Are you subtly yielding to fear?

chick in hand

We’re in His hands.

With all the stuff happening in the world it’s easy to start yielding to fear.  It’s subtle, but I believe it can accumulate and led us off the path.

I talked to a dear brother about the state of affairs, and he told me about a brother he met who works in national security. When he asked the brother what he thought about what was happening in the nation, this was his reply:

“Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not unto your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”

As a Christian who knows what’s happening behind the scenes, it’s it awesome that he answered the question with Scripture.

Isn’t that what we should do?

I have allowed myself to listen to too many discussions about how the evil plans of men are ruining this country.  I’ve read articles that are not edifying one bit.  It’s hard to avoid what’s in-your-face,  but  . . . We must beware and not give way to a spirit of fear.

The enemy of our souls wants us wrapped in fear and making decisions based on fear.  This is not how Jesus modeled the way we are to live.  Fear clouds our minds, renders our faith of none-effect,  and makes it hard to hear the One we most need to hear.

He didn’t give us a spirit of fear, He gave us the Holy Spirit.  That’s the only “spirit” we should be listening to.We must answer the news of the hour with God’s word.

That’s what Jesus modeled, so that’s what we should do.

fawn w verse 72“Do not be anxious about anything but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (even of current events!) will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  

Jesus knew the suffering ahead.  He didn’t wring His hands, He rent His heart before His Father.  Jesus had to depend on the same Holy Spirit He has given us.

I’m not saying stick your head in the sand.  I’m not saying don’t prepare. I’m saying beware how you hear, and guard against fear.

Let’s dwell on the Word, not what’s on the internet.  Let’s stop studying how bad is bad and drink in how good is God.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” ( 1 Peter 5:6-7)

“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

“He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.  His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.”  (Psalm 112:7)

“Let not your heart be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.”  (John 14:1)

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Salty Lives Create Thirst

salt shakers“It’s MY TURN!” came a little voice from the porch.

“NO! I want to go FIRST,” said his brother.

I stuck my head out the screen door to see what was going on.  Two of my “Mimlets” (grandkids)  were having a tug-a-war with a bottle of bubbles.  I refereed the situation and peace returned.

In Mark 9:33, Jesus asks his disciples, “What were you arguing about on the road?” They didn’t want to answer him because they’d been arguing about who was the greatest.  I can just imagine the conversation, “I’m gonna be first!  That’s not fair, you get all the attention.”

Then Jesus says something that every one of us has to wrestle with to understand and apply.  “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  

My six-year old “Mimlet” joined a summer soccer team for the first time. When it came time to hand out the special team shirts (which is the coolest part) the coach discovered he was short one. The little boy left without a shirt began to cry his eyes out.  Without being prompted, my grandson took his shirt off and gave it to his team-mate.  He played the rest of the game draped in the coach’s x-large shirt tied in a knot at the waist so he wouldn’t trip.

“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last . . .”  

Jesus takes a little child in his arms and says, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me . . .”

But the disciples continue to wrangle about position, only this time with a new angle: “We saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

Can’t you picture a group of children excluding the new kid on the block?  “You can’t play in our fort because you’re not one of us.”  Sounds silly, but Jesus let’s us know the same selfish spirit is behind all sin.

Jesus continues: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off . . .and if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it   out . . .” (a portion from Mark 9:42-48)

Then Jesus concludes with, “Everyone will be salted with fire.”  

Salt and fire have similar properties.  They remove what is perishable, separating what is decaying from that which is sound. They are both transforming.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)

The last line: ” . . . be at peace with each other” bookends with Mark 9:35 “If anyone wants to be  first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  

salt shaker 2We have to have ” . . .salt within ourselves” before we can be salt and light in the world.  There will be no peace in our relationships, no sprinkling the salt of grace and love, if we don’t first allow the Holy Spirit to purify the selfishness in our hearts.  We must put to death those things in us that are decayed and perishing.

Choosing “to be last” doesn’t mean we keep running to the end of the line.  It’s having a heart of humility and meekness, an inviting grace of the soul that will yield to the will of God over the rights and comforts of our flesh.

It’s being willing to give the shirt you really wanted, to a friend.

Father, sprinkle us with Your purifying fire.  May we live salty lives that will make others thirst for You.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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Don’t Point the Finger, We’re ALL on the List

pointing fingerHave you noticed when you point a finger there are three fingers pointing back at you?  It’s  good to consider before judging someone.

