On The Winning Side

dark clouds1I took my coffee outside to the swing for the first time in weeks.  Warm breezes, and temperatures, made this unusual November morning soft and lovely.  However, my heart was heavy.

A dear friend had called to say she and her husband were separating.  They’ve tried for years, but there was so much left to fix.  My heart broke for their children, but the Lord encouraged my faith to pray.

A heavy black cloud stretched, like a pressing band, close to the horizon.  I thought for sure the cloud would grow and eventually swallow every wisp of morning light. I thought of how hopeless my friend’s situation appeared, and the life-changing effect on the whole family.

Then this thought came: Before you focus on the battle, you must thoroughly  believe you’re on the winning side.

Then I watched the wind effortlessly move that back cloud. First it thinned, then it began to dissipate, and then it completely moved out of sight.

It made me think of those times when we feel my prayers aren’t accomplishing a thing. But perhaps the Lord is in the process of thinning the darkness and stirring the wind?  I need to be careful not to judge by what I see.

dark clouds2The horizon was clear for only a few minutes before new dark clouds rolled in.  It made me think of those times when one strike after another hits our lives, and we wonder if the war will ever be over.  “If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” my mother-in-law would say.

But again I watched the wind effortlessly moved the entire mass out of view.

It’s so easy to become overwhelmed when layer upon layer of problems hit our lives,  but we must remember God knows the big picture, and He is not wringing His hands over our lives.  I hear Him encouraging us to rest in the arms of the Victor.

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(The light coming through the clouds is NOT photo-shopped – pretty amazing isn’t it?)

There will alway be clouds.  Even the dark ones have their purpose.  May we be encouraged today by His Word:

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

“Ah, Sovereign LORD, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm.  Nothing is too hard for You.” (Jeremiah 32:17)

“This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. … For every child
of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. … “  (1 John:5-4)

“Father, give us faith to see the sun when dark clouds cover our horizons.  Help us understand that we are in a spiritual battle.  Make us be more war-aware, and hold tight to Your triumphant hand.  In Jesus name, Amen.”

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God Is In The House!

open windowJesus is in the house!

Can you imagine hearing this?  Evidently He’d been in that Capernaum home just a short while before.  Word spread.  This time the religious police got a front row seat to watch every move Jesus made.

Even the space around the door, and the courtyard, were blocked with people.  Can you place yourself in this scene?  The heat,  the pressing crowds, anxiously waiting to hear Jesus. . . it would take a lot to make me stay.

Jesus stood in the midst of that assemblage, and with the eloquence of a King, He “preached the word to them.”  (Mark 2:2)

Do you picture Jesus standing in the front, dressed in a white robe, preaching from an open Bible?  But wait . . . there were no Bibles at that time . . .grape vine trellisIt was Jesus, the Word made flesh, who stood in their midst.  He spoke from the heart of the Father, and His heart.  The Truth, Himself, brought the Truth.  Wow.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

The Speaking-God, who wishes to be heard, was in the house.

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”  (John 1:4-5)

The Self-revealing God, who wishes to be seen, was in the house.

I wish I could have heard the inflection of His voice, the way He paused to take a breath, the way He gestured.  Think about it.  Yet, even with the Speaking-Light-God standing in their midst, the religious leaders couldn’t see Him.

Then the men came carrying their paralyzed friend.  Frustrated by the crowds, they ripped a hole in the roof BIG enough to lower a man on a horizontal stretcher.  (That was a big hole)  I can’t imagine they did that silently.  Perhaps debris was even dropping all around Jesus.  Did He stop talking and watch?

Was this the perfect word-picture to accompany Jesus’ message that day? Was the ripping off of that barrier an analogy of His Word? I believe it was, because Jesus came to rip away the barriers that keep God’s people from His presence.

The religious police were furious . . . and blind. It wasn’t the healing of the paralytic that caused the most stir.  It was when Jesus said,  “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”  (Mark 2:5)

“Why does this man speak blasphemies like this?  Who can forgive sins but God alone.”

God was in the house!

God was in the house, to announce the good news: we never have to be separated from His presence again.

The healing in this account brings hope to every sufferer, but the greater miracle preached that day was that our sins can be forgiven, the barrier of sin has been torn asunder, and fellowship with our Creator has been restored . . . only the Creator Himself has the power to do that . . . and He did!

