Holy Strength

scarletScarlet got worse as the evening progressed.  I sat beside her on the floor of the laundry room feeling totally helpless.  Her paralysis was increasing.

Of course I prayed . . . until I could pray, and cry no more.  Then, from deep in the folds of my faith came song.  I sang over her and worshiped the Lord.  She seemed to quiet down.  I think she was blind, but she could hear my voice.

Exhausted, I closed the door and went to bed.  At 1:30 a.m. I woke up, got dressed immediately as if I was in auto-pilot.  Ten minutes later, we were on our way to the hospital for the third time in 24-hours.

Surprisingly, I felt strong.  I could remember the same peculiar strength at other crisis moments in my life.  A strength beyond anything normal, deeper, without disciplined thought or determination.  Holy, pure strength, void of all stoicism.

I felt the same supernatural resolve when, as a new widow, I had to put my beloved dog, Molly, down.  I felt it when I leaned over my mother-in-law at St. John’s Hospital moments before she passed.  It came that time I was greeted by a nurse and a nun on the second floor of Hyland Hospital, with the news that my mom had died moments before.  It coursed through me, with a force beyond human understanding, as I administered oxygen and morphine to my husband.  It wrapped around me when my father died and this young Christian heard the Lord’s voice for the first time, “Seek Me when you are feeling strong, don’t wait until you’re feeling weak.”

Yes, the strength of the Lord cannot be described or duplicated.  The strength of the Lord makes even the saddest moments bearable, makes you know that something, Someone, beyond yourself, is carrying and sustaining you.

“There really isn’t anything more we can do for her,” said the Vet.  “She’s very distressed and this would be the kindest choice.”

I knew it was time, but still I staggered at the thought that I would ever hold such power.  What would I want if it were me?  Will I, in my lifetime, ever hear those words spoken over me? Will it become politically correct to end a life and call it kindness, masked in a cloak of  carnal “mercy?”

“I agree,” I said, as the vet handed me a box of tissue.  It was over quickly. I hugged the doctor, thanked the staff and walked out of the hospital empty-handed.

Driving home in silence I felt numb, with a raw sadness I’d felt many times before.

It’s just a cat . . . I tried to tell myself . . .

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A Good Word Makes Glad

Scarlet by chair w webWhen I heard her yowl I sprang from my bed.  The minute I saw her lying in the middle of the rug I knew this was not going to be any ordinary night.  By 3:00 a.m., my son and I were driving down the deserted streets of Henrietta to the Veterinary Emergency.

Scarlet’s eyes were swollen shut and she was breathing with an open mouth – not a good sign.  We assumed she’d been stung in her mouth by a bee.  They gave her a shot of Benadryl, and $175 later, we pulled into the driveway again.  It was just getting light.

I placed her on my bed and immediately fell asleep.  Two hours later I lifted her from my bed and tried to place her on the floor.  She couldn’t stand-up.  Her legs wouldn’t work and she just flopped over on her side.

Five hours later, with no improvement, I drove her back to the hospital.  Four hours later, I brought her home with a list of guesses.  “It can either be a brain tumor, a parasite that has migrated to her brain, or she’s got something similar to vertigo. Let’s hope for the later,” she said.

After giving her a shot for nausea, and some hydration, we returned home – to wait.

My heart was breaking to see my sweet Scarlet so, so sick.  “What should I do, Lord?  You know what is going on.  Please show me,” I cried.

My Bible was sitting next to me on the end table so I picked it up and randomly opened it.  My eyes fell on Proverbs 12:10.  This is what I read, “The righteous man regards the life of his animal.”

“Oh, Lord . . .” I gasped.  I knew He was telling me to just keep watching her, to be attentive and trust Him with the outcome.

That was all I needed to feel totally confident the Lord was on board and leading me every step.

Proverbs 12:25 says “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”  

“A good word . . .”  isn’t that what it takes to make it through tough times?  That simple verse replaced the anxiety I had in my heart and gave me a steady, solid peace.  However the decisions ahead might fall, I have assurance that He is with me and will not miss His leading.

Scarlet is resting comfortably on a special bed in my laundry room.  She’s home, she’s safe, and she’s in the Lord’s hands.

Isn’t it wonderful that we serve such a personal God who even knows the page we need to  turn to for the “good word” we need.  I never knew that scripture existed – but I can assure you, I’ll never forget it.

scarlet closeup w web

 

 

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“Good Morning, Lord. What Are We Going to do Today?

My friend shared a sweet thought.  “The first thing I do when I open my eyes each morning is say, ‘Good morning, Lord.  What are we going to do today?”

