And He Whispers, “Believe.”

DSC00953 IMG_0502 IMG_0511I used to cross-country ski years ago when my back co-operated with my activities.  I remember standing on the edge of a pristine, snow-covered field, unmarked by fellow skiers.

It called me forward to be the first, to leave my mark - but there are dangers.  

I pictured myself effortlessly sailing across the deep powdery ocean – but there are risks, holes and old fencing could be hiding under the surface waiting to grab my ski.

 I looked back at the trail, well worn and smooth, where many skis had etched deep groves into the snow. It would be much less physical exertion, easier and faster to keep to the old path - that’s where it’s familiar.

Our thoughts are like paths in the snow. It’s easy to slip into old patterns of thought because they’re familiar . . . habitual.

Things will be different today – I’ve had my quiet time, exercised a little – I’m not going to entertain worry and anxiety – period!

But the day drags on, dark, cold, grey, and before noon it starts. The heart sinks into discouragement, and the skis point down old paths.

Do you know why the mind is such a battlefield? It’s because the renewed mind is where the Lord wishes to express His Kingdom.  The flesh pulls toward the familiar, even if it’s unhealthy, and sadly the devil knows an un-renewed mind  gives him an open invitation.

A dear friend, and sounding board, listened to my battle with depression.

“Look for the lies,” she said.  Those four words changed my life.

Each time I pick up His word I feel the gentle tug of the Holy Spirit leading across a new, crystal snowscape.

And He whispers . . . Believe.

“Now thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ and who maketh manifest through us the savor of His knowledge in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)

“Do not be conformed to this world,[a] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

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It’s All By Grace . . . But It Isn’t Free

bend over meA story . . .

Almost immediately it became apparent to him that something was wrong.

The wedding had been so moving.  Everyone was ecstatic that she finally agreed to marry him.  She’d played hard to get, but finally she yielded to his proposal.  It was a huge celebration and the bride was radiant.

She loved the attention as family and friends gathered around her.  She’d felt strangely distant from them for years, it was as if they’d been waiting for her to get married.  Now, it appeared she was in their graces. It felt wonderful to feel accepted.

After a brief honeymoon, they returned to the house he’d purchased for them.  They settled in and for a while things were glorious.  But, she began to grow distant.  She wasn’t interested in learning his ways.  She never asked him what he wanted,  how he liked things cooked, she just did things her way, basically ignoring his wishes.

He could tell she was pulling away.

She began going out on weekends with her old friends, went to the old clubs she’d inhabited.  She started coming home later and later.  He asked her to stop, but she insisted she was free do whatever she wanted.

He always forgave her, but he was heartbroken.  All the vows, all the promises they’d made to each other seemed a distant dream.  Their conversations were brief and superficial.  She’s chatter about what she wanted him to do, but never took the time to listen.

Things were broken, but she still told everyone she was married.  She’d smile and hold his hand in public, but privately it was a different story.  Everyone assumed the marriage was working.  He was discrete, and never discussed her with anyone. Though his heart was broken, his faithfulness to her was astounding.  She had no idea how much he loved her.

“Don’t you love me anymore?” he asked.

“Of course I do, you know that,” she’d answer.  But her behavior said something else.

“Come with me, let’s sit down by the water and talk.  I miss you.”

She was too busy.  She proudly wore her ring, enjoyed his house, but beyond that there was nothing to their marriage. She didn’t want to change.  She like her old ways, and didn’t see any reason why she couldn’t have both.  There was no hunger in her to learn the ways of marriage, to know his heart.  Her heart was far from him.

“Blessed is the (woman) who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but (her) delight is in the (words) of the Lord, and in His (words) (she) meditates day and night.”  (Psalm 1:1-2)

What does it mean to accept Jesus?  It is far more encompassing than what is too often taught. Joining the ranks of the “married” doesn’t make a wife.

Accepting Jesus is an invitation to radical transformation.  Jesus asks us to pick up our crosses and follow Him.  It’s a call to come out from the ways of the world, and become intimately acquainted with the ways of God.  It’s choosing what He defines as good and refusing what He defines as ungodly.

Accepting Christ is a call to marriage.

“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law by the body of christ; that you should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” (Romans 7:4)

It’s all by grace, but it isn’t free.  It cost Him everything and it will cost us the world . . . if we’re willing.

