Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another Nail




Here we go again.  Have you ever had one of those relationships with someone, where you wonder, "What next?"

We were wondering that last week.

We had tried once more to give this person a break...and were disappointed and hurt.  I told Steve, "It's like another nail (in the relationship)."

Another nail.  Quickly, another nail came to my mind.  Three of them, actually.  They were hammered into a beam of wood...for me.  They were driven through Flesh...for me.  So that I may have forgiveness for the times that I choose to do what I want to do, instead of what God wants me to do.

Jesus made the choice to take those nails for me.  So what do I do in return?  I choose to make MORE selfish decisions, over and over.

 I wonder what He's thinking.

"AGAIN???" "It's like another nail!!"  "Will she EVER learn?!"

And yet, He loves me.  He knows that I mess up....and He loves me.  He hates the sin...but loves the sinner.

I have no choice but to do the same.




Thursday, December 6, 2012

In A Moment

We tend to think of a lifetime in a large span.  Or we think of it in smaller increments such as years, months, days or even hours and minutes.  In reality, our lives are made up of moments.  We never know what the next moment will bring.

This past Tuesday morning, was a prime example.  In a moment, life was forever changed for a family.  One moment things were normal....the next...things would never be the same.

Rachel was a vibrant young 25 year old woman. She was blessed with a loving Christian family and had just delivered a beautiful baby boy, in April.  Throughout her son's young life, she battled a rare blood disorder that hospitalized her numerous times.  It seemed all was going well, when in an instant, she was gone.

Indeed, we never know what the next moment will bring

Can we ever prepare for these heartaches?  What do we do when these unexpected tragedies befall us?  How do we, as friends, help others in a devastating situation?

Although there is no real way to ever be ready for such times, we can strengthen our hearts by being grateful for each moment that we are given.  We are not promised another.  Instead of living our lives complaining about the things we do not have...embrace the things we do.  It's all in your perspective.  Do we live as Pollyanna...in a made up world of sunshine and rainbows?  No...but we can live with an attitude of gratitude and look at our circumstances with a  more positive viewpoint. We can be thankful for the people in our lives and let them know how much we care about them and love them...for we are not promised tomorrow.  But, the most important way to equip ourselves, is to look at our own lives before a crisis hits.  What do we see in our future?  If a moment would take you from this world, where would you go?  If you know for sure, that you would go to heaven, that's wonderful.  If you are not sure, please check out this link:

What can we do when a crisis occurs in our own lives?  I can only look on this from the perspective of a Christian. I believe that God has an ultimate Plan for our lives.  He alone knows the number of days that any of us are given.  Our job is to make the most of those days.  As a Christian, I know that my God will always love me more than anyone ever could.  He created me, and has promised never to leave me...that includes times of sadness and pain.  He is here for me to lean on and trust.  I can feel His Presence through His Word, prayer, and the love and compassion of fellow Christians.

Which leads me to the third point.  How to we help our loved ones through these times?  What can we do...or say??  Since, as Christians, we all have the same Spirit of God within us, we can literally become the Hands and Feet of Christ to our friends and family who are grieving.  Not so much with our words...as there are no words to say that will truly comfort...but by our presence, prayers, and thoughtful acts.  We can help them feel the Presence of God and His Love, by....simply loving.

Our thoughts and prayers go with Rachel's family.  We pray that they do know the Peace of God which goes beyond all understanding, and they feel the warmth of His Love.....moment by moment.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Surprising Purpose




So this morning I wake up at 5 a m....on a Saturday!  Ugh.  I get up and make coffee and throw out the grounds in the trash, as usual... then I get on Pinterest.

I'm reading up on gardening items, and find out that used coffee grounds are good for plants that love acidic soils.  Keep in mind that I am a VERY amateur gardener!  It seems to me that I've heard something about coffee grounds a long time ago...but it didn't stick.  "Rats", I thought.  I had just thrown those grounds away.  Yes...I did go and look.  Too far down in the trash.  Next pot of coffee..they're mine. I'll probably have most of this pot drank by the time Steve gets up, anyway!  But, I digress.  I'm actually kind of excited about re-using those grounds for my hibiscus and   bougainvillea plants.  Who would have thought that used coffee grounds had a purpose?