Something clicked inside me.  I usually say good-morning, Lord, but it was the second part that caught my attention.

At this stage of my life, most of the time I can plan my days as I choose.  I really liked her suggestion and decided to make it mine.  With coffee in hand, I went to the swing the next morning and prayed, “What are we going to do today, Lord?”

water guns 2The phone rang almost immediately, “Can you watch some kids today?”asked my daughter-in-law.

Okay Lord?   “Sure,” I responded.  “Why not.”

In no time at all, in came four “little ones” 12, 8, 7, and 3.  An hour later, there was a knock at the door. Two more Mimlets came in ages 12 and 9, AND a friend.

Okay Lord ?   “Come on in.”

One giant loaf of bread, 1 jar of peanut butter, 2/3’s jar of jelly, seven apples, a bag of  cheese sticks and a half-bag of cookies later . . . I sat staring at my crust sandwich and thinking, did I hear Your right, Lord?  I felt Him smile.

Then the squirt-guns came out.  Now I had seven soaked Mimlets, a pile of  muddy white towels, a pile of wet shoes and all I heard “That was great, WE’RE HUNGRY.”

It never helps to remind them they only ate an hour ago.  “Sorry, we’re out of bread.  How ’bout I make popcorn?”

That night I crunched some random popcorn pieces as I walked to my bed and folded into the sheets  at 8:30, exhausted, and happy. I had the sense I’d truly done the Lord’s work.

The next morning I said, “Good morning, Lord.” Hesitated for a moment and said, “What are we going to do today?”

Guess what my son brought home that day . . .  a PUPPY!”

odie2I looked down at the eleven week old German Shepherd, totally speechless.  Okay Lord ?

odie3

After twenty-four hours with Odie, I was in love.  “He’s such a fine dog,” I told my son.”I wish I knew more so I can help with the training.”

“Don’t feel bad,” he said, “just because he has papers and you don’t.”

We had a good laugh as I disengaged my shoe from his mouth.

Yesterday, I said, “Good morning, Lord, what are we going to do today?”  I looked at my overgrown garden from the porch swing and felt the urge to pull weeds.  I knew this had to be God.  It’s the first time all summer my back didn’t kick up a fuss.  When I crawled into bed that night, I was happy for all the work that got done  . . . only, I noticed how itchy I was. . .

Yep . . . you guessed it . . .Poison Ivy!  At least I can say I was doing the Lord’s work.

It’s so easy to equate “doing the Lord’s work” with some type of religious activity: prayer, study, visiting the sick etc.  I’m seeing His work is life, ordinary life – lived with Him.  Whether it’s tending Mimlets, helping to train a puppy, and yes, even poison ivy . . . everything is good when you walk with a Good God.

 

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Do You Have the Mark of God?

NYS-Notary-SealProof of ownership is often displayed in a mark, or seal, showing the owner’s name, title and domain of authority.  Like a signature on a painting. Even my cat, Scarlet, understands marking property.  That’s why she carefully rubs her face on me to let the world know – I’m her property.

When my son brought his puppy for a visit, Scarlet got nervous.  She watched me gush scarlet faceover the dog and when he left, she started rubbing her face on me again.  I couldn’t even work because she was rubbing her face on the keyboard and computer screen, too.

We are God’s property.  His name is God Almighty. His title is Creator, Lord of All,  and His domain is heaven and earth with all its inhabitants.

How do we wear the mark of God’s ownership?

We can’t understand that until we understand His love.  He loved us so much, and His desire for sons and daughters was so great He made the ultimate sacrifice and sent His only Son to redeem us from the curse that separated us from Him.  As I meditate on this I’m struck by three things:

We’re valuable.

God wouldn’t give His Son for a nobody.  Every soul is precious to the Father.  Even when we were yet sinners.  One thing I learn from that is never – ever – denigrate myself or someone else.  I should never belittle or speak ill of God’s property.

I went shopping for clothes yesterday. It was painfully eye-opening. I was angry, disgusted and started badmouthing myself.  Until the Holy Spirit whispered, “But, You’re mine.”

We will only treat good what we value. The road to personal wholeness is first paved with embracing the value God places on us.

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God.”

“Behold” is better described as: SEE, observe, look at, gaze at, regard, contemplate, inspect.  It’s a word of great exclamation.

Think of the joy it brings our Father when we believe in, and value what He values.

We were loved before the worlds were made.

I love my kids, but I didn’t love them before they were born.  I might have loved the idea of children, but I didn’t know them and love them as I did after they were born.

