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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Making Allowance

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. 
Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/col.3.13.nlt

We make lots of allowances in life. If we're going on a trip, we might make allowance for the heavy traffic that we know we're going to face on the way. We give ourselves extra time because we expect we're going to run into it. Many of us also make allowances in our budget/spending. We've come to realize that unexpected things come up in life that aren't part of our thought-out spending plan. The freezer dies, the car breaks down, the kids have a growth spurt and need new clothes. We make allowance for these things by maybe setting aside some funds in a 'miscellaneous' category. Because we are expecting it, we're able to deal with it a whole lot better when it happens.

But there's one area of life that many of us do not give any allowance to: people's offenses against us. We don't anticipate people potentially disappointing us or rubbing us the wrong way. We don't consider in advance that we live in a fallen world and the chances of us getting offended by another person are pretty high. We don't make allowance and so we aren't ready to respond properly when it happens. 

Now, making allowance for people's faults against us doesn't excuse or justify them. What it does do, though, is cushion us in the process. It helps us be patient and select our words wisely in that moment. It guards us from getting bitter toward them and helps us forgive faster. And it reminds us that God has made MUCH allowance toward us as He forgives us all day long. If He remembers that we are dust and imperfect and forgives us, then we should do the same for others - and hope that they will do the same for us when we offend them.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Well Watered

My house plants are wonderful. They bring beauty to my home and help filter the air in my house. They are both useful and beautiful. But they are also dependent. If it weren't for me, they would be, well, in house plant heaven, I suppose. ;) I love watching the soil drink the water when I feed my them - especially if it's been awhile since I've watered them. I can almost hear them thanking me as they gulp it down. (OK, not really. Don't worry, I haven't lost my mind to that extent, yet.) But I'm sure they love it as the water travels up their stems and revives their drooping leaves. I've never had to talk them into taking a drink. They naturally know what to do when the water hits them - they receive. They were created to receive. When they are dry and thirsty, they don't resist the water, they welcome it.

I'd like to say I'm the same way. But I'm not. It's actually hard for me to receive. Maybe it's the way I was raised, or my schooling, or the religion I was brought up under, but I have a hard time receiving - on several levels. It can be hard for me to receive a compliment. It can be hard for me to receive someone's help. But it can be especially hard for me to receive from God. Only He knows how much patience He has been with me over the years as He's tried to 'water' me, only to have me push back on His Love. I can tend to struggle in His Arms as He washes me with His Word. It can be hard for me to receive words like, "You are loved. You are worth much. You are precious. I LOVE YOU." I can't tell you how many times I have probably talked God out of having feelings for me. 

But God knows that some 'soil' is just harder to penetrate than others. And He's sooo patient as He gently continues to give, even in our resistance. He knows that it's not that the 'plant' doesn't want to drink, it's that it hasn't understood how to. So, He'll let His Faucet continue to run over us until one day we finally give in. And oh what a moment that is! The moment we finally say "YES!" to the Water of His Presence and let Him in and let Him love us. It's a sweet surrender. And we finally see that the One we were so afraid to open up to, is the One that was there to save us all along!

And just like a house plant, we don't just drink Him in once. We are ever dependent on a God that has made us to be dependent on Him. He gives and we drink. He gives and we drink...we "are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do." (Psalm 1:3 NLT)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Any Wall!

In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭18:29‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/psa.18.29.nlt


***

There's nothing like hitting that proverbial Wall. It's the Wall we stare at in the journey when we question if we can even go on. We've poured ourselves out and given it our all and now find ourselves running on empty. We literally are not even sure if we can put one more foot in front of the other. Even the thought of it is exhausting. We know in our minds we can't just throw in the towel. We say, "How can I abandon ship now? I've come too far." As we simultaneously say, "But, I have nothing left to give." It's a Wall that is bigger than what we've ever encountered. 

But the Wall may just be a reminder to us. We look down at our hands and remember again that we are human. Our own strength and determination is earthly and limited and there is only so much we can do in and of ourselves. We tire out, we grow weary. We aren't endless running machines.

But then we remember! We have a God living inside of us that never tires! We quickly go from looking at our hands to lifting our eyes toward Heaven, and say, "I can't, but He can!" And immediately we are energized! I don't mean re-inspired in our own strength. I mean physically, emotionally, mentally, and in every way ENERGIZED by Him! His Spirit rises up in us like Living Water and begins to flush out the exhaustion and despair and replaces them with renewed Strength! We remember that God in us is a Resource of Endless Joy - a Joy that translates as STRENGTH in the human body! 

The Wall, then, is no longer an impossible point in the Journey. Instead, it becomes an Opportunity to see just how strong God is and how powerful His Joy can really be! We stop saying "impossible" and start agreeing with Psalm 18 and declare,


"With my God I can scale ANY Wall!"

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Feeling Like A Meatball?

On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball, when somebody sneezed...

Poor little meatball. 

What did he ever do to anyone anyway? Sittin' on the top of his world, minding his own meatball and spaghetti business when suddenly... 

