.  I passed by both of them as they continued their conversation.  As the other woman got further away, the woman in red was still hollering after her.  As I continued to do my laps, there were several men running on the track and a few women, too.  We all continued to circle the track.  As I approached the woman in red, she said "Hi" to me and I responded in kind.  She then asked me what my name was and I told her and she said it was nice to meet me.  I smiled and continued my fast walk.  As men and women alike continued to whiz by her, she never failed to call out 'Hi" to each one and tried to strike up a conversation.  But we were all too busy trying to get "our laps" in at the gym.
 
I reflected on that for several days after and thought that is pretty indicative of our lives.  We go "round and round the merry-go-round" with our chores, errands, business, activities, etc and at the end of the day, what do we have to show for it?  We may have run "3 laps around the track", but did we touch anyone's life or did we allow anyone to touch ours?
 
Aren't relationships more important than all of our tasks that have to be done on any given day?  A friend asked me the other day if I had any time after church to speak to her?  I replied just a few minutes because I have an appointment for my car.  She said okay and when we sat down to chat, it turned out she wanted to ask my forgiveness for something and to mend what she felt was a rift in our relationship.  How humbled I was!  Did I not have more than a few minutes to mend a broken relationship? 
 
What if Jesus didn't give us that time?
 
I am constantly challenged and reprimanded by the Lord that relationship is so much more important than any task I might need to do.
 
And the first relationship that needs to be constantly attended to is my relationship with Him.  And now here I am, back at setting that time aside that those times of refreshing could flow freely to me.
 
How anxious I am to just be with Him!
 
I will pray for you as I sit with Him, that even if you can't geographically get away, that you will be able to "get away" with Him in some other way. 
 
Take the time.
 
Mark it as an appointment on your calendar.

 
You will never live to regret it!
 
May times of refreshing fall upon you in wave after wave.
May you experience cleansing and renewal in the Spirit just as you feel relief and renewal when Spring arrives after a long hard winter.
 
 


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Come to the Quiet

I have had an extremely busy week, both at work and at home.  It's my last week before I leave for Florida and so many last minute things need to be done.  Plus I am attending a Women's Conference this weekend and then we'll be celebrating my Dad's birthday on Sunday, so tomorrow, in the midst of packing for the conference, I have to make him a birthday cake.  I leave tomorrow about 3pm and won't be home until late Sunday afternoon.  Right now, as I write this, it is 11:25pm and I need to go to bed.  My day tomorrow starts at 6am and will probably not end until about this time tomorrow night!




 
 
I'm leaving for Florida early Tuesday morning.......Welcome to my crazy life!

I keep telling myself - I'm too old for this!!
 
In the midst of it all, God keeps whispering to me, "I'm increasing your capacity.  Trust me."

He's been telling me that a lot lately.  But with that whisper has also come an invitation -

"Come to the quiet.  Be much with me."
 

 
And I'll be honest with you, it's been hard to find that time to "be much with Him".
 
But as I do, He continually fills me and gives me strength.
He has also changed my prayers.

Last week, as I was praying for my upcoming trip to Florida, I was asking God to give me good, on time flights, good connections, no problems at the airport, etc etc.  In other words, I was asking for a perfect experience.  As I was praying, the Holy Spirit interrupted and re-directed me on how I should be praying. 

So, my prayer became instead:

Lord, whatever happens, give me strength, give me grace to respond and react in your Spirit.  Increase in me the ability to handle all things you send my way.  Help me recognize the gifts you give, no matter what form they come in. 


I realized Holy Spirit was taking my eyes off the circumstance and putting them on the condition of my heart.  For it is out of the heart, we will speak and act.

It's always a matter of the heart, isn't it?  And that's exactly where God wants to increase my capacity. My capacity to contain Him and then pour Him forth - pour forth His grace, His mercy, His love, His kindness, His gentleness, His patience - in whatever I find in my path - whether it's an extremely busy day, a crowded airport, a delayed flight, heavy traffic, impatient people, petty annoyances - no matter what, the gift is in the midst, if I will but look for it; look for it and express my gratitude in all things.


"There remains therefore a rest to the people of God.  For he that is entered into his rest, he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from his."
Hebrews 4:9, 10
 
And that rest only comes when we give up "our own works", our own attempts at controlling the situation, controlling our response, controlling our reaction.  When we let God increase in us, trust Him and find that "quiet" to be filled with Him, we can enter into that rest.
 
"Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."
Hebrews 4:11
 
This is the only place in the entire Bible that we are told to "labor." And it's a labor to enter into that rest that Jesus has provided.
 
