Do You Need Wings?


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Do you have a place in your house piled high with junk you don’t know what to do with? How would you feel if someone came along who promised to totally rearrange things for you?  Someone who will permanently haul it all away, fill the space with beautiful new things,  and promise never to tell anyone how bad it was to start with?  Sounds good to me.

God promises to put you heart and life in order, and ornament it with goodness.

“Do not let your beauty (or handsomeness) be that outward adorning of arranging the hair, of wearing gold, or of putting on fine apparel;  but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 3:3-4 NKJ)

Think about it! God is clearly defining for us what He calls precious.

First, the fact that it’s mentioned in the Word, says to me, it’s something God wants for us.  He wants to ornament our hearts.  That means to arrange and put in order. And, it’s incorruptible, not subject to death or decay.

Gentle is the opposite of a clutching, grabbing spirit.  It’s an inviting grace of the soul.

The world says strive, push, grab, get your hands on as much as you can.  Never mind if you lie, ruin relationships and run over people.  As long as you get what you want, go for the gusto, be all that you can be because YOU being HAPPY is all that matters.

Unfortunately, in the Kingdom it’s NOT about YOU. When we put God first, He takes care the rest.  No one wants you to succeed more than God does.

Years ago, I’d look at big ministries and think that’s what success looks like. The Lord patiently taught me that was incorrect.  The unique expression of His character, meant for each of us to exhibit, must grow from the inside out. It can’t be forced.  A blossom forced dies quickly.

Quiet means to keep one’s seat, to hold your ability or possession.

Gentleness and quietness is not repressed expression or forced submission.  It’s strength without boastfulness.  Strengths laid down sprout wings.

When we are pushed to our limits, but hold on white-knuckled to the hand of God . . . that’s precious in the eyes of God.

When enemies attack and we hold on with tenacity to the word of God . . . that’s precious in the sight of God

When everything looks bad and we can still say, “God has a plan and I choose to trust Him”. . . He calls that precious.

hope whispers 72When life pushes you to the edge of your seat . . . don’t give-up, . . .  God is at work!

Lord, give us Your gentle and quiet spirit.  We want to be precious in your sight. Thank you, Father, for new hearts and the promise of incorruptible beauty.  You are so good, and we’ll be careful to give You the praise and glory for every good thing we see.  Amen.

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Don’t judge a church by its Building!

DSC02676 -2It was a lovely church.  I was especially relieved to see how beautiful it was after viewing the picture Google maps had on file.  There’s an old building, in the lot before the church,  it looks like an abandoned bar.

“Now Marj,” I lectured myself.  “You have no idea how God might be moving in this country _____ church?  Don’t judge a church by its cover.”

The building was there – just like google had it – only the church was in the next lot.  Phew. I’ve been on many adventures in my day, but I was sure this one was going to top them all.

Well, you can’t judge a church by its building – but this one surely lived up to it’s fine appearances.

There are always a couple people on each ministry trip I wish I could take home with me.  Women I just know could be close friends.

Leading the way, was a women who definitely did not fit my image of elderly, though she’s eighty-five.  There was nothing elderly about her.

I first saw her from a distance. “Here she is now,” someone whispered.

Lean, elegant, and nearly wrinkle free,  I was amazed when she told me how old she was. I was especially curious to meet the husband.  After just a brief interaction with him, I could understand another reason for this woman’s youthfulness.

A verse instantly came to my mind: “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.”  Here was a man who simply adored his wife.

Their home was filled with wonderful expressions of that love, pictures of family, and keepsakes of their rich relationship.  It made me remember my own.

I met another gem at the retreat. Her marriage was ending.  Still, she wore the countenance of a woman greatly loved. She was Christ’s beloved. You could tell the tokens of His love filled her heart.  I saw courage, great faith, and a heart of mercy.

DSC02677 -2Then there was another women I wished I could have taken home. Our conversation was about shopping and thrift stores. She was a woman of warmth and character and I knew she could be a true walk-along friend to have fun with.

During the service, I hardly looked at my notes.  Every time I tried to I’d get confused.  Jesus wanted me to share from the abundance of my heart heaven’s kisses of Sonshine.

A token is a keepsake of relationship, something that says, “I love you.”  These are the pearls we get to share with the world.  These are the riches of His grace and the fruit of His work in our hearts.

God’s fingerprints were all over the women.  I could see it.  His tokens of love were so evident.  I didn’t have the chance to meet the Pastor, but I could surely tell he was a good man just after meeting the women of his flock.  Thank you, Pastor.