Forgiven collage 72Father, forgive us for allowing the tiniest speck of sin to linger between us. Thank you, Father, that You don’t measure out Your forgiveness. We are Your house, Your temple, Your dwelling place.  And You have come to tell us to “arise, take up (our) beds, and walk.”  

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In The Crook of Sorrow

buds3buds2At first, I didn’t understand why I was being drawn out on the lawn at the retreat center to observe a little tree.  Its leaves had not dropped yet, but they were all obviously dead.

I stood next to the trunk of the tree with my head in the branches and listened to the delightful rustling of all those brittle leaves blowing in the wind.  They made a sad and haunting sound foretelling the onset of winter.

Each leaf was curled into itself, as if mourning the loss of summer’s vibrant bloom. I heard sadness in their clattering praise.

Then the Lord drew my attention to something that was not so obvious at first.  Tucked in the  crook of each branch was the tiniest little bud. My heart leapt. I examined another branch, then another. On every tiny twig there was a tiny bud!

The promise of new life, and a new season, was already in place,  just waiting for the right time.  Even in the center of such frangibility, God placed His plan for spring.

It made me think of Calvary.  Even on the cross, buried in the bowels of the most gruesome death, formed the embryo of resplendent life. In the crook of each devastating blow, lay the bud of promise.  Jesus knew the cost of following His Father’s plan, but seeing the joy ahead, He willingly lay down in death’s dark ossuary until the time was right time.

As surely as Jesus rose from the dead, the sting of death removed,  we can know new life at each sore season’s farewell.  There is no darkness deep enough to extinguish God’s life,  no pain can nullify the promise of God’s full redemption.

Father, anointed our eyes to see the promise of new life even when our hearts want to cling to what was once was so sweet.  Help us see beyond the current season and press in for the joy You’ve set before us.  Thank you Father, that in You, we always have new life.

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Has Life Got You Bite-y?

palm tree 72Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace,who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:9-10)

To all my friends who live with chronic pain . . . God Bless You!

Pain is exhausting, discouraging, and it is so easy to only see the end of the moment as your hope. It stinks.  There’s no better way to say it.

Some of you already know that I fell last July.  My nieces’ little baby crawled behind me as I was getting something out of the closet.  I didn’t know she was there until I went to step back.  I was about to step on her, so instead I attempted to hop over her but lost my balance and took an olympic slid into home base, square on my left shoulder. Here it is November and it still hurts.

Life can look pretty grim when you’re looking through the lens of chronic pain.  Mine is nothing like what some of you are dealing with, but it’s tough.  I think it  has made me softer and more compassionate towards others.

It reminds me how lonely pain can be when you don’t dare mention you’re hurting for fear of wearing out your friends.  If the only good to come out of my pain is to make me compassionate towards your pain – is it worth it?

I can remember my dear mother-in-law, who started every morning with the heating pad.  She’d say, “Watch out Marji, I’m bite-y today.”  That’s what she called the mood brought on my gnawing pain – “bite-y”.

Chronic pain sits on you and can shred every trace of your supply of niceness. I can’t believe some of the burdens my friends have to carry in this regard.  

Maybe you remember a recent post I wrote about the Always Circle?  In the belly of discomfort it’s wise to remember you’re not alone: negative stuff in life Always happens, but God Always has a plan, and I Always have choices.

On a nine Advil day, that may not be the most comforting to hear . . . bite . . . bite . . . but it still is true.

hugs72I just want to encourage those of you who are struggling with anything that’s chronic. What ever the pain – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relational – it stinks to hurt all the time.  I pray for you . . .

Father, by faith, I lay my hands upon those reading this today.  I ask, in the precious name of Your son, Jesus, that Your healing will flow through them right now and bring total restoration.  

I pray for Your breakthrough to come.  That every blockage hindering Your blessing is removed.  

I pray that Your children will have the jobs they need, and the encouragement and support they need.  I pray that You will send friends to surround each and every one reading this today.  Not like Job’s friends, Lord, but friends that know Your ways and love Your people.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

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God Made Our Hearts To Dream

avery leaves2

averyleaves3 I remember standing out in the wind and being mesmerized by the autumn leaves swirling around me.  It was highlighted to me that every one of these leaves would land in a place totally unfamiliar and far from what they’d been attached to.  It was exactly how I was feeling with new grief as my companion.  But God reminded me that with every leaf lost there was already promised new life budding in its place.