 

 

 

 

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Let’s Make A Memory Keeper

What do you do with the precious memorabilia from you mom or grandmother?  Mine were just tucked away, some in a drawer, some in “don’t touch” places (grandkids) around the house.   So, I got the bright idea to make memory shadow boxes.

First, I purchased a shadow box from JoAnn Fabric’s (with a coupon).  Then I chose the scrapbook paper I wanted for my background.  Then, I used Mod Podge to glue the paper to the backing.

DSC03639I made one in memory of my mom first. I dug out some old photos of my Nana and Papa, my dad in his twenties, and even bald little me with my brother, Bill.

My mom had a crystal knife rest she always put on our dinner table at Thanksgiving.  I couldn’t help fiddling with it. To this day I can hear her say, “Stop, put your hands in your lap,  don’t fiddle at the dinner table.

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After my mother-in-law died, I made one for her.  Her “priceless” treasures were a blend of things.  I first anchored with a touch of hot glue, her mother’s lace doily. Next her first communion prayer-book, and her beloved scissors (she wouldn’t lend a soul.)

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DSC03651The jeweled black purse Bamma kept hidden in a special place.  “That was my sisters.  She gave it to me.”  I’d reach out to touch it and she’d smack my hand.  “Marj, don’t touch it now, you’ll get it dirty.”

She prized a recipe for Ronald Reagan’s Mac and Cheese.  So, of course, that had to go in there.  Upper left is Bamma as a beautiful young woman, and my Bill as a boy.

Before Bamma died, I made a shadow box in memory of Bill’s grandparents.  I had a strip of wall paper from border in the kitchen – probably 1920 – it’s tucked behind the pearls, and peeking out from the very bottom.

Grandma Stevens’ doily, pearls, and only jewelry she owned. The little wooden crucifix hung in the upstairs bedroom for a hundred years.  Her famous coffee cake recipe, and rosary. I missed ever meeting them.

DSC03645When I could, I used wire to hold things in place.  Sometime, I used a touch of hot glue or tape.  It depended upon how heavy the piece was.

I found Grandma Stevens’ blue date book from 1942. Priceless.  It was a thrill to read details from her life in her own handwriting.

DSC03646Someday I’ll do one in memory of my husband.  But for now, I can’t figure out how to attach a shotgun in a shadow box!

If you decide to do one of these I’d love to see how they turn out.  Take a photo and email it to me at stevens.marji@gmail.com.

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It’s Never Been About That . . .

Forgiven collage 72

Father’s love is like honey on the end of a rod.  He turns stones to bread, water to wine, a valley of troubling into a door of hope.  He turns our deserts into gardens, and when we’re upon the cross His has chosen for us, He is the promise of joy to follow.  

I found this scribbled on paper and tucked in a Bible I like to use when I’m studying Psalms. It’s a paraphrase of something I read from the Treasury of David by Spurgeon.

We’re studying Psalms in Bible Study at church.  Yesterday, as I nestled in my chair to read Psalm 16 for my homework, the very first verse sent me back thirty years.

In those days, I couldn’t read scripture without hearing music.  I sang my quiet time, sang my prayers, and often I wrote a song from beginning to end without interruption, like prophesy flowing from the heart of the Holy Spirit.

As I read the first verse of Psalm 16, suddenly song filled my mind: Keep me safe, Oh my Father, for in You I delight . . .  I put my head back and started to sing. Just as years before, I sang the line over and over, driving it deep into my heart.

singing 1With visions of years gone by, I got my guitar from the back of the closet, tuned it, and tried to play the melody I was hearing, but all I did was spiral into dark comparisons of what used to be.  I set my guitar down and returned to my chair.

Keep me safe, Oh my Father, for in You I delight . . .  

I still miss those days, when my voice was oiled and free, when my skills were honed and ready.  Before the accident.  Before the stairs  collapsed and I crashed my back on the edged of the stage.

My body never recuperated from that fall. I developed Fibromyalsia. Slowly, it became too painful to sing because of muscle cramps in my jaw, and up the back of my head.  Tears caught in my throat as I remembered.

hope in God 72Keep me safe, Oh my Father, for in You I delight . . .

I felt the Holy Spirit gently turning my thoughts. The One, to whom I sang, is still the same.  He has turned my mourning into expressions of art and writing and happy grand kids.  The heart of the psalmist still beats in my chest. His call to still waters, to silence, to contemplation, has never changed.