Thank you Jesus.  Thank you, Fluvanna Community Church.  (If you watch the header on their website for a minute my face will show up with samples of the sessions.) Blessings…marji

 

 

 

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“I Can’t Recognize God . . .”

apples of goldHave you ever had someone say, “You just have to trust God,” and inside you’re thinking: “You have NO idea what I’m going through.”

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.…” (Proverbs 25:11-12)  The key is “listening ear,”  timing is everything.

Remember Peter?  He’s on a boat, sees what he thinks is a ghost walking on the waves of a storm, it’s pitch black, he’s exhausted from rowing, and his friends are little help.

Have you been there?  Maybe not the ghost part, but caught in a storm, you’re worn out, afraid, and your friends can’t help? That may not be the time to say, “you just have to trust God,”  even if it’s true.

Maybe the ghost part, for you, is the fact you don’t recognize God’s presence because you’ve never walked in these circumstances before.

lifejacket 100 dpi flatThe biggest storm I’d ever been through was after Bill died. I’d never trusted God in circumstances like this.  His presence often seemed elusive, like a whisper of smoke, I couldn’t recognize Him.

Then He spoke.

When God speaks hope trickles in.  We have a handle to hold on to.  Everything steadies.  Whether it’s a whisper to your heart, or off the pages of His Word, there’s nothing as steadying as a word from God.

My son recently lost his job . . . talk about a storm!  He’s never walked in these circumstances before and his anxiety understandably went through the roof.  But I’ve watched God steady him, whisper hope, each time the waves swell and fear winds blow.  I’m watching a mature man, recognize his God, walking with him.

When I first heard the news, my mind flew to every negative scenario.  What if?  How will they?  Then I remembered learning about the “Always Circle” in my Bridges coaching class:

Stuff always happens in life.

God always has a plan.

We always have a choice.

The first two “always” I can understand, but the third one puzzled me at first. Now I see, we always have a choice to trust God, or not.  We have a choice to fall apart . . . or grab on to the handle of His Word.  We can react in fear . . . or believe God, no matter what your stomach is trying to say.

Anxiety is not our god, to follow after feelings is a mistake.  To judge your circumstances by how you’re feeling about them will get you nowhere. At this point, you might be thinking, “easy for you to say, but you have no idea . . .”

True, but as Peter discovered, the circumstances have nothing on God.  He is not surprised, dismayed, confused or wringing His hands over your life.  He knows where you are and how you’re feeling . . . and He has a plan.

The hard part is waiting until you see it.

Peter learns as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he was enabled to walk on top of his circumstances.  And, good news, even when he took his eyes of the Lord and began to sink, Jesus reached out and pulled him to his feet.

I love the fact that Jesus didn’t scold him for being afraid . . . He helped.

Father, I pray for my friends, and my son.  Please, make yourself visible to them.  Give them all the help they need and show them You’re salvation.  Thank you, that You always surround us with unfailing love.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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Don’t Own Your Fear. . . This Is WAR!

SUN IN LEAVESOur world is changing.  When I walk out of the grocery store with five bags of groceries and it cost me almost $100, believe me, I notice things are changing.

Just listening to world news is enough to turn on the treadmill of fear.  Every friend I know is struggling with something in their lives that can cause severe anxiety. The enemy of our soul is turning up the heat.

I have a friend who is constantly reminding me, “This is war, Marji!”  She can hear when my thoughts are churning.  I’m grateful for her reminders.

We are in a spiritual battle – so do not own your fear.

scarlet faceI’ve watched my Scarlet, the rescue cat, squeeze into a corner on the porch when she sees the big tom cat from the farm coming.  But, all of a sudden, my little pretty kitty will curve her back, stretch as tall as she can, and begin making sounds right out of Jurassic Park.

That old tom cat just turns and runs.

We need to get a little of that gumption in the battles we face.  At least I know I do.  Too often I own my fear, as if there’s something psychologically wrong with me, instead of standing tall to claim the peace and protection God has given.There’s nothing that builds our spiritual muscles like using them.

Do you struggle with fear?  Maybe the oil of His word will sooth your thoughts today:

sheep-anointFor God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32 NIV

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Psalm 34:7 NIV

So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matt 10:31 NIV

Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him. Deuteronomy 13:4 NLT

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NLT

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 NLT

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3 NIV

In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56:4 NIV

He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. Psalm 91:4-8 NLT

They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. Psalm 112:7 NLT

I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear? Isaiah 51:12 NLT

Be not afraid of them [their faces], for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord. Jeremiah 1:8 Amplified

Father, help us not to shrink back in fear at the things coming upon the earth.  Be with our brothers and sisters across the world who are in tribulation.  Pour out Your Spirit, Lord, and bring us all revival.  Come Lord Jesus.  Amen.

