Eyes to See

Not so long ago, I loved to study, learn new things. Not only that, I loved to write about what I was seeing and learning along the roads on which I traveled. At a quick glance, as days clicked by with waning desire to read, engage in conversation, and write- I blamed busyness; or the holiday season.  Days turned into weeks, and it is more appealing to bury myself in some good fiction than engage in my usual quest to learn and grow…why, I ask myself? No answers, at least nothing rang true. Writer’s block popped into my head, but no. First, you would have to have the desire to put pen to paper or fingers to keys. I haven’t.

Now, weeks have turned into months. I try to work around the lack of desire and forge forward. Let’s crack open the Word, research a topic…it lasts for a short while, but the fiction calls or a movie seems in order. Or worse yet, housework calls to me. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a tidy house; but cleaning has never shouted louder than the desire to study, learn, or put pen to paper! So, what is going on, I wonder? Who is this person I seem to be becoming? Is this just a different or temporary season?  I don’t know about you; but when experiencing something, it can be easy to slip into thinking, “am I the only one going through this?” From experience I know that’s rarely the case. Despite all our differences, we humans are more alike than we realize.

Though, I have searched my heart; questioned in my mind – the only thing I have been able to come up with is that life is complicated and convoluted. Never before in history have we been so bombarded with information!

We live in a day, at least in America, where news is available from 4:30 a.m. until 8:00 a.m.; 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.; and at 9, 10, and 11 p.m. with reruns available during the night. We have 24-hour news channels, online news, constant updates, newspapers, magazines, and social media. Most of the reports are negative, violent, or tragic and often reported in ‘real time.’ Then there are the many replays throughout the day. Thankfully, I gave up tv news for the most part in the early 2000’s, between biased reporting and my son in Iraq, it seemed prudent for my sanity. Even so, if you use a computer for work, research, etc.; newsfeeds bombard you with the headlines.

Last night. We met with our regular Tuesday night Bible Study. We broke bread together, shared prayer requests, ‘skyped’ with one of our folks that could not be with us, and got into the Word much as we always do. Somewhere in the discussion of the passage, the word perspective came up. Oh boy, did that word click in my mind! It resonated so much in my heart that I figuratively wrote it in bold letters on a post-it note and placed it in a prominent place in my mind so I would come back to it when I came home and was in a quiet place to ponder it more. Is it possible that where I have found myself lately is a direct result of an unrealized shift in perspective that had happened gradually? Lord God, through your grace, please give me eyes to see and wisdom to make good choices about what my eyes see, and ears hear.

Before the Internet, hard to imagine, I know; information took longer to disseminate.   It could take days to get news from another area of the world, and today we have it in minutes or less. These reports aren’t the only thing flooding into our screens: gossip and intimate details of the lives of celebrities and politicians abound. On that note, everyone has an opinion about said news and gossip and few are shy to share that opinion. Next comes arguments about those opinions, which more often than not disintegrates into foul obscenities, horrible name calling, and trying to silence those who are not of like mind. Tweet after tweet, post after post, late night after late night, story after story… Is this truly the inheritance we want to leave for our children and our children’s children?

Honestly, there really was a time when reporters reported the facts of the story without opinion or personal bias. There was also a time when biased and unkind statements about others were not tolerated; innocent until proven guilty meant something. A time when though you disagreed with another’s opinion; you remained respectful towards the person. Civility reigned as did civil debate. Disagreement did not equal disassociation but working together to come to a place both parties could tolerate. It was a time when even though ugliness and unkindness existed, it was not in vogue and openly tolerated and celebrated by publically flaunting itself. Again, what is the inheritance we want to leave for our children and our children’s children? Oh, how I hope it’s not the first, but too often this is the world in which we live.

Yep, no Calgon will take this away. From experience, neither will burying our head in a good, clean fiction book. It could be that it’s gone too far out of control, tolerated beyond the point of return – I hope not. Social media has become anything but social. It used to be a fun, uplifting way to connect over the miles and encourage. Now it’s more political, harsh, and maddening. Dear Lord, Please give us wisdom and right perspective.

I don’t know about you, but I could use a good dose of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; against such things, there is no law! And then there is grace; we need a whole lot of grace!

Grace and peace to you my friends!

Unexpected JOY

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My view this morning…

Last Thursday, December the 7th…

Winter Advisory until Sat. at 7 a.m. They said…

Snow they said…

No accumulation on roads they said….

Just a dusting 1/2 to 1 inch at most…

No transportation issues…

I responded to myself with, “Huh, that’s usually what they say before us have some unprecedented and unexpected snowfall. Now in context, it rarely snow in early December in Georgia. If it does it doesn’t accumulate, it doesn’t typically last and  it is extremely rare! (At least south of the North Georgia mountains.)

Friday, 7 a.m.

The snow begins, I watch it from these very windows the entire day as I go about my daily chores and my to-do list. At first small and light, later larger flakes; some the size of a quarter. It didn’t take long to see we had hit the 1/2 inch mark. Then the one-inch mark. By noon, it looked like  the picture below.

 

 

Isn’t it beautiful; how amazing is our Creator! And man thinks he can predict this awesome God and what He has set in motion. Ah, but this story is just beginning!