What is our purpose?  So many Christians wonder what it is that they are supposed to do.

In John, Chapter 17, Jesus was about to go through His torture and crucifixion.  What did He do while He was waiting?  He prayed.  What did He pray for?  For strength, and for God's Will to be done, certainly.  But He also had another thing on His mind.  Us.  Us?  Yes, us.  He prayed for His disciples, and He also prayed for those believers that "would come after".  I love The Message's translation:
I'm praying not only for them (the disciples) but also for those who will believe in me.  Because of them and their witness about me.  The goal is, for all of them to become one heart and mind-- Just as you, Father are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us.  Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.  The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they'll be as united and together as we are--  I in them and you in me.  Then they'll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you've sent me and loved them in the same way you've loved me. (vs. 20-25)                                                   
In other words, Jesus is praying for all of us that will be His followers.  He wants us to share the same heart and mind that He and the Father share.  He wants us to be mature in this oneness and show the world that is without God, that He exists and did send Jesus.  And let them know that He (the Father) loves us exactly the same as He loved Jesus, Himself.  What an amazing thought!

That is our purpose as Christians.  To give the world evidence that God loves them so much. So much that He sent Jesus to save them from an empty life here on earth and to give us an eternity with Him in Heaven.

How do we give them evidence?  How can we show them that God loves them?  We give them proof, by our lives.  How we live...or rather...how we love.  When the world turns away, we love with our acceptance. When all they hear is negativity and ugliness...we love with our kind words.  When they are in despair, we love with our hope.  Will they all see and believe right away?  Probably not...but we show them that there is a difference.  That Christ has made a difference in our lives and that He can make a difference in theirs.  Wondering what your purpose is?  Go and love.  Love in the name of Jesus!!

In case you are reading this, and you have questions about becoming a Christian, feel free to check out another post:  Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.  It just may have the answers you are looking for! :)

Now...I have to find a container for those coffee grounds....

Sunday, September 30, 2012

What Was I Thinking??





I have been going through "purging" sessions lately.  Sorting through things and getting rid of "stuff".  Oh my.  WHY I have kept some of this junk is beyond me!  I'm sure that at the time, I was convinced that I really needed it.  Like for instance, those handy kitchen gadgets that have been sitting in a drawer for years...rarely used.  Or 592 picture frames of photos.  What was I thinking??

Speaking of photos...  My choice in clothes through the years actually makes me cringe.  I saw a family picture taken less than 10 years ago.  Shoulder pads?  Really?  What was I thinking???

Occasionally, we shake our head and wonder if the discerning center of our brain is fully functional, and we smile.  Other times, we are filled with self-reproach.  We truly wonder what was the reasoning behind our decisions.  WHAT were we thinking?

At times, I find myself wondering the same thing about God.  I ask Him, "WHY?  Why did this situation have to occur?  Why did You allow that to happen?  What were You Thinking, Father?!"

And then, eventually He answers.  

My thoughts are not your thoughts, says the LORD.  And My ways are not your ways.   As far as the heavens are from the earth so far are My ways from your ways and My thoughts from your thoughts.
      Isaiah 55: 6-9

When dreadful events occur, God is very often the first One blamed.  Instead, many times, it is the result of a person's bad decision...sometimes it is us...sometimes it is another person. Other times, it is no one's fault..it is just the result of nature.  Is God in control of all things?  Of course He is.  Yet, He does allow bad things to happen. Whether we understand it or not, there is a reason behind it and God will use it for our good, if we love Him, and are called according to His purpose.  (Romans 8: 28)  We can know that when the bad times come, we are not alone.  He is with us.  He has promised it, and He cannot lie.  We live in an imperfect world. Sin is here...but, hallelujah, so is God!!   