” . . . He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world . . .”  (Ephesians 1:4)

God didn’t start loving you the day you were born, He was carrying you in His heart the whole time He planned the creation of the world!

See how foolish it is to think we can earn God’s love. We were loved first.  We don’t have to  clean up, get it right, do good, and please God, in order to be loved?  We please God believing we are loved.  All our good flows from that.

Wearing the mark of God.

scarlet closeup w webMy Scarlet wants her scent on me.  Forgive me for such a lame analogy, but so does God.

We wear His mark when we wear His attributes. Does kindness, long-suffering, righteousness and holiness mark our lives?  Do people know we are Christians by our love? Do you wear the sweet aroma of Christ – or the pungent scent of the world?

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. . .” (2 Corinthians 2:15)

Father, please forgive us for speaking ill of Your property.  Forgive us for treating lightly Your love.  Forgive us for the many ways we wear the mark of the world.  We bow before You, dear Lord, and ask Your forgiveness for our lukewarmness and casual attitude. We need Your oil in the lamps we trim as we watch for Your appearance. We want to wear the attributes of Christ.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

 

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Do Your Need a Handle of Hope?

hope whispers 72“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” ( Genesis 50:20)

Recently, my nine-year old grandson became very ill while on vacation.  They rushed him to emergency.  He was transferred to a children’s hospital and spent days in intensive care. He was a very sick little boy.  What was thought to be dehydration turned into a much more serious, life-altering, event.

If you’re a grandparent, you can understand what I mean when I say I was a mess. My thoughts naturally rushed to all the negatives, and the worse that could happen.  I wanted to be right there, to do something – anything – to help. Instead, I was hundreds of miles away.

We should never say: “all I could do is pray,” because it’s the best we can do.  I had to throw myself on the Lord and believe that not only are we in Christ, as believers, so are all our circumstances.  There is nothing that we have to face without access to His love, His wisdom, His fellowship, and His presence.

Years ago, I used to ride the bus to the inner city for classes.  Sometimes the bus was full and I’d have to stand.  In those days, there was a strap handle anchored to the ceiling of the bus.  When the bus turned a corner you would still sway, but you wouldn’t fall.

Steadying my emotions was not an easy task, but when a friend said, “Remember, what the devil has planned for evil, God will use for good.”  A light suddenly went on.

That verse became my handle of hope. When fear would swell, I’d say it out loud.  I even put it to music so I could sing it over his circumstances.

Faith rose in my heart as emotion took second place to conviction.

God’s Word steadies us, confirms us, keeps us on our feet through every dip and turn.  He is so faithful to give us a handle of hope in every crisis.  I’ve already seen God’s goodness in just the immediate care my grandson received,  and that what could have easily happened – didn’t.  I seen the goodness of the Lord through the people who have responded with encouragement and prayer.

Each one of us has a personal story being written by a good God, who never leaves us or forsakes us – and who works all things for our good.

Father, I pray for those reading this today.  You know the details of what they are facing.  Please, Papa, give them a handle of hope to grab on to.  Steady their hearts as you steadied mine.  Thank you for your kindness and comfort.  Nothing can thwart the plans you have for us.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

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Are you subtly yielding to fear?

chick in hand

We’re in His hands.

With all the stuff happening in the world it’s easy to start yielding to fear.  It’s subtle, but I believe it can accumulate and led us off the path.

I talked to a dear brother about the state of affairs, and he told me about a brother he met who works in national security. When he asked the brother what he thought about what was happening in the nation, this was his reply:

“Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not unto your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”

As a Christian who knows what’s happening behind the scenes, it’s it awesome that he answered the question with Scripture.

Isn’t that what we should do?

I have allowed myself to listen to too many discussions about how the evil plans of men are ruining this country.  I’ve read articles that are not edifying one bit.  It’s hard to avoid what’s in-your-face,  but  . . . We must beware and not give way to a spirit of fear.

The enemy of our souls wants us wrapped in fear and making decisions based on fear.  This is not how Jesus modeled the way we are to live.  Fear clouds our minds, renders our faith of none-effect,  and makes it hard to hear the One we most need to hear.

He didn’t give us a spirit of fear, He gave us the Holy Spirit.  That’s the only “spirit” we should be listening to.We must answer the news of the hour with God’s word.

That’s what Jesus modeled, so that’s what we should do.

fawn w verse 72“Do not be anxious about anything but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (even of current events!) will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  

Jesus knew the suffering ahead.  He didn’t wring His hands, He rent His heart before His Father.  Jesus had to depend on the same Holy Spirit He has given us.

