Sunday, August 31, 2014

Giving Good Gifts

(My own photo.)
God restores my soul.

What part of me is my soul? My spirit is one with His, my body is my flesh and blood, but my soul is comprised of my mind, will and emotions. All of those parts of me have been influenced, and sadly, damaged by the world.

God restores me through various means; often just a walk through the beautiful creation of the nature around me brings incredible healing. But one of my favorite ways is when He touches me through my friends and their encouragement and the parts of life they share in with me. Most of the time they probably don’t even realize the healing they impart to me. Maybe that’s because God is actually the One imparting the healing, He’s just doing it through them; through you!

One little reminder of love that brings me healing is a gift my friend Marie gave me. Though my friends can be very giving, Marie’s gift illustrated to me one of the many times she listens to me. Being heard and acknowledged brings tremendous healing.

I drink a lot of water and had mentioned, off the cuff, that when at home I should drink from a glass, not bottled water. I hate contributing to the plastic problems we have in our earthly environment. During a visit with Marie, she gave me a cup; perfect for my needs. I don’t sip from this cup, I guzzle. I drink more water than anyone I know. But, each drink from the cup reminds me that she loves me and she listens to me and that she chooses to allow God to restore my soul through her and our relationship. It was a simple gesture, but it came from pure motives and a loving heart. I love her for this.

I find it quite easy to love most everyone. But, certain people more significantly write their names on our hearts. Marie is one of those people. God bless you, Marie.

There are so many ways we can allow God’s healing to pour through us into those we love, and even into the strangers we meet every day. If you take a few minutes, I’m sure you can come up with a list of ways God has poured into you through the people around you. Sure, you can come up with a list of ways people have hurt you, too. What kind of person do you want to be? One that drips with healing or one that inflicts injury, {most commonly the kind of wounds we can’t always see with our eyes)? We can bring healing just as easily as we can hurt. We get to choose which words and actions we’ll use.

I’ll bet we’ve all heard the phrase, “Hurt people hurt people”. The truth of the matter is that when we inflict pain on those around us, it’s not always intentional. When acting from a place of hurt, we do hurtful things, sometimes, without even realizing it.

Often, we can’t help but ask, “But when is someone going to pour into me?” If someone shares healing with us, we can pass it along, blessing others from our place of healing. It can feel impossible to help others when we’re hurting so badly ourselves. We might be overlooking the actual sources of our distress, or even be in denial about the wounds we bear; being blinded by our pain. That definitely makes it harder to give good gifts to others and can prevent us from seeing ugliness we might be spewing about into the lives of those we love.

But, God does not leave us helpless or without resources. His Word is filled with power and tools to make us more like Him; whole. When our pain is so great that we refuse (consciously or not) to turn away from His Word, rather than to it, He sends someone along to take our hand, or our heart, and lead us to Him. Of course, we always have the option of pulling away from the help He sends to us.

Some of the biggest sacrifices we can make are through allowing God to act through us, even when we ourselves are in insurmountable pain. And sometimes, some of our biggest healing comes through the self-sacrificial love we choose to share.

Whether it’s through a token of our love, or through our actions, we’re all capable of showing our love, even when we’re tempted to act selfishly. We can do this only when we yield to God and what He shows us to do.

How has God been pouring into you? How has He been pouring through you?


“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” – James 4:7-8 (NIV) 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Big Girl Panties

(photo from vidavitality.com)
“Put on your big girl panties and deal with it,” says one friend to another. To many of us, it simply means to suck it up and get on with life. That’s not always easy to do; life throws a lot of hard things our way, sometimes in quick succession. But, to quote a lovely lady, “Yeah, I gotta invest in some of those, might come in handy….”

This lovely lady is a perfect stranger to me. I call her perfect because she’s perfectly the kind of woman I’d love to be friends with. I mean, with how many strangers can you bring up the topic of underwear and not immediately lose the conversation?

We tossed around the idea of writing a book on the topic together, all because of an ad I placed to sell a party dress for my daughter-in-law. We even came up with some clever titles: The Power of Ugly Underpants and The Trouble With Sexy Underwear.

When I pointed out that big girl panties aren’t pretty, she said, “It’s not the appearance, rather the power. And power sometimes comes in the form of big, plain, white ugly undies.”

Now, if she decides to read this blog post and chooses to reveal herself, she’s more than welcome to do that. But, in case she doesn’t want all my readers to know she freely converses with strangers in such a powerful manner, I won’t tell you her name.

Our conversation got me pondering, though.

I don’t suppose “big girl panties” have to be the kind you imagine your great-grandmother wearing. (I have to add in that “great” since I’m a grandmother, myself, and I don’t intend to discuss what my undies look like.)

But, maybe the symbolic nature of the big, plain white, ugly underwear says something in itself.