 

 

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The Work Out of the Walk

DSC02594

I have a big sign over my door – Simplify.  Strangely, it hangs right near the cabinet that holds my collection of knick-knacks!  LOL

I’m trying to simplify my outer life.  I have my mom’s stuff, Bill’s mom’s stuff, grandma Stevens’ stuff (this house was fully furnished when we moved in) my husband’s stuff and my stuff left over from the store I had.  It has to go!

Now I have a few boarders and they, of course, came with THEIR STUFF!

It’s the inner simplicity that has my focus now. (Next year-another garage sale)

Simple:  Easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty.

Simplicity: the quality or condition of being plain or natural.  Clarity.  Unpretentiousness.

The more I study the simplicity of Christ the more alarmed I get.

This morning the verse on my mind is from Colossians 2:6-7  “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him . . .”

How did we receive Christ?  Did conversion come with a two-inch ‘how-to’ manual?

DSC02595No, though we sometimes act like it did.  We simply said “Yes” to Jesus. 

With the same “yes” we continue, placing all our faith in HIS accomplishments NOT our own.

Jesus has taken the work out of the walk.  Thank you, Lord.

I love the verse above and as I read it in context I see Paul was speaking from a heart of concern for the Laodiceans.

We see the Laodiceans again, later, in Revelations 3:14.  They’re known as the Lukewarm church. . . “I know your works “. . .BUT. . .”you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked ”    Man!  It was as if He was saying:  you are in DEEP need and don’t even know it!

Makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck!

They were deceived in thinking they were okay, but they weren’t.  Then comes the famous verse we all share: “behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

I’ve used this verse when leading someone to Christ. You know . . .”there’s only one door knob . . . it’s on the inside of your heart and only you can open it . . . etc.”

But, it is aimed at those who call themselves followers of Christ but have been lulled into lukewarmness.

I don’t know if I’m lukewarm . . . I may seem on fire to some, but we don’t measure our spirituality by comparing it to our brothers and sisters.  (ie.  I might be lukewarm, but, phew, at least I’m not like that one!)   It’s not our job to say this one is lukewarm, and that one isn’t.  That’s up to Jesus.

Lord, I hear you knocking on the door of our hearts.  We open the door, Papa, and ask You to come in.  We want to feed richly on Your Life.  Please remove every trace of lukewarmness from our hearts.  Help us take one day at a time and follow You .  Forgive us Papa when we grieve Your heart by turning to the world  for what only You can give us.  We love you.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

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There’s GOOD, and Then There’s Good

william

 

 

 

His eight year old hands carefully messaged my hurt shoulder.

“Boy, where did you learn to do this?” I asked.

“I have a gift,” he said.

His answer completely caught me off guard and I  laughed. It was so innocent, so confident.  Was he being funny?  I think so, but what a gem.

It made me wish more people were that confident and innocent, calling the good in themselves, a gift.

A part of living in the simplicity of Christ is the unadulterated certainty that there is nothing “good” in us that isn’t from God.

Luke talks about certain ruler who asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

The title “good” was never used for the most famous rabbis, because it implies reverence.  Jesus, knowing the ruler was seeing him as only a man, replies “Why do you call Me good?” (Luke 18: 19)

We all have commendable qualities, but no one is to be reverenced for them. Only God is Good.

We carelessly call many things “good” when they’re really not.  Like biting into a greasy, fat-ladden, sugar-charged, fried cake, while declaring, “This is GOOD.”

Or we go to a  movie with horrific language and violence, and call it “good” because there aren’t any sex scenes in it.  Is “good” for a Christian that relative?

I know the word is far more watered down than in Jesus’ time, but it’s still defined as something desired, or approved of, possessing or displaying moral virtue, having righteousness, benefit or advantage to someone.

I can think of seven “good” things in my life that are definitely a benefit to me . . . my grandkids.  (Five are due to arrive any minute)

ironing boardWilliam says the funniest things. Last night, I discovered in the night that a cricket had gotten in the house.  In the morning I asked Will,  “Did you hear the cricket chirping last night? I got up to search but couldn’t find it.”

“It’s in the hall,” he said emphatically.  “I saw it.”

“Really?  Where?”

“It went behind your surfboard.”

“What?  You mean the antique ironing board leaning in the corner?”

“Yeah, that ironing board surf thing.”

God is wonderful how He brings a “good” laugh to start the day.

“By the way,” William added, quite amused with himself.  “You snore!”

Father, thank you for every splendid “good” you put in our lives.  Thank you for little children who grace us with their innocence and surprising, uncensored, comments.  You are our GOOD,  Great God.  We are so grateful.  Amen.