God's thinking patterns can be very different from mine.  In this sinful world, my basic choices can be a sharp contrast to what God would choose for me.  My job is to try and keep my mind as close to God's as I can.  The only way to do that is to keep close to His Word, stay connected to other believers, and try to make the decisions that He would have me make.

So although my choices are definitely flawed...His are not. There is a reason for everything He allows to happen..  We may not see it today...or this week...or this year.  Perhaps we may not understand this side of heaven, but we can know one thing.  He loves us, wants the best for us and will never leave us alone.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Trimming Time

About every six weeks, I see that it's that time again. I try to look the other way, but there's no getting around it.  Despite my putting it off, I eventually have to succumb to it.  Out come the scissors.  It's dog trimming time.

I'm not the only one that dreads the day.  The dogs aren't thrilled either.  Would you be, having a legally blind lady come at you with a pair of shears?

I begin to round them up to take them outside to carry out the deed.  Marley comes willingly, oblivious to what is about to happen to him.  Chloe is much more aware.  Her self-preservation senses are up.  I'm standing by the door with the leash, and call her.  "Chloe, come here!!"  After calling three times and no dog, I find her in Steve's chair, watching tv and completely ignoring me, as if she had no idea her name was Chloe.

I hook her up, and lead them outside.  I do this outside, because there is SO much hair that comes off of them.  On occasion I've done it inside, but then I'm finding baby fine dog hair two rooms over.  It's much better to do it outside.  So far the neighbors haven't complained of tufts of fur growing out of their hybiscus bushes.  Their hair grows almost as fast as our lawn..and I promise you I use no fertilizer!

I start with Chloe, because even though she has selective hearing, she doesn't mind it as much as Marley.  I have to be more careful with her, though.  She is half Yorkie and half Silky Terrier.  The front half of her is Silky, and the back half Yorkie...I'm not kidding! Her front half is long and flowing straight, and the back is curlier...like her bottom has a perm.  With this type of hair, you can really tell if you mess it up, so I have to be more precise.  She'll sit/stand there and let me trim away and takes it like a...dog.  Then it's Marley's turn.

Marley is a Maltipoo and has more Poodle than malt...uh...Maltese.  His hair is really curly, so you can have a little more leeway with him.  Good thing, because giving him a trim is like trying to give a grasshopper a haircut!  He HATES getting a trim.  He will wiggle and try so hard to get away from the scissors.  If I put him on my lap and he's facing away from me, he doesn't mind as much, but as soon as he gets a glimpse of the shears, he tries to get outta there!  I constantly try to talk to him to calm him down and show him it's not painful, but he's so focused on the fact that I'm removing something from him, he doesn't comprehend.

As I was wrestling my four legged garter snake, I began to think about how we are like Marley, in the Hands of the Master Beautician.  He sees how scraggly and unkempt our souls are and knows that it's Trimming Time.

He gets our attention.  Some of us answer willingly, some of us ignore Him, hoping He'll go away. He begins to shear away our pride and stubbornness, our self absorption and denial.  We may choose to submit readily or like most of us....put up a fight.  We don't LIKE to be trimmed.  We don't WANT to be different from how we are.  We kind of enjoy being comfortable and don't mind having a hairy spirit.  But God loves us too much to leave us that way.  So He works away, trimming a little here and there until we are more presentable...more like His Image.  We would do much better if we would just quit fighting Him and go along with the situations and the changes.  Sometimes sitting in His Lap to make us feel more secure.  He tries to calm us and let us know it might not be as awful as we think it's going to be.  At times, if we get a different perspective and not focus on the shears, it's not so bad.  If we don't focus on the fact that the LORD is removing something from us, we can begin to comprehend why the trimming is necessary.

Eventually, we are beautiful and the ordeal is over.  And we go on....until it's Trimming Time again.

Hebrews 12:1 Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up.

Chloe


Marley

Monday, July 23, 2012

In The Face of Evil



It was supposed to be a fun evening. Costumes and film marathons.  For one town, it ended up anything but fun.