I’m not saying stick your head in the sand.  I’m not saying don’t prepare. I’m saying beware how you hear, and guard against fear.

Let’s dwell on the Word, not what’s on the internet.  Let’s stop studying how bad is bad and drink in how good is God.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” ( 1 Peter 5:6-7)

“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

“He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.  His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.”  (Psalm 112:7)

“Let not your heart be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.”  (John 14:1)

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Salty Lives Create Thirst

salt shakers“It’s MY TURN!” came a little voice from the porch.

“NO! I want to go FIRST,” said his brother.

I stuck my head out the screen door to see what was going on.  Two of my “Mimlets” (grandkids)  were having a tug-a-war with a bottle of bubbles.  I refereed the situation and peace returned.

In Mark 9:33, Jesus asks his disciples, “What were you arguing about on the road?” They didn’t want to answer him because they’d been arguing about who was the greatest.  I can just imagine the conversation, “I’m gonna be first!  That’s not fair, you get all the attention.”

Then Jesus says something that every one of us has to wrestle with to understand and apply.  “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  

My six-year old “Mimlet” joined a summer soccer team for the first time. When it came time to hand out the special team shirts (which is the coolest part) the coach discovered he was short one. The little boy left without a shirt began to cry his eyes out.  Without being prompted, my grandson took his shirt off and gave it to his team-mate.  He played the rest of the game draped in the coach’s x-large shirt tied in a knot at the waist so he wouldn’t trip.

“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last . . .”  

Jesus takes a little child in his arms and says, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me . . .”

But the disciples continue to wrangle about position, only this time with a new angle: “We saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

Can’t you picture a group of children excluding the new kid on the block?  “You can’t play in our fort because you’re not one of us.”  Sounds silly, but Jesus let’s us know the same selfish spirit is behind all sin.

Jesus continues: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off . . .and if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it   out . . .” (a portion from Mark 9:42-48)

Then Jesus concludes with, “Everyone will be salted with fire.”  

Salt and fire have similar properties.  They remove what is perishable, separating what is decaying from that which is sound. They are both transforming.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)

The last line: ” . . . be at peace with each other” bookends with Mark 9:35 “If anyone wants to be  first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  

salt shaker 2We have to have ” . . .salt within ourselves” before we can be salt and light in the world.  There will be no peace in our relationships, no sprinkling the salt of grace and love, if we don’t first allow the Holy Spirit to purify the selfishness in our hearts.  We must put to death those things in us that are decayed and perishing.

Choosing “to be last” doesn’t mean we keep running to the end of the line.  It’s having a heart of humility and meekness, an inviting grace of the soul that will yield to the will of God over the rights and comforts of our flesh.

It’s being willing to give the shirt you really wanted, to a friend.

Father, sprinkle us with Your purifying fire.  May we live salty lives that will make others thirst for You.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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Don’t Point the Finger, We’re ALL on the List

pointing fingerHave you noticed when you point a finger there are three fingers pointing back at you?  It’s  good to consider before judging someone.

When children are unruly, we look to the parents. When a nation is unruly, we look to the church.  That’s just how it goes.

I’m not going to speak to the issue of gay marriage here, but I do want to address the fingers that are pointing back at the church, because that’s where we have the greatest power for change.

Who will not inherit to Kingdom of God?

“Do you not know that the unrighteous and the  wrongdoers will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived (misled): neither the impure and immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who participate in homosexuality, nor cheats (swindlers and thieves), nor greedy graspers, nor drunkards, nor foul-mouthed revilers and slanderers, nor extortioners and robbers will inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10 Amplified Bible)

Homosexuality is only ONE of FOURTEEN no-no’s.  God doesn’t condone any of these activities.  We all have our opinions, but we can’t blame the collapse of this nation on the gays when we have 13 other sins active, married, and in leadership, in our churches.

Revelations 21:8 gives us shivers when it includes: cowardly, faithless, and liars.

I think Paul is making the point that the church needs to check its own baggage before going after someone else’s.

Immorality, of any kind, defiles the Church. Are we grieving this?  Are we raging in the media about greed? That’s considered idolatry. How about self-promotion vs God-promotion, is that being discussed?  What about bringing the culture of the world into our churches to attract young people vs seeking the culture of the Kingdom and letting the Holy Spirit attract them . . . are we discussing this?  Are we discussing  heterosexual immorality?

Why aren’t we discussing the absence of God’s Presence in so much of our “christian” activities?  Have we noticed there  are far more than three fingers pointing back at us?

