Thursday, September 20, 2018

Tares in the Heart






“Your words water things,” our pastor said Sunday morning.



Immediately, I grabbed my little notebook and began to scribble. We plant so many seeds in the garden of our lives. But, others plant seeds there, as well.



Ultimately, it’s our garden. We get to determine what grows there, we choose what to tend to; what to water.



To which seeds, seedlings or towering trees are we giving our attention and energies?



In the Bible we read, “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while the men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.: - Matthew 13:24-26 (KJV)



This scripture came to mind, simply to enforce the point that other people, whether we know them and trust them, or not, plant seeds – good or bad, in our garden.


In this parable, it was the man’s enemy planting tares (a noxious weed) in with his wheat to mess with the man’s harvest.



Whether the person sowing weeds in our garden is an enemy, or a well-meaning friend, a parent, a boss or coworker, a pastor or a neighbor you meet in passing along the road – and whether they plant the weeds knowingly or not, weeds will spring up in our garden.



Seeds, weeds or good plants, are otherwise known as words and idea.



Which plants are getting our attention?



The weeds are symbolic of anything that would distract us from what God wants to do in our lives. He gave us life, when we’re born again, we give Him back our lives, to do with as He pleases. Because, what He pleases is, ultimately, what’s best for us; it’s where we’ll prosper and grow to be more and more like Him. It’s where we’ll feel content and joyful; even happiest.



The weeds are symbolic of the problems that come up in our lives; problems set to distract us from living.


Those distractions can be different for all of us, but there are many we face in common. Though I’ve yet to meet a father who’s been distracted by it, I know moms who suffer intensely because of the empty nest syndrome; sometimes to the point of despair. It can derail us and send us in search of a new identity.



Demands for super-performance at a job, or at school, or sicknesses, or losses – can all distract us from even knowing who we are, let alone what we’re supposed to be doing.

We’ve all heard a phrase that says something like, “Don’t tell God how big your problems are, tell your problems how big your God is in the midst of them!”



Are we focusing on, (watering), giving our attention to – our problems, or to our God?



How do we refocus our attention?



Oh yeah; get our heads and hearts into God’s Word. What’s up with that? Do I think all of our answers are in there? You bet I do! I believe it with my whole heart.



Trust in the LORD with all of thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understand. In all they ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct they paths. - Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV)

(Picture from Victory 91.5)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Sitting at the Lake

(photo from dissolve.com)


Jesus looked more tangible to me today, more fleshed-out, as I read in Matthew, “That day, Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake…he got into a boat and sat in it…” -Matthew 13:1-2 (KJV)



Can’t you just picture a man who’s staying at a lake house, walking out the door, making his way down to the beach and sitting down beside the lake?



I don’t know what time of day it was, but from personal experience, walking out to the lake first thing in the morning, as the mist rises from the water, is magical. Sitting there, listening to the sounds of creation, watching birds dive into the water for their breakfast, smelling the pines – it all filled my happy tank to overflowing. 


(photo from newspring.cc)


When God created the first Garden, He created man to take care of it. Clearly, it meant a lot to Him, right? I mean, as you’re reading Genesis, that’s the only reason I’ve noted, that God states He created us for: to take care of what He’d created. He takes as much joy in nature as we do, maybe more!



So, yes, this man at the lake house, ventures out and sits by the lake. Don’t you wonder what was going through His mind? Was He thoroughly enjoying His physical senses as He sat there? Sometimes we need to be reminded to be mindful of where we are; I somehow doubt Jesus missed a thing.



In the first chapter of John, we read that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, the Word WAS God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men,” (verses 1-4 KJV)

(photo from pixabay.com)
Since Jesus is the Word, we can see that He is the One Who spoke everything into existence. I hardly think He sat there and thanked Himself, but rather, took in the beauty of what He’d created. (He really should have come to sit by a lake in Colorado! Ha! Who’s to say He hasn’t?)



For me, sitting there was about taking in what I saw, as well as thanking God for showing it to me, for allowing me to enjoy the breathtaking beauty, and be a part of it all.