This past week, we couldn't believe what we were hearing.  A crazed man in Aurora, Colorado had opened fire in a crowded movie theater, killing and wounding many people.  He apparently had plans to do more, setting up explosives and booby traps in his car and apartment.  How scary.  What is this world coming to?  It's enough to make a person afraid to go anyplace.


It seems like every time we turn around there is another psychotic person that is hurting or killing innocent victims.  We can  easily get depressed and cynical about life.


And yet...this is what life, here on earth, includes.  Pain.  Suffering.  Senseless death.  We wonder "Why?"  There is no answer.  We don't know...and we may never know, this side of heaven.  We do know that in the midst of the suffering there is also something else.  Hope.  Hope that can take away all of our fears.


Over two thousand years ago the same things were going on.  There were insane and barbaric men in those days also.  They got some maniacal thought in their head and acted upon it.


One man was so jealous of a completely innocent person, that he couldn't stand it.  The more that he thought about another person taking away his power, he became more and more obsessed with keeping what he had.  He would stop at nothing to make sure that he didn't lose what was rightfully his.


This man was a king.  He had heard that a baby was born that was also a King.  He stewed and thought about it...for about two years...and finally snapped.  He ordered all young male babies two years of age and younger to be killed.  Soldiers obeyed.  They went from town to town, slaughtering innocent little boys.  How horrible.  Can you imagine their poor families?  I'm sure they were thinking, "What is this world coming to?  It's enough to make a person afraid to go any place."


Yet, unbeknownst to King Herod...and those poor families....there was Someone waiting, A tiny Boy that would hold the answer to those questions in His outstretched Arms.  He was safe and protected in Egypt, waiting for the time when He would come and save His people.  Save them by dying on the cross to take their place.


So when we look at television news, or read the newspaper and see the tragedies that are out there, we can know.  Perhaps the tragedies are in our own families.  Maybe we are living in the aftermath of a death, or sickness.  Yet, we can know.  We can know that Jesus is waiting for the time when He will come again and bring us all to Him.  At that point, we will have no more sorrows...no more pain to endure, for He will have all of the answers to all of our questions. And you know what?  The questions probably won't even matter anymore.  



Sunday, July 15, 2012

Reflections In The Storm






Please watch this video and be blessed.
http://vimeo.com/16404771

Isn't she PRECIOUS??  Her name is Mary Margaret, and she is six years old.  What a great teacher she is!!

Although this story is not word for word from the book of Jonah, in the Bible, it covers all of the main points and is a great rendition.  Here are my thoughts on the story.

Jonah thought of himself as a true man of God.  But as soon as God gave him a command, what did he do?  He began to overthink things.  He thought about them so much that it affected his sleep.  In his thinking, he began to shift the focus on God's request.  Instead of thinking of the Ninevites, he began to  think about himself....  "They'll laugh at me." ?It's so far!" "They'll hurt me!"  Instead of it being about God and His command...it became about Jonah.

The more he thought about it, the more frightened he became.  He became so scared that the only way "out" he could think of, was to run away.  He was willing to give all that he had to get on that ship.
Once in the ship, Jonah thought he was off scott free!  Now I can have a new life for myself...I can do what I want!!  I don't have to do anything I don't want to do!  After a time, the ship was far from shore.  Then the wind began to blow.  God sent a storm to shake Jonah up.  At first, Jonah slept through the storm.  He was unaware of the chaos that he was in.  When he finally realized what was going on...he recognized the Hand of God.  He saw how his decision had not only affected him...it affected those around him.  The sailors had lost precious cargo, because of him.  They were in danger of losing their lives.

He knew he had a decision to make.  He admitted out loud to the sailors that the catastrophe was his fault.  He told them to throw him overboard in order to save themselves.  It wasn't them that God was angry with..it was him.  So they did as he asked.  Immediately, the sea became quiet.

Down, down, down he went..as far down as he had ever been.  Then, just when he thought he couldn't get much lower, a sudden whoosh took him up and he found himself in a quiet, dark place. It stank like the inside of a...big fish!! Jonah hadn't quite learned yet.  Still focused on himself, he began to think, "It's so dark in here!" "What will become of me?" "Maybe God will still hear me!"  He began to slowly look away from himself and look..up.