"Ahchoo!" 
He's completely blindsided by a nasty blast of someone's sneeze! 

And, if that's not enough, he gets knocked off his horse, (well, pasta platter) and rolls right out of his comfort zone. First the table, then the floor and - who knows why nobody stopped and helped the poor fellow - but he rolls right out the door! How much more vulnerable and out of your element can you get?!

What downward momentum he must have had because he didn't stop there. His humbling journey continues as he rolls into the garden and, of all places, under a bush where no one can see him and he can very well be forgotten about altogether. What a personal dilemma and place of humiliation for the confused guy. I can imagine after a moment of lying there as a pile of mush, that he may have been tempted to despair and give up on all hope of anything good coming from such a terrible thing.  

But, to his amazement, this was not the end of his story! 

Surprisingly, we are told that the 'mush was as tasty as tasty can be!' His trial made him even more pleasing! Imagine that! And, after a year of hiding, the season changed and what was once a pile of mush became its own growing tree! And, that tree grew amazing 'fruit' - more meatballs and tomato sauce! 

So, if you're a meatball all covered in cheese, on top of your bowl of spaghetti.  Remember the journey of our poor little fellow and the good that came out of that sneeze!


On top of spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball,
When somebody sneezed.


It rolled off the table,
And on to the floor,
And then my poor meatball,
Rolled out of the door.

It rolled in the garden,
And under a bush,
And then my poor meatball,
Was nothing but mush.

The mush was as tasty
As tasty could be,
And then the next summer,
It grew into a tree.

The tree was all covered,
All covered with moss,
And on it grew meatballs,
And tomato sauce.

So if you eat spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
Hold on to your meatball,
Whenever you sneeze.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Breaking A Wild Horse

http://m.wikihow.com/Break-a-Horse

Horses are beautiful and strong animals that can be the most useful creatures on the planet.  But a horse is only useful when it learns how to submit to its master. Until it learns how to listen and obey, it can not be placed in situations where it can be of use to its owner. The owner must first 'break' the horse before it can ever accomplish anything with it.

Some of the most broken people on the earth need to be broken. I don't mean they need to be further harmed. I mean they need the Master to come in and teach them how to follow. They are like wounded wild horses. Though they are very needy, they are also very strong-willed. They are used to calling the shots in their life and maybe not afraid to call the shots in other people's lives. They have the potential to do great things, but they have no Master.

God is the Great Trainer.  No horse is too hard for Him to train and no case is too impossible for Him. The article above describes some approaches to breaking a horse. As I read it, I can't help comparing parts of it with how our Master 'breaks' us.

It's opening statement reads:  "In general, a horse's loyalty greatly depends on the type of training or breaking that it receives. Horses that are broken to follow their leader out of respect are much more enjoyable than those that follow out of fear." 

This is an extremely important note. Our Shepherd does NOT use fear to train us. He does not use intimidation, threats, or bullying to teach us. If someone thinks God is using fear to train them, they should question the voice they're listening to. It could very well be the devil's condemning, lying voice, not God's. God's Voice is one of Love. Even in His correction, He is gentle with our hearts.  He earns our respect through His patient, yet steady, firm Hand.

The article continues on with giving practical steps...

Gain the trust of your horse.  Always be sure that there is a connection/bond with your horse. If your horse is afraid of you or doesn't fully trust you, then there is hardly any point training him. Talk to him, groom him (grooming helps connect you with the horse and forms a bond between the two of you) and reassure him if he is spooked by something.

Remember, first and foremost, God is interested in a relationship with us. He doesn't train us just so we can be used. His first priority is to be close to us and bond with us. He understands that if He's going to get anywhere with us, He must first gain our trust. (And let me say this: He does not take our trust lightly. He realizes how precious it is because trust is the highest expression of our faith in Him.) He 'grooms' us with His care over us. He heals us. He reassures us of our worth to Him. He chases out our fears. He pours His great Love into us. Our response to Him is then shear gratefulness and the result is loyalty toward Him and trust in Him.

Train the horse from the ground. Before attempting to mount the animal, it is important to gain its trust with ground breaking.
  • Attach a lunge line to the horse's halter. Train the horse to follow your commands as it moves in a large circle around you. Introduce the horse to the words: "halt", "walk" and "back".
  • Teach the horse to properly walk beside you while leading it with a lead rope. It should learn to stop, start, turn and respect your space as its leader. Try not to let your horse boss you around as he/she will think they can do what they want.
Here's the thing wild horses need to learn the most: THEY are not the boss nor can they boss the Master. The Bible says a master is always greater than the servant. We are not in charge. He is. He is our Friend, but He is also Lord. And He is also the King of ALL Kings. 