 In You I delight  . .  

It’s always a temptation to look back.  To compare ourselves to what used to be, to look with longing at what once was.  In light of the story of Lot’s wife, who looked back and turned into a pillar of salt, I dare say it’s death to us, too.  Because, the miracle is NOW. When we look back we lose our focus and risk falling.

If I could talk with that women of my past, I know exactly what she would  say.

“It’s never been about who we are, or what we can do.  It’s only about the One who holds our hand.”

I’ll keep on enjoying the melodies of silence and Word, sing when I can, and bravely let go of the past.  To think, all these thoughts came from just one verse of Scripture.  What riches we hold in our hands.

Keep me safe, Oh my Father, for in You I delight . . .

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Is the Truth Too Uncomfortable?

 

shepherd 72

 

As  American Christians, do we really get what Jesus is asking of us?want everything fixable. And we’re programmed to want quick answers.

You’ve seen ads like this: “Finally a diet plan that guarantees success.  You too can have the thinness of your dreams with this simple pill  . . .  lose that flab in only seven days!”

Why do we buy into this mentality? I think it’s because . . .

The truth is just too uncomfortable, and we’re programmed to believe that lifestyle problems can be solved easily.

There’s nothing easy in this statement: “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

Are we telling the truth when we proclaim: All you have to do is raise your hand and ask Jesus to come live in your heart. End of story . . . you’re saved.  Problems solved.

But then again, who’d go for this  . . .  “Our diet plan will require that you deny yourself for the rest of your life, struggle against your cravings day and night, develop endurance through sweat and tears.  It’s FREE, but will cost you EVERYTHING.”

Jesus Christ was called the Man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief.

How many Christians feel ashamed because they’re struggling? How many hide depression, chronic pain or loneliness because they feel un-victorious? Is the church the safest place to have a problem?  Do we unwittingly communicate that if we’re really trusting Jesus we’ll be happy and content all the time?

There’s plenty in the world that should make us unhappy.

At a retreat where I was speaking, a woman took me aside and asked me why she wasn’t happy like all the other women.  She was a baby Christian, her husband had left her a single mom, she was struggling with addiction, had no money, and needed lots of help.

She said, “I don’t know why it isn’t working for me.”

What are we missing?  She was told to just read her Bible and believe. True, but this poor woman was feeling more and more like an outsider the longer she attended church.  She needed God’s true disciples to come along side of her and show her, by love and example, how to carry her own cross.

sheep painting copyJesus mentions three points which belong to the character of a true disciple.

1.  Self-denial.  There is no better test than this.  No fad Christianity here.

2. Take up his cross.  Luke adds, “daily.” What does this look like to you? To me, it’s remaining sweet, interruptible, and ready to serve when I’d rather do my own thing.

I can remember caregiving for my husband and his 90-year old mom at the same time.  I did not plan this, but this was where cross of Jesus lay, and I could choose to pick it up with solemn joy, or kick against it. (Frankly, I did a little of both)

3. Follow me.   Each one of these are enormous subjects, but I can say this: following Jesus will be a narrow path, and we constantly have to check to be sure we’re following the right footsteps.  The good news is, if we stray . . . He’ll come find us.

Heavenly Father, please show us what true Christianity looks like.  Show us where we have believed in an Americanized gospel.  We want to follow You, Jesus.  Help us to know what that looks like in every area of our lives.  In Your name, Amen.

 

 

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You’re Gonna Hate This Blog

eating chocolate 72I listened with a bit of an attitude as the pastor revealed the subject of his sermon: Health.

I want to hear about Jesus. I mumbled to myself. Nobody’s gonna touch my chocolate and get away with it!

Pastor Josh skillfully approached the subject, and it became obvious to me that he’d anticipated some grumbling. But, he was obedient to the Holy Spirit.  I’m so glad.

Did you know there are more than 53 verses on the subject of healthy eating in the Bible? There are only 36 verses on the subject of prayer. Makes you wonder about the importance of this subject if the Holy Spirit prompted such emphasis.

There are strong verses like: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest pit in mouth72after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27  Phew.

Disqualified means: failing to pass the test, unapproved, counterfeit.“Well, if we are to take seriously the numerous warnings and exhortations that are presented in the New Testament, we had better consider the possibility that our endurance is not so certain. While our salvation is quite certain and totally secure, our success in our Christian lives and ministries is not. That’s why the Scriptures teach that living for God’s approval requires finishing well.”  Keith Krell

Frankly, nothing with the word discipline connected comes without some murmuring.

