The Seed Of Excellence

DSC04068My recent blogs have been about guarding our hearts and God’s built-in instinct.   Here’s a promise we all should memorize:

“. . .as many as receive Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God. . .” (John 1:12)

The word “right” is awesome in the Greek.  It means the power, privilege, capacity and  freedom.  

God has planted the seed of excellence in our hearts.

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The right, power, capacity, privilege and freedom to become:  In the Greek, the word  means – to arise, be assembled, cause to be, be finished, be fulfilled, be ordained and be married.

God has freely given us the power and capacity and freedom to arise.  The capacity for our hearts to be assembled into something finished and ordained for service, in place of what was dark and broken

Read Scripture with expectancy.

Because God has given us “ALL things that pertain to life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3)

Let’s look at Psalm 27 again:

The capacity for a settled heart: “For in time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hid me; he shall set me up upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:5)

I didn’t feel very settled and steady when Bill died and my world was turned upside down, but I knew I had the capacity to have a settled heart – not because of settled surroundings, but because my life is built upon the Rock, Jesus.  This gave me hope.

The capacity for supplicating heart: “Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.” (Psalm 27:6)

The desire to pray is built into the heart He has given us. When we don’t pray, our hearts are unfulfilled.  Prayer is much more than a list of requests.  Prayer is the peaceful murmurings we share with the Lord all day long.

hydrangeas 2The capacity for a secure heart: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” (Psalm 27:10) What an awesome promise.

No mater what happens in life, the Lord will never forsake us.

The Hebrew meaning of “take me up” is: lift and carry.

God has given us the capacity, power, freedom and privilege to have this kind of assurance.

A counseling heart: “The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips.” (Proverbs 16:23)

At my lowest point, God said, “Tell me what you know to be true.”  What we have hidden in our hearts will instruct us in times of need.  The minute I began to speak the truth, my emotions were lifted to the level of my confession, and my hope was restored.

Father, thank you for the heart you have given us. Thank you that we don’t come to You in the strength of our human hearts.  Thank you that we can be bold and expectant because You have built the capacity for strength right into our hearts. In Jesus name, Amen.

 

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Guard Your Heart

heart 2There are many verses in the Bible about the heart. The emphasis is: that above all things that have to be guarded, keep and guard your heart.

The “heart” is the seat of our affections and moral consciousness. It is the seat of our spiritual life. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it flows the issues of life.”  Why? The conjunction “for” introduces the reason.

The heart is like a fountain,  what it is full of will spring forth.  All the issues we carry affect our spiritual lives. The word “issues” means: boundaries, borders and deliverance.   We wear what is in our hearts, even when we try to hide it.

I recently met a friend who I’d not seen in seven years.  She exclaimed, “Praise the Lord, you look wonderful. I saw a picture of you after your husband died and it didn’t even look like you.”  She was right. Sadness filled my heart, and colored my countenance.

heart 1Guarding your heart isn’t limited to resisting sin. I had to guard my heart when it was broken.  Staying close to Jesus was so important.  Reading His word wasn’t easy because it was hard to focus at first, but the Holy Spirit brought back to my remembrance the verses I’d stored in my heart. Part of guarding my heart was to stay close to friends and family, and if I felt I was becoming overwhelmed I visited a Christian counselor.  I needed plenty of rest and nutrition, too.  All these factors helped keep my heart in the hands of the Lord.

When my son Kyle was seven, we redecorated his bedroom in red, white and blue.  My father helped me hang wallpaper on two walls and then I got the idea to paint a HUGE soldier on the wall over his bed.  It stood eight feet tall!  But there was a problem.  Kyle couldn’t go to sleep with that giant staring down at him.

soldier over bedThe soldier took priority over everything else in that room.  You couldn’t miss it. To me, it was as if the soldier was guarding my child as he slept. Kyle didn’t agree.  That soldier had to die.

The Good News is that as God’s children, we have the Presence of the Lord, and His peace, standing tall in our hearts.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Our family made all our decisions based on the peace of God. One time, we were all dressed, in the car ready to go, when  Bill announced, “I don’t feel peace.  We’re not going.”  So, we all went inside – no questions asked.

Having a lack of peace saved my son’s life.  Kyle was ready to turn down the usual street on his way home, but he said,  “I don’t know, Mom, I suddenly felt un-peaceful so I went a different way.  A sixteen year old boy was killed on that road, moments later! The devil was out to kill a kid that day and the peace of God saved mine,

Father, teach us how to guard our hearts and be tuned into Your peace.  In Jesus name, Amen

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The Built-in Instinct

We have a wonderful promise in Ezekiel 36:26: “I (God) will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” (NLT)

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He promises to take our stony hearts and transform them by the working of His Holy Spirit.