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Have We Become Flippant About Repentance?

glasses are dirty 72I was facing the sunshiny window at my son’s house, and my glasses were so dirty I could barely see the presents my grandson was opening (little James is now 12!).

I couldn’t wipe my glasses on my shirt, because it smears the dirt around and scratches the lenses. What I needed was my special cleaner, which of course, I didn’t have with me. The only way I could enjoy the event was to reposition myself away from the light.  Then, I could see just fine.

I’m speaking in Jamestown in two weeks on the Simplicity of Christ. Ever since I picked that topic I’ve been bothered. Studying the subject has really turned the lights on, and I’m able to see how cloudy some of my focus has become.

It’s so easy to settle for the shadows of mediocrity. (which means: of only moderate quality; not very good.)  Then we’re not convicted by the Light.

Could it be that’s why we avoid the Word and prayer?

This morning I read:  “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

I asked myself if I’ve become flippant about repentance, because I know He’ll forgive me. I’ve heard people say (and me too) that repentance means to turn around and go in a different direction.  Sounds simple enough, certainly non-threatening.  Then why do I, so often need to “turn around,” again and again, for the same things?

The word “repent,” has as its root-meaning a sense of pain. The Greek word does imply a change of mind and purpose.  There’s the turn around part, but that alone misses  the truest meaning of the word.

Repentance implies a change of mind and purpose which comes out of deep sorrow and distress over our sin.  Not only because it destroys our souls and clouds our vision, but because it is an offense against God, and is something He hates.

Perhaps we don’t take our sins seriously enough?

“The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand  . . . ” Jesus said.  It’s near. The most blessed state of things is coming after My resurrection.

open door into gardenI believe He is saying: Get ready!  The King is at the door. Turn, leave the world behind.  All that is clouding your vision is carnal, and temporary.  It’s only sand.  It’s a part of the kingdom of this world and it is failing. 

 The Great Deliverer of Daniel and the prophets.  The national Deliverer of the Jews, the Messiah.  The deliverer of John the Baptist, now in the flesh and speaking to us in Matthew . . . calling us to a change of life, to the doctrine of repentance, to a kingdom of purity and holiness, where the King reigns supreme.

There are many meanings to the phrase Kingdom of Heaven, that I don’t understand.  But, for me, I hear Him calling us to take seriously the cloudiness in our vision, and realize our sin can’t be wiped off on the shirt of self-atonement.

I hear Him saying: Why, when you can have the blessings of My Kingdom, do you look for your contentment in the things of this world?

Perhaps you’ll join me with this prayer . . .

Father, I am so deeply sorry for settling for the shadows, for allowing mediocrity to enter my walk of faith.  Change my heart.  I want the simplicity of knowing and following Christ without ‘churchiosity’ and an appearance of godliness without the power.  I want the simplicity of faith in Christ, which is  “a quality of being plain and natural,” uncluttered, unclouded. Give me, and my friends, true repentance.  In Jesus name, Amen.   

 

 

 

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From Misery to Ministry

tea partyJames 1:27  “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

It’s amazing what a little encouragement can do.

It started to pour as the first car came up the driveway.  Umbrellas in hand, the women made their way down the brick path to my door.

The tea party started as more women arrived.  They ranged from 50 to 90.  This was the first widow’s gathering in my home, all from my church.

“We need to know each other,” I said.

I watched their faces as they nibbled on cookies and sipped tea.  They couldn’t have smiled much harder their faces would have cracked.  We heard about how husband’s passed, and recent operations, but mostly the women shared the happy things going on in their lives.

These are brave women, I thought.  They’ve gone from misery to ministry.  A powerful army of prayer warriors, an enormous resource for the church.

I’d made a list of questions to get the conversation going, but they hardly needed them.  “If you were on the Price Is Right, and won what’s behind door #3, what would you like to win?”  “If money was no object, what would you buy?”  “Tell us about a time when you laughed the hardest.”

They wanted to keep passing the question basket around the room.  It was a great last minute idea from the Lord.  I removed all the tables in my studio, brought in chairs, added some flowers and we had the perfect party room.

My friend brought her mother, “It was so good to see mom (90-years) interacting and having a good time.  She loved it . . .”  This made all the cleaning worth it to me.

We didn’t talk about the sad things – though they were mentioned.  Everyone understood each other’s journey was hard, and much was said without words.  We’ve walked in the same shoes, so that made us a unique kind of sisterhood.

teaparty 2I’m hoping to have more teas like this – including more widows.  There are no special ribbons or colors for this cause, but the need is great.  Widows are a rich resource for the church, and they need to have their day in the spotlight.

If you know other widows in the Rochester area who would enjoy the fellowship at a function like this – send me their names and contact information.  I’m planning to have another gathering soon.