3″ @ 1:13 p.m. – No sign of letting up.

This verse comes to mind – “Where is the way where light dwells? And as for darkness, where is its place, That you may take it to its territory And that you may know the paths to its house? “You [must] know, since you were born then, And because you are so extremely old! “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,”
‭‭JOB‬ ‭38:19-22‬ ‭AMP‬‬

5:15 p.m. – over 5″ – I’m going to need a larger ruler!

For a moment, I sit relishing in this autumn wonderland, traveling through my memory of past Decembers; maybe there was another time in early childhood we had a similar experience. But I have lived within a forty-five-mile radius of my birthplace my entire life and can remember nothing that compares to what is unfolding before my eyes. I feel pure joy bubble up inside at the rare beauty. Yes, there are cares and concerns, but for the moment they are muted; put on hold. They are diminished by this extraordinary sight. And the snow keeps coming…

Around 6:30, I begin preparing some corn muffins to accompany our soup. The power flickers a number of times as they cook in the convection oven. Resetting it each time, they finished before we lost power around 7-ish, thankfully. Also, I am grateful that I asked my sweet husband to light the pilot for the gas logs earlier and turn them on just in case. It has an electric switch but if it’s on it will stay on without the power.

It is amazing how peaceful it is with no power, no tv, no internet. A quiet night before the fire, conversation, rest, a little reading. Nineteen and a half hours of peace and quiet and semi-disconnection. Yes, we checked email and social media a little until the phones drained. Mostly, we just enjoyed the downtime, not once worried about the power or lack of heat. We only ate what we could fix on the gas stove top, manually over-riding the pilotless ignition and bundled up.  Saturday we awoke to a real wonderland!

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      8:15, Saturday morning – 9 inches!

A friend said the record was a little over 8 inches back in 1940. Haven’t checked to see for myself. We also have a sundial out front. The needle that creates the shadow was completely covered, and the top looked like an enormous wedding cake. Snow there measured 9.9 inches.

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Still, no power, not  a problem though. The freezer is frozen and fine. The gallon of ice I placed in the frig. is starting to melt and the temperature is going up a bit. It’s time to fill ice chests with snow and transfer food outdoors where it will keep. We even stuck the bottle of soda directly into the snow on the back deck. I am so thankful for lessons learned as a young child during an ice storm. We were just over a week without power, and I learned many survival techniques. I am also grateful for having a gas stove (at least we can cook on top overriding the pilotless ignition, gas logs since we don’t have a wood burning fireplace), a kerosene heater in the basement just in case we need it, and assorted flashlights, candles and oil lamps.  I honestly don’t know how people with all-electric manage in outages.

Some may be asking, “what’s the big deal? It’s just a little snow.” You know what, you are so right; especially if you are from up north where snowfall is much higher. Nine to ten inches is nothing when you are from a place where two and three feet of snow is the norm. Yet for my husband and I, this was epic! When you live in an area that you may go a few years without seeing even a dusting of snow or at best a dusting to three inches when you do have some; this is amazing!

My favorite part has been the peacefulness; the serenity. I love how everything slowed down. Neighbors that rarely see each other are all out walking around and chatting. Watching the toddler girl next-door play in the snow with abandon, throwing herself down making snow angels over and over on every smooth untouched area of snow. Then getting back up throwing a snowball followed by grabbing a handful to eat. Our dog Shelby (just a year old) playing in the snow for the first time and loving it, nipping at it and eating it. Wishing I could have been with the grandkids as they played in it at their homes and watching them enjoy it.

I love God’s sovereign timing, too! It has been perfect. It came right at the busiest time of year for many of us, when we are running around like crazy to appointments, parties, and all sorts of gatherings; when we are frantically looking the right gift for loved ones; and so many busy tying up their year in a nice little bow. A perfect pause. Most will either love it or hate it. For me, it brought peace. It brought much joy. I didn’t see inconvenience. I saw opportunity. Opportunity to slow down, ponder the season, be grateful and see unexpected blessings over the perceived difficulties. It was time to relish in the simple things and the small things that we take for granted most of the time. It was a reminder that we can choose to pause on our own without a prompting from the weather and it is good for us to do it.

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From our home to your: Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!

May Grace and Peace be yours!!

Joy Comes in the Mourning

Today October 26, my parents anniversary. I’m headed to my husband’s parents home to help care for his Dad because he is not doing well. I began my journey with a stop to fill up the gas tank and realized today’s date. I decided to make a quick trip to the local store to pick up some flowers to take to my parent’s graveside to honor them on this special day- it’s only a few minutes out of the way…alas, they have both graduated to Heaven. Today would’ve been their 60th wedding anniversary! I know, it’s more form me than for them, but it just felt like the right thing to do. As I thought about it I realized it’s also another kind of a coming-of-age season; it will be 21 years since my mom passed and graduated to heaven this November 7th. She was followed by my dad seven years later.