He turned to the LORD.

He thanked God for saving him.  He began with an attitude of gratitude. He repented of his sin. And then what happened?  Nothing.  Jonah prayed and did not see any difference in his situation.  Jonah kept praying. For three days he prayed.  Finally God saw that Jonah had changed, and He had the big fish spit Jonah out on dry land.  Right away, without a glance at himself, Jonah thanked God and obeyed Him when He was told to go to Nineveh.

Jonah was bold as he told the Ninivites to repent and turn to the LORD.  Can you imagine the reaction of the Ninevites?  Here was this smelly and dirty stranger telling THEM how to live their lives!  He definitely got their attention.  Maybe what he said was right. They looked at their lives and knew they were doing wrong.  They repented, and God was pleased.

Back to ole' Jonah.  He had climbed on a hill and waited.  While he sat there, he probably began thinking of his visit to Ninivah.  Wow!  How bold he had been!  He wasn't scared at all!  He had put his life on the line!  He sure was a brave guy!  Whoo Hoo!  God was gonna give it to those Ninivites!  He was going to punish those horrible, sinning people!  He waited...and waited...and waited.  And then what happened?  Nothing. God didn't punish them at all!  By this time, Jonah was all focused on himself once more and began to complain. "I feel like a fool!" "All MY work was wasted!" "God isn't going to destroy Nineveh!

Then God reminded Jonah.  "Jonah, will you never learn My Love?  My Love is great.  It is greater than My anger..and it is for all My creatures.  God is a god of second chances, and third...ad infinitum.  God tells Jonah to love as He Loves.  Then he will be a true man of God.

How we are like Jonah!  How often do we think we are good Christians.  Our relationship with God is "fine"!  Sure, we aren't perfect, but God doesn't care...He knows that!  Has He put something on our heart that we should do? Maybe we don't want to do it.  When the feeling won't go away, perhaps we take off in the opposite direction, trying to ignore that persistent "nagging" Voice.  Maybe we can drown it out with other things.  Maybe if we party enough we can make it go away.  Maybe if we find the right person, they can silence the knocking on our heart's door.

We may find ourselves in a low place.  Lower than we have ever been.  Our actions have caused us pain..and perhaps others, too.

We turn to God, thinking maybe He will still hear us.  And then what happens?  Perhaps nothing.  Is God listening?  Yes He is.  He is always listening.  He is waiting.  Maybe He is waiting for us to quit looking at ourselves and look up...to Him.  The more we focus on ourselves, the more frightened we become...the worse our imaginations can make situations become.

Our brokenness can be a great witness.  Sure, we might have scars and look like we've spend 3 days in the belly of a big fish, but we can get people's attention!  We can show them by the change in us, that God is the god of second chances..and third..ad inifinitum....

We have to be careful not to change our focus back on ourselves and get upset at God for not punishing others.  Just because we think they ought to suffer the wraith of God, doesn't mean He thinks it should be done.  Will we ever learn His Love?  His Love is greater than His Anger.  We must obey the LORD and love as He Loves.  Leave the outcome to Him...and be grateful for His second chances.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dancing With The Wind

The winds woke me up.  It was 3:30 a.m. and the gusts were approx. 55 mph.  I was safe and snug in the house, but outside the storm was raging.  Tropical Storm Debby was approaching.

By noon, the rains had let up, but the winds were still fierce.  I sat and watched the branches of the avocado tree through the window.  The branches would rise and fall with each gust.  They would float up as high as possible, and then dip down low.  The next thing you know they were being yanked sideways, back and forth.  Yet in all of their movement, they seemed to have almost a graceful quality.  Almost like an elegant dancer.  They seemed to go where their partner led them...up high, down low, then side to side.  The branches didn't move on their own...they gracefully followed where they were led to go.

I began to think about how those branches were formed.  They were made to bend and sway.  They were designed to have a 'give' to them.  If they were too stiff, they would break at the slightest storm.  The branches that were dead were easily broken.  They had no 'give' at all and snapped.