When children are unruly, we look to the parents. When a nation is unruly, we look to the church.  That’s just how it goes.

I’m not going to speak to the issue of gay marriage here, but I do want to address the fingers that are pointing back at the church, because that’s where we have the greatest power for change.

Who will not inherit to Kingdom of God?

“Do you not know that the unrighteous and the  wrongdoers will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived (misled): neither the impure and immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who participate in homosexuality, nor cheats (swindlers and thieves), nor greedy graspers, nor drunkards, nor foul-mouthed revilers and slanderers, nor extortioners and robbers will inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10 Amplified Bible)

Homosexuality is only ONE of FOURTEEN no-no’s.  God doesn’t condone any of these activities.  We all have our opinions, but we can’t blame the collapse of this nation on the gays when we have 13 other sins active, married, and in leadership, in our churches.

Revelations 21:8 gives us shivers when it includes: cowardly, faithless, and liars.

I think Paul is making the point that the church needs to check its own baggage before going after someone else’s.

Immorality, of any kind, defiles the Church. Are we grieving this?  Are we raging in the media about greed? That’s considered idolatry. How about self-promotion vs God-promotion, is that being discussed?  What about bringing the culture of the world into our churches to attract young people vs seeking the culture of the Kingdom and letting the Holy Spirit attract them . . . are we discussing this?  Are we discussing  heterosexual immorality?

Why aren’t we discussing the absence of God’s Presence in so much of our “christian” activities?  Have we noticed there  are far more than three fingers pointing back at us?

The key is no one can inherit the Kingdom of God in the strength of our own morality.  Just try never glorying in your own achievements, or gossiping, or judging your brother, or telling lies.  Some of the most ‘godly’ appearing Christians can be absolutely murderous with their tongues.

We’re ALL on the LIST of those unworthy to inherit the Kingdom

Before we heap every gay person onto the ‘lost’ pile we need to consider a few things:

1. God loves and died for ALL  . . . while we were yet sinners.

2. Are we being examples of Christ?

3. We love people because they breathe – not because they agree with us.

We all need to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  We all have to answer to God for our behavior.  We all need to repent and change – every one of us from the top down.

If we judged Paul by his background we’d have to cut a third of the New Testament out of the Bible.  A self-righteous murderer, and a pillar in his religious circle, who deeply believed killing the followers of Jesus was doing God’s work.

God took care of Paul.  Knocked him off his high horse, blinded him for three days – then gave him new eyes, new lens, and look what happened.  That’s love.

Father, forgive us, and give us Your eyes.  Amen.

 

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God Doesn’t Want To Give Us That

blocks1My nine-year old grandson asks his dad, “Can I have $25?  I want to buy you a really neat Father’s Day present.”  My son willingly gives him the cash, as well as a trip to the mall.

Grandson emerges with a package from the Lego store.  On Father’s Day he explains, “I knew you would really love this dinosaur Lego set because I don’t have one.”

What a picture of our Heavenly Father.  He supplies all we need so we have something to give back to Him.  Everything comes from Him, and He receives great pleasure in seeing us enjoy life.

Our God is an outrageously open-handed God. He is so generous, so kind, so gracious, that He delights to overwhelm us with His love at every turn.

The only things God doesn’t want to give us are those things His Son, Jesus, purchased on Calvary: every sin, every foul thought and intention, all our anxiety and fear, every single hurtful piece from our history, every negative part of our old nature . . . you can’t have them . . . He bought them.  They’re His. He wants to keep them.

I was attempting to take the i-pad from my grandson one day,  because he’d been on it long enough.  He resisted.  “You can’t have it, you didn’t pay for this. It’s mine.”  All cheeky-ness aside,  I insisted he go outside and play – because it’s good for him.

The next time I was struggling with anxiety I heard a familiar voice in my head:  “You can’t have it, I paid for it.  It’s mine.”

This stopped me in my tracks, putting the cross into a practical perspective I hadn’t realized before. God is constantly teaching us, isn’t He?  (Even in the challenging moments with our beloved children.) Our Papa is very firm about what is good for us, as I was with my grandson.

Even when I wanted to go the familiar way of anxiety and discouragement, He said,

“No, you can’t have that. I paid for that and I’m keeping it.”

He continued.  “This is the day I have made for you to enjoy . . . here’s some joy, now go buy a day you can return to Me with love.”