Twenty-one years! How fast it’s gone. Sometimes it feels like an eternity! Every day I realize more and more how grateful I am for the lessons they taught me and for the things that I learned through the experiences in my family of origin. Not just during the good times; in fact, in hindsight, some of the most valuable ones came in the difficult times. So many of my relatives have already gone before me; only cousins left and of course my wonderful adult children, children in love(spouses), and eight amazing grandchildren. There has been a great deal of loss in my life, BUT there have been many glorious blessings! One of the things I have learned is God is good even in the hard times when we are tempted to doubt His goodness.
God knows our every struggle and His timing is perfect even when we can’t understand it or believe that it’s true! Sometimes that’s a hard lesson to learn when everything seems to be caving in all around.

So why is this perhaps the second coming of age? We think when we turn 21 or 18 for some of us that we are all grown up, but that’s not necessarily true. We become adults, and we become more responsible for things. We do what today is termed ‘adulting.’ Honestly though, many of us still value the wisdom of our elders and seek out advice on some of the tougher things in life, and sometimes we just want to share the joys of life with them. We may not depend on them anymore, but it’s still nice to know there is someone to turn to at times of great joy, sorrow or trouble; until they aren’t there. Trust me; there’s been more than a few times early on that I’ve picked up the phone ready to dial and realized…I can’t call you. I can’t share that joyful news or ask that question. Honestly, I remember feeling like an orphan. That truly sounds kind of silly or ridiculous; I was 34 and 41 respectively when they went home. For a season, I felt like an adult orphan. It was comforting to find later out that I wasn’t the only one who felt this.

I usually don’t share things this personal. However, death and loss are things that hit everyone at one time or another. We may feel in invincible and think those we love are as well, but the truth is life can be fragile; it flies by in the blink of an eye. We will all experience loss, and we must deal with it at our own pace and in our way. It’s hard, and it is painful; excruciating at times, to be honest. Those who have elder parents still living as my husband does know the only thing as hard as losing them in their prime is watching them grow weaker and lose the ability to do the things that once brought them great joy. Cherish the moments, learn to find joy and humor in the good times and if at all possible in the difficult ones also; it helps take some of the bite out of the hard stuff!

Last Friday, my father-in-love got quite ill and on top of that had a fall and ended up in the E.R. By Saturday evening he was improving except for pain from the fall. After seeking x-rays and additional care to ensure no missed broken bones, he was given something for pain on Tuesday. The adverse effects took a toll on him and knocked him out for about 36 hours. Thankfully, today, his color is back, and he is eating and drinking well but is still weak and sleeping a lot. He is blessed to be 87, but it takes longer to bounce back, and we are hoping he returns to his self.

Sometimes in our life, the important just must take precedence over those things always declaring themselves urgent. In those times we must slow down and slow the crazy race that has become our life and remember what is truly important. It has been said to seize the day, but sometimes we just need to capture the moment. Linger a minute, find a moment to make a quick call; share a hug and say I love you. When we do, we leave our self less open to doubt and living with regrets later in life. Often remembering the little things like this help make it more bearable when loss and grief come your way.

It may seem a bit silly to celebrate my parents 60th anniversary by taking a bouquet to the place where their bodies rest; but for me, it brought great joy in remembering them today. I learned a lot about life and marriage from them, both what to do and what not to do. They instilled many good traits and habits in me and maybe a few patterns that needed to be broken. I still miss them and many times merely long to talk with them, share a home-cooked meal, or just sit in front of the fire and be together. I’m deeply grateful for their influence and that we did these things often. I am even more thankful for the faith they instilled in me, and that the Lord has grown in me. It gives me a blessed hope and the ability to say with assurance; we will be reunited once again and share in our Heavenly Father’s glory for eternity. I hope that sharing a piece of my journey will be a comfort and blessing for those dealing with struggles and loss.

Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Lord, Jesus!

 

Which Kingdom? Your Own, The World’s, or God’s?

All creation was made to be an inhabitation for the Kingdom of God. He set it in motion; He defined it – a Kingdom of righteousness, wholeness, peace, love, joy; the list could go on. God gave us a choice:

“”For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. “”See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity;” in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it.” Deuteronomy 30: 11-18

Deuteronomy 28 lists the blessings associated with obedience to God’s statutes, as well as, the consequences or curses related to neglecting those principles. He also sent His Son (John 10:10) that we might have life by choosing Him, but we have the freedom to choose; life or death, His Kingdom or the worlds.

His goal will one day be reality… no matter what we choose.

 

Many find ourselves living in a world where the fast lane is the heaviest traveled path. We live in a time of instant cereal, instant potatoes, instant service; a drive-thru and microwave existence, and knee jerk reactions for many people. Social media has changed from My Space and Facebook to 140 character tweets on Twitter and Instagram, where a picture says a thousand words!? Media today is made up of sound bites that only give partial and sometimes biased views, rather than the whole story or whole truth. As a rule, we want what we want, and we expect it yesterday rather than when we asked for it today. Tolerance is exalted and called for on every front until it tramples on someone getting their desires met, and then the gloves come off because you’re interfering with my rights. At that point, some of us lose sight that sometimes our rights negate or trample the rights of others. These results were never the intent of our Creator!