Maybe it says that life doesn’t always have ruffles or frills, often we might even feel that life isn’t fun at all. And life definitely isn’t always about being sexy.

At some point in life, unlike our dear friend Peter Pan, we need to grow up. Does that mean we reach a point when life becomes dull and boring and stays that way? No way! Keep in mind, we change our undergarments daily. Some days are more frivolous than others. But, as grownups, we become responsible for the actions we take, frivolous or serious; our mistakes and shortcomings, as well as our accomplishments and steps forward.

Wearing our big girl panties implies we’re not going to let life become meaningless and pointless, because we have the right to say it’s meaningful and to declare that we have purpose, despite the set-backs, and live like we mean it. God created us in His image; we have strength and courage we haven’t even tapped into yet.

When was the last time you felt powerless? Maybe we need to keep a big ol’ pair of granny panties in the back of our drawer (or in our glove box) as a reminder of just how powerful we really are. Can we be powerful in a skimpy thong? You betcha! I’m just pondering the finer points of the phrase!

Sometimes getting lost is the only way to find a new path home. Sometimes extreme disappointments or losses reveal the paradigm we’ve been trapped in and can show us the way out.

Though the Bible doesn’t literally say it, we’ve all trudged through hard times remembering, “This too shall pass…”

No matter how tough life looks, remember the words of the Psalmist: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.” – Psalm 118:17 (KJV)

Oh, yeah - this is more like it!
 
(picture from limitlessliving.ca)









Monday, August 25, 2014

Silly Sounding Obedience


(My obedience plant.)
Don’t take for granted that because it’s good, it’s God.

God may have someone right around the corner He needs you to speak with or pray for right now, perhaps someone who’s contemplating suicide. So, when we stop to chat with the homeless man begging for quarters just to be nice, we may be “chasing rabbit trails” instead of heeding the voice of God.

This is where listening for His voice; His guidance, is crucial. Every time He speaks to us, His words are worth hearing and living out.

Sometimes God speaks to me about seemingly small things, but they can have monumental effects.

A dear friend of mine tells a story about a time when God spoke to her about wearing a specific dress. At first she was taken aback, asking God, “Don’t You trust me to pick out my own clothes for the day?” But, obedience prevailed, and she wore the dress, which was a bit out of place for her day. She walked out to check her mail and a woman came shrieking with excitement across the courtyard. “My mother made me a dress when I was a girl and it looked just like that one, where did you get it?” she asked. Now, the dress was of little importance in the grand scheme of things, but being invited to a conversation with this woman was where God had some seed planting to do. My friend was able to share some truths about our living Savior, Jesus Christ, with a woman she’d never have spoken to otherwise.

God knew as my friend got dressed that morning who He would bring across her path, and just how He would draw the two together – over a dress.

We may never know the opportunities we’ve missed to share the gospel message or to be a blessing to someone, simply because we ignored the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

What joy can we bring into the lives of others by acting in obedience, no matter how silly or petty we feel God’s instructions for the day to be. Obedience is so much easier, too, when we trust that the results of that obedience are His responsibility, not ours.

I think I’ve shared this story before, but perhaps someone who needs to hear it missed it the first time.

Decades ago, while living in Illinois I crossed paths with a beautiful young Asian woman who spoke little to no English. How could I have been of any earthly good to her? This delicate creature was berated daily by a brute of a husband in the parking lot of our apartment complex. I wouldn’t say those words to my worst enemy, let alone scream them at my spouse!

But, one day I knew God was instructing me to stop at her apartment and tell her that He loves her. I put it off until it was time to walk up to the school and collect my children for the day. As a matter of fact, I put it off so badly that, upon arriving at the corner near the school, I had to inform God that if I went back to talk to her, I’d be late for the kids. Almost as if He was shaking His head and laughing at me, He said that if I’d obeyed Him sooner I wouldn’t be in that dilemma. I turned around and went back.

I was anxious and knew she wouldn’t understand a word I said, but I knocked on her door. No one answered. With a sigh, I was relieved to believe that God merely wanted my act of obedience, but that He wasn’t going to require me to actually talk to the woman. After knocking a second time and getting no answer, I turned to walk away. One step into my retreat, and she opened her door with a fearful, questioning look on her face, half hiding behind her door.

“Jesus wanted me to tell you that He loves you,” I said. (Or something to that affect.) Immediately, she seemed to understand. She nodded her head repeatedly and thanked me over and over again with a smile of joy on her face and tears rolling down her cheeks.

I never saw her again. But who knows what was going on behind her closed door when I got there? Could she have been contemplating suicide? Could she have been mustering up the courage to leave her lousy husband? Could she have just been staring at the results of a pregnancy test? I’ll never know. But, I do know that God used my words - His words, to bless her greatly. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a look of joy since.

