A Garland of Grace

cactus bloom 2

I awoke with a blast of anxiety this morning.  It’s a part of  loss common to widows which is most uncomfortable, but the Lord had a surprise for me.

The house was freezing.  I grabbed my bathrobe and staggered into the living room and saw the most beautiful sight.

The morning light was streaming in the window highlighting the blossom on the Christmas cactus.  All around it was shadowed, except for one side of the plant and the face of my Bible with the words: Let God Love You.

My heart swelled with joy.  Like blossoms on a garland, delicate, gentle beauty: “Let Me Love You.  All you have need of I’ve already provided for you.”

Dear God, what have I to fear when Your grace and beauty surround me.

Then I read Isaiah 61

1 ‘The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,  because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted;  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners;  2 to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn,

3  To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3 NAS)

Christmas cactus 1When the Lord repeats something it’s for a reason –  the word instead is used three times. It means in the place of, an alternative, or substitute.

“A garland instead of ashes . . .”  as I’ve studied the significance of a garland I found it is interchangeable with the word “crown”.  It is an ornament of grace,  literally, a wreath or garland of grace. It’s an ornament placed on a victor, meaning “stood the test; tested to be trustworthy, of sterling worth.”

Christ did all this for us.  He stood the test. He paid the price, suffered the loss and heartache, the pain and torment in our place.  He has given us an “instead”   for every negative emotion, every response in our human hearts, every trial and heart-break.

What love . . . Can you hear the voice of our Heavenly Father in this?

let God love you4 “Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up the former devastations;
And they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.” (Isaiah 61:4)

Every trial and test can make us stronger if we embrace the instead from God.

We are empowered, in Christ, to minister this same grace to those who are devastated, desolate and ruined. God will use what we have come through to rebuild, raise up, and repair others.

Forgive us, Heavenly Father, when we leave Your garland behind and carry our fainting hearts instead, as if You’d given us no answer for our sorrow.  Forgive us for leaving behind the manifold grace You have provided for every facet of our lives.  

I lift up my friends today, Father, comfort them, Lord, rebuild, raise up and repair their lives.  You are most faithful. There is nothing we experience in life that You have not made provision for.

In Jesus name, Amen.

floral

 

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What Is Your Life-Theme?

When you close your eyes and think about the Lord is there one characteristic of Him that seems front and center to you?

Perhaps He’s given you a Life-Theme.

open door into gardenAll through my walk with Jesus He has reenforced the theme of His unfailing love.  Not just the love of God, the unfailing love of God.

The Hebrew word for unfailing is anekleiptos, it is a combination of A “not” and ekleipo, “to fail” – properly, not left behind, describing what will not give out, cease or fail to perform.

In the Thesaurus, unfailing is: constant, dependable, steadfast, endless, unfading, inexhaustible, boundless, tireless, ceaseless.

There’s a slice of wonder to chew on.

I remember a specific time, years ago, when I was going on a ministry trip.  My travel companion was unable to go with me so I had to go alone.  Normally that wouldn’t have been upsetting, but my father had passed away that year and I was a little unsettled about things.

Right before I left home the Lord gave me the promise that He would surround me with His unfailing love.  He didn’t say what that would look like, but I had the sense He wanted me to be watching for clear signs of His constant love.

I had my directions, but I missed the right exit.  With a flurry of fresh butterflies in my stomach, I reasoned I’d get off the next exit and just double back on the country roads.  Wrong.  After getting thoroughly lost, I pulled into a convenience store for directions.

A man, who looked just like Earnest Borgnine, was sitting in his car drinking a root beer.  I rolled down my window and said, “Excuse me . . . . ”

“Sure,” he said.  “You go down here, take a left, then take a right, follow that road and take another left.”

My eyes glazed over.  I thanked him and headed out again – clueless.  Well, at the left turn, I turned right.  Suddenly I heard a honk behind me.  In my rearview mirror I could see he was pointing the other direction – he was following me.  Strangely enough, I felt peaceful.