The key is no one can inherit the Kingdom of God in the strength of our own morality.  Just try never glorying in your own achievements, or gossiping, or judging your brother, or telling lies.  Some of the most ‘godly’ appearing Christians can be absolutely murderous with their tongues.

We’re ALL on the LIST of those unworthy to inherit the Kingdom

Before we heap every gay person onto the ‘lost’ pile we need to consider a few things:

1. God loves and died for ALL  . . . while we were yet sinners.

2. Are we being examples of Christ?

3. We love people because they breathe – not because they agree with us.

We all need to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  We all have to answer to God for our behavior.  We all need to repent and change – every one of us from the top down.

If we judged Paul by his background we’d have to cut a third of the New Testament out of the Bible.  A self-righteous murderer, and a pillar in his religious circle, who deeply believed killing the followers of Jesus was doing God’s work.

God took care of Paul.  Knocked him off his high horse, blinded him for three days – then gave him new eyes, new lens, and look what happened.  That’s love.

Father, forgive us, and give us Your eyes.  Amen.

 

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God Doesn’t Want To Give Us That

blocks1My nine-year old grandson asks his dad, “Can I have $25?  I want to buy you a really neat Father’s Day present.”  My son willingly gives him the cash, as well as a trip to the mall.

Grandson emerges with a package from the Lego store.  On Father’s Day he explains, “I knew you would really love this dinosaur Lego set because I don’t have one.”

What a picture of our Heavenly Father.  He supplies all we need so we have something to give back to Him.  Everything comes from Him, and He receives great pleasure in seeing us enjoy life.

Our God is an outrageously open-handed God. He is so generous, so kind, so gracious, that He delights to overwhelm us with His love at every turn.

The only things God doesn’t want to give us are those things His Son, Jesus, purchased on Calvary: every sin, every foul thought and intention, all our anxiety and fear, every single hurtful piece from our history, every negative part of our old nature . . . you can’t have them . . . He bought them.  They’re His. He wants to keep them.

I was attempting to take the i-pad from my grandson one day,  because he’d been on it long enough.  He resisted.  “You can’t have it, you didn’t pay for this. It’s mine.”  All cheeky-ness aside,  I insisted he go outside and play – because it’s good for him.

The next time I was struggling with anxiety I heard a familiar voice in my head:  “You can’t have it, I paid for it.  It’s mine.”

This stopped me in my tracks, putting the cross into a practical perspective I hadn’t realized before. God is constantly teaching us, isn’t He?  (Even in the challenging moments with our beloved children.) Our Papa is very firm about what is good for us, as I was with my grandson.

Even when I wanted to go the familiar way of anxiety and discouragement, He said,

“No, you can’t have that. I paid for that and I’m keeping it.”

He continued.  “This is the day I have made for you to enjoy . . . here’s some joy, now go buy a day you can return to Me with love.”

Not only did Jesus purchase all the bad stuff, He purchased all the good stuff.  Everything in our lives, once we’re born again, has a different slant.  Now we’re  holiness focused instead of sin focused.  There is a big difference.  We still take sin seriously, and confess it, but then quickly walk on with confidence in the new nature He has given.

DSC01055God is not watching us with a scolding eye.  He is watching for every opportunity to teach us how to walk like Jesus.  That’s love, not law.

Let’s go to our Father today and say, “Papa, thank you for the strength You’ve given us today.  Help us give back to You a day of praise.”

Heavenly Father, teach us how to walk on this side of the cross.  Teach us how to live and breathe, and move in the new nature You’ve given us. Thank you for giving us just what we need to have a good day – and we’ll give back to You all the praise.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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Why Do We Beat Ourselves Up?

Have you ever backhanded a compliment or argued with someone trying to say something nice about you?  If someone told me I looked thinner, I’d be inclined to wise-crack, “Yeah, well don’t come too close, if these buttons blow you’ll get hurt.”

Seriously, why do we beat up on ourselves?

I think it’s a basic lack of understanding of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ . . .”

When we are born again, we become a brand new person. The old person was crucified with Christ, buried with Christ  and resurrected a totally new creation, never having existed before.

Negative self image? We just have to ask,  “Which self am I listening to?”  The old one, or the new one?  It seems foolish to let a dead man do the talking.

Ephesians 4:24 says, ” . . . be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.  Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, (and with yourself!) . . .”

We are not to be sin minded.  We all mess up, miss the mark, sin, but God is holiness minded. Once we confess our sin, we move on.  His emphasis will always be on the behavior of the new man.