Matthew doesn’t tell us how long Jesus sat there, but he does say that a crowd began to grow around him, so he got into a boat and sat down, then began to speak to them.



The very One Who spoke everything into existence was speaking to them! In the flesh, out loud in an audible voice, they could see and hear the very One Who’d created them.

(from pinterest.com)
For us, it’s an inner thing, an inner knowing that comes from the Word of God. Yes, our hearing comes from Jesus, Himself. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing from the word of God.” Romans 10:17 (KJV)



All of this, not to introduce you to what He was about to teach, but to introduce the notion that it was Jesus – the man, Who was speaking to them. The same Jesus Who speaks to your heart every single day, whether you’re paying attention or not.



Perhaps, by closing our eyes and imagining ourselves there with Him, by the lake, sitting at rest, taking it all in – we can hear Him a little more clearly. That opens us up to falling in love with Him, completely.


(from pinterst.com)



Monday, June 25, 2018

Seriously? We Going to Talk About This Again?

(photo from youtube.com)

Rejoice. It’s one of my favorite words. But, what does it mean? There’s a dictionary definition, then – there’s the picture definition my brain comes up with to give me understanding.



The dictionary definition is easy, anyone can look it up. It’s right there at your fingertips, there on your phone. We call up the magical world of Google with just the touch of a finger. There we can see that rejoice means: to be glad; take delight in, to make joyful; gladden. (from dictionary.com)


(picture from thommiodom.com)

But, what of the word picture in my head? I suppose, since none of us thinks exactly alike, the word picture in your head is likely quite different than mine. I listened as a woman read the definition of the word aloud the other day, and this is where my brain took me:



Picture, if you will, your favorite bowl. At the moment, mine is a decorative blue bowl with a scripture around the edges. Inside there’s a magical liquid that can be sloshed around, spilled out, poured over my head; I can drink from it, I can dip my fingers in it, I can pour some into your bowl…. I can do most anything I choose with the magical potion, yet the bowl never goes empty.





No, not Love Potion No. 9 – but, a love potion from the Creator of everything, He calls it joy.



Of course, I don’t take this bowl with me everywhere I go, if you knew how clumsy I can be, you know I’d break it the very first day we ventured out into the world together. The next part of the word picture is to imagine this bowl inside of me (you). I see it resting on my diaphragm. It goes with me everywhere, and not once have I dropped it or laid it down somewhere and forgotten about it.



It’s there every time I need to dip into it. The contents are there sloshing around, reminding me that I can always choose joy. It’s warm and soothing, letting me know that no matter the situation, I can draw from it.




I may find myself receiving harsh news, or growing impatient in traffic, or battling a headache. Or I may see someone else in need, someone I love – or someone I don’t even know yet. The situation doesn’t need to be futile; I have joy to dip into!



Part of the Bible that thrills me completely, is Philippians 4:4-8. Verse four tells us to: “Rejoice in the Lord, always. Again, I say, rejoice!”



People look at you like you have three heads if you suggest they rejoice while going through a tough situation. But, three-headed Child of God, or not, that’s just what we need to hear. We need to hear it in our ears, and we need to hear it in our heart.



I’ll admit it, if I’m in a grumpy mood and you tell me to rejoice, I may not shoot the most pleasant glance your way. It’s the exact opposite of what we’d naturally do in a rough spot. The carnal way of responding is with sorrow, or even anger. (By the way, carnal simply means, perceived by our five senses, it doesn’t necessarily mean sinful. Just thought you should know.)



That’s when we most need that bowl of joy within us stirred up and poured all over us. That’s when we need to reach into the resources God already gave us when we chose Him.


(picture from pinterest.com)

God supplies the joy, just as He provides every other blessing we’ll ever need – or want. Whether we ask for the joy or not, it’s right there inside of us, waiting to be tapped into.



What color is your bowl? Whether you need a sip, or a shower from the bowl, it’s brimming with the greatness of God; His joy – to be enjoyed every minute of the day or night.



“…the joy of the Lord is our strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10 (KJV)

No wonder the enemy of our soul attempts so strenuously to hide our bowl from us.