At the next turn I went the wrong way again.  Honk!  I pulled over and he came along side my car.   “Follow me,” he said smiling with amusement.  Again I felt peace so I followed.

He drove back to the highway and rode the next 15 minute back to the right exit.  I was in tears in the car thanking the Lord for His help.   As he turned to go on his way, he stuck his hand out the window and waved. . . but not any old wave . . . he waved exactly the way my father used to wave.

And I heard the Lord whisper, “I will surround you with My unfailing love.”

grape vine trellis“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed . . .” Exodus 15:13

“Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.” Psalm 31:16

“Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in Him.”  Psalm 32:10

Thank you, Father,  Amen.

 

 

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What Is All of Creation Waiting For?

1794661_10203778903251995_2081708607617709001_nI didn’t understand what was happening to me at the time.  It was almost frightening.  Laying on a blanket in the fields, staring up at the sky, I suddenly heard a sound.  Not audibly, much deeper than that.  In my budding spirit, as a new Christian, I ‘heard’ the sound of groaning.  I felt the earth under me shuddering, like a moan too deep for words, as in travail.

And with that strange sensation came these words: The whole earth is groaning to see the manifestation of the Sons of God.

10359492_10204661387833558_2672445934083777235_nIt comes from Romans 8: 22 ” For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain . . .”  and Romans 8:19.

I wrote what had happened in my journal, but I didn’t really comprehend what it meant.  I think I’m beginning to see something now.  I studied it a bit, embraced the theology of it, but there was more.  God wanted me to catch the heart of it.

Manifestation: an event, action, or object that clearly shows or embodies something. . .

We believe theologically that God is our Father, but do we really get it?  Every living thing, every planet and star, the whole earth groans in travail, interceding, that God’s sons and daughters will be clearly seen.

All of creation waits for us to get it.

early morningEverything Jesus did, He did to reveal the Father.  “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)  He came to abolish the law, seek the lost, die for our sins,  put away sin, destroy the works of the devil, bear witness of the truth . . . why?  To give the Father sons and daughters.  It’s all because God wanted a family.

When Jesus was baptized, the heavens opened and the Father spoke these words:  “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  (Matthew 3:17 NIV)  The very next scene we see Satan trying to undermine that,  “If you be the Son of God.”

So, the devil’s agenda since the beginning of time has been to make us question that Father loves us.  To dilute, question, only half-believe, our position in Christ. To settle for theology instead of relationship.

The Father spoke through Jeremiah to “faithless Israel” (Jeremiah 3: 12 NIV) calling them back, once again promising His love.  The verse that absolutely breaks my heart is v 19        “I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me.”

The earth is groaning to see God’s children rise up like sons and daughters and walk in His Spirit, showing His miraculous deeds.  All of creation intercedes for us to finally get it:  the One who created all things, the One who formed the heavens and the earth, and every living creature on the land and under the sea . . .  is our Daddy.

Dearest Father, forgive us for walking away from You.  Forgive this nation for turning to worthless gods when only You can give us what we’re looking for.  Draw us again, Papa.  Please forgive us for hurting Your heart. You wait, like the prodigal son’s Father, to see our faces again . . . and You come running. 

 

 

 

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Send Them Home To Mama

home to mama 3To me, there’s nothing in the world like grandkids.  They make me want to be a better woman.

I can’t help myself.  I want to feed them, hug them, kiss their faces a thousand times, hold them on my lap, buy them surprises “just because”   . . .  then send them home to Mama.

home to mama 5They revive me.  They breathe life into my bones, and heart, and mind.  They make me laugh and they make me cry to God for their future.  They pull energy from the hidden places of my soul . . and then I send them home to Mama.

home to mama 1They amaze me.  They are the cutest in the world, the smartest, the craziest, the most creative.  My job is to love them, watch them, point out even the tiniest achievement . . . and then send them home to Mama.

Grandma is not the parent – she’s the soft landing.  Even when, according to one,  I get grouchy at 4:00.  If I enforce house rules too sternly he’ll say, “but it’s not even 4:00 yet!” Oh my.  Even cheeky – they’re adorable.