I can remember times in our marriage when our hearts were not tender and responsive to each other. Sometimes we just needed to give each other a little space.  But if it lasted more than a couple days we made a point of discussing it. We learned that at the foot of the cross everything is made new.  Every time we did, God responded and softened our hearts again.

How does the Bible describe this new heart?  Psalm 27 gives us a beautiful picture of the heart transformed by God.

A strong heart:  “…the Lord is the strength of my life.”

love 1Our hearts have built-in potential for strength.  It is God’s will, so He has given us the capacity to become people with strong hearts of faith. When we feel weak and torn, we can go to the Lord with confidence that He make us strong so we can say with David, “the Lord is the strength of my life.”

A confident heart: ” . . . tho war should rise against me, in this will I be confident . . .” “this” is referring back to what David said in 27:1  “The Lord is my light and my salvation: who shall I fear?”

There’s a lot going on in this country, and the world, to give us fearful, anxious hearts.    But the confident heart trusts in the Lord.  He is our light (the God who wants to be seen) and our salvation. 

The word salvation means much more than being saved when we die. The Strong’s Concordance defines salvation: saved, saving, deliverance, rescue, safety, welfare, safety, prosperity, and victory.

A seeking heart: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.” (Ps 27:4)

David knew his strength came from God’s presence.

God has designed our hearts to hunger for His Presence.

When we ignore that built-in instinct to fellowship with God, we go straight into the land called : I’m-miserable-and-I-don’t-understand-why. I wonder how much of our stress and unhappiness as Christians comes from the fact that we have not listened to our heart crying for fellowship with God.  We’ve settled for religion instead of relationship.

I believe now more than ever the enemy is working to silence the cry of our hearts for more of God.  I know from my experience how difficult it is to find time to pray.  The distractions are many, the noise of the world has grown to shrill proportions. We are pulled here and there, and it’s easy to ignore the ONE thing that will bring peace.

We can’t ignore our built-in instinct and expect to be happy.

Father in Heaven, thank you for Your loving care, for teaching and training us to have strong, confident, seeking hearts. We take refuge in You perfect salvation.  Continue to draw us, O Lord.  Continue to make us hunger and thirst for You.  In Jesus name, Amen.

sing heart song 2 

 

 

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God of Breakthrough

It happens fast. The last roar of winter spreads snow across your tired, gray world and suddenly, with one sunny day everything is green.

New life emerges from the center of death. Newness from bleak sameness.  A long awaited breakthrough.

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The bitter cold has receded and I am finally able to  sit on the porch swing again.  It’s glorious to have my face bathed in the sunlight and hear the sound of the birds.  Yesterday, I turned my head and spotted the daffodils along my walk.

“When did that happen!” I exclaimed.  It seemed like over night.

daffodiles 1This was such a long, hard winter.  Everyone has been waiting, enduring, for a breakthrough and suddenly spring is here.

Breakthrough: the sudden, dramatic, and important development, an improvement, progress, headway, or step forward.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  I know what it is to long for breakthrough. To endure something that feels unending until you’re worn thin, or worse, you feel like giving up.  I still have areas in my life that waits for that blessed change.

DSC04474I think about the woman with the issue of blood.  She endured twelve years of physical and social suffering – then Jesus passed by.  She crawled across the ground, stretched out her hand with as much energy as she could muster, touched the hem of His garment, and her breakthrough came. (Luke 8: 43-48)

Did you know that the corners of the prayer shawl worn in those days, called the Tallit, is  also referred to as wings.

It is believed that she touched the “wings” of his Tallit.  Perhaps she had faith in the promise of Malachi 4:2 that the Messiah would come with “healing in his wings”.

Her faith was so strong that Jesus knew her touch was different from the pressing in of the crowd.  “Who touched me?” he said.  He felt “virtue” go out of him.

Jesus said, “Daughter, be of good cheer: your faith hath made you whole; go in peace”.

I can only imagine how her life changed after that moment.  Her long-awaited breakthrough had come.  She was a new woman.

I want to encourage you today not to give up on your breakthrough.  God is the God of breakthrough.  He wants each of us to step forward in the fullness of His destiny for us.

“For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle dove is heard in our land . . .arise, my love, my fair one, and come away (with me).”  Song of Solomon 2:11-13

 Holy Spirit, please reach across the miles and touch my friends.  I believe You for breakthrough in the name of Jesus. Breakthrough in health. Breakthrough in relationships. Breakthrough for that needed job.  We ask all this in the precious name of Jesus.  Amen.