Again, His Kingdom is defined by righteousness, wholeness, peace, love, joy, putting others first, caring for: the afflicted; brokenhearted; captives; prisoners; and those who mourn. (Isaiah 61) We are encouraged to take care of the weak, infirmed, poor, widows, orphans, our elderly. (The Kingdom way) The world tells us to look out for ourselves (look out for number one). We are told if we don’t take care of and look out for yourself, no one will! We are told to go for the gusto; enjoy it now while you can, and encouraged to stock up on the latest of everything. These two kingdoms are almost always giving us opposing messages. For example, one says don’t dare let them get by with treating you that way. The other tells us to turn the other cheek and forgive. One brings life to relationships; the other kills relationships; sometimes forever!

Not all of the differences are as cut and dried as these. No, some are much more subtle, and some are even hard to differentiate. Even more important, there are plenty of kind, loving, moral individuals who don’t believe in God or His Kingdom and many Kingdom people or believers that are stuck in a non-Biblical world view. Many are tempted to make the mistake of drawing conclusions and stereotypes of others based on religious beliefs, on ethnicity, on skin color, on their level of education, on their political leanings, etc. The question is: are you willing to be characterized by the same standards that you describe others? And is it a fair or accurate assumption to say that all ______________(you fill in the blank) are ___________________! One example for you that I hear or see on social media: “They don’t have a job because they are too lazy to work and want the government to take care of them.” I’m sure there are those for whom this would be a true statement, BUT there are many who are unable to work regularly because of certain disabilities, others who live in an economically challenged area and do not have the means to move to a new area to find employment. Stereotypes are unfair in most cases and are just mean-spirited and unnecessary. They also lead to the type of behaviors we see in the news media all the time. All lives matter in the eyes of God! Every one of His creations is important to Him. Do we all please Him? No, but He loves us in spite of our shortcomings. If that were not true, why would His Son, Jesus Christ have come to this planet and lived and died to make way for us to find grace and peace with God? To give us the opportunity to have eternal life with God?

We are told in the Word of God;

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3: 26-29

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?’ James 2: 1-7

Our Heavenly Father doesn’t show favor based on our skin color, our ethnicity, our bank account or lack of, our gender, our appearance, or based on whether we are in bondage or free. He sees us either as we are (condition of our heart) or through the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son if we believe and receive His salvation.

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5: 43-48
“Dear friend, listen well to My words; tune your ears to My voice.

Keep My message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart!

Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they’re bursting with health.” Proverbs 4: 22-24

We get to choose! Moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day!! Will we choose our way, the world’s way or will we choose God’s way? Will we choose love? Will we choose life? Or Will we choose death? He sets before us life and blessing or death and curses. Our choice, what will we choose?

May His grace and peace abound to you this day!

What’s In a Story

What if a parable of Jesus is more than it appears? What if it’s more than just a story with a lesson for the hearers? Could it be that what we often see as a lesson taught through story goes much deeper and perhaps has layers of meaning beyond what we may initially see? Can we connect the dots and find deeper richer meanings; a back story, if you will?

My husband and I heard a missionary speak recently on the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 21:33-44. Here a landowner planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it. He then built a winepress in it and built a tower. Finally, he rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. As the parable continues, the landowner sends representatives when harvest time arrives to retrieve his produce from those he entrusted his land to in his absence.

First, the owner sent three of his servants to retrieve the fruit; one was beaten, one killed and the third stoned. Again he sent his servants, but this time, he sent a larger group; the results were the same. Finally, he decided to send his son, thinking that surely they will be respectful of him! No, the growers also killed him because if he was out of the picture; his inheritance would be theirs for the taking! The parable ends with the question: What will the owner do with the vine-growers?

Those who were listening purposed that the landlord would have a terrible end for those greedy, wicked people and find new growers who would be responsible for that which was entrusted to them.

Can we consider who and what these each of these might represent?

The Vinedresser – God

The wall he built – His protection set in place, perhaps.

A dug-in winepress – tools needed for success.

A watchtower – again, protection and a tool required for success;
Also, providing a means of watching and communicating issues and threats
outside the wall.

Vine growers – those whom He entrusted with the work of His
land or kingdom.

God provided, protected and gave every tool needed for those He entrusted to be successful. Everything necessary for success was in place at their fingertips and handed over to their care. They were entrusted with all that He had as He set out on a journey.

What are some of the unanswered questions? Were the men the owner hired unreliable from the start? Were they reliable at first, growing weary as time passed? Did the success go to their head and they become greedy for more than He promised to provide for their service? Perhaps, they became deceived; thinking they somehow were owed ownership of the land or His absence (the perception: out of sight, out of mind) made Him no longer a responsible an owner and perhaps an undeserving one. Whatever their reason, when the time came to fulfill their agreement and settle up with the proprietor, these vine-growers renigged on their contract. They had no respect for Him, His ownership and authority, nor for the authority which He had delegated first to His representatives and then to His Son and heir.

Jesus’ reply to those whom He was teaching was this:

“Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,
‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.” Matthew 21:42-46

This was a direct message to the Pharisees of Jesus time. There also seems to be such a richness to this parable; I can help to wonder if there is so much more… Could there also be layers of meaning that go deeper and reach farther than we may have ever considered? Is it possible that it also refers to the institution of the new covenant of grace (the “church” age) that would soon be ushered in by Jesus sacrificial death, His burial, and resurrection and His command to make disciples of ALL nations? Or of the prophecies to be fulfilled in the future before Christ return? Could there be something for us in our very day lives that Jesus is trying to express? Are we greedy, wicked vine-growers? Are we beating, stoning, and killing figuratively; or are we loving and faithful like Jesus? Are we producing fruit?