And I believe God is showing me the way to labor, the way to enter into that rest is in the quiet, in the stillness with Him, resting in His love, in His heart.
 
In the midst of all of our activity, we can be at rest.
We can be at peace.
 


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Prayer God Will Answer

A prayer that God will answer:

Search Me
 
"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 everlasting."
Psalm 139:23, 24

As God searches our hearts - wrong motives, bad attitudes, etc - come to the surface and we can bring them to God so we can be forgiven, cleansed and changed.
 
Break Me
 
"Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice."
Psalm 51:8

As our wills are broken to submit to His, those broken places ultimately bring us to rejoicing because God has conformed us more to His image.
 
Stretch Me
 
"Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, engthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes;"
Isaiah 54:2

God will increase our capacity to contain Him, He will increase grace in our lives to enable us to do and be what He has called to come forth in us.
 
Lead Me
 
"He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
Psalm 23:3

He leads me in paths that will ultimately bring glory to Him.
 
Teach Me

"For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what you ought to say."
Luke 12:12

"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."
John 14:26

What I need to know, He will teach me as I continue to submit myself to Him.
 
Use Me
 
"Then said I, Here am I; send me."
Isaiah 6:8b

He pours into us continually, that we may pour out to others.  We need to be faithful to go.


Lord, search me, break me, stretch me, lead me, teach me, use me!

 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Get Back in the Race

I'm a walker.  During the good weather months, I walk outside and I much prefer to do that, but during the months from November-March, I usually join a local gym that has an indoor track and do my walking there.  It's just too cold and slippery outside.




I usually walk Mon-Wed-Fri first thing in the morning.  Back in January, I started working again; a part-time job Mondays and Wednesdays and I don't have time to go to the gym in the early morning, so I tried to do it after work.  I truly had good intentions and for the most part was able to continue until mid-February when a really bad cold sidelined me.  I missed one week, then two and then it seemed easier to come up with an excuse not to go  - I was too tired, still fighting the cold, etc.

Last week I had every intention in the world of starting out again; even made it on Monday afternoon, but come Wednesday, another convenient excuse.  When I didn't make it there on Friday either, I decided it was time to have a good talk with myself!

Anyway, I went back this past Monday, made myself go on Wednesday and was able to make it there again on Friday.  As I was walking the track on Friday, there were several people who were flying by me running and I thought - it's really good to be back in the race!

Then, as usual for me, my thoughts started wandering and I found myself thinking -
life is sometimes like that. 
We experience disappointment, we get tired, we get overwhelmed with responsibility -
and we drop out of the race. 
We disappoint ourselves, we fall to some besetting sin and feel like we've disappointed God -
and we drop out of the race. 
We stop trying, we give up - and we drop out of the race.
Sometimes we feel that we have prayed and prayed and prayed and then prayed some more and our prayers go seemingly unanswered - and we drop out of the race.
We can find every excuse known to man to keep ourselves on the sidelines - and out of the race.

Sometimes we need a personal cheerleader to help us get back in the race.
Other times, we just need to do what David did - He encouraged himself in the Lord.
 
"And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters; but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God,"
I Samuel 30:6

However it happens - we need to get back in the race!
Now I'm not talking about the "Rat Race" here.



I'm talking about the race of faith.
Paul said -

"Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us."
Hebrews 12:1

"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?  So run, that ye may obtain.  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:  But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: let that by any means, which I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."  
1 Corinthains 9:24, 26-27
 
Scripture also tells us -
 
"And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
Galatians 6:9

Scripture even explains the purpose of 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:"
1 Peter 1:6, 7
 
Good News!
We do have a personal cheerleader - the Holy Spirit!
He will lead us, guide us, teach us and be with us!
He will re-energize us and remind us of all truth!

"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I (Jesus) have said unto you."
John 14:26
 
The Holy Spirit encourages us through the words of Paul again -

"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and has professed a good profession before many witnesses."
1 Timothy 6:12
 
And again -
 
"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)" Hebrews 10:23
 
So that we may say, along with Paul -

"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." 
2 Timothy 4:7
 
If you've been sidelined, today, get back in the race. 
Fight the good fight! 
Contend for the faith!
 
"Beloved, when I gave all dilligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."
Jude 3 
 
The word "contend" in the above scripture means to strive or struggle for.  Our faith is worth "struggling for" and it is, indeed, a struggle.  The enemy of our souls would like nothing more than to permanently knock us out of the race.  Don't let him do that!
 
The Holy Spirit and I both encourage you today!
Get back in the race!
Run to the best of your ability!
Remember, it's not a competition and the Lord alone sets your pace.
Fight for the ground He wants to give you!
 