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There’s a Whole Lot of Crowin’ Goin’ On

DSC04421There’s a whole lot of crowin’ going on – have you heard it?

Kyle’s farm is coming alive with the sunshine and change in temperature.  We are gathering tons of organic, free-range eggs.

Early in the morning you can hear the roosters crowing.  They don’t stop when the sun is full.  They crow just because they can.  But, the truth is, they’re afraid when you approach them and quickly take off running.

I hate to liken one of God’s creatures to Satan, but as far as the crowing goes, the devil crows just because he can, too.  That is, unless we tell him to be quiet in Jesus name.  Then, his true colors are revealed and he takes off running just like the big-boy in this picture.

DSC04422“Submit therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you. . .” (James 4:7)

If we give him a foothold he will surely take it – just because our silence tells him he can.

If you’ve followed my blogs long enough you’ll know I’ve battled with anxiety since my husband passed.  Part has to do with grief.  C.S. Lewis wrote that grief feels very much like fear.  But, part has to do with the enemy taking advantage of my weakness to torment me. (he has no sympathy for mourners)

Remember: he often speaks to us in the first person.  Instead of accusing us “you are  . . .” he’ll plant his fear thoughts “I am  . . .”

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will no let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

I walked over to the farm today and spent a little time watching one rooster strut around as if he owned the entire barnyard. Then, he’d stretch out his neck and break out in the loudest, up-close crow you’ve ever heard.   It was as if he was saying,  “This is my domain.  I rule.  I’m king.”

Farmer, Kyle, would tell you different.

DSC04415The enemy is like a roaring lion, but he is a defeated foe.  Nothing can touch us as God’s kids unless we let him crow in our face without taking action.

If you’re like me, we forget that we’re at war.  We entertain the enemies lies much longer than we should before taking action.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s might hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6)

“Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Here’s a friendly smile from Mr. Floppy!

DSC04428Father, please make us more aware when we are being tempted to believe lies. Remind us to put on the armor You have given us.  Make us more sensitive to Your Holy Spirit and able to hear His warnings.  Thank you, in Jesus name.

 

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Get Off the Train

DSC04068I woke up this morning with a whirlwind of stinkin-thinking going off in my thinking.   It was a flurry of fear-driven thoughts, a barrage of: you-shoulds, you’re NOT, you’re missing the mark.

I’m sure, if you’re still breathing out there, you know just what I mean.

My husband used to tell me, “just breathe, you’re thinking too much.”  He was my down-load station.

My son stopped in for coffee, noticed my unrest, and lovingly listened as I downloaded my “whirlwind”.  Then he said, “You just need to get off the train, Mom.”

That was totally the Lord speaking through him.

You see, years ago I had a vision:  I was sitting on a fast-moving train with bunches of people.  Everyone had their faces set forward, sure they were going the right direction.  They had their five-year business plan, their forecast of the next ten years to build their businesses or ministries. It was a fast track into what they perceived was a successful future.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement out the window.  I turned my head to see what it was and saw Jesus leading a little band of sheep up over a hill.

Terror gripped my heart.  Everything in me wanted to be where He was, but I was caught up on this train.

“I need to get off the train,” I cried.  Then the vision was over.

DSC04067Peace is the key.  If you have it . . . keep going.  If you don’t . . . get off that track.

Never mind how the world defines success.  If Jesus isn’t in it – you don’t want it.

I know it’s difficult to see, or hear, His leading at times.  Like my morning, we can be in a whirlwind of thoughts, kicking up the dust of worry, until we are sure we’re in trouble.

But Jesus.

I love the story of the women caught in the act of adultery. (John 8:1-11) She was surrounded with accusers.  “Stone her,” cried the voices.

Sometimes our circle of accusers are all in our head!

But there was one face in the crowd that day that did not condemn her.  One face, full of love, giving her hope for the future.  One face, full of forgiveness, saying “I do not condemn you, go and sin no more.”

lovely 2It’s all about Jesus.  The answer to all our confusion.  He is the smiling face in our lives.  He is the voice that offers hope and acceptance.  He is the Shepherd who will never stop leading us.

We just have to keep our eyes on Him, our ears tuned to His voice alone.

“Okay, honey . . . breathe . . . and just follow Me.”

Father, thank you that You don’t condemn us when we get caught in the trap of stinkin’ thinking.  You clear the dust away and give us the lift we need to soar again.  You are the path of peace.  Help us to always hear Your voice and recognize when we’re being snared by the world, the flesh or the devil.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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Oh the Wonder of Wonder

 

I don’t usually share videos on my blog, but occasionally one grabs me and I just have to share it.