Introduce the riding equipment that you will use while breaking a horse.  In the beginning, the animal may be afraid or timid with the unfamiliar sights and sounds of riding tack.
  • The horse must become accustomed to having a bit in its mouth. Begin by placing the bit in the horse's mouth for short intervals of time and work up to longer periods. You can also buy a breaking bit. Lead the horse while it is wearing the bridle.
Here's where things are a little different with God. He trains us not so that He can control us, but so that we will WILLINGLY submit to His Spirit and follow Him. He actually doesn't want to put a bit in our mouths so that we feel forced to obey. He wants to get us to a place where our hearts are so saturated with His Love that we want to always be where He is and follow His Voice - simply because we are in Love with Him and we trust that He is Good and is guiding us.

Psalm 32:8-9 tells us: The Lord says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control."

Here's the amazing part of it all: He 'breaks' the wild horse only to lead it into the very best!


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Stick A Toothbrush In My Mouth And Call Me In The Morning

I had some choice words to say, for sure. While my patience was slipping, my thoughts were forming. But, all that came out of my mouth was nonsense. What a predicament to have so much to say and have a toothbrush wedged inside my mouth! I aimed and fired but all that came out was foam. Looking back now, I'm thankful for it. Within minutes, my temper calmed down, and by the time I rinsed my mouth out, I was thinking more clearly and had a much better response than my first reaction. 

Sometimes, the first things that come to our mind in a potentially heated situation are not the best ones. They are part of our reaction in the situation instead of a thought-out response. They are charged up with emotion and most likely unfiltered. In that moment, we probably aren't thinking about the ramifications of our words or if we even sincerely mean them.

In every scenario, we have a choice. Will we be the boss of our tongue, or will our tongue be the boss of us? Will we grab the reins of that creature or will we surrender to him? Will we hold him submissive or let him take the wheel and potentially send us flying down a dangerous course with no license to drive? He is a ruthless thing that takes a mile if you give him an inch. And once he's out of his cage, it's like trying to lasso a wild animal to get him controlled again.

If you want a happy home, one of the first places to start is with that creature inside your mouth. Nothing starts a fire faster than a spark coming from your lips. And nothing quenches a fire like words that bring peace. A happy, peaceful home is the fruit of a lassoed tongue. The question is, who's the boss? You or him? Just remember, though, it's through His Strength and a yielding to His Spirit that we are successful at anything that is Righteous. 



Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? 
No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
‭‭James‬ ‭3:2-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/jas.3.2-12.nlt

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Out With The Bad

Detoxing is tough but necessary. Whether it's drugs, or food, or alcohol, the first step toward wellness is to get rid of the thing that is waging war against you. We usually only think of the body when we think about detoxing, but many of us need a spiritual detox, too.  

So many of us have ingested polluted or poisoned teaching. We've listened to spiritual ideas that are laced with Religion. The preachers/priests who fed us may have used the Bible, but they imposed their own ideas and twisted the scriptures to defend those ideas. They took scripture out of context or completely removed certain scriptures that didn't support their teaching. They preached a different kind of gospel that is not Spirit led, accurate, or even remotely close to God's Heart. They filled our cups with bad water and told us to drink it. They baked up their own concoctions and told us to eat it. This has left them feeling spiritually superior, and us sick to our stomachs.  

I think there is nothing that makes God more infuriated than seeing His kids poisoned. And what makes Him even more upset is when they are told this toxic food is from HIM! Can you imagine seeing someone give your kid a piece of bread that is laced with poison and they think you gave it to them? How misrepresented would you be?! Then when your kid ends up sick, they would wonder what kind of parent they really have!

Friends, many of us need to ask God, our Father, if we have ingested bad food and water. We may not even be aware of it because it's been camouflaged or we have grown used to the taste and the resulting sour stomachs.

Jesus is the Bread of LIFE. Pure, Unlaced, Bread will bring Healing and Wellness at the first bite. Fresh Water from His River will bring immediate relief to our parched lips and make us never thirst for anything else again. Good Food and Water will flush out the Toxins and bring clarity of mind. It will always satisfy and never leave us suffering. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Relayed Messages

The right words will be there. 
The Holy Spirit will give you the right words when the time comes.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:12‬ ‭MSG‬‬
http://bible.com/97/luk.12.12.msg

Sometimes I'll relay a message to my daughter through my other daughter. I'll say, "Tell your sister she needs to clean her room." When she goes to relay the message, it's understood between the two of them that though it's coming out of her mouth, it's really a message from me. There is authority in her message, not because she said it, but because I am saying it through her.  

God uses the same method to speak to people. He will give someone a message to relay to someone else. Though it is their voice speaking, it is really God's message through them. In the Old Testament, for example, God used the prophet, Nathan, to speak to David. He also used Moses (well, more his brother, Aaron) to speak to Pharaoh. And in the New Testament, God still speaks this way...through the voice of His People. We have the amazing privilege of walking on this earth with God inside of us. As believers we have the Holy Spirit literally dwelling in us. We are a house of God. And believe it or not, God has a lot to say - to us and through us! 

But the Messages we relay are not our own words. They are His. As people of God we can't try making up messages from God and then slapping His Name on it as if He said it. We would be lying. And we know who the father of all lies is... (Ok, I'll tell you. The devil.) 

When God does speak through us, we will know it because the Holy Spirit will give us the words. How important is it, then, for us to get familiar with His Voice! How can we say what He wants us to say if we don't know what His Voice sounds like?