They know my faults, they see me tired, worn out, and even if I bark and point my fingers with a frown – they still love me.  And when I apologize for a “4:00″ attitude . . . they hug me madly and say I’m fine.

God’s amazing invention – kids of kids,  wee ones who make you feel young again, who grow up too soon and can’t fit on your lap anymore . . . but try.  God knew we’d need that unconditional love when we’re old.  God knew our hearts would not grow sour if we had little children to make us smile.

home to mama 4My favorite age is the one they are.

home to mama 6Teens disappear into their activities and they’re not as close as when they were little, but if you pursue them – you find the hugs are still there hiding under their new-found importance in this world. Our bond is unconditional.

My Mim-lets, Mim-yins, Kid-lets, I love them to death and I appreciate the added bonus that I can always . . . send them home to Mama.

Lord, help grandmas and grandpas be Your vessels of unconditional love.  Help us shield them from harm and insulate them from the harshness of the world.  Draw us more to prayer than to preaching, and keep us fit so we can keep up.  In Jesus name,

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Laughter, A Part of God’s “Turning”

Scanned Image 121790001He was 6 ft. 2 inches tall, blue eyes, lean, with a little bald spot he used to slap when he made a point. He was: wise, deep, quiet, a lover of God and sons . . . beautiful in every way.

William Stevens, Papa, Bill – today would have been our 48th wedding anniversary.

It’s amazing, even after 7 1/2 years, it still feels so fresh at times.  Missing him is a lingering ‘something’ that hangs over so  much that I do. Not in a negative way, but because I’ll always love him.

My mother-in-law used to say, “You never get over it – you just learn to live with it.”

Well, God has taken my mourning and turned it into more creativity, a greater capacity to love, and I too am deeper – like Bill.

Loss can create something beautiful in the heart of a person.  Even when sadness lingers, it changes you – makes you more tender, more compassionate.  Now, my heart wrenches when I hear about a new widow, where before I’d be compassionate but unmoved. I understand the battle ahead and my heart breaks for them.  I wasn’t like that before Bill died.

I’m so grateful to the Lord for His “turning”.  It wasn’t on me to do.  I didn’t have to try to “give it to the Lord”, there was little human effort on my part.  I couldn’t exchange my pain for His joy – because pain was too much a part of me – and joy is His gift.

“Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me; O LORD, be my helper.” You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.  (Psalm 30:11)

He turns our mourning into dancing.

I’m not so sure about the “dancing” part.  I have kicked my heels up a few times, but dancing is the out-break of joy.  Me, I get the giggles for no apparent reason.  My grandkids kid me about it.

Avery says, “Here she goes again.”

quit faffingChapel tells me to “Stop Faffing!”

God has used laughter as a part of my “turning.”

Many times I’ll break into laughter as I’m falling asleep, with no funny thought preceding it!  Susan, my house guest, has her bedroom over mine, she’ll hear me and yell down “WHAT’S SO FUNNY?”

I yell back,  “I DON’T KNOW!”   Then, she’ll get laughing until the whole house rocks with faff-ter.   It’s awesome.

Once I was getting out of the car when I got a Faff-attack.  With one foot still in the car, and one foot out, I became limp with laughter.  A few people walked by, smiled, and kept going.  I laughed for about ten minutes, wiped my happy-tears, and finally could go on my way.

I’ve had Faff-attacks while driving – and had to pull over.

“A joyful heart (or laughter) is a good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

I’m so glad Jesus didn’t leave me with a crushed spirit – grief can do that to you.

“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting.” (Job 8:21)

“A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”  (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

Thought I’d have an anniversary party today.  All the grandkids will be here.  We’ll  have pizza – and just be together.  Maybe I’ll buy some balloons.

Father, I pray for all my friends who are suffering the ache of loss.  Comfort them today.  Every widow, every widow from divorce, every parent with empty arms, every parent lost . . . be their comforter today, dear Lord.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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The Ways of Peace

Trust-obey 100

“Marji!” she squealed when she heard my voice.  We hadn’t talked in several years, but it was as if no time had passed whatsoever.  We almost talked over each other in our enthusiasm to share all the things God was doing in our lives.