Life sometimes blows your plans right out the window. I believe one of the reasons I made it through the wilderness of grief was because I maintained small personal goals.  Like: take a walk, eat vegetables, take only one nap today.  Believe it or not, that was huge.

No matter what size the goal might be, here are a few things I have learned:

Our dreams can be redeemed.  A broken dream doesn’t mean you’ll never dream again. He can take the broken pieces of old dreams and shape something beautiful. And if we’ve lost hope in dreaming dreams, Psalm 37:4 says when we delight in the Lord, He will give us our heart’s desires.  He has created the human heart to dream

Our goals must make room for the unexpected.  Wisely setting goals is pleasing to God, but we must do so with humility.  “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Prov 16:9)  I had big plans to rake up the leaves in the backyard, but when the grandkids showed up my neat piles only became an opportunity for their big plans! 

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Our goals must be tested by the peace of God:  “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5)

I used to be spontaneous to a fault. The first time I talked about opening a gift shop I had two small children and a quarter acre garden that needed canning and freezing.  A wise friend said, “Pray about it and wait a week to see if the idea still appeals to you.”  Well, at the end of the week God had totally extracted that idea from my desires.

Another time I had the idea to do something wild and crazy things worked out differently. I felt driven to have the sitting room drywalled and insulated.  It was not good timing financially because I needed a new furnace.  I tried to rationalize the idea away, but it only grew stronger.  Come to find out, a major old beam had rotted right near the side wall due to a leak in the roof.  It wasn’t attached to anything.  Six joists had also detached.  This time haste, mixed with God’s peace saved me from a major disaster.

Our goals are more easily swallowed when they’re bite size and kept in plain view.  “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” Habakkuk 2:2

We can have big dreams, but our goals go down more easily if they’re in chewable sizes. I’m amazed at how psychologically rewarding a check mark is. So on my way to a big dream, like and entirely clean, well-organized house, I’ll break it down to as many small steps as possible just so I can keep checking off the things accomplished. You can’t check done what you haven’t first written.

With Bill in finer pastures, there’s no one reminding me what I need to do.  So, a list is my friendly reminder . . . and they never hog the remote.

Father, make us Your God-dreamers.  Help us to dream big, and clearly see each step to take in the goals You have for us.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 avery leaves

 

 

 

 

 

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Marji Thanks U Shopping Opportunity

I’m extending a special “thank you” to all my friends in Blogs-ville.  Just go to www.marjistevensshop.com and check out my things for sale.

Type in the code: ThanksU and you will get 10% off your purchases.  It’s that time of year again.  Grab a coffee, sit in the comfort of your home, and shop at Mim’s Pickety.  I’ll take it from there.

Love you all – and thank you so much for your support.

Quiet Song3 72 Here are a few products you will find.  Music, digital downloads, art prints, original paintings, my children’s books, Pickety hand-dids, and attic treasures.

 

Have a good time looking around.BM potty cover2 72 200 three birds 72

 

 

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Jesus with the Little girl prints and notecards . . . and much, much more.

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Does God Measure His Answers by How Carefully I Pray?

Nothing You can't handle 72I’m so grateful the clocks got turned back last night, because I woke at my usual time of 5:00am (now 4:00am) and discovered God was putting on a show I was meant to see. It was too dark for my camera. I grabbed coffee and hurried outside.

The brightest stars I’ve ever seen, hung as if  touchable across the frosty sky. Shivery breezes blew my bathrobe as I strained to comprehend it all.

“Father, what You make is so beautiful.”

I got dizzy twirling in the dark trying to drink in every inch of the sky.  “What You do is so perfect.  If You can create such wonder, there is nothing in my life You can’t handle.”‘

Startled by my own statement, concerns began to tumble through my mind, chased by the revelation of His greatness, daring me to make me to choose.

“There is nothing in your life I cannot handle,” He whispered.

My wordy, care filled prayers were dwarfed before the sea of stars.  “There is nothing in my family’s life You can’t handle.”

I could feel my burdens diminishing  as each name was lifted beyond the canopy of stars. “You are my husband now, Star Maker, You watch over my home and heart.  You are responsible for me.  You have the answer for each concern.  I don’t have to try and fix my world.”