This happy little baby experiences rain for the first time is a perfect example of wonder.

Wonder: a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.

I remember when I was first saved.  My Bible was a wonder.  Learning about God was the most joyful, most beautiful, inexplicable experience of my life.  I hunted for every opportunity possible, in my busy life with two small kids, to separate myself and be with Him.  I hung on every word from the pulpit, was the first to arrive and the last to leave every service.

I remember when I started journaling – I never missed a day.  I filled notebook after notebook with prayers and the amazing promises I discovered in the Word.  I played my guitar for hours singing the music that sprang from every verse I read.

I remember driving great distances to get to a special service. I sat in non air-conditioned churches, not caring that my clothes were sticking to the shellac on the benches, because I was hungry for more . . . anything more I could learn about Jesus.

I remember the thrill of having a preacher prophesy over me for the first time.  “God is sending you out . . .”  ME?  Wow, yes, yes, yes.

I remember . . . the wonder . . . and it makes me so sad.

I remember the wonder of my husband’s first kiss.  The smell of his cheek, the color of his eyes.  I remember every hair and every little wrinkle on his face.  I never lost the wonder of looking at him.

I remember how it felt when we brought our first son home from the hospital – the love mixed with terror as I considered the awesome task of being a mother.  The wonder of this tiny creature looking at me . . . calling me Mom.  It was wonderfully terrifying.

Too often we settle for life that contains no wonder at all.  Perhaps we believe that it is only for the young? I don’t want to settle for a wonder-less life.  Do you?

Is it possible to catch the wonder again?  To be like this little child in the rain?  Do we have to be grown-up all the time?  Do we  have to settle?

I love the wonder of  my grandkids.  My littlest Mr. Stevens, age 3, loves to make up silly songs like:  “Hocky-locky mooka-mook eeee- thhhhhsp”  Then he wants me to imitate what he has said – or – even better, start my own silly song that he can imitate.

I love the wonder of watching them grow, stretching up to become their own unique individual full of talents and abilities far surpassing their grandmother.

I love the wonder of those years when words got mixed up like: “hicken-hoop” (chicken soup), and “poisy-ivan” instead of poison ivy.  I loved it when my kids said “spiss-getti” and “kippa-tee”  (christmas tree).

Wonder . . . a God gift too easy to lose, too easy to forget that we don’t have to live without it.

Father, bring the wonder back in our walk with You.   Show us how to find the wonder in life no matter what season we are in.  Help us stay young at heart and never lose the joy of a walk in the rain.  Amen.

 

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God’s Ah-ha Moment

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“Ohhhhh . . . I get it.” I heard my grandson say over his math homework.

There’s nothing sweeter than a revelation. Suddenly, your brow smooths out, a smile breaks across your face, understanding has come.  Bliss.

It’s like this: Revelation

What is a revelation?  “It’s a surprising and previously unknown fact.  The divine or supernatural disclosure to humans of something relating to human existence or the world.” (Dictionary)

Have you ever had an ah-ha moment with God?  I love it when He illuminates the Scriptures and something I might have read over and over suddenly comes alive in a new way.  It makes me want to jump up and preach.  It’s when His Holy Spirit turns the written word (logos) into the speaking word (rehma).  That’s when it becomes a “kiss” to our hearts.

The Bible talks about all sorts of kisses.  The kiss of a friend, a parent, even an enemy.  But, there is one kiss that is saved for the expression of love between a husband and wife.  The kiss of betrothal as in the Song of Solomon.

“Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth, for Your love is better that wine.”  Song 1:2

Is it possible God wants to “kiss” us.  How?

It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which goes out through God’s mouth”  (Matthew 4:4)

Words are the fruit of our lips.  God’s Word is the fruit of God’s mouth . . . the fruit of His lips.  When we embrace God’s Word into the intimate chambers of our heart, it is like a “kiss” to our spirits from the Lord. But, there’s even more . . .

The word “kiss” obviously means: to touch with the lips as a sign of love, reverence, or greeting.  But the Hebrew definition adds another dimension. It means to equip with weapons.

Jesus models it for us: When He was tempted in the desert, Jesus used the Word (the fruit of His lips) to rebuke Satan when He said, “It is written.”

DSC04070It made me wonder if it was possible to “kiss” God.  I found three ways:

1. The definition of the word worship is to kiss toward!  Wow. That means when we worship Him we are sending Him kisses.  Think about that a minute.