By the way, I was at the school before the bell rang.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thin own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV)

"...to obey is better than sacrifice..." - 1 Samuel 15:22 (KJV)


What were His instructions today? What was the outcome? If you’re not too shy, share it with us!

(The "fortune" from my last fortune cookie at Panda Express.)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Duh....

(Photo from joyousoasis.com)
Has anyone ever given you this look? “I know you’re smart, so how is it that you’re just now getting this?”

I get it from time to time; it’s okay.

Sometimes I even see myself smacking my own forehead and whispering, “Duh!”

But, revelation is such an awesome thing. It can take something you’ve known in your head forever and transform it into something your heart finally understands. It can make a brand new concept come alive deep inside of you, where it becomes a permanent part of your understanding. It brings you from knowing – to acting on what you know. It actually moves you from a place of darkness into the light.

I love revelation; even when the folks around me shake their heads like they can’t believe I’m just now seeing a reality they’ve understood since birth.

A few Sundays ago Ugandan Bishop Joshua Lwere spoke in our church. He does this several times a year. His accent is thick, but his understanding of God’s Word takes him to a spiritual level that most of us don’t even know exists. Often, my mind wanders because, honestly, I miss a lot of what he says, simply because of the partnership between my old, hard-of-hearing ears and his attention getting, but profound accent.

But, that Sunday morning, it was as if the heavens opened up a pathway from his words to my heart. His message wasn’t of such deep revelation that you had to be a scholar to understand it, and I’d known the premise for decades. However, that morning was one that will stand out in my heart for many years to come; my “Aha moment” – sometimes dubbed a “duh moment” – set me free. That boulder on my shoulder is gone. I should go stand on the weight scale, because surely I weigh less!

I won’t relate all of my scribbled notes here. I won’t try to unfold the revelation I received piece by piece, because, either you already understand the point, or you won’t get it. I thought I understood the point, but I didn’t get it – until now.

In one juicy nugget: Everything I do can either benefit (or hurt) everyone around me. But, nothing I do is for anyone around me. Yes, I may do a favor for you; I may sing a song for you or even take a hit for you… but, it’s not your thanks or appreciation I should be seeking. If I think I’m serving you, or “working for” you – I’m seeking a paycheck from the wrong employer.

I submit myself to God and operate through the power and authority He’s given me. He is the One I answer to; He’s the only One I seek to please. Man-pleasers get drawn off track. My rewards come from God, whether or not it occurs to man to even say thank you.

If I’m feeling overwhelmed or under-appreciated, I’m seeking man’s attention or applause; I’m self-centered, and ultimately, self-serving. When I can walk in Love and seek no reward or praise for my actions, I’m God-centered and God-serving. His rewards are unimaginable. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9 (KJV)

Sometimes submitting ourselves to another’s authority is a heavy burden. But, submitting myself to God, through Jesus Christ is setting me free. Link by link, the chains fall away. Hallelujah!

What are some of the situations you find yourself in that create feelings of anger or resentment or that stimulate the idea that you’re invisible and no one appreciates a thing you do? If you place the template over it that reveals who you’re serving, how does that change things?



Monday, August 18, 2014

Faith and Expectancy

(picture from espiridion.net)
I’m going to borrow an old story for today’s blog post. I almost feel like I’m cheating, but I can’t say it better myself, so I thought I’d share the original story which perfects the meaning of the words faith and expectancy for me. I hope it’ll drive the points home for you, too.

----------------------- "The Faith of a Child" --------------------

Is it not a sad thing that we should think it wonderful for God to hear prayer? A little boy in one of the schools in Edinburgh, who had attended a prayer meeting, had much better faith. He said to his teacher who had conducted the prayer meeting, "Teacher, I wish my sister could be made to read the Bible. 

She never reads it."

"Why should your sister read the Bible, Johnny?"

"Because if she should once read it, I am sure it would do her good, and she would be converted and be saved."

"Do you think so, Johnny?"

"Yes, I do, sir, and I wish the next time there's a prayer meeting you would ask the people to pray for my sister that she may begin to read the Bible."

"Well, it shall be done, John."

So the teacher mentioned that a little boy was very anxious that prayer should be offered that his sister might begin to read the Bible. John was observed to get up and go out. The teacher thought it very rude of the boy to disturb the people in a crowded room, and so the next day when the lad came, he said, "John, I thought it was very rude of you to get up in the prayer meeting 

and go out. You ought not to have done so." 

"But sir," said the boy, "I did not mean to be rude. I thought I would just go home and see my sister reading her 
Bible for the first time."

In the same way we ought to believe and watch with expectation for answers to our prayer. Do not say, "Lord, turn my darkness into light," and then go out with your candle as though you expected to find it dark. After asking the Lord to appear for you, expect Him to do so, for according to your faith he will answer.

-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)      See: 1 John 5:14-15


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Keep Us.......