Honestly, you may or may not agree; but the more I read this parable, the more questions it provokes. I am convinced that there truly are layers and meanings beyond the surface of what we read in this parable and perhaps in all of Jesus parables. I think I’ll be sitting on this one for a while.

Heavenly Father, Your Word promises if any lack wisdom to ask and it will be given lavishly without finding fault. James 1:5 Help us, Your sons and daughters seek You and Your wisdom so that we can have the understanding and rightly divide Your Word. You have gone before us, prepared the way, set protection in place, made provision for our needs, given us the tools so we may be successful, and entrusted us with Your kingdom. In fact, You have given us the incredible gift of Your Spirit dwelling inside of us to teach, comfort, guide and help us! May we accept the gifts, bring forth fruit and gratefully, willingly and gracefully offer it right back to You where it belongs! To You be the honor and glory forever! In the powerful and amazing name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Grace and Peace to you this day!

Enemy Invasion-A Fresh Perspective

The Garden of Eden was a peaceful place. Everything was there that the first couple needed to survive and thrive. Adam (man) had been given dominion over the earth and the animals. He had named them all–the only thing lacking was a suitable helper for Adam. When God noticed this, He formed a woman from man’s rib for his suitable helper. By the end of the Sixth day, everything had been set into place for a successful first family. On the seventh day, God rested; instituting a day of rest for mankind.

Enter the Enemy

“Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1

There is always something coming along to shake up the status quo! In chapter 3 of Genesis the enemy enters. He comes in slyly and stirs up some trouble. “Did God really say?” How was this even possible? Why would such a creature even exist and what possessed him to question the Creator? What did he hope to accomplish?

Only God Himself has all the answers to the questions we could possibly ask about this intrusion into the peaceful garden. Chapter 3 brings out all kinds of questions and the more you ask, the more that seem to come to mind. Here are some of my observations about his entrance and tactics:

  • The enemy is cunning – definition: artful subtlety and deceptive; exhibiting ingenuity, delicately pleasing, pretty or cute; adeptness in execution or performance. thefreedictionary.com
  • The enemy was a wild animal
  • The enemy used words to inquire and incite – Did God really say…

Results:

  1. Self-doubt – Eve: Did I hear God correctly?
  2. Questioned her understanding – you surely will not die but will be like God.
  3. Called God’s goodness into question – implying that God’s holding out on you.
  4. Usurps the peaceful balance that was found in the garden.
  5. Insights fear – fear of missing out; fear of being less than; fear of God’s reaction/rejection
  6. Stirs up blame and defensiveness.
  7. Causes strife and disruption of unity.

First, the serpent called into question God’s Words by cunningly asking “did God really say…?”. This was most likely designed to call into question either God’s precise words or Eve’s understanding or lack of understanding of God’s words establishing doubt in her mind. (Most battles are fought first in the mind.)  Eve repeated back to him what God had said to them.

Next, the serpent directly contradicted the result associated with eating the fruit. Maybe knowingly or not that the direct results would not be death but regardless; the end result would be sin which would ultimately result in death. Then the serpent spoke truth – the fruit consumed would make them aware of the knowledge of good and evil; what he did not tell her was that once aware, you are now responsible for consequences of your behavior on a whole other level. If you know good and do not do it; it is a sin. If you know it is evil, and yet you do it; you are also guilty of sin.

Results of sin:

Guilt

Shame

Consequences

Broken Relationships with God

Broken Relationships with man

The enemy of God always seeks to bring into question God’s provision, His protection, and His goodness. He goes after our mind subtlely, trying to bring everything we think we know and understand about God into question. Our mind is the enemy’s primary target, and that is why we are told many times in Proverbs to seek wisdom and get understanding. His goal is to destroy our relationship with our Creator and Father by disrupting our faith in God’s goodness, His protection, His provision, God’s faithfulness and anything else that we place our confidence in where God is concerned. His desire to steal our faith, turn it to doubt and incite fear; to tear down love and stir up division and hate; to destroy any peace and unity in our lives; encourage blame and finger pointing rather that finding common ground and working together toward common goals and finding unity.

Best News Ever

Jesus Christ defeated the enemy of our souls more than 2000 years ago on the hills of Jerusalem. His blood and His resurrection have given us the victory and the power to overcome every single attempt that the enemy throws our way!

In Christ, we have everything we need for life and godliness!

Lord, I pray that you will grant each of us wisdom and understanding that we need as we travel through life. May Your peace that passes understanding surround Your children and Your grace – which is sufficient surround us and be our companion. May we never lose sight of the wonder of Who You Are – for You are the Great I AM. No enemy can stand up to You, and You are always with Your kids. Your Word says You never leave us and You never forsake us. You have gone before us, and You walk beside us. Even when our paths take us to places and situations we do not understand, and we do not like, You are more than able to take those situations and over time use them to produce good in our lives. They may not feel good right now, but somehow You have a plan to redeem those things just as You did with Job troubles and with Christ’s persecution and death. Teach us to trust in Your goodness even when we can not see it with our own eyes. In the mighty and steadfast name of Jesus Christ! Amen

Grace and Peace be with you!