 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dying to Self

Dying to Self
Written by Bill Britton
 
When you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don't sting and hurt with the insult of the oversight, but your heart is happy being counted worthy to suffer for Christ,
THAT IS DYING TO SELF!
 
When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient loving silence,
THAT IS DYING TO SELF!
 
When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any impunctuality, or any annoyance; when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility...and endure it as Jesus endured it,
THAT IS DYING TO SELF!
 
When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any solitude, any interruption by the will of God,
THAT IS DYING TO SELF!
 
When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown,
THAT IS DYIING TO SELF!
 
When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met, and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances,
THAT IS DYING TO SELF!
 
When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart, THAT IS DYING TO SELF!
 
Are you dead yet??? 
In these last days, the Spirit would bring us to the cross..."that I may know Him....being made conformable to his death."
 
 
Are you dead yet?
I know I'm not!!
 
Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."
Matthew 16:24, 25
 
"He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal."
John 12:25
 
Sounds like a contradiction doesn't it?  But it's only in giving up my rights, giving up my own way and embracing Jesus' way, that I find true freedom.  It's in giving no thought to myself, that I find I are taken care of.
 
Jim Elliot said it this way:
 
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."
 
We've become a society of self-sentered, selfish spoiled brats who think we deserve everything anyone has to give us!
We've lost the ability to put another's needs first. 
We've lost the ability to endure through hardship because we don't think we should have to suffer hardship.
And without enduring the hardship, we give up the chance to grow and become better people.
 
Then Jesus comes along and says, "deny yourself." 
Huh?

Jesus says, "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.  And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."
Matthew 23:11, 12

Jesus turns everything upside down.  The world says - do all you need to get ahead, make a name for yourself, look for promotion, look for fame.  Seek to be the chief to be served.

Jesus tells us just the opposite - take no thought for yourself.

"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others."
Phillipians 2:4
 
I am not there yet, but I press in, as Paul said:
 
"Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Jesus Christ.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:12-14
 
Press in!
Press on!

 
 
 
 


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Learning Through Loss

I was recently invited to a local Senior Housing complex to share the story of my husband's death and my subsequent journey through grief.

I haven't done that for some time and honestly haven't "visited" that time in my life for awhile.  As I began preparing my notes, I was thinking what would be the best thing to share with them in this short time allotted (20-25 minutes).  As I reflected on my journey of grief, I realized that what the Lord did in my life and how He brought me through that time can be applied to our journey of life as well.

We live with losses through the entirety of our lives.  In fact, life lived well is learning how to deal with those losses and becoming better people as a result of them.  I'm sure most of you have heard the expression - "bitter or better."  And, I think that is true.  What doesn't make you better does make you bitter.  But, and this is a big BUT, I believe that it doesn't automatically "make" you one or the other.  I believe we have choices and we can choose, by our responses, which direction we will take.

Here is what I've learned through my loss:

How we deal with grief/loss determines our future destiny.  We can either choose to run from the grief, denying it exists OR we can choose to face it; we can choose to embrace it.  By that, I mean, we can choose to actually and actively grieve our loss. 




In the world we live in, we allow little time to grieve.

Life goes on. 
We must be strong. 
There are things to do. 
We need to get over it. 

Not only do we not have time to grieve, we truly don't know how to grieve.  Some cultures have guidelines and rules on how you grieve, what you do, what you wear and even how much time you give to it.  Used to be in our culture, when someone close to you died, you wore black for a certain period of time out of respect for the dead and to indicate you were in mourning.  Even that no longer applies.

When my husband died, I had no idea "how" to grieve.  I had never walked this path before and I didn't know how to do it.  About 8 months after he died, I thought I was going crazy.  I had no one to talk to about it because no one I knew had walked this journey.  I went online to a Christian bookstore website and pursued what they had to offer regarding grieving.  I ended up ordering almost all the books they had about grief, but one title in particular caught my eye.  "A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss."  My spirit leapt within me when I saw that and I said, "That's it.  That's what I want.  I want to know how to grow through this, how to come out on the other side, a better person, a better Christian.  I want God to use this in every way possible in my life for His glory."

I learned a lot from that book, some of which I'll share here.  I learned a lot on my journey, too, as the Holy Spirit walked with me and guided me through the process.  Here are the three greatest things I learned:

1 - It's OK to grieve; embrace your grief.