I thought how foolish to strain to find the right prayer formula for each soul lifted, as if God measures His answer by how carefully I pray.  Before His beauty I am once again speechless. He doesn’t need our prayers to know what to do . . . we need our prayers because they bring us into His Presence.  I think, as our revelation of His Greatness grows, the less we need to say.

Oswald Chambers says, “We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.”

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(Picture above is a stock photo of the Carpathian Mountains in Poland. )

How Great Thou Art, was first written as a poem by an English missionary, Mr. Stuart K. Hine. It was later put to the music of an old Swedish folk song.  Mr. Hine, as his wife were missionaries to Poland.  The first three verses of the song were inspired, line upon line, amidst unforgettable experiences in the Carpathian Mountains. It was during an awe-inspiring thunder storm echoing through the mountains, that inspired the first verse.

While crossing the mountain frontier into Romania, “through the woods and forest glades, and hearing the birds sing sweetly in the trees,” the second verse came into being. The verses were later put to the music of a Swedish folk song.

This song also inspired the theme for the conference where this song was first introduced:  “Think not what great things you can do for God, but think first of whatever you can do for a great God.”

No matter what is happening around us – we don’t have to be intimidated by how to craft our words in a special prayer.  Just step outside and consider the One who made our world, it makes you realize that He can handle our problems, too.

Listen to Carrie Underwood sing How Great Thou Art.

 

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Mary didn’t talk – she wept

tick website 3I’m so thankful for the Holy Spirit.  When I have a prayer burden and don’t know how to pray, He understands the groanings of my heart.

Sometimes situations are so fragile and potentially life changing, I don’t want to add my prayer opinions.  When I don’t know God’s will for someone’s situation,  that’s the time I have to throw my faith into the hands of the Holy Spirit.

” . . .there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she broke the box, and poured (it) on his head.  And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?  For it might have been sold  for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor.” (Mark 14 3-5)

This sacrifice of love that Mary brought was not understood by those around her, but Jesus called what she did “a good work” and said “wherever this gospel shall be preached . . .what she has done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.”  (vs 8-9)

What if the alabaster box represents the vehicle of prayer; and the spikenard represents what we pray?  When Mary bowed before Jesus, she didn’t talk . . . she wept.

Tick pg 9When I’m asked to pray for those I love,  I often find myself totally wordless. I don’t want to add my prayer opinions into the spiritual mix.

More and more, I find myself wordless before God.  I am cautioned about what I say in prayer when I’m not sure what God’s will is.  That’s why I am so, so thankful for the Holy Spirit, who knows the mind and will of the Father, who knows the plans He has for that person, and who’s love far surpasses mine.

The others in the room that day with Jesus, were quite half-hearted.  It was customary to wash the feet and anoint the head of a guest.  They didn’t bother.  At best, it was just plain rude. They didn’t truly understand who they were entertaining.

As talkative as I am naturally, more and more I am speechless when I approach Jesus. He knows all, sees all.  He loves those we pray for more than we can fathom.

Do you find yourself speechless when you come before God in prayer? Perhaps tears alone are the sweetest form of worship. Perhaps the only words we need to choose are:  “Yes, God.”

Father, thank you for sending Your Holy Spirit.  Help us to yield to Him and let Him pray through us, O Lord. Amen.

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The Little Clock That Couldn’t Tock

This little book was written for children of all ages. It is a gentle story about a little clock, named Tick, who was all too aware of what was lacking in her life.  She tried with all her might to do her best, but failed to fix what was wrong.  Tick receives an answer to her prayers when Old Doc Clock brings her just what she needs.

To order, click here:   The Little Clock That Couldn’t Tock.

Tick Cover keynote 72dpi

 

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His Eye Is Strong Upon You

darkened door 72I was totally oblivious, until she burst into my bedroom in tears.

“Mimmy, I was knocking so loud and you didn’t hear me,” she cried.

It was 10:00 at night, my son’s farm next-door was just winding down after the flashlight corn maze.  My grand-daughter asked her uncle to drop her off at the end of my driveway.  Her plan was to come inside with me and wait for her daddy to lock up and come get her.

The plan seemed perfect, except I was in bed watching a program and never heard her pounding on the door.  Finally, one of my boarders heard her and let her in.

She was rattled.  “I thought you weren’t home! You have to leave a key somewhere,” she pleaded.  “Not high, so a kid can reach.”

I was thankful she persisted. It was black out, and way too dangerous for her to walk all the way back across the fields to her daddy.