Here are a couple simple points:
1) God's Voice will never contradict His Word, the Bible. Reading the Bible is the best place to learn God's Voice.
2) God's Voice does not have even a drop of condemnation or guilt in it. He will never ask you to speak condemnation over someone or make them feel guilty. 

God is sending out personal Messages on a daily basis to His People so we can relay it to the world. Are you listening and ready to relay?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Among The Undergarments

You just never know when and where the Miracle of Life is ready to take place. I don't mean natural birth. I mean the kind of birth Jesus talked about when He said "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) It can happen in the most unexpected places and at the most unexpected times. Today, it happened to be in a lingerie store. Was I consciously thinking about the Gospel as I sorted through the drawer of merchandise? Can't really say I was. But I was about to.

An employee of the store started stocking more merchandise next to me and we struck up a friendly conversation about the assortment to choose from. We both laughed about the merchandise, when the conversation suddenly went from undergarments to Salvation. She made a reference about God and I said, "Oh, are you a Christian?" And to my surprise, she answered, "I'm right on the edge of becoming one. I'm trying to decide." My eyes must have gotten big in that moment. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I knew then that I was in that store for more than just some 'girl shopping'. This gal needed some encouragement to step into the Light! She explained to me that she was trying to decide whether she wanted to stay with her religion or become a Christian. So I told her, "All religion is people trying to get to God. Christianity is God already coming to us and inviting us to get close to Him." Because of the religion she was in, she already knew about the sacrifice of Jesus. So I told her, just take what you know and make it personal. Ask God to forgive YOUR sins. Give Him YOUR heart. But she wondered if it was too late for her to come to Him. I said, "Absolutely not! It's only too late if when you die, you haven't repented of your sins."  She was so relieved to hear that.

"Hey, you know, I would be happy to pray for you right now if you want to become a Christian right here." I said.

"Would you?" she said with the sound of relief in her voice. It was as if she was just waiting for someone to take her hand and walk her to where Jesus could be found. I was thrilled and honored to do so.

We walked toward the back of the dressing rooms and there in that quiet moment, in that small hallway, on August 6, 2017, she gave her heart to the Lord. She said, "I believe in you Jesus. Forgive me of my sins. Thank you for forgiving me. Come into my heart. I want you to live in me and I want to live my life with you and for you. And thank you that one day I will be in heaven!"

I was so filled with Joy after we prayed that I couldn't stop jumping up and down and hugging her like she had been my friend for years.

She said, "Wow! I can't believe how I feel. I feel like all this weight just fell off of me!  Thank you so much! It's like you were sent here to talk to me. You have no idea what has been going on in my life and how perfect this timing is!"

"I believe it!" I said. "God has done amazing things in my life, too!"

I gave her my name and phone number and the name of the church I attend.  I encouraged her to read the Bible and start understanding the Word of God. All of Heaven was exploding in celebration as she went back to work and I went back to shopping. Oh, to see the unseen at that moment!

Today was a reminder to me that God is always on the move and always drawing hearts. And the harvest is certainly plentiful! More people are looking for Him than we may realize. But they may not want to walk through our church doors or even know what door to walk through to find the Answer, the Truth. But thankfully, the Church can walk into their world and deliver the Message they are just waiting to hear - even if it's among the undergarments. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

In Plain Sight


It's so funny playing hide and seek with a young child. You want to make it fun for them, but your goal is not to make it impossible for them to discover you. Their objective is to find you, and your objective is to be easily found. So you 'hide' yourself in plain sight. You may  stand behind a curtain with your feet showing at the bottom. You may sit on the sofa and cover your face with a pillow. You may go inside their open toybox, which is a common place for them to look for things. And if the child is having difficulty finding you, you might even give them hints. Maybe you'll start to hum underneath the curtain, or rattle a toy inside the toy box. You 'hide', but you're never really hidden. For you, it's not about hiding, it's all about being easily found.

God says, "Seek and you will find". I can't help but hear Him say it in a playful Voice, like we would to a young child when we invite them to find us in a fun game of hide and seek. But just like we would with young children, He 'hides' Himself in plain sight. He makes Himself so obvious in our day, that the more we play with Him, the easier it is for us to see Him absolutely everywhere and we begin to realize that He's not hiding Himself at all!

To name a few places...we find Him in nature as He uses everything He has created to show us His Beauty and Power, often using them as metaphors about Himself and His Kingdom. All of creation declares the glory and goodness of God. We also find Him as we talk to our sisters and brothers in the Faith. It might be their voice that we hear, but we know it is Him speaking through them. And of course, there is a go-to place where He is always found: the Bible.

'Seek and you will find' is not meant to be a complicated statement and one for us to stress ourselves over, thinking we have to strenuously look for Him. It's an invitation to simply look and see that He is right there in plain sight everywhere we go. He's saying, "If you look, you'll see me!" For Him, it is not about hiding Himself, it's about letting Himself be found.