Not only did Jesus purchase all the bad stuff, He purchased all the good stuff.  Everything in our lives, once we’re born again, has a different slant.  Now we’re  holiness focused instead of sin focused.  There is a big difference.  We still take sin seriously, and confess it, but then quickly walk on with confidence in the new nature He has given.

DSC01055God is not watching us with a scolding eye.  He is watching for every opportunity to teach us how to walk like Jesus.  That’s love, not law.

Let’s go to our Father today and say, “Papa, thank you for the strength You’ve given us today.  Help us give back to You a day of praise.”

Heavenly Father, teach us how to walk on this side of the cross.  Teach us how to live and breathe, and move in the new nature You’ve given us. Thank you for giving us just what we need to have a good day – and we’ll give back to You all the praise.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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Why Do We Beat Ourselves Up?

Have you ever backhanded a compliment or argued with someone trying to say something nice about you?  If someone told me I looked thinner, I’d be inclined to wise-crack, “Yeah, well don’t come too close, if these buttons blow you’ll get hurt.”

Seriously, why do we beat up on ourselves?

I think it’s a basic lack of understanding of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ . . .”

When we are born again, we become a brand new person. The old person was crucified with Christ, buried with Christ  and resurrected a totally new creation, never having existed before.

Negative self image? We just have to ask,  “Which self am I listening to?”  The old one, or the new one?  It seems foolish to let a dead man do the talking.

Ephesians 4:24 says, ” . . . be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.  Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, (and with yourself!) . . .”

We are not to be sin minded.  We all mess up, miss the mark, sin, but God is holiness minded. Once we confess our sin, we move on.  His emphasis will always be on the behavior of the new man.

I know what happens when we mess up . . . we tend to agree with the enemy that we’re bad, that we’ll never change or can’t do anything right.  Instead, let’s try this:

“Father, forgive me for what I did. I thank You, Papa, that that is not the behavior of the new nature You have given me in Christ. Now, I reckon myself dead to that sin and alive to Christ.  I am a new creation made in Your image.  I am seated with You in heavenly places in Christ.  Holy Spirit thank you for showing me I was wrong.  Now, by faith, I put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.  Amen.”

The greatest gift we can give the Lord is to embrace, believe, and lay hold of, what He accomplished for us on Calvary.

The world it low self-esteem, but there’s no reason to feel that way if you’ve in Christ . . because now our worth is measured by His righteousness, not our own.

If we are hidden in Christ, what does the Father see when He looks at us?  Shouldn’t we try to see ourselves the same way?

No more beating up on ourselves.

Lord, You make us burst with joy when we see that we are complete in You.  I am so grateful that You said, “It is finished!”  No more veils.  No more shame.  No  inner agony.  I rejoice in this hope – we will not lose heart…we are all together lovely in You.  Free from the past.  Free from all condemnation… rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!

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Faint Farm Smells Teach

cow

Meet Rusty.

I just returned last night from an excellent class on Spiritual warfare, led by Randy Baker.  I was sitting among seasoned prayer warriors in God’s army and, though relatively new to this type of prayer, I was excited to ‘get-started’ first thing in the morning.

Faint scents of farm life wafted through the air as I sat on my swing at 5:00 a.m.  Fresh out of bed, still in the staring mode, I opened my notes from class ready to apply what I had learned.

Suddenly, I was in the middle of a daydream.  I was single-handedly trying to lead a dozen, 600-800 lb. cows to the back pasture.  (interesting how God uses even the smells of your immediate surroundings to teach us)

The cows were delighted with their sudden freedom and quickly bolted in all directions.  I did NOT know what I was doing.  The farther they scattered, the more I panicked.   I started running back and forth, hooting and hollering trying to make them go according to my plan, but they would not co-operate.  Soon, there were cattle all over the place.

Farmer Kyle would know just what to do to move those cattle, and they know his voice, not mine.

2 Corinthians 10:5  came to mind.  Here it is, in context, from the Phillips New Testament:

“Now I (Paul) am going to appeal to you personally, by the gentleness and sympathy of Christ himself. . . For I am afraid otherwise that I shall have to do some plain speaking to those of you who will persist in reckoning that our activities are on the purely human level. The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defence that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.”

cow 2Our good intentions have no power. To pray in Jesus name, we must be sure it’s what He is saying.

Intercession is birthed from the center of worship.  From the seat of devotion He drops into our minds what He wants us to pray about.

Our great Intercessor, Jesus Christ, will inspire our prayers as we wait upon His lead.  From this place, we find the words to declare, and the prayers to pray.