Contrary to what you may think, your crying will come to an end and it will not destroy you.  It is actually healthy for you to cry.  Your physical body goes through a lot when you suffer an emotional trauma, such as the death of a loved one.  I couldn't concentrate, couldn't focus.  My mind would jump from one thought to another.  I couldn't read for any length of time, couldn't watch TV, couldn't even sit still.  I actually lost a lot of hair during the time my husband was sick and after he died.  It took almost 3 years for my hair to get back to normal.  I learned that all of this is quite normal, but keeping your emotions in check is not.  There are a lot of harmful toxins that build up within your body during severe stressful times and crying is one way those toxins are released.  When I felt like crying, I would allow myself to cry.  In fact, there were times I would actually sit down, put on some music that I knew would make me cry, and I would just remember....and cry.  I cried at church, I cried at the supermarket, I cried in the car, I cried at home and I allowed myself to know that it was OK to "leak" when I needed to.  I was sorry if it made other people uncomfortable, but this process was important for me to walk through.



I learned through this process, too, that my soul DID indeed have the capacity to contain the grief and to go beyond the grief.  I learned that God's grace and mercy could and did sustain me.  I knew that God could comfort and heal me, but I also knew that only as I was honest with Him regarding my thoughts and feelings, could He do that.

So I allowed myself to feel the pain and to embrace it.

2 - As time went on, I realized I needed to also embrace the change in me.

I was not the same person I was before my husband died.  I was not Phil's wife anymore.  I was not the Head Deacon's wife at church anymore.  I was no longer 1 of 2.  I was no longer part of a couple.  During this time, I also came to realize that I did not want to be identified as a widow, either.  That was not who I was.  It was part of my life's experience, but it would not define me.  I did not want someone to look at me 10 years down the road and say, "She's Phil's widow." 

I was reminded of this prayer a couple weeks ago when I was chatting with a friend (I'll call her "Sue") at church and we were chatting about another woman, "Ann", we knew who had lost her husband a little over a year ago and hadn't been to church in quite awhile.  The comment was made by Sue that she had talked to "Jane",  who had lost a son, about reaching out to her.  I told Sue that I had reached out to Ann, sending her several cards, one recently, and I had made several phone calls that were never returned.   Sue looked surprised, and then she said, "of course, you know what it's like."  She had actually forgotten that I, too, was a widow!!  God had answered that prayer!!

I had to learn who I was apart from my husband.  I had to find my identity again, who I was in God, as Donna.  That can be a very scary process for some of us.  After my husband died, I realized that even though I had always watched a lot of television with him when he was alive, I didn't really like to watch TV!  In turning our backs on or choosing to do something different as a single then you always did as a couple, can feel like a betrayal to your spouse and you can find yourself feeling guilty that you are enjoying something different.  It's OK; it's what you're supposed to do!  God wants you to enjoy life and living again!

 
So, I allowed myself the changes without the guilt and learned to embrace it.
 
3 -  I also learned to embrace my new life.
 
Life was and is different without my husband.  Life is different as a single from what it was as a couple.  I don't have to answer to another person about my comings and goings.  I can eat meals when I want to or choose not to.  I can go to bed when I want to.  On the other hand, I don't have another person to "bounce" things off of or seek advice from.  I miss the male perspective in my life and I miss the "color" my husband brought to my life, also.  I don't have someone to care whether I stay up too late or eat too much or am trying to do too much.  It's just me!  There are advantages to being single as well as disadvantages.   I can rail against them; I can choose to live in the "what ifs" or I can choose to embrace life as it is now.  I can choose to embrace the changes, learn to live within new boundaries and learn to trust God in ways I've never had to before.
 
I have allowed myself to embrace my new life, let go of the past and press on into the future.

Embrace:
 
Pain,
Change,
New Life!
  
Before we can truly embrace new life, we have to embrace change, and before we can embrace change, we have to embrace the pain of the loss. 
 
Whatever type of loss you are dealing with, embrace it as best you know how. 
Fall into the arms of God and allow Him to show you how.
 
God is with us every step of the journey!


 
 


Sunday, March 16, 2014

How Much I Don't Know!

The longer I live and the older I get, the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know!

 
 Over the course of my lifetime, I've had opportunity to hear many, many stories from countless people I have met on the journey.  We all have a story to tell.  We have all seen difficult times, times that have stretched us in ways that we thought we would break, times that we have thought we wouldn't live through.  We've all experienced tremendous pain, hurt and disappointments with life.  But we've all experienced tremendous joy, restoration and exultations, too!


 
Every time I think I finally have something figured out, God changes the game plan and I realize I don't have a clue!  And what's even more disconcerting is that God is not at all impressed by my opinions!
 
I carry a very faded piece of pink paper in my Bible.  It's been there for so long, I can't remember when I first put it there.  It says this -
 
"My soul preached to me and said,
'Do not be delighted because of praise,
and do not be distressed because of blame.'
Ere my soul counselled me, I doubted
the worth of my work.
Now I realize that the trees blossom
in spring and bear fruit in summer
without seeking praise; and they
drop their leaves in autumn and become
naked in winter without fearing blame."