 

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This is NOT an advertisement and “free” offer for $39.99 . . . Rid Yourself OF TFH Syndrome!

studio:scarlet 2Scarlet is relentless.  When she wants to be rubbed she’ll walk on my key board . . . -04s85=@#(^%$ until I finally do what she wants.  THEN, if I don’t do it right, she’ll bite me.  She’s got TFF syndrome.

Temperamental Female Feline syndrome.  You can’t find that one in Wikipedia.  Scarlet will let you rub her ears, her head, and the back of her neck, but get near the belly and . . . chomp.

I scold her, but she looks at me as if to say, “Who do you think you are speaking to ME that way. This is MY house.”

Are you liable to unreasonable changes of mood?  Are you easily emotional, mercurial, impatient, touchy, over sensitive?  Especially at 4:00 PM?  Then you might have TFH syndrome. That’s the human version of TFF: Temperamental Female Human syndrome.  (we won’t address the male version today)

My grandkids know this about me. Mimmy gets grouchy at about 4:00.  I explained that’s my low-time of the day when I get tired, especially if I’ve had 3-5 Mimlets ramming around the house all day.  By 4:00 the refrigerator is empty, and so is my energy.  So, maybe I’m more inclined to get nippy, like Scarlet.  I have my limitations.

Will, age eight, reminds me almost every visit. “Mimmy, you get grouchy at 4:00.  Don’t you?”  His little smirk tells me that he enjoys the idea that Mimmy can get ‘naughty’, too.

This past weekend I had five here for most of Saturday.  When the clock struck 4:00 I heard Will say,  “Run for cover!  It’s 4:00.  Mimmy’s grouch is gonna come out.”  They all ran, giggling at their own joke, and hid under the table.

I don’t want to be temperamental.  I don’t LIKE temperamental people. (log-splinter rule)  I’ve learned it’s important not to presume upon my own limitations.

If I feel myself getting touchy I ask myself why.  I have to recognize when I’m trying to push out energy I don’t have.  If I have a late afternoon low-blood sugar  – I need to stop, have a cup of tea, and a little snack.  OR, send the grandkids home at 3:00!

I decided to have a family conference with the kids and ask them what they would suggest to combat the 4:00 grouchies.

PLEASE NOTE:  As I said: I’m NOT going to give you five steps to victory over TFH, heaping more stress and guilt on you.  I’m not going to send you to a website with a 20-minute video and a one-time offer for my new book, along with endless advertisements being sent to your email.  All for only $39.99.

You don’t need that. Let my grandkids give you their wisdom on the subject:

will's faceaveryWilliam (age 8) was the first with a comeback:  “You have to Breathe . . . and think about fairies and butterflies.”

Avery: (age 11) “Take a nap, Mimmy.  You want me to get you a blanket?  We’ll be quiet.”

everett's wisdomEverett (age 6) laughing:  “Get over it.”

I think that says it all! The rest is up to Jesus.

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Who Shrunk My Panty Hose?

sparrow song pic 1“I haven’t gained weight . . . I must have put my daughter’s panty hose in my drawer by mistake.  Oh, wait. . .  I don’t have a daughter.”

Every time I lose weight I get it in my head that I’M NEVER going back again – or should I say UP!  Somewhere an attitude of invincibility creeps in and I begin to entertain the LIE that weight gain is beneath me, no matter how many snack bags I empty.

Complacency is a sneaky thing.  It’s that self-satisfaction, and pride that says: I don’t have to watch what I do, I’m fine as I am.  Complacency always comes with a rude awakening of some sort, like putting on your slim slacks and the zipper won’t move!

“WHAT?  WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?”

My first thought was:  The water must have been too hot.

The second thought: I must have some sort of disease that makes you bloat to ginormous proportions over night.

The third thought: It’s my parents’ fault.  They taught me to clean my plate.

The fourth thought: I’m hopeless.  I might as well enjoy life, eat chips, and forget about it.eating chocolate 72

The fifth thought:  Wonder where I can find a sale on Moo-Moos?

I hope you’re laughing . . . but, if you’re like me, facing the music is always discouraging.  It’s amazing how fast old habits return.

It’s like backsliding.  We don’t wake-up one morning and say, “Today I’m going to back slide.”  It’s a slow, steady slide, that happens whenever we’re complacent about our spiritual life.

This weekend I decided to clean out my closet.  I’d spent a hefty amount on two rolling wicker baskets for the floor of my closet.  One for shoes, one for jeans.  Well, when I removed all the junk I’d piled on top, I noticed an odor. Upon emptying the baskets, I found MOLD!  Dampness had creeped in through the floor boards. The dreaded blue fuzzys had been slowly growing until the underneath side of the baskets were solid mildew.