God formed us in a similar way.  He made us to be able to 'bend' in life's situations.  Many times we are advised to be flexible.  Don't expect too much, or depend too much on other people or circumstances.  We can be disappointed.  This is good advice.  Like the branches we need to relinquish our will.  Do you ever see a branch stubbornly refuse to move in a breeze?  No.  Lean and yield to each situation that God may place you in.  Let Him lead you.  Take His Hand and let your Partner guide you in every step of the Dance He has designed for you.  Without your knowledge, your dance will be poised and graceful.

Be careful that you aren't a dead branch.  If you don't have the Spirit of God flowing through you, you can become dead and brittle inside.  You will break under the slightest pressure.  Keep the Spirit alive through the Word and Fellowship with other believers.

Then dance...dance with the Wind...the Breath of God.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Transformation



I had to do something.  The smell was really getting intense.....  Those three black bananas had to go!!

I hated to throw them away...one banana, fine...but THREE?  I would feel guilty...knowing they could be put to good use.  I checked the recipe...yep had all of the other ingredients.  Banana bread for tomorrow's breakfast!!
As the shortening, eggs and sugar were mixing, I began to peel the bananas.  They were so gross to the senses..  Gooey, smelly and ugly...yuck.  I added the bland flour, soda and salt with a little bit of flavoring.
Into the hot oven it went.  After a few minutes the strong smell of the rotton bananas began to change...ummmm!  To look at it, you couldn't tell that anything good was happening, it still looked like batter.  But your nose can tell you...something's different.  By the end of the hour, you're ready to climb into the oven to eat it, it smells so good!!  Then you see the change that those three rotten bananas have gone through...into a beautiful, golden loaf of bread.

I began to think about that transformation process...and how it related to life. 

Now work with me here...don't be offended and think I'm comparing you to a decaying piece of fruit!  But...there are a few similarities. 

We may not be considered a piece of fruit...but we are rotten.  To the core.  God's Word says that "We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind."~Isaiah 64:6.  Inside, we are all like that black banana...full of sin and corruption.  Left on our own, we are disgusting.  To look at us...no one would want us, we would be considered an article for the garbage pail.

But then Someone picks us up.  Someone Who thinks that we are not destined for the trash heap.  As preparations are made, unbeknownst to us, He begins to take away our peeling.  It is not a pretty process.  Inside, what He finds is raw material.  Soft and moldable.  It has been neglected and left to rot, not knowing it's potential. He adds some other seemingly bland material to our lives.  Material or events that by themselves wouldn't mean a thing.  But when He mixes them together, something begins to take place.  A little flavoring of life is added to make the end result more appealing.

Then suddenly we are thrown into the fire of a hot oven.  Events take place that can't possibly be good for us.  It's so uncomfortable.  How can this be a positive thing? 

But then, a fragrance begins to slowly emerge.  The fragrance of change.  To look at us, no one could tell there has been a change, but something is definitely happening. 

We remain in the fire...and we begin to notice a difference in us.  We are growing. All of the events and circumstances that have happened to us have 'mixed together' to form us into something different.  We have a Master Chef that is keeping a watchful Eye on our oven.  He knows the exact moment that we should be removed from the heat.  Once we are, the results are amazing.  What was once a repulsive piece of produce is now a new creation.  Our Master Chef has made a new thing in us.  He has created a new heart in our innermost being. 

2 Corinthians 5:17 states, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"  Christ does the transforming.  In the same way that the bananas can hang on their hook for a month and 'wish and wish' to be changed...it can't happen.  For two reasons...one, bananas can't wish, and two...they can't change by themselves either.  It takes the Hand of the Master Chef to mold and mix and bring His new handiwork into being.  We just have to be willing to go through the peeling process and to go into the fire that is necessary, to grow.  We have to resign our 'will' and give it to the Father.

We will have to go through this transformation a number of times.  But know that each time, God has a plan and the end result will ultimately be for our good.