But, there are more than 49 Bible verses on the subject of self-discipline, trumping many of the subjects we generally hear about in church.

How about this one:  “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

A Treat? 72I guess we should consider this verse when we’re about to eat a product with ingredients we can’t pronounce.

Put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.” Proverbs 23:2  

“Come on, God, isn’t that a bit over the top?”

This is a BIG, BIG subject.  I’ve regained much of the weight I lost last year because I yielded to sloppy habits again. This sermon stared me right in the face. Our lack of discipline is not just a little “slip”  . . . it’s a sin.

(Don’t you just hate this blog?)

Dr Scott Stoll, M.D addresses the subject of obesity in the church: “There was a study at “Purdue University showing that fundamentalist Christians are by far the heaviest of all religious groups . . . churches are a “feeding ground” for gluttony and obesity.” He continues: “Today it is rare to hear a sermon preached on the stewardship of the physical body and even more rare on the vice of gluttony; it has become a secret and acceptable vice in the modern church.”

Today is a new day. I’m thankful that God’s conviction comes without condemnation.  He always happy to help us turn around and return to the path He’s chosen.

Father, forgive us for feeding the flesh more than our spirits.  Forgive us for our disobedience and stubbornness.  Please Father, grant us the grace to obey Your word in all areas of our lives.  Help us to deny and train our flesh to walk in Your ways of healthy living.  Help us keep ourselves unspotted from the world, obedient to You.  Amen

 

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The Project is Finished

Finally, the project is completed.  Perhaps a touch-up here and there when they’re discovered. Painting is a lot harder on the body than I expected.  Phew.  Anyway, it’s lovely and I’m very, very happy.

I wanted cabinets and counter next to the washer and dryer stack, but the estimate was way more than I was comfortable with. So, I got creative.

Years ago, I bought an old stove for display purposes in my store.  It’s a perfect fit!  I keep my soaps in the oven and my tools in the drawer.  Plus it’s farmhouse-y.

DSC03537DSC03538Then, I hung a little pink quilt over the bare wall where cabinets would have hung . . . perfect.  A little retro lamp from Target.  Now I have a laundry hallway instead of a big, laundry room.  It will be just enough.

The floors were new ten years ago.  The new decor really sets them off now.DSC03563

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I snazzy little rug from Marshal’s helps bring in some color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A turn to the left, through a pocket door, takes you into the bedroom.

The pocket door is the perfect solution when space is an issue.  My angel contractor, had never built one before, but he did an amazing job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC03549The bedroom turned out so charming.  I found this pristine quilt at the Salvation Army for $6.99, and the folded quilt I found at the Goodwill for $8.00.  Amazing.  Thank you, Lord.

DSC03552This adorable little lamp base was another Goodwill find for $2.99!  I had the calico shade and just added my own touches.  A little whimsy to make me happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love Tobacco Sticks, they are so primitive and clean-looking.  They come in very handy to hang up a light garment or a bit of decoration.DSC03547Well, the plaster dust is finally gone.  I’m relieved it’s done – and so happy.

Thanks for celebrating with me. Another project is complete in this 200-year old homestead.

Now back to working on my book and the Widows Fellowship.  If you haven’t visited the website here’s the link:  Lives Overcoming Loss

 

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“I’m just trying to survive – so don’t bug me.”

snowstorm 6It’s difficult to imaging warm, sunny days when I’m afraid to touch the freezing metal garbage can for fear my hands will stick.  My entire house is groaning under its frozen veil, even the insulated walls is leaking cold air.

Everyone seems to have slipped into the I’m – just – trying – to – survive – so – don’t – bug – me, mode.  My Christian friends are trying extra hard not to complain.  Me, after emptying three boxes of tissues and binge watching Netflix for two days, I’m complaining with no reserve.  Fortunately, I’m here alone.

My three-year old heart-throb was here yesterday.  We were building blocks when a  sudden, almost celestial, eye-blinding stream of sunlight stretched across the living room, and he gasped, “It’s a sunny day, let’s go ow-side n’ take a walk.”

Before I could say anything, a gust of wind blew out the happy hope of outside-anything and he dropped his little shoulders and sighed, “Oh mayunn.”