Fresh Look at the Beginning

What better place to start when taking a fresh look at something than at the beginning; so today I am in Genesis where we meet God as the Creator. I’m not going to debate or argue this one. Science is finding more and more evidence of intelligent design every day, and that is yours to decide for yourself, but I am fully on board with the creation model and a real and living Creator.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Gen 1:1

Secondly, the Spirit hovered over the dark and watery depths, God said let there be light, and there was light, and it was good. Then God separated the light and the darkness–There was evening and then morning; the first day. Next, on the second day, God separated the water by an expanse of land calling forth the sky above and the depths below. Day 3, God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered into one place and the gathering of water be called “seas.”  God saw that it was good. Day three, vegetation was created, every kind of plant and fruit, and when God saw them, He pronounced them good! Next up on the creation model was the calling forth of times and seasons, days and years. The sun to rule over the day and the moon to guide through the nights, evening and morning of the fourth day. Day five, every creature that moves above or swims in the deep came into being with the ability to reproduce more of their own kind. God blessed them to be fruitful and multiply and declared that it is good. On the sixth day, God said, “let the earth produce living creatures after their own kind: livestock, creatures that crawl, and the wildlife of earth according to their own kinds and it was so.” Genesis 1:24 God then saw that it was good. Finally, God declared “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” He created them male and female, blessed them to be fruitful and multiply; then God saw what He had made and pronounced it very good.

What I notice first off is the goodness of our Creator. He was very methodical in how He created each step of the way. Each step built upon the previous so that by the time living creatures and man entered the earth. Every provision that was needed to sustain life had already been provided.

I love how in Genesis 2:8-10 (CSB) tells us: “The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He placed the man He had formed. The Lord God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river went out from Eden to water the garden.” Then in verse 15: ” The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.” The Lord God formed out of the ground every wild animal and every bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; but for the man, no helper was found corresponding to him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. Then the Lord God made the rib He had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man.” Genesis 3:15-22 CSB

Not only had every single need been provided for in advance of the first couple, but God had also shown his love and care by checking out the quality of each creation before proceeding to the next step. Creation was not just thrown together, but at every step God was testing quality control, lovingly crafting the environment that He knew would be needed for man to thrive. This is evidenced by His statement that there was no suitable helper for man and His decision to create the woman out of man’s side. Within slightly more than one chapter we see the Almighty God as 1. Creator, 2. Provider  3. Protector and 4. Caretaker.  Our Creator demonstrated Himself as caretaker as He made sure everything was in place to sustain life and for life to continue into the future. Living things from the smallest to the greatest had the ability to reproduce itself so life could go forth. Plants, fruits, and all vegetation reproducing for future generations to have needed food, as well as, animals and humans.  I believe we can also deduce that He is a Good God solely based on the indication that He cared enough to actually sit back and observe His creation and make sure it was good and in mankind’s case, very good.

A Fresh Look

I’m not sure how it came to be, but a few days ago I began a new journey. What will this journey teach me? Where will it lead and what discoveries are waiting along the way, I am not sure but trust that it will be an exciting one.

Let’s start from the beginning… my first journey with Jesus began as a small girl between 4 1/2 and five years old. It hasn’t been without some desert experiences, mountain top times and some peaceful oasis experiences. Perhaps, in the end, those desert times are the ones that have truly shaped me. For a while now, I have been noticing a recurring behavior. I can’t explain why other than it has caught my attention and for some reason, it has arrested my focus, and I am seeing it grow larger and more pervasive in the fellowship of believers.

For at least the last twelve years I have been studying on the topic of Who we are In Christ and often encourage others to look at what God’s Word says about who we are. This study is a wonderful and freeing pursuit, and it will change you forever in many ways. As you begin to unfold the mystery of Jesus, what He has done for our freedom, forgiveness, and restoration to our heavenly Father, He begins to unfold who we are In Him as we give our lives to Him.

The current trend is making declarations about who we are in Christ. Let me be clear–I’m not against this. I am all for learning who we are as believers in Christ! My concern is that we keep the proper perspective in our pursuit of who we truly are. Clearly, the Word of God says we are dearly loved children of the Most High God; our Creator. It also tells us we are joint heirs with Jesus Christ and many other wonderful statements about who we are In Him. These are biblical truths and a great blessing, but we have to remember to keep context in mind and know the Word we are standing on and believing. So here I am again on a new journey; it’s never dull. Here I am seeking afresh to see who He is – yes, who He is. Why? I want to see with fresh eyes who He says we are in light of who the Great I Am is. It’s a heart check if you will. You see, as I have observed and listened to wonderful declarations of who we are In Christ I have noticed there is a fine line between having confidence in who we are and arrogance and that is a line I want to be careful never to cross. I never want to lose the humility to which He call us.