"...Seek, and you will find..."
Matthew 7:7 NKJV





Friday, August 4, 2017

The Man, The Barn, and The Animals


There was once a man who owned a very large barn. It was so huge that he was able to fill it with hundreds of animals. The barn was impressively spectacular and grew quite a reputation. Many who heard about the barn came to see the impressive sight and always left a generous donation.

This barn was, to say the least, the man's pride and joy as he had put all his investment into buying and maintaining it. All his attention, energy, and money went into its upkeep. He'd never admit it, but the truth was, he wasn't in the animal business because he cared about animals. He was in it so he could say he owned a big barn. He cared more about the barn, itself, than he did the animals that lived in it. 

One night, when all the animals were asleep, intruders broke into the barn and stole all the animals. Later that morning, the intruders contacted the man who owned the barn. 

"We are holding your animals ransom," the thieves told the man. "But we will let your animals live if you give us that beautiful barn of yours."

The man was forced to make a choice. Was he willing to sacrifice his animals or sacrifice his precious, beautiful barn that he worked so hard for? 

After a moment to think, the man concluded that he was not willing to risk losing the barn because he had too much invested in it. It would be too great a loss. 

So he told the thieves, "You're bluffing!"

But the thieves were not. And they said to him again, "We will let your animals live if you give us that beautiful barn of yours."

But the man refused to give in. The thought of losing everything was too much for him. He could never let go of his precious barn, even if it meant losing every single animal. 

That night, the thieves followed through with their threat and slaughtered every animal. 

"How unfortunate," the man thought when he heard the news about the animals. "But at least they didn't take my pride and joy, the precious barn."

But the man soon found out just how important the animals really were. Because there were no animals, people stopped coming to see the barn. And because people stopped coming to see the barn, he no longer received large donations. And because he no longer received large donations, he could no longer keep the barn looking spectacular. And because he could no longer keep the barn looking spectacular, the barn eventually lost all reputation until finally all the man had left was a hollow structure and a broken pride.

The man wept for days over his barn. He could not eat or sleep as he mourned the death of his barn. Finally, after much thought and many tears, the man lifted his head and said to himself, "I see, now. Oh what a foolish man I have been! If I had my priorities straight and cared for what was most important, I would have made the choice to save the animals. Then even if I lost the barn, I could have rebuilt it and in the end both would have been saved!"

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Junk Mail


It's amazing the amount of mail I rip up and throw away every day. Some of it, I don't even have to open to know that it's trash. I can tell immediately by the envelope. Credit card offers, business advertisements, flyers I have no interest in. I've come to realize over the years that just because it has made its way into my mailbox, doesn't mean I have to keep it or welcome it into my life. 

There are many other things that come into my life every day that I can choose to keep or trash. People's advice, for example. Seems everyone has an opinion about everything and are always happy to offer their two cents worth. It's important in those moments to listen for Wisdom speaking. Choose to only keep what is worth keeping and trash the "junk mail". Good advice will always line up with the Heart of God/Word of God. 

Spiritual guidance is also another big 'keep or trash' in life. Just like my junk mail, it's amazing the sheer volume of it that finds its way into my 'mailbox'. And none of it is worth keeping. I go to a community festival, and a girl is reading tarot cards. I go on social media and see advertisements for daily horoscopes. I talk to people throughout my day, and hear them promote mystical ideas, things based on human wisdom, not God's. They all seem so inviting and draw you in, much like my junk mail tries to do. But all of it is lifeless and a trap for anyone who welcomes such 'mail' into their lives. 

There is actually only one Letter that is worth keeping in life. The Love Letter of God, our Father: the Bible. It's our great Compass. It tells us who God is, who we are, and how we can know Him. It gives perfect advice and spot on spiritual guidance. It's the only Letter we need and the only Letter worth opening. All the rest is just a bunch of junk mail.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

All Charged Up

My cell phone is amazing. I can text and make phone calls. I can take pictures with it. I can search for recipes. I can access directions on GPS to get me places. I can book concerts, take notes, keep track of my family's calendar, check the weather, google how to get stains out of my carpet or change the oil in my car. The list goes on and on! There is practically nothing I can't do with it! It's a fascinating device right there in my pocket. But as complex and amazing as my cell phone is, it is still a dependent device. It can only do what it does when it has power. Without it, it's nothing but a piece of plastic in my hand. That's why we all hate seeing that dreaded alert come up on our screens: 'LOW BATTERY'. We know then that the countdown is on and we'd better get it plugged into a power source or it won't be good for anything.

In the same way, Believers in Christ are amazing. We can do great things in this world. We are Light. We are Salt. We are Bright and Shining Stars. But we are only those things with His Power in us.

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory
displayed in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay
to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."
2 Corinthians 4:6-7 NIV

We only are what we are because of Him. Without Him, we are empty clay jars. Or like a cell phone, we are powerless pieces of plastic. It is with this Power that God does what He does through us. He saved us and filled us with this Power so that we can love on the world, not with our own power and strength, but with His. He is the electricity that runs through us.