We settled back on the couch for another round of homemade, Big Fat Chicken Stories.  It went like this:

BFC cover 72BFC page 7 72Then Chapel sat down at the table to eat his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and ALL OF A SUDDEN . . . “WHAAAAAT?” squealed Chapel.  “The Big Fat Chicken laid an EGG on my chair and I SAT on it . . . EWWWWW.”

Probably because I’m a wee under the weather, and desperate for socialization, each chapter we invented sent me into gut-gripping hysterics.  He laughed, too, but with more control than I had. Tears streamed down my face, as I launched into breathy hoots and squeaks.

Unwittingly,  I was instructing the little lad on what is considered funny at Mimmy’s house. In his little mind, all he’d have to do is shriek, “WHAAAAAT? An EGG!” and Mimmy would collapse with giggles.

For the rest of the day, all day, there was an EGG on this, and an EGG on that.  An EGG on the bed, and under his pillow.

Well, it wore a wee thin for my age group, but I probably laughed harder yesterday than I had in weeks.  Nap time was sabotaged, not by             Chapel, but by Mimmy, who only had to make eye contact with him and I’d crack up. (we snooze together-but not this time.)

All I can say to this blog is: Watch out!  The Big Fat Chicken roams free and surreptitiously hunts for the perfect spot to lay her eggs . . . you might be next!

Everett and The Big Fat Chicken, soon available in a hen-house nearest you.  (Pray I shake the January blues and can get back to creating the illustrations.)

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The First Thing God Called Not Good

writing morningI came  to the conclusion this evening that the reason I waste time roaming around on Facebook is because I get lonesome. Loneliness is a part of life everyone has to deal with.  Not just the widow, or widower.

Loneliness signals something needs to change.  

CBN has an outstanding article on their website: Overcoming Loneliness. Here are a few excerpts.  “Loneliness was the first thing God called not good.”

At each stage of creation, God paused and evaluated His work.  He declared it was all good.  “But after placing Adam in the Garden, God observed that there was still something missing.” read more 

“The Lord God said, ‘it is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18)

hugs72The need for contact is in our DNA.  We are not meant to live in solitude.  There are seasons of solitude, but extended aloneness is a breeding ground for depression.

John 14:16 gives us one solution for loneliness:  “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever.”  The blessed, Holy Spirit.

God invented fellowship for a reason.

“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  Acts 2:42

“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25.  Perhaps this is a particular trait of the end times that needs our greater attention.

I’m not sure an encouragement on Facebook does the trick.  It requires a split second of attention to “like” someone, or maybe five seconds to write a sentence or two.  Am I really a friend just because I didn’t scroll past someone with a complacent yawn?

We’ve been built for human interaction – not screen-to-face-cyber-connection.

I know there is “fellowship” time allowed between services at church, or a hand-shake during the service.  This is good, but it’s not designed to be enough.  We need to be diligent about seeking true fellowship.

Something is lacking, seriously lacking, in our culture. Too many people are battle crippling loneliness. This is not God’s plan.  Let’s make 2015 the year of outreach.  Make it a priority to reach out, make time for relationships, join a small group, send a card, make a phone call.  “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14

If we’re too busy for fellowship with God and His people, dare I say we’re TOO busy.

Papa, I know it hurts Your heart when Your people are alone, because it isn’t Your plan. Give us the grace to be carriers of Your Holy Spirit bringing comfort and companionship to those who need it.  Help us get our minds off ourselves and look for ways to build Your Body.  Forgive us, Lord, for our part in reinforcing the devil’s scheme to isolate and weaken people through loneliness.

 

 

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Where It Comes From and Where It Goes

Nicodemus 100The moonlight cast an eery glow over the sleeping city.  The bustling activities of the day lay silent and a welcome, cooling breeze blew across the parched streets.

Jesus walked alone in the moonlight, quietly talking with His father.  A dark figure approached from the shadows.  Jesus recognized him immediately.

“Rabbi, may I speak to you?”  It was Nicodemus, the Pharisee.   A ruler of the Jews, one who was skilled in the law.

A gust of wind billowed their robes as the men stood face to face in the light of the moon. Who could imagine that their conversation would be recorded in history. God used the honest questioning of a religious leader to teach generations about the life of faith.

Most people have heard about this encounter because of John 3:16, but the story tells much more in the twenty verses surrounding it.