2. “Every man shall kiss his lips who gives a right answer.”   When we lift God’s Word (our right answer) back to Him, we are also sending Him kisses.  And, in our relationships, when we answer honestly, with integrity, from a pure heart, we delight the Lord with sweet kisses.

3. “Through Him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of (our) lips giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15)  When we give thanks, we are sending Him kisses.

There is so much here.  I hope you have a “ah-ha” moment as your read this. Isn’t it proof that God wants intimacy with us.  This is the place of deepest joy and satisfaction this side of Heaven.

 Father, please open the Word to us.  Enlighten our hearts with Your Spirit today. May be lean in for Your kiss.  In Jesus name, amen.

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A View From the Porch Swing

IMG_9856-2I’ve been working on my book: A View From the Porch Swing.  It is a series of stories off the pages of my journey as a widow.  This is from the first chapter.  I thought you might enjoy a taste.  I’m hoping to make great progress this summer and finish it. (but that’s what I said about this winter) Prayer is appreciated.

This is two-blogs in length, but here goes:

A Swing And A Prayer

I didn’t have a shred of hesitation about buying the swing. It was so exciting. For
40-years I’d held in my “wiggle” so my husband could sit without moving, but when they wheeled out the huge carton with my swing in pieces my heart sank. It never occurred to me it would need assembling – that was always Bill’s job.

Little did I know I was coming up against a common problem for widows: the awkwardness of asking for help.

From other widows I’ve talked to, this is an ongoing predicament. That’s why the invitation to “call anytime if you need help” often goes unanswered. It’s very difficult not to feel like a bother when you know that the person you are asking works all week and only has one day off to relax and do the chores needed at their house.

Few of us are in the position to hire someone to do all the things our spouses did. I don’t have trouble asking for help in emergencies, it’s the daily stuff that frustrates me: like getting on a ladder to change a bulb in the ceiling light, or moving something cumbersome.

I’m sure my son remembers the time I called him in a tizzy convinced the house was sinking because the bedroom door wouldn’t close.

“Maybe the house has shifted and the door frame warped, or maybe the hinges got bent somehow.”

“I’ll come and check it,” he said.

An hour later he lumbered in, walked directly over to the door, bent down and picked up a tiny Lego piece wedged at the bottom.

“Here you go.”

“WHAT? That’s IT? I’ve been hammering on the hinges sure that they are bent.”  My eyes filled with tears. “How humiliating to make you come all the way over here for this. Sorry, I just never saw it.”

“No worries,” he said, wrapping his arms around me.

“I miss your father so much.”

“Me too,” he said softly as he walked to the door. “I can’t stay now, Mom, but I’ll call you tomorrow.”

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The box with the swing was too heavy to lift, so I dragged it across the driveway. Just then my mother-in-law materialized in the doorway.

“WATCH YOUR BACK. Call KYLE,” she called. “You can’t put that together yourself, YOU’LL GET HURT!”

“I’m NOT going to bother him again,” I clipped.

“Suit yourself,” she replied closing the door.

“Lord help me,” I muttered.

It took two hours, but alas, in the middle of my garden sat my beautiful swing. It was better than I imagined. But, after a few mornings being rudely startled by dewy, rain-soaked cushions, I decided to take off the awning and move it on the porch.

I studied the swing carefully, trying to determine my strategy. There was no way I was going to disassemble it, but I could remove the awning. Not thinking, I unscrewed the sides just as a sudden gust of wind whipped one end out of my hand, and the metal frame cracked me in the mouth.

The door opened again. “MARJORIE, you’ll be as stiff as a board tomorrow.”
She silently observed my lip.  “Call KYLE!” she yelled.

Her comment gave me just the determination I needed.  I gave the swing a big yank. Thankfully, she didn’t witness my next stunt as I lodged the swing between the house and the Japanese Maple.

Finally, fat lipped and disgusted, I called my neighbor. “Can you come-b hel-b me?” I asked.

“What’s wrong with your mouth?” she said.

“I hit my li-bib. Can you help-b me moo-b something?”

She laughed. “You sound like Bill Cosby! Let me finish up what I’m doing here and I’ll pop over.”

For the next two hours I avoided Bamma while I iced my lip. I didn’t want to hear it.
This was another rude awakening: waiting for help, and living with “I told you so.”

Having to ask people really pricked my sense of independence, and made me feel uncomfortably vulnerable, but waiting until it was convenient for them was going to prick my patience.

One anxious thought pulled on another: what will I do about cleaning the gutters? What if the car battery needs charging? What if the toilet overflows? By the time my neighbor came I was all tearful again.