We would be kidding ourselves, then, to think that we somehow can do God's will in and of ourselves. For us to do that would be like asking our cell phones to do what they do without a charge in them. Impossible.

God has never asked us to lean on our own strength and He never will. He knows it would be fruitless for us to do so. What He does tell us to do is abide in Him (John 15), stay plugged into Him, and remain fully charged. My friends, if God is going to get anything accomplished through us, it's not going to be in our strength, it's going to be by His Spirit.


'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts.
Zech. 4:6 NKJV

For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13 AMP

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Irritated Passengers


"Take me there" we say to our taxi and Uber drivers. We call on them to help us out and get us somewhere. We give them permission to take us.

But some immediately lack confidence in their driver the minute the journey starts. Though there is paperwork to prove he is certified to get them there, some passengers still question the driver's ability and doubt his decision-making. The passengers might begin to complain that he's going too fast, or going too slow, or taking a route that they don't prefer. Even at the end of the trip, after the driver has proven himself by safely taking them to their destination, the passengers may still continue to complain - not because the driver didn't do his job and get them to their destination, but because the passengers weren't the ones calling the shots along the way. For the passengers, it wasn't just about getting there, it was about getting there their way. It was about being in control through the process.

Many of us have spoken similar words to the Driver of our lives. We pray sincere and earnest prayers with strong words like, "Take me there. Take my life. Have your way." It's a bold prayer to say to a God that is willing to actually take us up on the offer.

And for some of us, the trip of Him getting us there might look something like this...

We excitedly jump into the passenger's seat as He whisks us off to our destination. At first we have full trust in our Driver until....until we notice He just made a left at an intersection that we would have gone straight at. We try to relax in our seats, but we watch as He continues to make choices we would never make and starts going down roads we would naturally avoid. Suddenly, He slows down completely because He says there is much to see at this point in the journey. He tells us it's best if we move a little slower because He doesn't want us to miss anything. We grow impatient as we check our watches and wonder if He has actually forgotten completely about the original destination we were headed toward. Irritation begins to rise up inside of us and we decide to call our friends and complain all about it.  

We say, "This is so annoying! I thought this trip would be fun but all it's doing is irritating me! I don't know where He's going. I don't know what He's doing. He's taken me down so many unfamiliar roads, I can't even tell you where I actually am right now! AHHH!"

Our friends nod their heads and reassure us that we're actually in really Good Hands. They've had similar trips with the Driver and they say He's always pulled through. He never let them down and we can be confident He won't let us down. He's the best Driver on the planet and there is no one better that we can trust.

We shake our heads as we hang up, still unsure about this whole thing, as the Driver turns around and says with a smile, "Don't worry, I didn't forget where we're going. We'll get there. I promise." We realize He just overheard everything we said.

Then He suddenly guns the gas and speeds His way past all the other drivers. He redeems the time as He quickly maneuvers us through the back roads He just took us down. We tighten our seat belts as we lean back in our seats. We're pleased that at least we're not feeling stagnant anymore, but the irritation remains as He is now moving faster than what we prefer. "Can't He just find a pace that maybe I'M comfortable with?? GEESH!" we mumble under our breaths.

He looks in the rear view mirror and says again with a smile, "The best thing for you to do is rest those tired eyes of yours, my friend. Ya know, there is rest in this journey." We are worn out by our own anxiety.

In the end, the Driver gets us there. There's no question about that. He has lived up to all His Promises along the way and hasn't let us down. But just like the passengers that exit the taxi or the Uber, we still find ourselves agitated. We realize then, for us, it wasn't just about getting there and provision being made, it was about getting there our way. It was about being in control through the process.

We step back and realize that we had forgotten the conversation we had with God before the trip started. We were the ones that said, "Here I am God. I am yours. Take my life. Take me there." And that was exactly what He did. He only answered the very prayers that came out of our mouths.

God will always get us there. He's faithful to get the job done. But He'll get it done His way, not ours. And just as we can't tell our taxi or Uber drivers (or bus drivers or airplane pilots) how to do their jobs, we can't try to tell God how to do His. And, honestly, why would we want to, anyway? He's the Professional. He's the One that's gone before us and has driven the trip already. He's the One that knows where He's going and the best way to get there. We'd be doing ourselves a big favor, then, if we just let go of trying to control Him and let Him do what He does best - be our God.

Friday, July 28, 2017

First Thought, First Commandment

I love when I wake up in the morning and my first thought of the day is Him. It's like God gets Himself first in line for my attention, as if He's been waiting outside the door all night like we do at stores on Black Friday to be the first to catch the great deals. He's like a little kid excited to get the day started with me to start loving on me, showing me more about Himself, and working through me to love on the world. One thing I know - I never wake up to find Him frowning on me or with crossed arms and a tapping foot hoping that today, just maybe today, I'll pull my act together. My goodness, no. If I ever do wake up with those thoughts, I can be sure that those are not His thoughts toward me.

As I opened my eyes this morning, He reminded me of the most important Commandment.