I was startled to hear she is writing books, too. Her poetry is wonderful.  You can find them on amazon. Her name is Karen Lucci.

Old friends are God’s beautiful plantings like perennial gardens that never stops blossoming year after year.  As we shared, there was a consistent thread:

Follow the peace of Christ to find freedom.

We don’t have to struggle to be known as Christian creatives.  We don’t have to market ourselves, prove our work, brand ourselves like the world says we should.  We’re God’s kids, and all we have to do is walk in peace,  trust and obey.

Here’s a beautiful rendition of  Trust and Obey, by Chelsea Moon.

“Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”

Proverbs 3:17

In Proverbs, Solomon uses the pronoun “she” or “her” as a literary tool, a personification, symbolizing wisdom.  (Try reading Proverbs 31 replacing the pronoun “she” with “the Word” – it’s amazing).

Wisdom’s ways are where we find our delight.  They are peaceful, and where we find our happiness.

“Peace” –  shalom.  “The character of peace is stamped upon her paths, she  brings tranquility and serenity and blessedness.  Her paths  are free from strife and alarm, and they lead to peace.” (pulpit commentary, emphasis mine)

Jesus walked the path of peace.  He entered into a covenant of peace with His Father, walked among us as our peacemaker.  He took the chastisement of our peace on the cross, and by His precious blood purchased our peace.

“She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast . . .”

(Proverbs 3:18)

As a creative person, (or merely a human person) I can step into striving very easily.  God reminds me that I am to follow, not push. . . flow, not struggle.  Peace is our key. God leads us by peace.

“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” (Psalm 119:165)

“When the LORD takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.”  (Proverbs 16:7)

“The LORD will give strength to his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.” (Psalms 29:11)

“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”  (Psalm 34:14)

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because he trusts in you.”  (Isaiah 26:3)

I thank God for His unfailing reminders to walk in His peace, and simply trust and obey.

Dear Father, bless all my friends – new and old.  Make us all more sensitive to Your peace.  Help us to trust You more dearly and walk in the freedom You have given so freely. In Jesus name, amen.

 

 

 

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Carriers of His Presence

merry go round 1“Can we go on the merry-go-round, Mimmy?” I looked down at the little person at my side and groaned inside.  I hate going round and round on those things. Everything in me wants to focus the world spinning around me – but it’s impossible. Instead, I end up staring down at my lap praying I don’t get sick.

“Maybe later,” I said crossing my fingers.

I quickly steered him away.   Fortunately, there were many exciting things ahead of us at the Strong National Museum of Play.  By the time we were ready to leave and passed by the merry-go-round again, my little grandson’s eyes were glazed over with exhaustion and  he never even saw it.  Thank you, Lord. 

I sat on the porch this morning trying to find focus.  My thoughts were spinning:  this needs to get done, and that, and then there’s . . . Have you been there?

It seems like so many things in this world are at crisis level screaming for immediate attention.  Pressure.  Responsibilities.  Expectations.  Spin . . . spin . . . spin.

I tried focusing on the beauty of spring blooming all around me, but what I saw instead was:  the garden’s a mess, I have to get the weeds while they’re small. . . the car needs repair . . . that tree limb should come down . . . I need to write the bills, and make those phone calls . . . and . . . spin . . . spin . . . spin.

Within moments I was in tears, wishing my husband was here to help me unravel the confusion and help me find my focus again.  This continues to be the greatest challenge of widowhood – no one to help you process.

Then, I heard the Lord whisper  . . . “Rest. . . My peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” ( John 14:27)

I think it happens to all of us.  If we’re not careful we can end up worn thin by all the things contending for our attention.

merry go round 2

“… But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” (Luke 21:34) 

This is what the devil is doing: he is trying to get us overwhelmed, and spread too thin.

The battle is in our minds, for our peace, all for the purpose of wearing us down so we become ineffective, dull, powerless Christians.  That’s the devil’s plan.