I know what happens when we mess up . . . we tend to agree with the enemy that we’re bad, that we’ll never change or can’t do anything right.  Instead, let’s try this:

“Father, forgive me for what I did. I thank You, Papa, that that is not the behavior of the new nature You have given me in Christ. Now, I reckon myself dead to that sin and alive to Christ.  I am a new creation made in Your image.  I am seated with You in heavenly places in Christ.  Holy Spirit thank you for showing me I was wrong.  Now, by faith, I put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.  Amen.”

The greatest gift we can give the Lord is to embrace, believe, and lay hold of, what He accomplished for us on Calvary.

The world it low self-esteem, but there’s no reason to feel that way if you’ve in Christ . . because now our worth is measured by His righteousness, not our own.

If we are hidden in Christ, what does the Father see when He looks at us?  Shouldn’t we try to see ourselves the same way?

No more beating up on ourselves.

Lord, You make us burst with joy when we see that we are complete in You.  I am so grateful that You said, “It is finished!”  No more veils.  No more shame.  No  inner agony.  I rejoice in this hope – we will not lose heart…we are all together lovely in You.  Free from the past.  Free from all condemnation… rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!

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Faint Farm Smells Teach

cow

Meet Rusty.

I just returned last night from an excellent class on Spiritual warfare, led by Randy Baker.  I was sitting among seasoned prayer warriors in God’s army and, though relatively new to this type of prayer, I was excited to ‘get-started’ first thing in the morning.

Faint scents of farm life wafted through the air as I sat on my swing at 5:00 a.m.  Fresh out of bed, still in the staring mode, I opened my notes from class ready to apply what I had learned.

Suddenly, I was in the middle of a daydream.  I was single-handedly trying to lead a dozen, 600-800 lb. cows to the back pasture.  (interesting how God uses even the smells of your immediate surroundings to teach us)

The cows were delighted with their sudden freedom and quickly bolted in all directions.  I did NOT know what I was doing.  The farther they scattered, the more I panicked.   I started running back and forth, hooting and hollering trying to make them go according to my plan, but they would not co-operate.  Soon, there were cattle all over the place.

Farmer Kyle would know just what to do to move those cattle, and they know his voice, not mine.

2 Corinthians 10:5  came to mind.  Here it is, in context, from the Phillips New Testament:

“Now I (Paul) am going to appeal to you personally, by the gentleness and sympathy of Christ himself. . . For I am afraid otherwise that I shall have to do some plain speaking to those of you who will persist in reckoning that our activities are on the purely human level. The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defence that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.”

cow 2Our good intentions have no power. To pray in Jesus name, we must be sure it’s what He is saying.

Intercession is birthed from the center of worship.  From the seat of devotion He drops into our minds what He wants us to pray about.

Our great Intercessor, Jesus Christ, will inspire our prayers as we wait upon His lead.  From this place, we find the words to declare, and the prayers to pray.

The best thing I received from the class was a fresh determination to make it a priority to sit with Jesus every day, and co-labor with Him in prayer, and in worshiping the Father.  May His Kingdom come . . . on earth as it is in Heaven.

chickFather, we place ourselves in Your loving hands.  Forgive us for acting in our own strength.  Forgive us for trying to herd our activities, on all levels, with fleshly determination. Only You have the authority to lead.   I submit myself to you today.  Be the leader of every thought, prayer and activity.  We love You, Lord.  In Jesus name, Amen.

photos were taken at the Lehigh Valley Outpost, Rush, NY
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Prepare For Change

light my lamp 72

Have you noticed that many things you used to do regularly, and enjoy,  have lost their spark?  Could it be the winds are changing? could it be the Lord wants you to be focusing on something else?

I have. Many of the things I used to consider SO important – aren’t anymore.  I’m convinced the Lord is trying to change our focus.  I’m being led to focus more on gathering regularly for corporate prayer and worship.  Two by two, small groups, church groups, wherever we can gather together for prayer.

It seems like it’s becoming more difficult to pray on our own.  Have you noticed?  I think the enemy is ramping up his attacks against private devotion. Gathering with others for prayer will keep our wells open, and our lamps burning.  If you’re having trouble “getting-to” prayer, get with a friend because this is an hour for serious focused prayer.

Things appear to be worsening in our nation, but this is not a time for gloom and doom.  This is an hour to raise up a shout and lift our voices in resounding praise because God is on the move.  He is shaking everything that is not rooted in Him.  He is awakening the hearts of His people. Revival is coming.

God is the Best Story Writer

Things may not be as you would like them to be in your life, but remember God writes the best story.  We have to trust Him.  What is happening in your life and mine is only a part of a much bigger picture.  Trim your lamps. The Lord is coming.