Surrender your life and see what the Lord can make of you.  It will be a pleasing sacrifice that He will turn into a beautiful reward.                             


Friday, January 20, 2012

Resting in the Father's Hand



Daddy and I (age 1)
 Remember the song, 'Put Your Head On My Shoulder"?  Here's a variation:

My mother used to tell me about a rather strange little habit I had when I was a toddler.  Apparently I used to love to lay my head in people's hands!  Yes, weird I know...  People would hold out their hand, and I would lay my head in it!  The above picture is an example.  It's a picture of my dad waking up to see me wheeling over to say "Good morning".  He put out his hand over the side of the bed, and I promptly placed my little head inside.  I guess I must have felt sheltered in knowing that I was safe and secure with his large hand holding me.

As I grew up, I moved away from my penchant for palms.  I forgot about my dependence on my daddy's hand.  I loved to be cradled in his arms if I was hurt or sad...but the older I got, the less I seemed to 'need' his secure hold.

Isn't that how it is with our Heavenly Father?  When we first come to know Him, we rest in His Hands, knowing that He is our Fortress and Protector.  Then we tend to grow away from Him...little by little..  New interests take over.  We get caught up with life, work or activities.  Our lives are filled with overtime and paychecks.  We may have a stack of bills and not enough money to pay them.  We worry and fret. Before we know it, we've forgotten how it felt to be held by our Father.  We've lost consciousness of how safe and secure we felt in our salvation.  Questions may begin to invade our brain..."Am I REALLY going to heaven when I die?" "Does God REALLY love me?"  "I don't see Him working in my life.  Maybe He has left me on my own."

Did God leave?  No.  He's still in the same place.  He hasn't moved an inch.  I once heard this analogy that made so much sense to me.  They said to light a candle.  The candle represents God.  Now turn and put your back to the candle.  Can you see it?  Look over your shoulder.  Is it still there?  It didn't go anywhere.  Who turned away from the Light?  We do.  God doesn't move...we are the ones who do the moving...away from Him.  He is just waiting for us to turn around so we can see Him.  He's just waiting for us to draw near to His Warmth, and place our head...our hearts into His open Palm...to give us a place to rest. 

Jesus tried to let us know how much He cared about our burdens.  Matthew 11:28 states, "Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."  The Father speaks through 2 Corinthians 6:18 of His longing for us to turn to Him. "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters."  He wants to be the Daddy that we run to, when we are sad.

Place your heavy, tired head into the open Palm of the Father.  He will cradle you and relieve you of the weight of the world that is on your shoulders.  Rest in your Father's Hand.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Practice

                        

prac·tice

[prak-tis]
noun
1. habitual or customary performance
2. habit; custom
3. repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency
You've heard it said..."Practice, practice, practice".  "Practice makes perfect".  "Practice what you preach".  "Put your faith into practice".
The term 'practice' will never be just a routine word for me anymore.  It will always remind me of someone that gave the word 'practice' a whole new meaning. 
I am a member of First Baptist Church of Palmetto, FL.  We have been blessed to have an associate pastor by the name of Joe Choate for many, many years.  He has been an inspiration to countless people. 
Joe carried our church through a very difficult period of time.  For over three years we were without a senior pastor, and Joe stepped up to fulfill the job on a "temporary" basis.  He preached almost every Sunday, and led countless services and pastoral duties...all while dealing with recurring cancer.  He knew that God had given him that job, not because it was necessarily something he wanted to do...but because he was a faithful servant that obeyed. In the same way that Joe knew he could count on God to always be by his side, God knew He could count on Joe to step up and do what was needed.  They had a relationship with each other that was fed by prayer.  Joe could always talk to his Father...and his Father could speak to him.
When Joe's cancer came back for the second time, he told the congregation that he needed us to pray for him.  He needed the prayers and we needed the practice.  This became a recurring mantra of sorts around the church.  He often teased us about it, but there was an underlying truth to the banter.  He did need the prayers...and he knew we needed to practice at the art of praying.
Practice at praying??  How odd that may sound.  But when you think of it...he had a point.  The dictionary says that practicing is a habit or systematic exercise.  We exercise our muscles to make them stronger...we exercise or 'practice' our prayer life in order to strengthen it.
They say that it takes about 21 days, or about three weeks of doing something on a daily basis to become a habit.  What is a habit?  It is an acquired behavior pattern that because of repitition, becomes almost involuntary.  Why would Joe want us to practice at praying?  Because he knew we need prayer ln our lives.  We need to work on our own relationship with God on a daily basis, until we don't even have to think about it.  That way, our prayers don't always reach God's ears when we are in trouble.  It's more of a connection...of the heart.  A connection that we foster daily.  If we are in a relationship with someone, we have to have communication.  If we don't talk to our spouse or significant other every day, that intimacy will be disturbed...or shattered.  The same thing goes with our relationship with God.  Joe knew that.  He tried to encourage us to avoid that spiritual scenario.