"You must love the Lord your God with all your heart,
all your soul, and all your mind.
This is the first and greatest commandment. " Matthew 22:37 NLT

He reminded me again that there is no pressure in my relationship with Him. What He is looking for from me today is the same thing He's always been looking for - my attention (my mind), my affection (my soul), and my whole heart. He is a Daddy, not a drill sergeant who's looking for me to follow a whole bunch of rules. Similar to how I felt when my children were first born. I didn't look at them and think, "Well, I hope this kid lives up to my standards." Of course not. What I was thinking was, "Wow, how beautiful. I can't believe she's mine. All I want for her is the very best and that she will love me and love others." I suppose that might actually be the very thoughts God has when He sees me.

He reminded me too, that He has cleared a path for us to Himself. Because Jesus died for our sins, we don't have to hurdle over anything to get to our Father. We have a straight shot to the throne room. There are no obstacles between us and our Daddy's lap. We can run up to Him anytime, anywhere. He loves us so much and His goal is for us to realize that we not only must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind... but we can and we get to, love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. What freedom and joy we have when we realize that! We have free and unlimited access to the Father. We can talk to Him, love on Him, include Him in everyday affairs. We can laugh with Him, cry with Him, and be absolutely 100% ourselves with Him. It's easy to follow the First Commandment when we realize we have the freedom to.

Bottom line, God didn't make a way for us to have relationship with Him only to make it difficult for us to love Him. EASY ACCESS is His motto. And that's a great first thought to have each morning.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Prepared

Some things in life you just have to think ahead for. If the air conditioning in my house dies, it's not wise of me to wait for the summer heat to kick in to consider fixing it. I need to do the necessary steps in advance to ensure that when summer does come, I'm ready for it. What regret I will feel if I wait!

The Bible talks about being ready for things in advance - like the storms and troubles in life. God does not delight in seeing people destroyed by the storms. So He tells us the necessary steps to take so that when the storms do come, we aren't destroyed by them. His Wisdom is like a Voice crying out in the streets saying, "Build your life on Me, the Firm Foundation! So when the storms come, your life will not be swept away by them!"

The Bible also tells us to be ready for an amazing event that has yet to the place - His Second Coming. One day, He will crack the sky and come back, just as He promised. We can count on it - even more than we can count on the summer heat hitting in the middle of July. The Bible tells us that He will come so quickly, we won't have time to repent and turn back to Him in that moment. He will come as a thief in the night, in the twinkling of an eye. We cannot wait until the moment of His Arrival to then decide whether we want to be part of His precious flock. We must decide now and be ready for Him. 

But listen, God isn't trying to scare us into a relationship with Him. He is just telling us very plainly what we can expect, because He loves us and He doesn't want to see us crying out to Him on that Day and wishing we had come to Him sooner.

So, as we consider all the preparations we make in life such as being ready for the seasons to change, and the holidays to come, and the retirement to happen... Let us consider the most important preparation of all...our life beyond this earthly one. 

‭‭“For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near. “Immediately after the anguish of those days, 

the sun will be darkened, 

the moon will give no light, 
the stars will fall from the sky, 
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 

And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world —from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven. 


"Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will disappear, 

but my words will never disappear. 

"However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. 


"When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. 


"Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; 

one will be taken, the other left. 

"So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 

Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, 
he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 
You also must be ready all the time, 
for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭24:27-44‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/mat.24.27-44.nlt

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Caring and Moving

Getting people to care is always the hardest part. We can promote our cause and try to make people do what we say until the cows come home, but if people don't care, we are wasting our breaths. So we have to begin there. We get people recycling, for example, by showing them the destruction it has on our wildlife when we don't. We hope that this will get people concerned and taking responsibility for their trash. Or, in order to convince people to start taking care of their bodies, we show them the long term effects that neglect can have on us like sickness, cancer, or even death. We hope this does the trick and gets people caring about their health. We understand that in order to get people willingly moving, we must first get them caring. 

Jonah was one who suffered with a caring deficiency. God had a special assignment meant just for him - to go tell the people of Nineveh to repent or they will be destroyed. But instead of obeying, he went the other way and consequently found himself sleeping with the fishes - literally! What Jonah lacked was not competence or a sensitivity to hear the Voice of God. What Jonah lacked was heart. To put it plainly, He simply did not care about the people of Nineveh.

Well, we know how the story ends. Jonah eventually does what God asked Him to do, but even then his heart was still stuck in selfish land and continued to lack true concern for the thousands that God had just spared. So God used a simple illustration of a plant to get Jonah thinking and maybe even caring.

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”

The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”

Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.

But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed.

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”

"Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”

Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals.
Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

‭‭Jonah‬ ‭4:1-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/jon.4.1-11.nlt

God was basically saying to Jonah, "Look, I need you thinking outside your own little world. You're more torn apart by your own discomfort than you are with the fact that thousands of people were about to die. If you care for something that is here today and gone tomorrow, how much more do you think I care (and I'm trying to get you to care) about those people living in spiritual darkness?"