The best thing I received from the class was a fresh determination to make it a priority to sit with Jesus every day, and co-labor with Him in prayer, and in worshiping the Father.  May His Kingdom come . . . on earth as it is in Heaven.

chickFather, we place ourselves in Your loving hands.  Forgive us for acting in our own strength.  Forgive us for trying to herd our activities, on all levels, with fleshly determination. Only You have the authority to lead.   I submit myself to you today.  Be the leader of every thought, prayer and activity.  We love You, Lord.  In Jesus name, Amen.

photos were taken at the Lehigh Valley Outpost, Rush, NY
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Prepare For Change

light my lamp 72

Have you noticed that many things you used to do regularly, and enjoy,  have lost their spark?  Could it be the winds are changing? could it be the Lord wants you to be focusing on something else?

I have. Many of the things I used to consider SO important – aren’t anymore.  I’m convinced the Lord is trying to change our focus.  I’m being led to focus more on gathering regularly for corporate prayer and worship.  Two by two, small groups, church groups, wherever we can gather together for prayer.

It seems like it’s becoming more difficult to pray on our own.  Have you noticed?  I think the enemy is ramping up his attacks against private devotion. Gathering with others for prayer will keep our wells open, and our lamps burning.  If you’re having trouble “getting-to” prayer, get with a friend because this is an hour for serious focused prayer.

Things appear to be worsening in our nation, but this is not a time for gloom and doom.  This is an hour to raise up a shout and lift our voices in resounding praise because God is on the move.  He is shaking everything that is not rooted in Him.  He is awakening the hearts of His people. Revival is coming.

God is the Best Story Writer

Things may not be as you would like them to be in your life, but remember God writes the best story.  We have to trust Him.  What is happening in your life and mine is only a part of a much bigger picture.  Trim your lamps. The Lord is coming.

Are you prepared?  Not only spiritual preparation, but how about practical preparation?

Have you asked the Lord what He wants you to do to prepare for what’s ahead?  Do you have at least a month’s worth of food in your home?  Do you have extra water? Do you have batteries, or alternate lighting and heating?   Think about it.  Everyone must do what the Lord tells them to do.  I hear Him saying to get supplies.

I saw on the news this nasty sink hole video.  It happen near Watkins Glen.  They advise people not to drive through water across the road because you don’t know if there’s even a road there anymore.   

This is so prophetic.  Those things that we have counted on are being shaken.  They are no longer be reliable.  We need to fix our eyes on Heaven and be tuned in to the Holy Spirit as never before.  The old way may not be safe anymore. Be prepared to make changes.

Father, stir our hearts with the seriousness of the hour. Show us what to do, Lord.  Fan the fire in our hearts, blow on the smoldering wick, ignite us again.  Cause us to hunger and thirst for You like never before.  Give us people to pray with regularly.  Help us to encourage one another. Revive us again, O Lord. . .

 

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It’s All About Perspective

mouse 2The screen door slammed and in raced three very excited 12-year old girls. “Mrs. Stevens do you have a box?”

“What kind of box and what for?” I said trying to assess the need.

“Scarlet (the reuse cat) caught a mouse and it’s injured.  We need a box to put it in.”

“Mrs. Stevens, do you have any cheese?”

I’m thinking, this critter is lucky it happened upon three pre-teen beauties so full of compassion.  If it was up to me – splat!

mouseFor the next two hours they hovered over the little limping grey-blue mouse, made a little bed of grass, and fed it shredded cheese.  “Awwww, look at it . . . it’s hurt . . . see it’s limping.  Should we make a splint for his leg? I thought for sure we’d have some tears.

When I came out with my camera, Avie remarked, “You’re not going to photograph it in its time of need, are you?”

mouse 3The little grey-blue mouse shook with fear and kept trying to fix it’s own back leg.  I actually felt my heart thump once with compassion.  With my history of mice in this house I never expected  to feel anything but the urge to . . .

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?  It was sweet watching them care for the little mouse. Especially Abby, she requested a moment alone with it.

I thought for sure the mouse must have died, but instead they carried to the Farmer next door.  When I saw him I asked,  “Did you hear about the mouse the kids caught?”

“Hear about it?  It’s under the lights in the barn.”

What a heart. He respected the feelings of those little girls.

Sometimes we ride rough-shod over kids feelings because we’re looking at them only from an adult perspective.

There’s something to be said about standing in another person’s shoes before judging their feelings.