I’m intrigued by this portion: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. . .”  because the same phrase appears in John 2: 9  “When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who drew the water knew) . . .”

Jesus is giving us a window into the life of faith using  a very practical example of the wind that blew through the streets as they talked.

Was Nicodemus familiar with Ecclesiastes 11:5?  “Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.”

Did he know Isaiah 42:16?  “I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, in paths they do not know I will guide them.  I will make darkness into light before them, and rugged places into plains.  These are the things I will do, and I will not leave them undone.” 

I’m sure Nicodemus knew the faith required of Abraham. “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out into a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Heb. 11:8)

4I can only imagine the love Nicodemus felt,  the burning in his heart as Jesus spoke.

I read between the lines and hear Jesus explaining: a life in the Spirit is more than knowing the law.  You cannot control what God does, or earn His favor.  Your steps are not revealed before you are asked to believe.

“Faith, Nicodemus, your Father will lead you into depth of knowledge that you have not yet achieved.

Heart, Nicodemus, not obedience to the letter of the law.

Love, Nicodemus, face to face relationship. This is a new way for you, and only by the Spirit will you understand, but trust Me, it is the way of LIFE.

Father, open our understanding that we may know the ways of Your Spirit.  To see, and enter into all You have for us.  In Jesus precious name, Amen. 

 

 

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Like the Old Had Never Been

DSC03494As the laundry room project nears completion, it’s hard to remember the way things were. The grandkids came to see the progress and were totally baffled.

“This is the corner where the wash tubs were.  Remember?”

Will and Everett kept circling.  “It’s like it never was before!”

DSC03500This morning those words keep circling in my head. God can so change things in our lives that it’s difficult to imagine the way things used to be.

I am certainly NOT the woman I used to be before encountering Jesus.  I was a nightclub singer, a go-go dancer in a rock n’ roll band!  Things improved when I married a good Catholic boy, but my bedrock was Bill.  My neediness must have been suffocating. I lived for his approval.

DSC03495In the third year of marriage I met Jesus.  Then, I discovered that I had to fall in love with my husband all over again.  Now I needed Bill because I loved him, instead of loving him because I needed him to stabilize me. Now God was my Rock.

Isn’t it interesting what the Samaritan woman did after her encounter with Jesus at the well?  “The woman then left her water pot, went her way into the city, and said to the men,  ‘Come see a man who told me all things that I ever did.  Could this be the Christ?”  The men immediately went searching for Jesus themselves.”

DSC03498The very lifestyle that had made her an outcast became a platform of testimony.  The shame was gone and she was free.  

The new little room is almost finished, and just in time.  A friend has come along who needs a safe, warm little space for a while – and I have just the spot.

God moves in our lives with such perfect timing, and the  change He brings is never for us alone.

“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman . . . and many more believed, not because of what you (the woman) said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

(John 4:39-42)

DSC03497The life springing up in the Samaritan woman now spilled over to all she met.  She, herself, became a water pot of sorts.  And as her revelation of Christ grew, I’m sure it became harder and harder for her to imagine the woman she used to be.

I love change.  I especially like the change that God brings every time we draw near to Him.  I could never list the things I used to do that I now have no desire for.  My husband used to kid me, “I’ve had two wives and I’ve only been married once.  You before Jesus, and you after Jesus.”

Everett kept circling around the room, “What happened here?”

It baffles the mind to see true transformation, like the old had never been.

Father, thank you, thank you, for your regeneration.  Continue Your work in us, Papa.  We want to be transformed completely into Your likeness.  In Jesus name alone, Amen.

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Do you want to be a River Carrier?

ICHMMG07_800The Samaritan woman came to draw from Jacob’s well, in the heat of the day, when most women took reprieve from the noonday sun. Little did she know, this ordinary task would become the platform for a life-changing encounter with Jesus.

She came to Jacob’s Well which is situated between Mt. Ebel (which means cursing) and Mt. Gerizim (which means blessing)  The Samaritan woman lived in Sychar (definition thought to be drunken, or falsehood), situated on Mt. Ebel.

She came from a place of cursing! That drew my attention immediately to the scripture in  Deuteronomy 30:19(NLT)

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessing and curses.  Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make.  Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” 

Everything pivots on the choices we make. How often we miss Jesus standing at the crossroad of decision, only grasped in retrospect.