A merry-go-round life?  No thanks!  God has not enlisted us to merely be chaos-monitors, but to be carriers of His Presence.

Father, thank you for encouraging me this morning.  I pray for my friends, show us what we are to be choosing moment-by-moment.  We want to follow YOU, not be pushed by the world, the flesh and the devil.  Help us to be more sensitive to Your Holy Spirit.  Thank you that we’re not left to find our way in life alone – we have You.  We love you, Lord, in Your precious Son’s name, Amen.

 

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Do You Know What Renders Us of None-Effect?

DSC04529We could easily get discouraged when snow falls on our daffodils.

We could easily get discouraged when we get out our spring clothes and they don’t fit.

But let’s not – and I’ll tell you why.

Discouragement renders our faith of none effect.

The Hebrew word means: to break, to disallow, discourage, make of none effect
A primitive root; to refuse, forbid, dissuade, or neutralize — break, disallow, discourage, make of none effect.

Years ago our whole church went on a fast.  We were advised to ask the Lord how to approach the fast.  In the past, my fasts  usually consisted of a time when I abstained from breads and sweets.  So, I began my fast in that manner.  However, a week later when I’d displayed no discipline or empowerment, I went back to the Lord.

After repenting for my assumption, to my amazement, He answered without a single word about food.  Instead, the Lord said, “I want you to fast discouragement.”

In that instant, a light went on in my head.  I suddenly realized what a big problem  discouragement was for me.  I’d never thought of it before.

The rule of fasting is: when you feel like eating – STOP – and replace it with prayer and the Word.  Take the time you would be eating to seek the Lord.

So, when I felt the familiar rise of discouragement, I would STOP and replace it with thanksgiving, and recall scriptures about our victory in Christ.  It was very difficult, because it was a battle.  The enemy wants us to get discouraged, because it renders our faith of none effect.

Discouragement is an unwelcome guest in the Spirit-controlled life.  Discouragement, when allowed to run its course, can often lead to depression, and self-loathing.  It breaks us down, makes us ineffective, and neutralizes our faith.

I still battle this giant on occasion, but the minute I turn away from discouragement, lift my thoughts to Christ, and engage my faith, I see an immediate turn around.

DSC04525

Are you struggling with discouragement?  Try this . . .

1.  Write down the things that are making you angry.  Anger and frustration are behind discouragement. Get a notebook and just start writing down everything you are angry or frustrated about. Don’t over think it – just write. Write until your done.  If you fill a notebook – get another one.  Then put down your pen, lay your hands on the paper and give it all to the Lord.

2. Look for the lies you might be believing.  For example:  perhaps you feel powerless to lose weight and fit into those tight spring clothes . . . instead of getting discouraged  (which renders you ineffective) . . . replace it with something positive:  Go for a walk.  Ask God to forgive you for believing that lie, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you . . . then, make your next meal veggies (LOL)

God does not lie, so your thoughts aren’t coming from Him.  Take those lies captive, like you would if a giant wasp got in your kitchen.  Cast them down in Jesus name, and replace the lies with what God says is true.

There are many other ‘helps’ for overcoming discouragement.  These two have really worked for me.

Father, Please be with my friends today.  Even if discouragement is a natural response to our circumstances, You have called us to a super-natural life.  Teach us how to guard our hearts from discouragement.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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The Seed Of Excellence

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

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

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

God has planted the seed of excellence in our hearts.

joy blue mag 2

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

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

Read Scripture with expectancy.

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

Let’s look at Psalm 27 again:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Guard Your Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Built-in Instinct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David knew his strength came from God’s presence.

God has designed our hearts to hunger for His Presence.

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

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

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

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

sing heart song 2 

 

 

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God of Breakthrough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farmer, Kyle, would tell you different.

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a friendly smile from Mr. Floppy!

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

 

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Get Off the Train

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

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

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

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

That was totally the Lord speaking through him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Jesus.

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

Sometimes our circle of accusers are all in our head!

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

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

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

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

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

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Oh the Wonder of Wonder

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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