“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” – Philippians 4:4-8 (KJV)


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Action Word


(picture from kisworldfun.com)
Love is a verb.



Yes, sometimes the actions of love take place on a level where we find it hard to focus. Say, for example, a parent has grounded their child for misbehavior. The child may only see the frustrations of the removed privileges. The parent’s love for their child is hoping to see a correction to said misbehavior. Love is often misunderstood.



Love is also distorted and sometimes actions labeled as love, are really not love at all. If a man, in his drunken stupor, beats his wife senseless, then later, insists through his tears that he really loves her, he clearly doesn’t know how to love. Something has gotten in the way. Whether he was never taught, by example how to love, or perhaps evil entered his life along the way and buried his capacity to love or a myriad of other possibilities; he’s crippled. He may behave in a loving manner sometimes, but he has core issues to deal with.



To truly love, one must know Love. God IS love, so, to know God, is to know love.



But, we all go through things in life that challenge God’s love and our ability to love others. Our pasts are riddled with mysteries, some of which we’ll never solve. Some of those mysteries fade away as explanations make their way to the surface. Some of us fiercely search for answers, others try to brush away the events of our past and count them as unworthy of our time and attention.



Love is never crippled, but our ability to give and receive love can be not only crippled, but completely paralyzed.

(picture from youtube.com)
Fresh encounters with God, daily, can help the crippled parts within us to heal. That’s why spending time in God’s Word is so incredibly important. Through His Word, God can reveal Himself and His never-ending love to us anew every day. God can speak to us through anything, or anyone.



So often in life when I’ve faced difficult circumstances and despair crept in like a subtle fog, I’ve begged God for answers, yet allowed my distractions to keep me from spending quality time with God, reading and pondering His Word. The longer I go without reading and meditating on God’s Word, the more frustrated I become. The more I talk to God yet refuse to take time to listen for what He has to say to me, the deeper the talons of despair pierce my heart.



God didn’t create us all to think like rocket scientists. He created us with one-of-a-kind hearts, with minds that think as individuals. He doesn’t seek to make things difficult for us; He simply wants us to turn to Him, with all our heart, and He will open the doors to understanding for us.



That means spending time with Him, quality time.



But, we’re so b-u-s-y! There’s so much to get done in a day, when do you find time to spend with a God you can’t see or touch?



You don’t.

 
(picture from youtube.com)

You MAKE time. Priorities take us to land us where we are; good priorities take us to good places, scattered or unproductive priorities take us nowhere. We look around and things are still the same way we left them yesterday, sometimes – the same way we left them ten years ago. We wallow in the same pit of despair or poverty we told ourselves we wouldn’t settle for.



With no target, how can we hit it? With no goal, how can we move on from where we are?


Love is the always-moving vehicle that will get us there. But, we have to climb on board.


(picture from bluetimbersign.com)
Time to dump some baggage? Time to move forward? Time to learn (or relearn) how to give and receive love?



Spend some time with God, today. Quality time with God will always be rewarded; sometimes tangibly, sometimes in treasures of the heart, sometimes with exciting displays that everyone around you will see; and sometimes, the rewards will be accompanied with a little frustration or confusion, but pursue the rewards of God. His reward is love, the action kind of love, the kind of love that sets us free.



Jesus said in John 6:37, “All that the Father giveth to me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (KJV)



And in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (KJV)



“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails….” – I Corinthians 13:4-8a (KJV)

(picture from forheislove.com)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What's in YOUR Mouth?

(picture from thisisinsider.com)

The other day, our pastor made mention of something John Osteen used to say, “There’s a miracle in your mouth.” I’ve heard variations of this over the years, but yet every time I ponder it, I recognize all over again just what a powerful my mouth I have.



Sure, I make jokes about how much I talk, but, if I pay attention to what I’m saying, I realize I need to slow things down and guard my mouth; I get to be the one in control of what comes out of my mouth. Am I speaking truth? Even when, and perhaps, especially when - I’m the only one there to hear what I have to say, it’s important that I speak the truth, and that I speak it in love.