“Why do you want to move that big thing on the porch?” she said as she walked down the sidewalk. “Is it gonna fit?”

“Hi . . . wet cushions. . . I neb-er measured.”

She spotted my lip and rolled her eyes, “Oh, geez, why didn’t you call me earlier? Look at you.” We both started laughing at this point. “Come on, let’s do this.”

After about ten minutes of grunting and tugging, we were able to hoist the ginormous swing frame on the porch.

“It fits!” I shrieked.

“Lucky for you,” she said laughing. “Have you been crying again? Your eyes are as puffy as your fat lip.”

“How am I going to lift the air-conditioner into the window when it gets hot?” I blurted out.

She stared blankly at me for a minute. “What are you worried about that for? It’s September. I know, everything is very overwhelming now, but one day at a time,” she said. “Look, I know it’s easy for me to say that, but that’s all you can do. We love you. People will help you.” She gave the cushion one last tug, “Looks great. Sorry, I can’t stay, I’m cooking something. Call me if you need any more help.”

I watched her cross the lawn and disappear around the corner of her house. She was a good friend. I was grateful to have her nearby. Reaching for my Bible, I randomly opened to Matthew 6: 33-34: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be given to you . . . do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

It’s amazing how appropriate that verse was for the moment. It gave me a deep peace to know God is involved with every detail of my life . . .  but I was also very aware that I was the only one sitting on the swing.

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God Makes It Happen

DSC04026 We all have specific things in our lives that drive us to our knees.  Mine is: my kids, and going out in ministry.

I just spoke Sunday at Bergen Presbyterian Church.  I had been a part of their Week of Renewal tent meetings for ten years, in the eighties. I was their official “songbird.”  They knew me for my singing.

What do you think they were expecting when the headlines read: Marji Stevens Returns To Bergen?  The Song Bird – not an Old Bird. (giggle)

I was intimidated by my own reputation!  That’s different.

Singing has been so dead and buried, too physically painful to perform anymore. Rarely can I even sing in church without shooting pains in my jaw and tongue, neck, head, not to mention my shoulder (still healing).  But yesterday . . . I sang with a voice twenty years younger than me.

How many of us are still learning:

When God wants you to do something, He makes it happen.

I sang like a seasoned songbird.  Painlessly.
The problem is, when I’m not anointed, it hurts.  So,
I’m inclined to not practice.  Guess what?  When God wants you to do something, He makes it happen – even DSC04028when I don’t practice daily, like I used to.

The pastor gave me two hours to minister !  I’d planned to show a Stories with Mimmy, to break up the time, but the sound didn’t work.  Not what He wanted, I guess.  I was so peaceful about it, the woman in charge of sound, threw her arms around me relieved I wasn’t upset.

You’ll understand I hope, that it was all God, when I say they were captivated.  No one nodded off (and the average age was over seventy) No one even fidgeted.  They never moved.  One man had his eyes wide and his mouth open the whole time!  I wanted to stick a mirror under his nose, or yell: “somebody make that man blink!”

God just wants us to be ourselves. He wanted me to tell stories, encourage people to draw closer to Him, and believe that the Creator wants each one of us to be creative – in many more ways than just the arts.

There’s nothing quite like a good story.

DSC04029It never ceases to amaze me about the power of a story.  One woman told me she remembered a story I told, twenty-five years ago, about the day I announced to Bill that I’d had the eight inch hole in the wall upstairs fixed, as a surprise; and He replied, “what hole?

I also brought watercolors and showed them how the Lord sparked my quiet time by expressing my devotion to Him through art.

Believe me, if you knew how nervous I was the entire week before, you would know I am not bragging, I’m amazed.  God came through. I don’t know why it always surprises me.

Each time my insides tell me I should retire – the Lord shows me again: I was born to do this, until I the day I die.

Father, thank you.  Help us all to rest in You.  To trust the gifts You have placed inside each one of us.  To believe – to the point of peace – that when You call us to do something, You will be the first one to show up and make it happen.  Thank you for Your fathomless faithfulness.  We love You, Father, Holy Spirit, Blessed Jesus.  Amen.

 

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Where the Life Is

chapel painting 100One of my favorite things to do was take a walk with my husband, Bill.  He was a real outdoorsman.  We’d head out into the field side by side  . . . but then something would change.

My expectations went like this: we’d walk hand in hand down the well-travelled paths on the waterline.  He would pause, take my face in his hands, whisper how beautiful I am, and then kiss me passionately.   (NOT)

Taking a walk with Bill Stevens went like this:  “Wear your high boots it’s gonna be muddy.”