BOY, did THAT set off a cleaning frenzy!!!

IMG_0669It’s NOT my fault I’m clean.

I didn’t intentionally neglect those baskets.  I didn’t know  that dampness was a problem in my closet. Mildew has no mercy, and birthday cakes have calories even when it is a special occasion.

Oh well, tomorrow I start.

 

 

 

 

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The Missing Ingredient

even nite shall be lite 72There was a man tormented by evil spirits . . . A woman with a fever at the edge of death.  A man with leprosy . . . A paralytic man totally dependent on others . . . A man with a withered hand . . . And that’s just the first two and a half chapters of Mark.

Intense ministry.  These people were desperate . . . and found relief at the feet of Jesus.  Some came to  him . . . some He sought.

I wonder if the missing ingredient today is desperation.  We are so comfortable, so well-fed, so well-stocked.  We say we need Jesus, but we know if he doesn’t supply our needs  . . . we can charge it on our credit cards.

Have you noticed the needs around us are growing?  They seem bigger than ever, more complex, need upon need upon need.  People are crumbling.

I’ve never known desperation, but I have felt desperate.  Facing widowhood, there were times I knew if God didn’t come through for me, I could easily fall into a depression too deep to recover.

I would run to my porch swing for an anguished gulp of God’s comfort, sometimes multiple times in one day. Some days, I barely left my swing.

He always met me there.

We are seeing desperate need in our nation for God’s healing.  We pray for revival but what comes before revival? The awareness that we NEED revival.  We see our sin, but what must happen before we find freedom?  We have to hate that sin enough to be desperate for change.

Jesus is FULL of compassion and always responds to our desperate need for Him.

You’ve probably noticed through reading my blogs that I love definitions.  It helps me contemplate the meaning of a phrase.  Think about this.

Full: containing or holding as much as possible,  completely engrossed with, not lacking any, abounding, abundant.

Jesus is so full of compassion that He can’t hold one drop more.  He is filled with as much compassion as is possible.  He is totally engrossed with our needs and abounding with concern for us.

Jesus is full of  compassion, which means: empathy, pity, feeling, care, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy kindness, and charity.

Now try personalizing these definitions.

Jesus is so full of compassion for you that not one drop more can fit in his cup.  Jesus is abounding with pity, feeling, care, and sensitivity toward you.  Jesus is engrossed with your needs and overflowing with warmth, tenderness, mercy and kindness toward me.

The intensity of the Lord’s ministry has not changed.  He is still seeking the hurting, the ones in need, in darkness, in despair.  He is the God of ALL COMFORT.

Father, our minds can hardly wrap around the size of your love for each of us.  Help us live from that center.  Help us move and relate to others from that center.  Your heart is to hold us, and teach us to become mature disciples, able to dispense the same compassion upon our surroundings.  give us your power and grace.  Thank you for the desperation that drives us to you.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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Papa, Thank you for this day . . .

shadow on chairPapa, thank you for this day, for this week. Thank you for meeting us when we reach out to you, when we seek you. Thank you for the breath you have given us. Thank you for this breath we breathe right now. Thank you for our lives. This is the delight of our life: that we can be near you. You are the one who gave us life and brings us fresh life as we draw near to you. We draw near to you.

We worship you, Lord Jesus. You are the only High King and Lord of lords. You are the darling of Heaven and we love you. We bless your holy name. Jesus, where would we be without you? We remember your great love this morning. We thank you and know you hear us. We know you are near. We know you are near us right now.

Praying for my brothers and sisters from Ephesians 1:17 “…asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.”

Thank you for the spirit of wisdom and insight that you readily give us. We ask you to give us understanding on the inside. We’re asking you for answers to the problems we face in our work today. Give us the exact answer. Give us keen insight and understanding not just into our problems but also into the hearts of the people with whom we interact.

Give us favor, Papa.  We pray for clarity and wisdom as we interact with the people you put in our path.  Bless them, Lord, open their minds and lives to You. Release faith into their hearts. We pray that not one of them would be lost.

As we go about our work, we know you are with us. Thank you, Papa, for the wisdom that comes from you that far surpasses anything else.  We offer up our very best today to you. We want to serve with gladness and joy and a spirit of excellence.

Holy Spirit, would you help us to settle into that easy yoke? Would you empower our hearts to lean into your heart of love? We pray that incense would arise as we partner with you and honor you in every circumstance and every relationship in our places of work.

Son of Righteousness, shine your light on us and through us. Let your light shine – for your glory, for your name, for your honor …it’s all for you!