(photo mine)
As we prayed for a young man heading off for the Navy this morning, I found myself praying, “Lord keep him, as you’ve kept us…” My mind flashed by a dozen or more scenes of the hard times we’ve faced in our military lifestyle and second-guessed my prayer. But, no – God HAS kept us!

Once we commit ourselves to Him, He keeps us, protecting us in this world, but not from it. None of us is untouched. Evil reaches into us all, but it doesn’t have the authority to make us its victims.

Personally, I’ve seen a lot of sin and I’ve committed more than my share. But, I’m no victim to the forces that work against me.

Though God promises to keep us, we all have our own journey to travel through life; those journeys include being surrounded and influenced by both good and bad, allowing our hearts to be broken and remade – to rejoice and to weep.

Because we go through seasons of pain, sorrow or confusion does not indicate that God has abandoned us, far from it! Per that famous poem, this is when there is only one set of footprints. Though we may feel God is nowhere to be found, we’re often so self-absorbed in our own anguish that we can’t see He’s carrying us. He’s always closer than we can fathom, He will never put us down to stumble through life alone.

I cannot speak for you, but nothing I’ve suffered has been in vain. I’ve taken it all to God and placed it at His feet. He’s brought good out of it, though it, in itself, was not good. Through it, He’s taught me; He’s widened the scope of my vision. Even through my most painful experiences, I learn love. I scan everything for good. I get to choose to see the good or bad around me. I freely admit that I don’t see the good in everything. There are some horrible things that go on in this world that I can’t even wrap my head around. But, as they say, we can’t go putting periods where God has placed a comma.

This morning I felt a prick in my heart as we sang to God, “…I need You, oooh, I need You….” I need Him. I still need Him. I will always need Him. If any of us think we’ve outgrown our need for God, we’re deceived; pride has crept in. We were designed to need Him, always. I couldn’t help but smile as a warm glow washed over me. In that instant, I recognized anew my great need for Him, my dependence on Him and my never-ending love for Him.

I need everything God’s prepared for me, everyday. I welcome His presence in every second of my day, euphorically.

Have you been trying to “do it all” in your own strength and then perhaps blamed God when you failed? As in, “God, how could You let this happen…..?” Or do you make it a daily habit to ask Him first what He requires of you, then invite Him into everything you do, and allow Him free reign?

I can’t imagine a moment without Him.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Have a Potato Chip?

(photo from lifereallymatters.com)
I know there were several points our pastor made this morning that I totally planned on chewing on here in today’s blog post, but as I look at my notes, nothing is jumping out at me screaming, “Me! Me! Pick me!” He did mention Romans 4:17, I noted that – but he went in a little different direction than I’m pondering right now.

“…God creates new things out of nothing.” – the last few words of Romans 4:17 (NLT) More familiar might be the King James Version, “…[He] calleth those things which be not as though they were.”

In my own life, I’ve been observing the power of my words and noticing more carefully the words that others choose to use. Why, I ask myself, do I continue to spew out negative words when I’ve already recognized the damage they do, and “forget” my positive words, knowing full well they bring life and good?

I can’t expect anyone around me to do what I resist. They may be much better at watching the words they choose to use, but, realistically, I can’t expect it of them; especially when those around me are those for whom I should be setting a good example.

If surprised by the question, “Do you choose the words you use?” I’d quickly answer yes. But, honestly, I tend to blurt out words before thinking sometimes. Okay, let’s face it, I do it a lot.

So, how can I expect my life to go the direction I want it to go if I’m not willing to put in the effort to plan and prepare for it? Any diet program will tell you that you won’t be successful with weight loss if you don’t plan what you’re going to eat. Eating whatever is convenient won’t help your battle if what is convenient is junk food. Purposely and thoughtfully making sure that what’s convenient is something that’s also on your diet plan is the only way to make that diet work. When junk food is available, it’s far too tempting to resist, even when we know better.

I’m pondering the point that it’s exactly the same with the words we choose to express our lives.

If I continue to belittle myself or criticize the state I’m in, knowing that there is power in my words, I’m bringing on my own troubles. Even if I don’t realize how much power is in my words, they’re still powerful; just like donuts will always be fattening, even if I don’t realize it. Laws and principles are there, whether we acknowledge them or not.

Made in God’s image, our words can be just as creative as His – calling things to be, which were not; creating new things out of nothing. I know I’ve written on this before, but my point to ponder today is why, once we know this law, or principle, we still slack in exercising it to our advantage.

How can it be merely laziness, since it requires no more effort to use good, positive, life-giving words than it does to use words that lead to lack, destruction and death? I guess if I want to relate back to the diet example, it could be for the same reason we continue to stock junk foods in our cupboards: we secretly want it, even while knowing it’s poison.

Perhaps it all boils down to discipline……..and how badly we want something?
(photo from wegrowmedia.com)