On Sunday January 15th, Joe met his Heavenly Father face to face.  We thank God for his life and for all that he shared with us, here on earth.  We will miss him terribly.  Our love and prayers go out for his grieving family and friends, that God will envelop them with His Peace.  We pray for them, because they need the prayer....and we need the practice.

Practice makes perfect.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Anniversary

                                       


Thirty three years ago today I asked a question that changed my life.

I had gone to visit my sister in South Carolina.  I was about to turn 19, and up to this moment, was a relatively happy young woman.  I was going to junior college, after having graduated from high school the summer before.  Living at home with my parents...my life seemed to be fine.

Then I went to South Carolina.  My sister and her fiancee' were getting ready to go to church, and asked me if I wanted to go along.  I liked church...hadn't gone on a regular basis for a few years, but I thought, sure, why not?

I looked up to my sister, Patti.  Still do.  She was such a happy person. Unlike myself, who was very introverted.  Painfully shy...I found it very hard to speak to people I didn't know.  We went to church, and I watched, as during the service they participated in the Lord's Supper.  I observed Patti, as she ate the bread that represented the Body of Christ.  She had a look of ultimate peace upon her face.  I quietly thought, "I want that.  I want peace.  It was if I knew there was something missing in my life.  I was happy...but I didn't have joy.  I wanted it.  So quietly, I prayed, "Can I have it?  Please God, take over my life and give me that peace."

At that moment, I knew something was different.  It was like I could not get enough of trying to know God on an intimate level.  I got my Bible out, that I had received when I was 8 years old.  I had tried to read it before, but didn't understand it.  The words made more sense now, but the translation was a bit difficult.  My grandfather gave me a Bible that was easier to understand.  I found a church in the area, and began to attend and learn.  Things started to make sense.  It seemed like the more I sought to learn about God, the more I knew Who He was. 

That was thirty three years ago.  The journey still continues.  I still have that same peace that I received that first day of January in 1979. Unbeknownst to me at the time, but it was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in me.   It was not only the first day of a new year...it was the first day of the beginning of a new life for me...a rebirth.  That's not to say that I haven't gone through tough times.  I have gone through more than my share...but through it all, I knew that I wasn't alone.  I had Someone that held my hand through it all.  Someone who held me up when I couldn't go on under my own power.

And that shy, young girl who couldn't talk to people?  I was slowly transformed into a brave woman, who has no qualms about speaking, and at times even singing in front of a large crowd.  I couldn't do any of that changing on my own...it was a supernatural metamorphesis.  It was God.

2 Corinthians 5:17 states that if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation.  The old has passed away and they are a new person.  It may sound like an impossible trick, but I have experienced that on a deep and personal level.  It's not a trick, it is true and very real.  And it began with a question. 
"Can I have that peace?"

The answer was a resounding, "YES!"  If you ask the same question, it is guaranteed you will get the same answer.  Luke 11:9 states "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."  Notice that there are no conditions.  It's not dependant upon how much money you have, or how good you are, or what religion you are affiliated with.  It says simply to ask.

Do you feel something missing in YOUR life?  The answer lies in a simple question.

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