One time, my little son was near me playing while I was talking to a friend on the phone.  She was telling me a prank some friends played on her husband, George.  I exclaimed, “George must have died!”  My son’s head shot up and he cried, “Georgie died?” He thought I was talking about his Uncle George dying.  From his perspective, he’d just heard the saddest news ever.

I’ve learned the hard way that when a child shares their feelings it’s best to listen deeply, and try to understand things from their perspective.  It’s not the easy way, but it’s the higher way.

DSC04857My grandson sat in the background watching the girls gush over their patient.  I could see his nine-year old wheels turning.

“Let’s kill it,” he spouted,  knowing full well the rise he’d get from the girls.  He looked at me and grinned from ear to ear because he accomplished just that.

“NO!”  they shrieked. “You’re mean.”  He was in his glory.

The little blue mouse remained on my porch all day.  I’m sure it couldn’t figure out what all those big faces were starring down at her.

And the cheese?  . . .  I don’t think it liked cheddar.

 

 

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You Can Come Down Now, Dear

hat in garden

“Why are you walking like that?” my son asked.

“Like what?”

“That. Did you hurt yourself?” he persisted.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I snorted.

Laying in bed that night, I reviewed my litany of body aches.  It seemed pain was increasing the longer I thought about it: knees throbbing, thighs cramping, ankles burning, back groaning . . .

Why do I do this to myself?

hat in garden 2

I used to be a stand-tall organic gardener, bib-overalls, deep tan, rake in hand, smile on face.  I used to turn a 50 x 150 garden by hand.  There were tomatoes trellised on branches, hay thickly spread across walking paths winding around lush vegetables and companion floral.  I worked under the sprinkler to I stayed cool (in my bikini!).

I can remember going into the garden at the break of dawn to let the chickens out to hunt and peck for slugs and tomato worms. The memory of two chickens having a tug-a-war with a giant green beast stays with me to this day. Honestly, in the quiet of the morning,  I could  hear the tomato worms chomping.  That’s how I found them.

blog-inscect-aug-2012-037(I never figured out which end was the head on those things.)

Then there was the time five-year old Tommy Fulton came for a visit. “Mrs Theevens, want to see my pet?”  Then he reached in his pocket and brought out a big-fat-juicy tomato worm – in my kitchen!

Tomato worms thoroughly gross me out. One night I was asleep in my bed after watching the chickens yank on a big one, and unwittingly slipped my hand under my pillow and grabbed my finger.  “TOMATO WORM” I screamed.  Poor Bill didn’t come down off the ceiling ’til the next morning.

tomato worm 72

“You can come down now, dear, just a bad dream.”

But now, my gardening amounts to pulling weeds in a three-foot patch of overgrown perennials, with a two-day reprieve before trying to do the next three feet . . . the Advil bottle rattling in my pocket.

It never fails, as I’m resting with my I-Pad on the couch with my heating pad,  I’ll come upon an article  about the 91-year old lady winning a marathon race, or an 86-year old gymnast working out on the parallel bars.  Maybe I’ll try that in my next life.

The only marathon I’m in is a mental one. Just facing that same senior citizen every morning in my bathroom who quickly jumps in front of me every time I want to look in the mirror.  Or, trying to remember why I came into the bathroom in the first place.

Getting older takes courage – and thoughtfulness.  I’m starting to ration my bends: lets see if I pick that up off the floor now will I be able to get my shoes on later?  

My vegetable garden now consists of  one waist-high container with three cherry tomato plants (and they have a fungus).

There’s much  for me to be thankful for as these soft, summer days unfold.  I do wonder how much Advil it will take to get me through all the activities I still insist on trying – even though I know better.

Why do I do this to myself?  Because hope springs eternal, that inside this aging frame is a woman as young and vivacious as the organic gardener I once knew – even though I’ll never fit into those bib-overalls again . . . but maybe that’s a good thing.

 

 

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Pennies in Your Dryer?

DSC04775As I’m trying to write, there’s something in the dryer making a clanking sound.  The harder I try to concentrate the louder it getting. Ah . . . I finally got up and looked . . . pennies.

Negative thoughts are like pennies in the dryer. Click Click Click  . . . you can drown out the annoying sound, wait until they accumulate and come flying out when you open the dryer door, or get up and remove them immediately.

Most of us ignore and accumulate.

A big clunk or thud would get our immediate attention, but it’s the little thoughts that we ignore until they accumulate and transfer into anxiety.