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

“If you knew . . .” leapt off the pages at me.  And it made me wonder how many times I’ve said, “Oh, if I’d only known . . .”?  “If I’d known for sure it was God I would have acted thus and so.” It doesn’t often work that way.

Thankfully God loves us, even when we make the wrong choices, but we need to be reminded often that true satisfaction cannot be found in the ‘water’ of the world.

It was a popular Jewish belief that the Messiah would come mysteriously bursting into the world.  But, here sat Jesus, on the platform for the most ordinary task, and it changed her life forever.  (I don’t want to miss Jesus in the ordinary just because I’m waiting for the extra-ordinary.)

warerfall 1 warterfall 2If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.”  First, we have to come to Him.  That’s a self-prompted action, to reach for.  It’s a choice.

Then Jesus goes deeper:  “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  (John 7:38)

It’s one thing to come to Jesus, it’s quite another when we truly believe.  Believing in Him will not only quench our thirsts, we become containers of His endless supply.

Do you want to be a River Carrier?  I do.  Are you thirsty after this busy season? Let’s press in to know Him and understand what He is saying to us in these verses.  Will you join me?

Father, as we approach a new year, we ask You to give us a greater measure of that joyful trust in Jesus.  Open our eyes to know the One who offers us this unmerited relationship.  Help us to see You standing in the daily crossroads of choice, to empower us to choose Life and grow in the knowledge of You.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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New Desires To Desire

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I didn’t know how bad that wall in the laundry room was until the black-board and pictures came down.

I’ve lived pleasantly with this wall for decades.  Why now?  The desire was there.

DSC03421New desires can sure kick up lots of dust. (There’s nothing worse than having a coat of plaster dust on even the window panes.)

Amazingly,  I’m not whirling through the house anxiously cleaning. No fretting.  This has to be God!  I’m just not that well-adjusted.

DSC03415God is so good, He works in our hearts in ways that are so deep, they change us without our even knowing about it.

Life keeps handing me assignments WAY over my pay grade – but isn’t that the way the Lord does it?

God creates the desires He wants us to desire long before the work starts.  You see, these walls coming down are a part of a bigger plan that started taking shape in my heart a year ago – long before I understood why.

Friends say, “I don’t know why you’re doing that.  You take on too much. You need to take it easy.”  (I love my friends – and I do listen.)  But, when God gives you the interest in something, it DSC03410never feels like too much work.

I used to sing daily. I sang my prayers, I practiced long hours, and composed songs.  Now? I never think about singing.

The transition kicked up a lot of dust. I worried about my lack of interest, and tried very hard to manufacture that old desire. But, it felt like continuously re-patching the old wall that was meant to come down. The desire of my heart was simply changing.

It drove me to God, but instead of restoring my desire to sing, He gave me a new desire to write, and do art.

When desires are changing, it’s easy to misunderstand what’s going on. The world might label it depression, but maybe it’s God at work.  The key is to remain DSC03424devoted to Him, and trust His plan.

I was talking to my son about singing once day, and God spoke through him.   “Mom,” he said. “You either trust God or you don’t.”

Dear Lord,   Give us wisdom to understand the seasons.  Help us keep our eyes on You.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

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Sick and No Hairspray Isn’t Pretty

Marj in bathrobe 72Well, I did what you all recommended.  I took care of myself and now I no longer sound like a beer-drinkin’, cigar smokin’ old man.

It was fun answering the phone.  Gasp . . . “Hell -” clearing throat  “O . . . ”

I was usually greeted with a long pause and a hesitant . . . “M-a-r-j-i-?  Are you sick?”

Of course, if it was a telemarketer I used my usual answer, “She doesn’t live here anymore.”  Or . . .  “I’m sorry, Marji is no longer with us.”

I didn’t realize how serious pneumonia was until I collected a few reactions from my friends:   “Oh, NOOOOO.”   or  “Gasp!”  or “Uh-oh . . .”  Then there was:  “I knew it!” “Drink water.”  “I hope you’ll take care of yourself.”  “Did you go to the doctor?”

My favorite one was: “Who’s taking care of you?”

That made me revisit the hash truth that, as a widow, when I get sick, I’m on my own.   Compassion may pour from friends and family, but who wants to visit when they risk picking up your glop?