 
I have many times sought out this piece of paper and read it to myself.  I have also shared it with many over the years.  I've shared it with mothers who have wondered where they went wrong in raising their children.  I've shared it with mothers who have passed judgment on others' parenting skills.
 
Who are we to take the blame?
Who are we to take the praise?
 
Neither is the right position to take.

If we blame ourselves, we are walking in pride, thinking we should have been able to do better. 
If we praise ourselves, we are walking in pride, thinking we alone did this good thing.
 
The nature of the beast, at least this beast, is to try to figure everything out, wrap it in a very attractive looking package and then set it on the shelf to admire it, thinking we have done a great thing!
 
But, I don't and never will have The Final Word on anything!! 

Yes, God speaks to me and He speaks to you, too.  God speaks through His Word, through people, through nature, through circumstances of life, but just because we've gone through something and experienced God speaking to us in that doesn't mean that that should become the word God speaks to others!!  Whenever we think we have "cornered the market" on God, we are in T-R-O-U-B-L-E!!!
 
Only God has The Final Word! 
He alone is all-knowing, all-seeing and worthy of all praise!

Reminds me of the words to a song by Michael Card -
"You and me we use so very many clumsy words
The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard
When the Father's Wisdom wanted to communicate His love
He spoke it in one final perfect Word.
He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son
His final word was Jesus.  He needed no other one!"
 
Have you ever said something that others thought was very profound?  What was your reaction when they told you they thought it was profound?  Did you pat yourself on the back, thinking how smart and wise you were? 
Or have you ever said something so horrible you wished instantly that you could take back the words?  Did you kick yourself in the pants, thinking you were no good and so ungodly in your speech?
 
Both reactions call for repentance!
 
"Thus says the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that you build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?  For all those things has mine hand made, and all those things have been, says the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word."
Isaiah 66:1, 2
 
Who am I to think that I have anything to offer to the Lord that He has not made?!?!

All is grace!

 
So, where am I going with all this?
 
I am called simply to lean hard, depend and rely heavily upon the Lord!
He is the giver of all wisdom.
He is the giver of all grace.
And I am called to point others in that direction, too.

 
And when it's all said and done, we all stand only by His grace alone!
 
"He has shown thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
Micah 6:8
 
The more I know, the more I realize how much I don't know!! 
And I can't pretend to have the answer for anything! 
Only God does!

"You Are God Alone!"

 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Be Kind, Please!

The dictionary meaning of the word kind/kindness is:

- of a friendly, generous, or warm-hearted nature
- showing sympathy or understanding; charitable
- humane; considerate
- forbearing; tolerant
- generous; liberal
- agreeable; beneficial

The Greek word in Scripture for kindness also means grace, (to be) gracious; (to possess) excellence in character.

Scripture tells us that kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
Galatians 5:22


But I have to tell you, people, I don't see much kindness in our world these days, from either non-Christians or Christians.

Scripture does warn us through these words of Jesus:
"Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,"
Matthew 24:12
And I think we can all agree we've seen an increase of wickedness in our world.

A well-known Christian author has a blog that I follow on a regular basis.  Recently she posted a comment that mentioned a famous actor giving thanks to God when he won the Oscar.  As I started reading the comments under her post, I was absolutely astounded by what I read!  Venom being spewed in the name of the Lord!  True, I have no way of knowing if any or all of these people commenting were Christians, but a lot of them did identify themselves that way.  I was horrified at the way they were trashing this author's comment and comments made by others.  There was no kindness being shown and it broke my heart.

Traveling the roads these days has become somewhat of a competitive sport!!  People gliding through stop signs, going through red lights and it seems no one wants to let anyone in from a side street; heaven forbid you should lose your place in line!!  There is no kindness shown to one another on our daily commutes!

Everybody's rushing to be first in line and even in the supermarket, there's a jostling with the carts to be first at the register.  There is no kindness shown to the mother with the cranky kids or the elderly shuffling with their carts.  We're mostly disgusted because they get in our way.

What has happened to us that we have lost all measure of courtesy in our fight to get ahead?  This "Me first" generation has lost the ability to be kind; to show consideration and tolerance (I'm not talking political tolerance here) to another; to be friendly and show understanding - to the mother whose kids are crying as she's trying to get her business done at the post office; to the older gentlemen who is limping as he makes his way across the parking lot to get to his car; to the person in the car waiting to get "into the race" while dozens of cars just keep whizzing by, yet when it's our turn, we want the courtesy, don't we?