There was nothing that resembled a path.  He’d begin winding through the burdock and tall grass, staying at least ten feet in front of me.  Occasionally, he’d glance back to see if I’d gotten tangled in the briar bushes or strung up by my my hair on some branch.

Too often I came home disappointed.  I tried to pull him aside for a kiss, but it was always a peck followed by, “Let’s keep going.” . . . sigh

Bill knew what he was doing.  He was going off the beaten path looking for signs of animal life.  We’d go where the deer had bedded down for the night.  We looked for buck rubs and scrapes.  We examined all the droppings. He could recognize what animals did what and tell me about their diet.  (it was rich, girls)

I was chatty.  He was silent.  I was huggy.  He was mission minded. I finally had to accept that if I wanted to go for a walk with Bill, I’d have to be like one-of-the-guys. You know how hard that is?  I thought we were bonding, he was hunting for animal poop!

“Shhhh,” he’d whisper.  “I think they’re just over there.  Walk softly.”

Many times we spooked out deer and then have the thrill of watching them go bounding away.

On one trip, down in the Southern Tier, he put me in a deer stand eight feet up in a tree.  “Stay here and watch. I’ll be back for you. Don’t try to get down.”

“But . . . .?”  There I’d be.  In a tree.  With my New Testament, and an apple.  I was fine until it started getting dark and the wind kicked up.  I could almost see the headlines:  “Woman’s skeleton found in a tree, in the middle of nowhere, with a Bible and apple core.  Could it be another way to kill your lover?”

I could write a book about dying to my expectations.  But the Lord always taught me things through my husband.  Rich life lessons, like:

Walking with God might take you where you never expected, but He’ll always lead you to where the life is.

Religion makes Christianity boring.  Walking with the Holy Spirit is a walk of adventure, creativity, and joy.  Even through thorns and briars, or across the valley of death.  It may be off the beaten path, but it will be straight to where the Life is.

Father, I pray that You will spark the devotional life of every person reading this blog today.  Ignite our sense of adventure.  Scrape away the dross, the dead wood, the religious encumbrances.  We want to dance again.  In Jesus name, we will.  Amen.

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Grouchy? Try This

You know you’re doing something fun when your grandson begs for a repeat.  Well, he won, and this is what transpired.

A discussion with Mimmy about being grouchy:

Mimmy 100

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The Place Outside of Time

Nothing You can't handle 72For the past week, I’ve awakened each night at exactly 3:30.  The first night, I wandered the house not realizing the Lord was calling me.

The second night, at the exact time, I was awakened again.  I got up, walked around checking things, then crawled back into bed with my I-pad.  Recently, I discovered that Youtube has videos from the revival meetings in Toronto. that’s when I discovered Ruth Fazel  She leads worship often, and wow.  So unlike what I’m used to hearing lately.

Her violin work is astounding, and the Presence of the Holy Spirit is almost tangible.  If you click on her name above, it will take you to a short video of her instrumental music and the artwork of David Costello.  She sings straight from the Word.

John 1:37   “And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.  Then Jesus turned, and see them following,  said to them, “What do you seek?”  They said to Him,  “Rabbi, where are You abiding?”  

“He said to them, “come and see . . . .””

Not to the multitudes, but to those who press in, they will find where He is abiding.

   “They came and saw where he was staying, and remained with Him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.”

Why does the Holy Spirit put the “tenth hour” there?  The Bible is full of “pointers”, information we tend to skip over, like this, but I believe they are meant to point us to rich truth.

The number 10 is the number signifying divine perfection, when the cycle is complete from time historically.  The place of abiding is a place where we find our completion, separate from a calendar “day”, we are beyond time and space, where God lives.  The Now-day of abiding with Him.

Abiding with Jesus, we enter a place outside of time – a taste of heaven, a glimpse at eternity.  The stress of this world falls away and we are restored.

He is inviting us to “Come and See.”  Here’s another great clip with Ruth leading.

Father, we are hungry for Your Presence.

Give thanks WC-tangle 72

 

 

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Royalty with A Bended Knee

DSC03951I haven’t been on the front porch facing our road since last fall.  Today it was bathed with sunlight in the late afternoon. I pulled the draft stoppers away from the bottom of the front door, tugged on the antique lock and finally yanked it open.

The warmth spilled in like a long-awaited embrace.

I sat on the rickety wicker chair and positioned myself so that the sunlight drenched my face.  Soon my coat was off, and amidst the snow-covered scenery, I bathed in the glorious, warmth of the sun.