Frankly, a few days of not caring how my hair looks can do a girl good.  No hairspray suffused the atmosphere of my home for four whole days!  That should tell you how sick I was.  Hair flying in reverse, black socks, a green sweatshirt with the hood up, bunched over a red plaid flannel nighty and a super fleece bathrobe over all of it  . . . then a blanket!

I think my fever must have been over 102 because when it was 101.3 I felt so much better.

I grabbed for all the wrong foods because who’s cooking?  I’m amazed I survived the carbohydrate infusion.  Who wants salad when you’re feeling sorry for yourself? All I can think of is crunchy-greasy-starchy anything.  And ice cream!  Why does ice cream make us feel better?  I didn’t have a sore throat so it wasn’t for that reason.  It’s a pamper food.

I don’t understand the psychology because food doesn’t tastes good when you’re sick.  What a waste of good junk food. I finally thawed some homemade soup from the freezer and got veggies that way.

It’s dangerous to own a credit card and have access to the internet when you’re in the throws of sick-self-pity.  Luckily, I had Christmas shopping to do and got it ALL done.

Once the fever broke and I got on antibiotics, I  developed a strange urge to organize.  I sorted through drawers and threw out a ton of stuff.  Then I moved on to the inventory stash from when I had a store, sending boxes and boxes to SBR food pantry for their fundraising event. I could do it all sitting on the couch in my bathrobe.

Nobody dared to ask me to babysit, so I had a stretch of uninterrupted sorting time. Productivity . . . my happy pill.  I opened the door only once, and all I heard my neighbor say was  . . . “Whoah!!!” she took a step back. “I hope you’re sick . . .  because you look like h _ _ _ _,”

“Hell-o to you, too.”  What can I say . . . sick and no hairspray, isn’t pretty.

 

 

 

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Just Stick A Crayon Behind Your Ear

quit faffingGreetings all my fabulous blog-peeps.

loser meMarji is going to take some time off.  Unfortunately, I’ve developed a rippin’ case of pneumonia and I need to spend a long time doing nothing.  Fortunately the doc said my oxygen levels are high enough to stay out of the hospital.  She emphasized: “Now listen, this is not just a bad cold.  This is serious.” She knows me.

My problem is, the minute I feel the least bit better, I want to be doing.  Doing is my happy pill.  Doing is what I do!  I’m a Do-er.  Well, it seems “Martha” has had her legs knocked from under her and she’s being forced to take a “Mary” pose for a while.  To a doer, this is challenging.

I don’t do not doing well.  Say that fast three times.  (This is fever humor, give me a break.)

I think the Lord was trying to heal me on Thanksgiving – with laughter.  My two-year old grandson was coloring, when he took a break he stuck the crayon behind his ear like Fonzie with his cigarette. Who taught him to do that?  Well, it struck me so funny. I started to laugh.

Then I couldn’t stop.

After a few cheery giggles,  I  launched into phase two when giggles turn to howls and you lose all your dignity.

The family crowded around.  The grandkids pointed.  “Look, she’s crying.”

Phase three follows relentlessly:  pain. Your stomach knots, you have muscle cramps in your face, and  you can barely catch my breath.  Now there is NO sound.  It isn’t pretty.  The minute I’d muster a bit of control I’d look at that little crayon behind Chapel’s ear, and off I’d go . . .  embarrassing.  In the haze of my hooting I’d hear people asking, “What’s so funny?”

Chapel said, “Mimmy’s faffing.”

Avery said, “She does this a lot.”  Then she cradled my head and went, “shhhhh, Mimmy, shhhhh, calm down.”

Hazel said, “It’s just like when we spent the night and Mimmy was the only one who couldn’t stop laughing at bedtime.  She broke all her own rules.”

I finally got enough control, “Somebody, PLEASE, take that crayon off Chapel’s ear!”

Like magic I calmed down.

I should have known.  I should have gone home and called the doctor immediately.  Whenever I have a super-laughy, or super-cry-y time,  I almost always get sick the next day.  (Oh dear, I’ve just told you my darkest secret!)

William said,  “Look, it’s past 4:00!  Mimmy, good news, you made it through without getting grouchy.”  All the grandkids laughed.  The grown-ups were clueless.  We have this bond, don’t ya know.  The grandkids know their Mimmy is secretly the same age they are. I’m just a six-year-old who’s been swallowed by a senior citizen.

I’m going to bed now. I’d appreciate your prayers.

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