And I won't even begin to delve into the unkindnesses we spew with our mouths.  That's a topic for another day.  Does it take more effort to be kind with our words?  It certainly makes a difference in our own hearts!

Scripture admonishes us to "love one another."  In fact, Jesus, himself, said:

"A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another."
John 13:34

And to be kind to one another:

Ephesians 4:32 tells us:
"And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you."

Another place:
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." 
Colossians 3:12 (NIV)
I just witnessed something outside my window that truly blessed my heart.  We have received over 18" of snow since yesterday morning and my grandchildren were outside in the backyard playing. 



One of my grandsons was shoveling my walkway (without me asking) and another was helping him (well, mostly, he was jumping in the snow!). A few minutes later, I saw another grandson (I have 3) gently tie a scarf around the face of his younger sister. I left the room to grab my camera hoping to snap some pictures of them and the newly fallen snow. When I went back to the window, what I saw blessed my grandmother's heart so deeply. 

My 8-yr old granddaughter had apparently stepped in some very deep snow and it filled her boot.  Outside on the deck, I saw my 12-yr old grandson holding her on his lap, dumping out the snow and then trying to put the boot back on her foot.  When it wouldn't go back on, he stood up, carrying her, attempting to put her down on the walkway where she could stomp her boot back on! 


What a special act of kindness that was and how it blessed me!
That's what I'm talking about!

Unfortunately, I was so awed by what I saw that I forgot to take a picture!!

Jesus is our example:
"...after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared." 
Titus 3:4

All grace we have received from the hand of the Father and that has been and continues to be, freely given.  Can we not also freely give grace to another?

Kindness expressed toward one another is simply God's love and grace expressed. 
Don't we want to be on the receiving end of that, too? 
What we sow, we reap. 
How blessed it feels to receive kindness from others. 
How blessed it is to extend kindness to others.

Kindness grows the soul. 
It grows our capacity to hold more of God as we continually pour out. 
In just very small, every day ordinary opportunities, we can show the kindness of God. 
We can be the gift to someone for that day.

Join me in my endeavor to do that!




Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Are You Jesus?

I can't take credit for the following.  It was sent to me via eMail a long time ago.  It's really powerful and makes you think - could you be mistaken for Jesus?  I wish that we all could!
 
A few years ago a group of salesmen went to a regional sales convention in Chicago.  They had assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Friday night's dinner.  In their rush through the airport, with tickets and briefcases in hand, one of these salesmen inadvertently kicked over a table which held a display of apples.  Apples flew everywhere.  Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the plane in time for their nearly missed boarding.  All but one.
 
He paused, took a deep breath, got in touch with his feelings, and experienced a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple stand had been overturned.  He told his buddies to go on without him, waved good-bye, told one of them to call his wife when they arrived at their home destination and explain his taking a later flight.  Then he returned to the terminal where the apples were all over the terminal floor.  He was glad he did.
 
The 16-year-old girl was totally blind!  She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks in frustration, and at the same time helplessly groping for her spilled produce as the crowd swirled about her, no one stopping and no one to care for her plight.
 
The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them back on the table and helped organize her display.  As he did this, he noticed that many of them had becomwe battered and bruised, these he set aside in another basket.
 
When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, "Here, please take this $40 for the damage we did.  Are you okay?"  She nodded through her tears.  He continued on, "I hope we didn't spoil your day too badly."  As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl called out to him, "Mister...."  He paused and turned to look back into those blind eyes.  She continued, "Are you Jesus?"
 
He stopped in mid-stride, and he wondered.  Then slowly he made his way to catch the later flight with that question burning and bouncing about in his sould:  "Are you Jesus?"
 
Do people mistake you for Jesus?  That's our destiny, is it not?  To be so much like Jesus that people cannot tell the difference as we live and interact with a world that is blind to His love, life and grace.
 
If we claim to know Him, we should live, walk and act as He would.  Knowing Him is more than simply quoting Scripture and going to church.  It's actually living the Word as life unfolds day to day.
 
You are the apple of His eye even though we, too, have been bruised by a fall.  He stopped what He was doing and picked you and me up on a hill called Calvary and paid in full for our damaged fruit.
 
Let us live like we are worth the price He paid.

This makes me think, too, how many times we are so task-focused that we miss the opportunity to be kind because we don't even see the people we pass in our rush to finish our task!  We are in a hurry to get where we need to go, to cross off the next thing on our to-do list.  In our hurry to get to the next thing, we miss life!