Here are three good questions you can use to test your thoughts:  Does God want me to believe that?  Does the Devil?  Are my feelings telling me the truth?

I’m trying to be more conscious of what I’m thinking. It is imperative in the battle against anxiety.

Anxious thoughts come from taking little gulps of fear.

DSC04783We can’t possibly analyze every tiny thought, but we can become more aware of what’s  rattling around in our minds.

For a single person it’s easy to ruminate on the subject of being alone. Who will take care of me when I’m older?  Gulp. What will happen if I get sick?  Gulp.   I’m learning to  answer the anxiety of my heart with the truth:  I am not alone.  I have a loving God with me every moment of the day.  He is faithful, and no matter what happens in the future I’ll have the Creator of Heaven and Earth, and His friends, with me.

Do I believe He is capable?  Willing?  Will He come through for me? Can I really trust Him?  If the answer is yes, then why let those other negative thoughts remain?

The more I tell myself the truth the smaller the gap between knowing God is with me, and believing God is with me.

My mother (and I) have natural frown lines.  When I concentrate they get deeper.  When my son was about four he asked me one day if I was mad at him.  “No! Why?” I asked.  He pointed to the frown lines on my face.  I can remember thinking the same thing about my mom. I determined if I was in her graces by the absence or presence of frown lines. Was that an accurate assessment? Did God want me to believe that about my mother? No. How about the devil?

So many of our problems come from believing lies.  A dear friend of mine, whose gone home with the Lord, changed my life with a simple question.  I was confiding in her about feeling down.  She said, “Look for the lies.”

Occasional mental inventory is a wise practice – especially on the heels of feeling anxious.  Jesus told us not to be anxious for anything – so are our worry thoughts from Him? Does the devil want me to worry?

There’s nothing as beautiful as the silence of a peaceful mind.

Father, thank you for giving us choice, but help us, Lord, to choose our thoughts wisely and not entertain anything that is not of You.  I pray for my friends who battle with anxiety and worry,  please send Your comfort and give them clarity of thought.  We love You and trust You, in Jesus name, Amen. 

 

 

 

 

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His Ever-present Kindness

(photos taken by Heidi Jo Levendusky and Jennifer Fine Jackson)

double rainbowMy suitcase rested on the floor of my brother’s guest room.  The morning called me and I tiptoed from my room. Everyone was sleeping.

On his farm road, as narrow as a suburban driveway, nothing blocks the view.  Stretching wheat fields rise and fall like gentle hills cuddling the horizon.  Flowers are blooming everywhere, bursting with springtime luxuriance. Pots teeter on every ledge and corner, varieties of plants I’ve never seen before.

I found my favorite folding chair and put it on the front porch of his house so I could watch the morning.

“Bill loved it here.” I whispered to the Lord.

Tears caught in my throat, and I took a quick gulp of lemon tea as if to drown the rising sorrow.

Embrace your wilderness as a gift. I heard Him say.

Nothing comes in life without God’s kind hand to hold on to.

Ministry stretched before the newly baptized Son of God, and He heard His Father’s voice from Heaven proclaiming, “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”  Wilderness followed the pronouncement of favor, and with the Father’s words still ringing in His heart, He is led by the Spirit into a place of testing.

Will the search for self-gratification, or position, or power cloud Your devotion?  Will you deny Me – for these things?

I’ve been thinking about this account in the Bible for most of this year. As I read and reread the story its roots grow deeper in my heart.  It is the cry of our hearts to hear the Father say, “This is my beloved child in whom I am well pleased.”

On our own we would never hear it . . . so, He put us in Christ.

In the distance, the rain was still falling gently.  As the sun’s rays piercied through the mist,  suddenly a magnificent rainbow appeared.  It stretched across the sky – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet.  One minute it wasn’t there and . . . blink . . . it appeared.

savannah:rainbowThe family was awake and bustling inside, so  I called for them to come and see.  My little great niece, age two, had never seen a rainbow before.

Could this be Heaven’s bread and oil for the bruising from our  wilderness?  Is it a coincidence, or did God dip His brush in the colorant of grace and streak His love across the sky? Is it madness to believe a God who is that tender, and that intimately involved with our lives?  

“Embrace the promise of My ever-present kindness,” came His voice again. 

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 KJV)

Father, You are so good to us.  You are so kind.  We look to You today with adoration and joy – nothing can separate us from You,  Amen.

 

 

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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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