Are you prepared?  Not only spiritual preparation, but how about practical preparation?

Have you asked the Lord what He wants you to do to prepare for what’s ahead?  Do you have at least a month’s worth of food in your home?  Do you have extra water? Do you have batteries, or alternate lighting and heating?   Think about it.  Everyone must do what the Lord tells them to do.  I hear Him saying to get supplies.

I saw on the news this nasty sink hole video.  It happen near Watkins Glen.  They advise people not to drive through water across the road because you don’t know if there’s even a road there anymore.   

This is so prophetic.  Those things that we have counted on are being shaken.  They are no longer be reliable.  We need to fix our eyes on Heaven and be tuned in to the Holy Spirit as never before.  The old way may not be safe anymore. Be prepared to make changes.

Father, stir our hearts with the seriousness of the hour. Show us what to do, Lord.  Fan the fire in our hearts, blow on the smoldering wick, ignite us again.  Cause us to hunger and thirst for You like never before.  Give us people to pray with regularly.  Help us to encourage one another. Revive us again, O Lord. . .

 

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It’s All About Perspective

mouse 2The screen door slammed and in raced three very excited 12-year old girls. “Mrs. Stevens do you have a box?”

“What kind of box and what for?” I said trying to assess the need.

“Scarlet (the reuse cat) caught a mouse and it’s injured.  We need a box to put it in.”

“Mrs. Stevens, do you have any cheese?”

I’m thinking, this critter is lucky it happened upon three pre-teen beauties so full of compassion.  If it was up to me – splat!

mouseFor the next two hours they hovered over the little limping grey-blue mouse, made a little bed of grass, and fed it shredded cheese.  “Awwww, look at it . . . it’s hurt . . . see it’s limping.  Should we make a splint for his leg? I thought for sure we’d have some tears.

When I came out with my camera, Avie remarked, “You’re not going to photograph it in its time of need, are you?”

mouse 3The little grey-blue mouse shook with fear and kept trying to fix it’s own back leg.  I actually felt my heart thump once with compassion.  With my history of mice in this house I never expected  to feel anything but the urge to . . .

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?  It was sweet watching them care for the little mouse. Especially Abby, she requested a moment alone with it.

I thought for sure the mouse must have died, but instead they carried to the Farmer next door.  When I saw him I asked,  “Did you hear about the mouse the kids caught?”

“Hear about it?  It’s under the lights in the barn.”

What a heart. He respected the feelings of those little girls.

Sometimes we ride rough-shod over kids feelings because we’re looking at them only from an adult perspective.

There’s something to be said about standing in another person’s shoes before judging their feelings.

One time, my little son was near me playing while I was talking to a friend on the phone.  She was telling me a prank some friends played on her husband, George.  I exclaimed, “George must have died!”  My son’s head shot up and he cried, “Georgie died?” He thought I was talking about his Uncle George dying.  From his perspective, he’d just heard the saddest news ever.

I’ve learned the hard way that when a child shares their feelings it’s best to listen deeply, and try to understand things from their perspective.  It’s not the easy way, but it’s the higher way.

DSC04857My grandson sat in the background watching the girls gush over their patient.  I could see his nine-year old wheels turning.

“Let’s kill it,” he spouted,  knowing full well the rise he’d get from the girls.  He looked at me and grinned from ear to ear because he accomplished just that.

“NO!”  they shrieked. “You’re mean.”  He was in his glory.

The little blue mouse remained on my porch all day.  I’m sure it couldn’t figure out what all those big faces were starring down at her.

And the cheese?  . . .  I don’t think it liked cheddar.

 

 

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You Can Come Down Now, Dear

hat in garden

“Why are you walking like that?” my son asked.

“Like what?”

“That. Did you hurt yourself?” he persisted.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I snorted.

Laying in bed that night, I reviewed my litany of body aches.  It seemed pain was increasing the longer I thought about it: knees throbbing, thighs cramping, ankles burning, back groaning . . .

Why do I do this to myself?

hat in garden 2

I used to be a stand-tall organic gardener, bib-overalls, deep tan, rake in hand, smile on face.  I used to turn a 50 x 150 garden by hand.  There were tomatoes trellised on branches, hay thickly spread across walking paths winding around lush vegetables and companion floral.  I worked under the sprinkler to I stayed cool (in my bikini!).

I can remember going into the garden at the break of dawn to let the chickens out to hunt and peck for slugs and tomato worms. The memory of two chickens having a tug-a-war with a giant green beast stays with me to this day. Honestly, in the quiet of the morning,  I could  hear the tomato worms chomping.  That’s how I found them.

blog-inscect-aug-2012-037(I never figured out which end was the head on those things.)