“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” – Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)



Yes, I want to grow into all that Jesus has for me. I want to bring glory to His Name, and I want to edify the body of Christ. But, I need to be a healthy member of the body of Christ in order to bring that edification to the table. If my thinking is tainted by some flaky wind of doctrine or lies from my past, I’m being deceived and I’m sharing that deception. I need to be renewing my mind with the Word of God all the time.



Sometimes we can be in conversation with someone and think thoughts like, “Does this person even have a clue what they’re talking about?” – or, “This guy’s short a few marbles.” Truth be told, others have had these same thoughts about us.


(picture from redeeminggod.com)


In scripture we read, “The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But, we have the mind of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 2:15 (NIV)  


(picture from thoughtco.com)
If we fail to engage our own brain in our conversations, how much less do we tap into the mind of Christ? God has told us we have access to His mind, yet so often we rely on self, or worse, we just allow whatever happens to happen without considering what we can do to impact the situation.



But, what about when I’m talking to myself? How am I impacting my life by speaking out things that are negative and destructive? I’m crippling God’s precious Princess. I’m creating handicap in my own life. I’m also acting in rebellion, denying the very power of God working in me.
(picture from treatingfungus.com)

In Romans 8:11 we read. “…if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” (NIV)



How can I deny the truth if the very Spirit of God lives within me? I’ll tell you how. If I’m still living a carnally-minded life. If I’m not renewing my mind with God’s Word – I have nothing else to fall back on except the lies I’ve always believed. By the way, a carnal life doesn’t have to mean a sinful life, it simply means a life perceived by natural means; through our five senses. There are things more reliable than our sense of seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting. Once we give our lives over to Jesus, He promises that His Spirit will live within us. We can tap into that, we can receive from His Spirit, and we can rely on Him, trusting Him completely. He’ll never leave us, no matter what. His love is unconditional, and His presence is as real as His love.



James 1:26 tells us, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.” (NLT)


(picture from wikiHow.com)
I’m a talker and I admit it. Sometimes I allow my words to get ahead of me and I say things I shouldn’t, to myself and to those around me. But, to say I can’t control it, would be a lie. I might be lazy about guarding my mouth, I might be slack in renewing my mind with the Word of God, I might be uneducated about the power I possess, but that’s all on me. God gave me control, I get to make the decisions regarding my life and how I live it. He gave you the very same control; the very same choices.



“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” – Deuteronomy 30:19-20a (NIV)



“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it and indulge it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words.” – Proverbs 18:21 (AMP)



Are you speaking truth? Are you speaking life? If not, you can choose to change that, through the Word of God.
(picture from youchoose.org.au)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

My Favorite Comforter


(picture from wifeknows.com)
Do you ever catch yourself whining? Do you ever feel yourself panicking? I tend to find my mouth saying things that sound like complaints way more often that I’d like to admit.



Our Father in Heaven has given us the Holy Spirit to us to be, among other things, our Comforter. If you think in pictures, like many of us do, a plethora of imagery comes to mind at the sound of that word. Do you picture the cozy down comforter on your bed, the one that snuggles you as you wrap yourself in it? Do you picture a bereavement card? Do you picture the face of that one special friend who’s always there for you, not matter how much you pout, cry, mourn or throw a pity party? Do you remember the hands of your mother, as she gently smoothed a band-aid over that nasty scrape on your knee? Do you smell the glass of wine you nursed after getting disturbing or sad news?

(picture from friendsquotation.com)
I’m sure you have your own images that pop into place at the mention of most any word.



But, comforters can explore a thousand dimensions, depending on what kind of comfort we find ourselves in need of at any given moment. I can be in one dimension right now and discover myself in another place in just a few minutes, needing a whole new kind of comfort.


(picture from safebee.com)
Sometimes I want sympathy, or to hear that yes – I was right in that last disagreement that ruffled my feathers. I may just need a hug; a smile. I may need someone to simply listen to me rant. I may need to hear a soothing voice in my ears. I may want silence, or I may need a momentary distraction from my own thoughts.



But, our heavenly Comforter always knows just what we need, just who we need it from and just how to get it to us. Yet, sometimes we flat out refuse to be comforted.



“God, I’m feeling a bit scared right now.”