“Mankind, He has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you:
to act justly,
to have faithfulness,
and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8 (CSB)

Humility is found in scripture between ten and seventeen times depending on the translation. Humble is located between 82 and 84 times. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (CSB)

Jesus is an excellent example of humility in the Bible:
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11 (NASB)
Jesus laid aside His standing to do the will of the Father, not once defending Himself because He fully understood Who He was and what His purpose was.

Another example was Moses. Moses was described as humble, a meek man yet God commissioned him to lead approximately 2 million people from Egyptian captivity and toward the promised land. It was Moses who God revealed Himself as “I AM Who I AM” in Exodus.

“Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what should I tell them?”
God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.” Exodus 3:13-15 (CSB)

From beginning to end, Scripture is filled with conditional promises, blessings, and even curses. There are many If…then statements all throughout the pages. We must be careful to seek to understand what they are saying to us.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:1-7 (NKJV)

Lord God, please teach us more about Who You are and who we are in Jesus Christ and humbly walk with you fulfilling the purpose that You have for each of us during our lives just as Jesus, Moses and so many others have done whether the task is great of subtle. May we love justice, be ever faithful and walk humbly with our God until our faith becomes sight in Your very presence! In the mighty and incomparable Name of Jesus, Amen!

May Grace and Peace be yours!

Secret to a Well-Watered Garden

If our lives were a garden, what kind of garden would we be? Interesting how our day can shift in just a moment in time! That is if we can be flexible. This morning an interesting topic came up, and I began to research it. It was one simple word– dry. My plan: to thoroughly examine this concept throughout Scripture.

The first suggested reference was Isaiah 58:11: “And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones, and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (NASB)

I was totally hooked and fully submitted to where God would lead this particular thought because WHO wouldn’t like to find themselves guided in all the day-in and day-out decisions which are required of them? Who would not love to have every desire satisfied; especially in the dry and scorched places!! How often do we find ourselves in desperate need of strength? A well-watered garden is a perfect example of a beautiful and quiet place; usually with songbirds singing and just an all around quiet peacefulness-a delight to the senses! Can you just picture such a place? A person who personifies this description?

If you’ve been around awhile, you know it is a must for me to go back further into the text to make sure I have a grasp of as much context of the passage as I can for correct understanding; so I dialed back to Isaiah 57:14 for greater understanding.

The later part of Isaiah 57 is all about God’s forgiveness for those who are repentant. Interestingly, it is more about God’s actions and responses to His people. Verse 13 clearly states that whoever trusts in God will inherit the land and possess His holy mountain. God instructs Isaiah to rebuild the road; moving all rocks and stones. It’s to be a smooth road without rocks and stones so that His people can return from captivity to the safety, protection, and freedom in His presence. They had been led away captive by greediness and the desire to go their stubborn ways. Now, it is His desire for them to return to live with Him in the high and holy place; His requirement– a contrite (remorseful) and humble spirit.

Many will think this is a steep price to pay; others fail to see any need for remorse or humility. For those who find it within themselves to return to Him, He promises restoration and courage. In fact, He also has a promise for those who had remained in their stubbornness. Though He was angry, punished the greedy and withdrew from those who kept to their stubborn ways; He declares that He will heal them.
He pledges comfort for the mourners; also, abundant peace. But for the wicked, there is no peace. They will be like a churning ocean; without rest.

In Isaiah 58, we come across the contrast of real and false worship. False worship is described distinctly as worship that is self-seeking, self-pleasing and done with the expectation of recognition or reward. Some would call this form or worship religion rather than relationship; which is God’s heart for His people. Finally, we get to what the Lord, our God describes as His fast. The fast that God finds pleasing:

1. Bring freedom to those wrongly imprisoned.
2. Lighten the burden of those in your charge.
3. Free the oppressed; those subject to harsh treatment or treated as subservient. (remove chains of bondage)
4. Feed those who are hungry.
5. Shelter the homeless.
6. Clothe those who need clothing.
7. Do not hide from relatives that could use your help.

I find it very intriguing that there are exactly seven things that God lists in this passage. Isaiah is part of the Old Testament and is written originally in the Hebrew language. Hebrew tradition gives a numerical meaning to numbers. Seven is defined as the Divine number of completion; a covenant promise; and some say the number of perfection. So is there a promise or a covenant promise attached to the above behavior? Let’s explore…

Let’s pick up in verse 8 of Isaiah 58: ““Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. 9 Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! 10 Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. 12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.” (NLT)

Five Promises or Results of the Lord’s Fast:

1. Your salvation will come like dawn.
2. Your wounds will heal quickly.
3. Your godliness will lead you forward.
4. The glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
5. You will call, and God will answer; He will quickly reply.

You might be interested to know if you don’t know already; the meaning of the Hebrew number five is God’s grace. God’s grace is abundant in our lives when we find ourselves submitted to His plan and purpose for us. As you can see in the above passages of scripture; our repentant and submitted life to the things which are of greatest importance to the heart of God causes His abundant grace to flow in our lives and allows us to abide in a place of peace, beauty, and fruitfulness!

May His grace abound to you in all you do!

One True Love

It is here! Today is the day, the one that is either the most awaited or the most dreaded day of many people’s year– Valentine’s Day. Whether you’re ever-the-optimist, unlucky in love or somewhere in between; most people have strong opinions or feelings about this day. Many of these strong opinions come from hurts, unmet expectations, and sometimes unrealistic expectations on our part.