I remembered a time when her daddy was only five, he’d been invited to his friend’s house across the street. It was dark when it was time to come home, so he called.  “Mom . . .”  there was worry in his voice.  “It’s dark.  Will you watch me from the window?”

“Yes, can you see me?” I said waving.  His little face appeared in their window.

“I see you!”

“I’ll stay right here and watch you all the way.”

I could see activity through the windows as he raced around to get his things together.

The phone rang again, “Mom, are you still there?  I’m coming.  I just can’t find my coat.”

As I leaned against the window looking out into the dark, I sensed the Lord speaking to my heart, “I am the waving hand in the window, child.  My eye is strong upon you.”

Instantly, tears caught in my throat. I knew He was applying His grace to my heart.

Suddenly, my son burst through their door and ran like the wind up through the circles of light on their long driveway.  When the Horse Chestnut branches blocked sight of me, he kept going, because he trusted I was there.

Again I heard, “I am the waving hand in the window of your darkness.  Even when you cannot see Me, you can trust I am here.”

Closed doors, dark nights, we’ve all know times like this.  They can rattle us to the core and cause us to relive old fears and hurts.  That’s the time we need to say, “Thank You, God, Your eye is strong upon me.”

shadows on doorbell sunrise by window“I’m so, so sorry I didn’t hear you knocking.”

“That’s okay,” she replied nuzzled in my shoulder. “I’m sorry I bothered you.”

“Listen, love,” I said, holding her even tighter. “Even if it was two o’clock in the morning, and you did wake me up . . . you are never-ever a bother to me.”

Isn’t that just what Jesus wants us to learn. We are never a bother to Him.  He will never leave us standing in the dark, afraid.  And, unlike this grandmother . . . He always hears us when we knock.

Father, I know there are friends reading this who are feeling abandoned and afraid.  Please, Papa, open Your door, and bring healing to their hearts and fresh, creative solutions for what they face.  Thank you that You always hear us, and open the way to Your welcoming presence.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

 

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Turn That Trial Around, Right In The Devil’s Face

miracle of moment 100I was sitting on my porch swing one morning after Bill died and the Lord clearly said, “I want you to practice gratitude.”

At first, it didn’t make sense because I didn’t see any reason to be thankful.  The love of my life was gone and . . . well, you know the rest. But, that’s what God said, and I’ve been growing in the revelation of it ever since.  It is turning out to be a major life-changing lesson, and has changed my little pessimistic self immeasurably.

My dear friend, Kathy, recently posted a clip by her pastor, Pierre DuPlessis,  given at the Father’s House.  I paraphrase:

“…nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:4

Pierre explains what sanctification means.  In the Old Testament, a craftsman would make a gold bowl for the temple but it was, by its very nature, unclean, impure.  The High Priest would dip his fingers in the blood of the sacrifice and  sprinkled it on the bowl.  The minute the blood hit the bowl it was made acceptable to God, holy and set apart for God’s use.  It was sanctified.

Paul says giving thanks turns unholy things into something holy.

Giving thanks for everything, in everything, takes that which was meant to destroy us and turns it around to be used by God for good. When bad things happen, unfair things, we can complain and murmur and fight all day long.

“How can I give thanks for THIS?”

Because thanksgiving is the highest form of faith.

From Where God SitsWe don’t say, for example, “thank you I lost my job,”  we say, “Thank you, God, that in this situation Your love and mercy will sustain me.  Your plans for my life are not thwarted.  Your mercy and Your goodness will overshadow me and change what the devil meant for evil into something good.”

My thanksgiving turns a bad situation into something sanctified and set apart for God’s use. It changes the very nature of the thing, and turns it around to become something that will bless you and propel you into the purposes of God.

Give thanks in ALL circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Thankfulness means to make acknowledgement with praise, to acknowledge fully, to celebrate fully.

When we only look at where we are, we miss Who we’re with.  God is WITH you in this trial . . . THAT’S why you can give thanks.  Turn that trial around in the devil’s face.  In full voice, give thanks,  for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.

“Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens.  This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”  (1 Thess 5:18 MSG)

Father, this isn’t easy when our circumstances come with emotional high winds and waves.  Help us keep our eyes on YOU. Give us hearts of courage.  I especially pray for Your supernatural BREAKTHROUGH.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

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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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