 

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We Need An Outbreak of Untempered Optimism

chap paint5There he was . . . A  towering age two.  Patient beyond his years, waiting for his Mimmy to collect herself.  At this point, the only sound emanating from my frozen face, was a high-pitched whistle-squeak.

“Mimmy, you faffin’ AGAIN?”

He wasn’t the least bit offended at my reaction to his attempt at making me understand what he wanted.  So stinkin’ cute, he just watched me, his little face barely over the edge of the table.

“Mimmy, tic-oh-bock.”

“What? . . . squeak . . . What’s tic-oh-bock?”

By this time, I had tears running down my cheeks, and the hooting was only interrupted long enough for gulps of air.

He smiled.  “Fah-fanna.”

“What? . . . ” I said holding my stomach. “What’s fah-fanna?” That did it.  I was a goner now.  . . Snort.

He just sat there watching me.  It took me a few moments, but I finally got control of myself so we could continue eating our lunch.

Then he said,  “Mimmy, Alpo-dack.”

I asked him to show me where the alpo-dack was.  He put his head back and smiled triumphantly,  “Banna byou tick-oh-back?”

Suddenly, through a glass darkly, I saw my husband sitting there in a bib . . . breaking my chops.  Bill would set me up to get totally frustrated and then laugh his head off.  Our son, Jonathan is the same way. . . and now his son, Chapel.  He’s got the Stevens’ chop-buster gene!

He was in total control.

You might be sitting there wondering what’s so funny about this kind of laughter.  Maybe it’s a grandma thing.  Maybe it’s one of those would-a-had-a-been-there things.  What makes one person laugh may be different from another, but it’s a fundamental part of everyday life.  Laughter is so common we forget how important it is.  Psychology Today calls it a “speaking in tongues” in which we’re moved not by religious fervor but by an unconscious response to social and linguistic cues.”  (that definition is enough to make me laugh)

Laughter is synonymous with the word “grandmother” I think.  We seem to have more giggle-juice.  Isn’t it interesting how short vowel-like syllables is the one universal language.  Ha-ha, hee-hee is the same in every language all over the world.  Laughter bonds us together.

Chapel was just doing whatever he could to get me laughing.  At only two, he has the smarts to know just what it takes to get his Mimmy “faffin.”

kayak3 72God has used laughter in life to ease the tension, release stress, counteract the tears.  I’ve had to pull to the side of the road occasionally because I was laughing so hard I couldn’t drive. . . and I was alone in the car!  Even in the middle of the night I’ll start to giggle and it will turn into gales of gut wrenching hysterics.

Did you ever hear of the 1962 outbreak of laughter in a girl’s boarding school in Tanzania? Two girl got the giggles and couldn’t stop laughing.  It quickly spread to 95 students, forcing the school to close!  It spread even farther until 2 1/2 years later related outbreaks were occurring in schools all over Central Africa afflicting thousands of people in Tanzania and Uganda.

Psychology Today also called it “Untempered optimism” . . . that’s what we need a little more of these days . . .

Father, give us your Holy Spirit laughter that comes from Your kind of optimism.  Give us healing outbreaks.  Like the Proverbs 31 woman, let us laugh at the future because we know You are in control.  We love You.  Amen.

 

 

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Favoritism

there's no room at our tableDo you have favorites?

How about this one . . . You’re at a conference, looking for a place to sit in the dining hall, tray in hand, you eye the crowd, passing over the person sitting alone, you look for your favorites to sit with.

We’ve all done it – exclude the less popular.  It’s part of the ugly side of us.

Jesus went to the people nobody liked.

Mark 2:15: “and it came to pass, as He was dining in Levi’s house . . .”  

“Levi!  That tax collector guy?  What’s Jesus doing with that creep!”

A tax collector was despised.  They were viewed as traitors to their own people because they collected taxes for the Roman government.  The fact that Jesus selected him and then ate with him (fellowshipped) was abhorrent.  Jesus was breaking every social norm of the day.

Years ago, there was a woman who often  showed up where I was speaking.  She was not one of the popular ones. Each time I saw her she’d have some sort of trinket or photograph for me.  I never kept what she gave me.

After speaking at a difficult event, I was sure I’d failed.  Even though I poured my heart out and studied for weeks in preparation, no one seem to respond. My husband even fell asleep during the program!?!

I’m not cut out to do this. I’m kidding myself thinking I’m called to the ministry.

When the last of my things were packed in the car, this woman approached me hesitantly, and handed me a crumpled paper bag.

“This is for you,” she whispered, and then quickly turned and left. It was too dark to see what what inside.

“I’ll look at this when I get . . .” my words trailed off as she disappeared.