Wow. Jonah knew then that God was not just looking for his obedience, he was looking for a changed heart. God knew that if He could get Jonah caring, He could get him moving - not reluctantly, but willingly - even to minister to people that he didn't think deserved God's mercy.

And God still speaks this same message to us. He's says, "Who will care? Who will be concerned about the millions of people that don't know Me? Who will care enough to weep for them? Who will care enough to pray for them? Who will care enough to go to them and tell them about My Love, about My Son??"

God knows, He needs us caring to get us willingly moving.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Really Listening?

I'm telling you, I have no recollection of it. My husband said, "OK, so I'm heading out now." To which I responded, "Where?" And he said, "Remember, I told you yesterday..." as he went on to explain that we had an entire conversation about his plans. He said I agreed and nodded and seemed engaged in the conversation. Yikes! Where in the world was my head during that conversation? Knowing me, I was distracted with something else and I was just in auto pilot during our conversation. I wasn't really listening, I was just going through the motions of listening. I obviously didn't retain a word. Apparently, it's easy for me to act like I'm listening, but in reality, I'm not. 

If I've listened like that to my husband, I wonder how many times the Lord has talked to me and I've gone into auto pilot with Him. I might nod and say, "yes" but His Word never really breaks the surface of my heart and makes its way down.

There's a big difference between hearing God and listening to God. Many go to church each week and hear the Word of God, for example. They nod and say 'yes, Amen' but, just like I was on auto pilot with my husband, they, too, are not listening. Listening to the Word involves a yielding of our hearts and a willingness to line up our thinking and actions with what God is saying. Listening will eventually bring about much fruit because we are pairing what we have heard with faith and obedience.

So the question of the day is this: Are you really listening? Are you not just hearing the Word, but also doing what it says? Are you letting it penetrate the surface of your heart to let it transform you? Are you listening with an open mind and ready to change your thinking if anything doesn't line up with His Word? God is in the business of changing and transforming lives, but He needs us to not just hear Him, but to listen.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Dining Hall

He threw open the Door and let me in.

"What a grand welcome for a peasant girl like me." I thought to myself. He didn't seem to see me, though, as the poor gal that was just begging for bread on the streets just moments before. He acted like He already knew me and I was no poor gal at all. With an overflowing excitement, He put His arm around me and ushered me straight to His Dinner Table.

"You must be starved." He said with a smile and a twinkle in His eye that never seemed to fade. "I only serve the best to all who come in. So I'm sure you'll enjoy it all. Help yourself to anything that fancies you. And if we eat everything on the Table, I'll simply bring out more. So don't hold back!"

My eyes could barely take it all in as I looked down the unusually long Table. It was a feast for a thousand, but we were the only two at the Table. He could tell I was taken back by the huge spread and said, "Don't worry. Nothing will be wasted. My Food isn't perishable because it has Life inside itself. Eat up!"

I lifted my spoon (that actually seemed to lift itself toward me) and reached for what looked like pudding. My first mouthful brought a sort of unexplainable, instant relief. It felt like it was the first time I had ever tasted actual, real food. By my second spoonful, I was convinced of it. I had never eaten anything like this. It was like this Food was what I was created to eat. How did I live without it for so long?

Taking His advice, I dug right in. I couldn't always identify each item of Food I picked up. The ingredients didn't look like anything I had ever seen grown in any garden. They were unique, like something from another world.

He noticed how quickly I was eating and said with a smile,"You like it?"

With a mouthful of Food, I nodded vigorously as I shoved another mouthful in on top of what was already there.

And that's when He started to Laugh. Oh boy. And did He. It was a Laugh so loud that at first it made me jump and the table jolt. It was a Laugh that vibrated through my whole being. It was a Laugh that lasted longer than a normal laugh. It was more like waves of Laughter as it shook the atmosphere around us and sent electric shock waves through my heart as if I was under a defibrillator. Suddenly a rush of pure, unadulterated Joy pulsed in and out of my body. As He laughed even more, I could feel it bubbling inside me. At first it was subtle like butterflies in my stomach. But the more He laughed, the more it bubbled up in me. And it bubbled up...and up...and up...until suddenly I felt it lifting me. Yes, literally. It started lifting me out of my chair! Then the bubbling suddenly felt like rushing water springing up from inside me and it caused me to rise upward until I felt as if I was being balanced on top of a huge geyser! I looked over and saw His eyes were bright and beautiful, full of Love for me. I knew in that moment just how much He truly adores me. How elated beyond words He was to have me at His table! He took my hand and laughed even louder! And then I began to laugh! His Laughter became my laughter! And there we both sat just laughing and eating and laughing and eating for what seemed like moments but what was really probably hours.

"I have so much more to show you in my House!" He said through His bright smile. "Would you like the full tour?"

"Oh yes!" I responded with a huge grin. "I can only imagine what's in store for me to see in Your House. If it is anything like this Dining Hall, I know I'm in for an amazing time!"

"There are many rooms and many adventures in each one! Come, I'll show you!" He said, as He swept me down the long Hallway that led deeper into His Home, His Joy, His Heart.