Let’s be honest. Most of us are not mind readers. If we were, we would know not to expect much from that loved one who doesn’t see this day as anything more than a commercialized day for selling extreme numbers of cards, boxes of chocolate, expensive gifts, and jewelry. Conversely, they would know that getting gifts (small tokens of love) was something that spoke volumes to their loved one and just might choose to go against their opinion for the sake of love. How easy would that make life or perhaps how hard! Just consider that for a moment. If your love language was about receiving gifts and I was a mind reader and withheld that gift from you… What would that say about me?

We would do well to understand how differently people are wired. What is a ‘no brainer’ to me just might be the absolute last thing that you would ever think about and the reverse is also true. There is only One Who knows the very core of our heart. Only One Who knows how our heart beats and what it longs for and that is the One who laid down His life so that we could find actual life.

The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy–John 10:10. He sends his fiery darts: if they love me, they would___________; or any other of countless expectations that the object of our love has no idea is in our heads, therefore, could never fulfill. It is a setup for unmet expectations that divide and conquer in our relationships. Clue: if you’re in a relationship with someone who forgets parents or siblings birthdays, expect that they might also forget yours–it’s their m.o. It might be a little too optimistic to expect that you are the exception that will cause them to change. Maybe it’s the way they are wired.

We can also be misunderstood. I made a flippant generalization about pearls many years ago, not knowing my love had bought me a gift made of them. Not knowing, I had said that I wasn’t much of a pearl girl (and I was a girl, not a woman, at the time). So the next time I was with him at the mall, he walked into the jewelry store and returned the present sight unseen. Right there in front of me, he told the salesperson that I didn’t like them. The truth, that was the first I knew of them; I hadn’t seen them. By the way, they were beautiful dangly earrings. He had an expectation my being delighted by them and my words had dashed that hope all because I wasn’t keen on the more traditional concept of pearls. We both lost out, and special occasions went ignored rather than being celebrated for many years.

There is great news.  John 10:10 is a follow-up to Jesus statement, “I am the door.” meaning the door to the sheep pen that brings safety and protection to them; keeping the thieves and predators away. It doesn’t end with pitfalls and predators, and neither does our story! It goes on to say “I (Jesus) have come that they (we) may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]. Amplified version
Jesus Christ, sent by God as a representation of Who God is and of His love; true love came to reveal what authentic love is and what real love does.

In this same general area in John, you begin to find the, I Am’s of Jesus. In John 6:35, Jesus tells us, “I am the bread of life: he that comes to Me shall never hunger, and he that believes in Me will never thirst.” In Him, we find nourishment, sustenance and hydration! When we hunger and thirst for Him and for His Word; we find satisfaction. We may or may not find all the answers to all of our questions and life may not be all that we would desire it to be but we will find what we truly need for our journey .

In John 8:12, Jesus reveals Himself as the “Light of the World.” “Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus set the example for life when He walked among the people; He set the standard for love also. Light illuminates and brings that which we need for growth and understanding. Light helps us see fully; in places that we may not have noticed without the light pinpointing the nuances.

John 10:11 highlights Jesus as The Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. He claims responsibility for us, our safety and our well-being at the cost of His personal safety. In essence, He is clearly stating through His life, death, and resurrection that our well-being (freeing us from the penalty of our sin) is worth giving His everything, including His very life.

 

In John 11:25, Jesus declares, ” I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives in Me will never die.” Death was not the end of His story. Jesus arose on the third day conquering death, providing life through forgiveness and a promise of life everlasting and abundant.

The Way, the Truth, and the Life is the sixth I am proclamation of Jesus. This one has stumped people age after age. If God is love and is a loving Father, how is there only one way to Him? Religion after religion claims they have the way, but God’s Son clearly says He is the way. He laid His will down to fulfill God’s plan, to show God’s love and to restore our relationship with God; to bridge what sin had destroyed.

Lastly, Jesus is The Vine. John 15:5 Picture if you will, a beautiful vineyard in August; branches heavy laden with lush fruit. This fruit is big, beautifully ripe and perfect for consumption. What a beautiful sight! Just remember this is only possible when the branches connect to the vine. Without the Vine bringing much-needed nutrients into those branches, this fine and delicious fruit would never happen. Don’t believe it? Just separate one branch. Cut it off and toss it aside and see what happens. Without the nutrients that cause the branches to thrive, not only will fruit not appear but that very branch will wither, shrink and in time be fit only for composting at best.

I don’t know your stance on Valentine’s Day or your perception of God; whether you even believe. I also don’t pretend to know what you are facing this Valentine’s Day; where you are on the swinging love pendulums high’s and low’s. What I do know is I believe in love. It is stronger than our present feeling about it; whether good or bad! God is the source of love. What better place than God in Whom we live, move and have our being to seek out the true definition of love with all that it encompasses and what better example than the life and ministry of Jesus Christ–who humbled Himself, walked among us loving, serving, ministering, teaching, and healing. Jesus laid down His life even to the point of death to bring us the fullness of life, wholeness in this present world and for eternity. This is the One True Love that is ageless and available to us all!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Grace and Peace be with you!