We can’t live without sunlight. Hormones, neurotransmitters, growth factors, and the genes that regulate all living organisms are totally dependent on the availability of sunlight.

DSC03944 All of creation has a rhythm that is dependent upon sunlight.  It “helps prevent and treat depression and sadness.  The brain begins producing the mood-influencing chemical called serotonin upon first exposure to light in the morning.” (Ask)

Sun-light, Son-light we need them both to survive.

This has been a very long season with grey upon grey.  Everyone has their faces turned toward the hope of  spring.

Sitting in the sun rays, I thought about the quote in John’s gospel when Jesus said:  “I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall no walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Then in Matthew it says, WE are lights in the world, a city on a hill.

We can go to the word of God and find light, but to BE a light requires rebirth because it’s something you have to be born into.

When I was a teenager, my father used to say, “When you walk into a room, remember you are George Fine’s daughter.”  He wanted me to walk tall, be on my best behavior because I was a part of the Fine family and carried its name.  In other words, don’t get in trouble because you represent the family.  I didn’t get it then.

But lets rethink this idea in terms of today’s thought: When you walk into a room, remember the Light of the world, is your Father.  Never lose sight of that truth.

DSC03948Jesus wants to set us on a lamp stand so we can “give light to all who are in the house.”

How do you walk?  Are your shoulders back, your head high?  Not in arrogance, but with humble Christ confidence.

Do you cower in awkward situations, buckle under pressure, say “I can’t”  or do you stand in the confidence that you are God’s child?

As God’s children, we are royalty with a bended knee.

“Awake you that sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” Ephesians 5:14

“You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show for the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.   1 Peter 2:9

Father, help us to walk with a keen sense that we belong to You.  We are not our past.  We are reborn into a royal priesthood.  Help us to find the blend of pride in who we are in Christ and humility because You’ve called us to serve.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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Heart Throb’s Encouragement

workbench 2014Three-year old Heart Throb was at my house yesterday.  We were plotting our playtime.

First, we made towers with blocks.  He looked at mine and said, “That’s fantastic.”

Then as we each scrambled to put together one of his primary puzzles, he observed my progress and said, “That’s a good job, Mimmy.”

“Why thank you,” I responded immediately wanting to put together another one.

I was having a  flare up of Fibro that day and whenever there was a lull I’d lie down on the couch.

“Mimmy’s back hurts today, I’m sorry I can’t get on the floor with you.”

“That’s okay,” he sighed quite bored with my unfunny behavior.

After letting me rest for ten minutes he announced, “Let’s have a show!” And ran for the radio.

Good, I thought, I’ll lie here and watch.

Once he’d settled on a static-y music channel, Heart Throb announced, “You go first.”

“I don’t know what to do . . .show me.”

“You do this . . .” and he went into a flurry of gyrations that hurt just watching.

“Wow, you’re a good dancer. Why don’t you be the entire show and I’ll watch you,” I said hopefully.

“NO, it’s your turn,” he insisted.

I groaned and got off the couch.  I wiggled a little, but didn’t attempt his floor work.

“See, Mimmy, you can do it.” He clapped. “Good job,” he said like a parent.

DSC01598I thought, I should record this so I can play it back for myself when the house is still and I’ve had my allotment of Advil for the day.

Echoing in the distance I remembered, “You’re amazing,” as my mind raced back to memories of Bill.  He always knew how to encourage me.

I don’t know how people live without encouragement. Heck, I’ll even take it from a three-year old.  Usually, all we need is someone to notice we’re trying.  It’s amazing the reaction I get from my grandkids when I start my sentence like this: “You know what I like about you?”

Heart Throb started yawning.    “Well, I see it’s time for our nap,” I said, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically.  All I could imagine was the pillow and comforter and a chance for an hour snooze.

He looked at me like I’d lost my marbles.  “You just had your nap!?!”

Then it dawned on me.  One way I get him to lie down for a nap is to tell him Mimmy’s tired. He soon falls asleep beside me, then I get up and get a few things done.  It’s worked like magic.

I guess he’s been thinking all those naps he’s taken at my house were just for my benefit.

Well, Heart Throb, wasn’t about to submit to another nap for Mimmy.  It made me wonder for a moment: Who’s taking care of Whom here?  

On the way home we stopped for gas and some pretzels to take home.  Heart Throb spotted a bag of powdered donuts and held them to his chest.

“No, honey, we’re not buying those today – just pretzels.”

“But WE NEED THESE!” he bellowed.  That’s when I had to clarify Who was taking care of Whom.

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