What if Jesus had been too busy to heal the Centurion's servant? 
What if He had been in too much of a hurry to realize that virtue had left His garment? 
What if He had been in such a hurry that He didn't have time to minister to Martha and Mary? 
Can you think of one place in the Bible where it says that Jesus hurried?

In order to practice the kindness that Jesus would have us practice, we need to be able to see the opportunity first. 

Let us walk slower with eyes wide open!

 



Sunday, March 9, 2014

He Is Always Enough!

I'm trying to lose a few pounds before I head to Florida in three weeks. 

Been there, done that!! 

So far, my strategy is not working. 

This morning as I was getting ready to pour my cereal into the bowl, I remembered how I had lost weight originally several years ago.  Back in 2004, I decided I was not going on one more diet.  So, my plan was to eat whatever I wanted to, just eat a lot less of it at one time.  I lost 75 lbs doing that!!  I would check the label of whatever I was eating and just eat what their "suggested serving size" was.

 So I had one of those "Duh!" moments this morning - Do what you know works! 

As I was measuring out 1 cup of cereal, 1 cup of almond milk and 1/2 banana, I was thinking - why do I always feel the need to "stuff" myself.  What am I afraid of? 

As I followed this thought through, it occurred to me that I fear "emptiness."  Heaven forbid that my stomach should be empty before I have a chance to fill it again!

Basically, I fear - we fear - because we don't think or we don't believe God is enough!

We fear because we don't know God in any given situation.  We've never "met" Him at this place before.  We don't believe He is enough or we have not yet experienced Him as enough in this particular situation.  I overeat at one meal because I don't know if I'll be able to eat at all for the next meal so I want to make sure I have enough - afraid of being empty!!
 
We fear, too, that we don't have the capacity to bear this storm - to hold up to the pain of it or we simply don't want to feel the pain of it!
 
I remember shortly after Phil died - maybe a week or so - I got a glimpse, just a glimpse of what my life would now be.  I stamped my foot and declared out loud "I am not doing this!  I am NOT doing this!"  Then I looked around the empty room, shrugged my shoulders and said, "Duh!  You don't have a choice.  You ARE doing this!" 

Seriously, I did have this conversation - I thought - with myself, but I realized later I was actually engaged in this conversation with God.  And He showed me, as time passed, that I could do this the easy way or the hard way, the choice was mine, but I WAS indeed doing this.  I chose His way.
 
You see, I think as I got a glimpse of the future, I also felt the fear. 

Fear of the unknown - how would I live the rest of my life without Phil? 
How would I be able to stand up against the debilitating pain of this loss?
Would I get through this?
What if I started to cry and I couldn't stop?
What if the pain was too much for me to bear?
Would I have enough money to live on? 
Would I be able to stay in my house? 
What kind of life would I have now with him gone? 
Who would take care of me? 
So, so many questions that didn't have answers.

What I really feared was that I didn't have the capacity to endure the pain and come out of it okay.  What I really feared was that God wouldn't be enough to see me through.
 
Isn't that what we really fear when faced with something we've never faced before?
 
My husband left me after 23 years of marriage?
My child has cancer and the prognosis is not good?
My daughter is pregnant out of wedlock.
My son is strung out on drugs and goes from one high to another.
My marriage is so difficult; I just don't know how I can go on if my husband doesn't respond. 
My son just told us he is a homosexual.
My father is sick and needs my constant care.  I have a life to live.
My daughter is living a very promiscuous lifestyle.  She wasn't raised that way.
My spouse died after 52 years of marriage.

These scenarios and far worse face many of us every single day of our lives. 

And our fear is - God, can you get me through this? 
God, will you be enough? 
God, will I even know how to find you in the midst of this?
God, will I make it?

And while I would never make light of any of these trials, I truly do KNOW and BELIEVE that God is enough for all of them!!
 
Many times God miraculously delivers us from our trials, but so many more times He does not.  Why?  Why?  Why? 
The question we ask is always - Why; why does a good God not do anything when He could so easily? 
 
I do not have the answer to that question because I am not God, but again,
I do KNOW and I TRUST that because He knows the end from the beginning, He walks us THROUGH and redeems every single time! 
God never wastes anything!

We rob ourselves and we rob God when all we ask is Why?

We rob ourselves of experiencing God's faithfulness in the midst of our situation and we rob God of blessing us in ways we could never imagine!

Sometimes I wonder if God has some Why questions of His own?

Why don't you trust me?
Why don't you seek me?
Why don't you ask me?
Why don't you let me?
Why don't you believe me?
Why don't you love me?

We miss the opportunity to grow in His grace and strength and character when all we ask is Why.
We miss seeing His hand move mightily on our behalf.
We miss the joy of walking intimately with Him through it.
We miss the ultimate blessing of coming to know Him in greater ways than we ever have.