The drive home was painful.  Bill never said one word. I was dying inside. My dreams of having a successful ministry were crashing down around me.  I quit.

I passed the trash can on my way into the house and was going to through out the bag, but hesitated.  I ought to at least see what’s inside, I thought.

The next morning I was so discouraged.  “Go get the little brown bag.” He whispered.

I resisted.

“Go get the little brown paper bag.”

Finally, I got up and retrieved the bag from where I’d tossed it.  Inside the once-used, crumpled paper bag was a small, plastic crown trimmed with red velvet.

I gasped, “A crown? I almost threw my crown away.”

I sobbed with repentance.  “You devalued the gift because you didn’t esteem the vessel I chose to bring it.” He whispered.

Suddenly, I remembered some of the photographs she’d brought to me before: and open door, an open gate.  They were out of focus, crumpled and often damp, but now I could see they were messages of encouragement from God.  What a life-changing moment.

Father, forgive us, forgive us, for favoritism.  For self-righteousness.  Change our hearts, make us more like You.  Give us Your heart of love to embrace the ones, Your treasures, You have placed in our lives.  Amen.

Have you read the book:    In His Steps.   It is one of the best-selling books of all time, a true Christian classic.  Written by Charles Monroe Sheldon, the story places Jesus into popular culture and paints an inspiring picture of what Jesus would do.

 

 

 

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This Takes Courage . . . Do You Have It?

cup of coffeeI pushed away the yucky hollow in my stomach and took my coffee to the swing.  The house had such an empty-quiet feel.  For almost 50-years I have had coffee, with either Bill or his mom, every morning.  It was our ritual.

Bill and I always got up early enough so we could sit and talk for at least twenty minutes before he left for work.  After he died, I had coffee with his mother every morning.

“Lord, I hate this feeling,” I said as the words caught in my throat.

On the heels of this admittance came a crystal clear thought,  “This takes courage.” 

Courage? . . . That’s for those facing far more serious things than this.  Courage is for soldiers, and cancer victims. . . and . . .  but, I guess God sees it differently.

The Israelites were about to cross the Jordan, and they were afraid of what they faced. . . Moses could not go with them . . . and God gave them a promise that He would go before them and deliver their enemies into their hands.  I can understand why God gave them this promise.

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them: for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you.  He will not leave you nor forsake you.”  (Deut. 31:6)

I was startled to discover the meaning of the word “courage”: it’s the ability to do something that frightens one; to have strength in the face of pain or grief.

I’ve never associated courage and grief, until today.

The word comes from a root word “cor” denoting the seat of feelings, it’s from the Latin word “heart.”

Some translations use “take heart” in place of  “have courage.”  Psalm 27:14 (NIV) “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” another translation says: “let your heart take courage” (NAS).

Courage has actions of faith connected to it:

1. We have to decided what we believe . . .  

Ask yourself: What do you believe about your situation?  What are you most afraid of?Do you believe He is WITH you – and has a solution?

2. We have to listen to what He says . . .  

The Scripture connects “taking heart” or having “courage” with waiting on God.

Did you know the word “wait” is not a stagnant, static; word?  Waiting is not sitting around doing nothing until God finally rescues you.  Waiting is not continuing with the same old same old hoping for a miraculous deliverance.  Waiting is active!  It means to bind together by twisting. It is the action of wrapping oneself around the Person, Personality and Promises of God.

Okay . . . you are feeling un-peaceful, discontent. . . what are you going to do?  God never leaves us to figure out how to move forward in our struggles on our own.  We just have to give Him the time to show us.

No one can fix my loneliness – I have to do it God’s way, and live unto Him and with Him.

When it comes to the matters of the heart, don’t feel guilty for your feelings as if you “should” be feeling differently.  It is what it is, and God has a plan. It is a personal battle, and we have a personal God.

3. We have to make choices.  

Before every change, a choice must be made.  Before God gave His promise to the Israelites He said, “I place before you “life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may life.” (Deut 30:19)

There is always a choices . . . Every day, every moment . . . keep asking yourself:  “Will what I am doing help me move forward?”

To look longingly at the past . . . Will only keep us stuck in the past.

To look for a quick solution, to ease the immediate pain . . . Will only postpone what God wants us to conquer.

To look to God, taking heart for the next step in what He’s show you to do . . . Will keep us moving forward.

God is a good God.  He always has a solution.  He always has a plan to prosper us and turn our struggling into rich fruitfulness for the Kingdom.  Take courage in this.

Father, God, you know the burdens on the hearts of your children.  We look to You as our source.  We cling only to You, and take refuge under the shadow of Your wing.  Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in A Widow's Journey, Inspirational | 2 Comments