Then there was the time five-year old Tommy Fulton came for a visit. “Mrs Theevens, want to see my pet?”  Then he reached in his pocket and brought out a big-fat-juicy tomato worm – in my kitchen!

Tomato worms thoroughly gross me out. One night I was asleep in my bed after watching the chickens yank on a big one, and unwittingly slipped my hand under my pillow and grabbed my finger.  “TOMATO WORM” I screamed.  Poor Bill didn’t come down off the ceiling ’til the next morning.

tomato worm 72

“You can come down now, dear, just a bad dream.”

But now, my gardening amounts to pulling weeds in a three-foot patch of overgrown perennials, with a two-day reprieve before trying to do the next three feet . . . the Advil bottle rattling in my pocket.

It never fails, as I’m resting with my I-Pad on the couch with my heating pad,  I’ll come upon an article  about the 91-year old lady winning a marathon race, or an 86-year old gymnast working out on the parallel bars.  Maybe I’ll try that in my next life.

The only marathon I’m in is a mental one. Just facing that same senior citizen every morning in my bathroom who quickly jumps in front of me every time I want to look in the mirror.  Or, trying to remember why I came into the bathroom in the first place.

Getting older takes courage – and thoughtfulness.  I’m starting to ration my bends: lets see if I pick that up off the floor now will I be able to get my shoes on later?  

My vegetable garden now consists of  one waist-high container with three cherry tomato plants (and they have a fungus).

There’s much  for me to be thankful for as these soft, summer days unfold.  I do wonder how much Advil it will take to get me through all the activities I still insist on trying – even though I know better.

Why do I do this to myself?  Because hope springs eternal, that inside this aging frame is a woman as young and vivacious as the organic gardener I once knew – even though I’ll never fit into those bib-overalls again . . . but maybe that’s a good thing.

 

 

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Pennies in Your Dryer?

DSC04775As I’m trying to write, there’s something in the dryer making a clanking sound.  The harder I try to concentrate the louder it getting. Ah . . . I finally got up and looked . . . pennies.

Negative thoughts are like pennies in the dryer. Click Click Click  . . . you can drown out the annoying sound, wait until they accumulate and come flying out when you open the dryer door, or get up and remove them immediately.

Most of us ignore and accumulate.

A big clunk or thud would get our immediate attention, but it’s the little thoughts that we ignore until they accumulate and transfer into anxiety.

Here are three good questions you can use to test your thoughts:  Does God want me to believe that?  Does the Devil?  Are my feelings telling me the truth?

I’m trying to be more conscious of what I’m thinking. It is imperative in the battle against anxiety.

Anxious thoughts come from taking little gulps of fear.

DSC04783We can’t possibly analyze every tiny thought, but we can become more aware of what’s  rattling around in our minds.

For a single person it’s easy to ruminate on the subject of being alone. Who will take care of me when I’m older?  Gulp. What will happen if I get sick?  Gulp.   I’m learning to  answer the anxiety of my heart with the truth:  I am not alone.  I have a loving God with me every moment of the day.  He is faithful, and no matter what happens in the future I’ll have the Creator of Heaven and Earth, and His friends, with me.

Do I believe He is capable?  Willing?  Will He come through for me? Can I really trust Him?  If the answer is yes, then why let those other negative thoughts remain?

The more I tell myself the truth the smaller the gap between knowing God is with me, and believing God is with me.

My mother (and I) have natural frown lines.  When I concentrate they get deeper.  When my son was about four he asked me one day if I was mad at him.  “No! Why?” I asked.  He pointed to the frown lines on my face.  I can remember thinking the same thing about my mom. I determined if I was in her graces by the absence or presence of frown lines. Was that an accurate assessment? Did God want me to believe that about my mother? No. How about the devil?

So many of our problems come from believing lies.  A dear friend of mine, whose gone home with the Lord, changed my life with a simple question.  I was confiding in her about feeling down.  She said, “Look for the lies.”

Occasional mental inventory is a wise practice – especially on the heels of feeling anxious.  Jesus told us not to be anxious for anything – so are our worry thoughts from Him? Does the devil want me to worry?

There’s nothing as beautiful as the silence of a peaceful mind.

Father, thank you for giving us choice, but help us, Lord, to choose our thoughts wisely and not entertain anything that is not of You.  I pray for my friends who battle with anxiety and worry,  please send Your comfort and give them clarity of thought.  We love You and trust You, in Jesus name, Amen. 

 

 

 

 

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