And, I believe, there are other questions we miss that we need to ask also and then wait for God to unfold His answers.

We need to ask -

What - do you want me to learn from this, God?
Where - in the midst of this, can I find you?
When -  can I see your face?
Who - needs to see your grace working in me?
How - do I glorify you in the midst?

Through the pain and loss of my husband's death, I have found a greater depth in God than I ever had.  I have found a joy I never knew and purpose beyond my wildest dreams!
I have found the greatest provision - God Himself!!

God felt my pain, understood my pain, and walked with me through my pain.
 
"If I'd never had a problem, I wouldn't know that He could solve them.  I wouldn't know what faith in God could do."
(words to song, Through It All)
 
It seems we feel our main purpose in life is to always be happy. 
 
I deserve happiness! 
I deserve this beautiful, brand new car! 
I deserve the huge house on the hill!
I deserve to be healed; I've certainly prayed enough! 
I deserve that wonderful vacation in the Bahamas!  After all, haven't I worked hard to earn it! 
I deserve to have my children healthy, happy and secure. 
I deserve a good husband/wife who will make me happy and if they don't, well, I'll just ditch this marriage and find my true soul mate, because I deserve to be happy!

We have bought this lie - lock, stock and barrel - and will settle for nothing less.  And when we aren't happy or things aren't going our way, we point first to God and blame Him.  "See, all this talk of God and religion and it doesn't work!"   Doesn't work??  Since when does God work for us??
 
What if God said - I didn't send my Son to earth to die on a cross for your sins so you could be happy!  My goal is to make you holy!!

Not getting our own way breaks us!
Not having our dreams fulfilled breaks us!
Not finding that pot at the end of the rainbow breaks us!

All these things drive us to seek answers to ALL the questions.  And I know of only one who has ALL the answers.  Won't you give Him your questions today and your fear that He is not enough?

"O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusts in him."
Psalm 34:8


 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Path to Wholeness

It starts at birth; rather before birth.
"Before you were knit in your mother's womb, I knew you."
Psalm 139

 
He chose our parents, our birth place, our ethnic background, the color of our hair and eyes, the substance of our personality. These and everything else that makes up who we are. He chose where we were to live, who our friends would be, who we would marry.

 

Nothing, NOTHING happens to us by chance.
He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. As He knows our beginning, so, too, He knows our end. And He wants to be involved in all that is in the middle! But the mystery of all this is our free will. As sovereign as He is, we have our free will to make our own choices.
How did you get to be who you are today?
What choices did you make along the way that led to where you are right now in your life?
Do you KNOW who you are?
Do you KNOW who He is?

My whole life I have desired wholeness, to be a whole person; someone at peace with myself. It was that very desire that led me to the Lord at 25 years of age. As I have struggled through trials and circumstances and the painful death of my husband after 33 years of marriage, I have repeatedly gone back to the Lord for His healing to bring me to wholeness. I believe what the Bible says regarding Kingdom Living for the here and now and believe that is a promise to us as we pursue a God who desires our wholeness.
"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
 I Thessalonians 5:23

Throughout my life, I have met so many women who have been beaten down by life's circumstances and have not known their worth in God. As a result, they allow themselves to be abused and neglected by others. I believe so much of the promiscuity we see in our world today is a result of women not knowing or believing their worth before a heavenly Father that so cherishes them.

God has done so much in my life - healing me from the inside out. He has delivered me from rejection and taught me how to respect myself as a person and as a creation and daughter of the Most High God. I began a journey many years ago to know who I am in Christ and I'm still walking that journey today. Who I am has evolved as life's circumstances and situations have helped, with God's constant hand in mine, to shape who I am today. As I continue to lean on Him and trust Him in all situations, He has been so faithful to develop His character in me. It has been a process not without a lot of pain, but one well worth the investment.

As I seek to know Him more, He continually seeks to bring me to wholeness in Him.
As He assures me continually of my worth in Him, I realize I am worthy because I am His creation, as are all of us.  Ever heard the old saying, "God doesn't make junk"?  Well, He doesn't!

"And God saw every thing that he has made, and behold, it was very good."
Genesis 1:31

The path to wholeness is different for each of us, but every path leads us directly to Him, for in Him alone do we find our identity, our significance, our security and our worth.



Won't you set out on that path today?  Or perhaps you are on that path?  If you are, don't get discouraged.  He is leading and guiding you always.  Seek Him, bring all your cares and situations and lay them at His feet.  Trust Him there!

Seek Him first and He will do incredible things in your heart and life!