“But, Helen, you love Me, right?”



“Lord, this pain is unbearable.”

“You love Me, don’t you?



“Father, it was totally not fair for her to treat me that way.”

“Do you love Me anyways?”



“Grrrrrr! God, that made me so angry!”

“Yet, you still love Me?”



My heavenly Comforter doesn’t question my love for Him. He challenges my love for Him – bringing me right back to the place of safety I desperately need be whenever I need comforting.



Honestly, that’s the place of safety I seek to dwell in all the time.



Hard times, emotional escapades and every day frustrations come at us to steal our joy, to derail our day, and to cause rifts in relationships. Yet, knowing we’re centered right there in the love of God, protected under the wings of the Almighty, hidden in Christ, brings us to our knees and to a place of complete surrender, submitting ourselves and our circumstance to the King of kings, Himself.


And therein, we are comforted.

(picture from fggam,org)


“Peace, be still my Child, I am with you always. I love you. You are mine.”



“Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always, by all means. The be with you all.” -2 Thessalonians 3:16 (KJV)



“Let your conversations be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” -Hebrews 13:5 (KJV)



“…and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”  -Matthew 28:20 (KJV)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Pretty Woman



(Photo from dreamstime.com)

Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed from every direction with messages about God’s grace.

Andrew Wommack calls the gospel of God’s grace, the nearly-too-good-to-be-true news. Sometimes I find myself in overload mode, breathing quickly and so shallow, with excitement over how much and how unconditionally God loves me.

Quick story. While at a Thursday morning Bible study learning even more about God’s amazing grace through the book of Romans, God took me back to a distant but beautiful memory.

We lived in Rome, New York at the time. (Is it coincidence that we’re going through the book of Romans?) I’d turned my back on God for a season and was wallowing in pathetic guilt and shame and reasoned that there was no way God could allow me back into His arms. Now, I know that Satan was behind that message, but at the time, I couldn’t imagine God even wanted to look at me.

While driving down a lonely road, I was feeling insanely depressed and afraid that I could never make my way back to the loving God of the universe, because I’d betrayed Him. Tears of fear were quickly replaced by tears of joy as God sang through my radio to me. You may think this sounds crazy or even corny or unbelievable, but, He spoke to me, clearly through lyrics that melted my heart as I realized He was still pursuing me, still reaching out to me – He still wanted me; He still loved me!
(from aol.com)
The song seemed to play for an eternity as I took in the words:

“Pretty woman, walkin’ down the street. Pretty woman, the kind I’d like to meet…..

Pretty woman, stop a while. Pretty woman, talk a while. Pretty woman give your smile to me…..

Pretty woman, look my way. Pretty woman, say you’ll stay with me….. ‘cause I need you, I’ll treat you right, come with me girl, be mine tonight

Pretty woman, don’t walk on by. Pretty woman, don’t make me cry. Pretty woman, don’t walk on by…

I guess I’ll go on home, it’s late, there’ll be tomorrow night – but wait! What do I see? Yeah – you’re walking back to me!”
(photo from videoblocks.com)
Now, I realize the original intent behind the song is a man just trying to pick up a pretty woman. I get that. But, God knew how to reach out and catch my attention. He knows my heart. He knows the words that press buttons in my brain. He knows how much I long to be pretty – and I’m pretty to Him. I don’t care to be beautiful, I long to be pretty. So, He called out to me, Hey – Pretty woman! Stop what you’re doing and come back to me! Talk with me, stay with me, be mine!

Then, as my heart turned whole-heartedly to Him, He chimed in with the line, “What do I see? You’re walking back to me!”

How can that story not reduce you to tears? Well, maybe it doesn’t make you cry – but, I was bawling like crazy. I probably had to pull off to the side of the road.

That was many years ago, but still, God continues to woo me, to pursue me, to teach my heart about His unending grace; His forever love!

He’s continuously calling out to you, too –

Listen for Him.

Respond!

(photo fro videoblocks.com)


Psalm 139:1-18
O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!
I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.
17 How precious are your thoughts about me,[b] O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!”
New Living Translation (NLT)