NOT ANOTHER NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION

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So, I got out of bed this morning and headed toward the closet for my workout clothes. I grabbed what I needed and begin to put on the socks first. Except, in my sleepiness, I had not removed my pajamas, including socks for my cold feet! Although there hasn’t been much restorative sleep in my house as of late (my husband had the flu for 6 days and nights), in my grogginess I realized if I do not take off the old habits and put on the new ones in Christ, it is like putting lipstick on a pig! The pig is still a pig. Christ told us in Luke 9:23:  Jesus said to all of his followers, “If you truly desire to be my disciple, you must disown your life completely, embrace my ‘cross’ as your own, and surrender to my ways.” (TPT)

What does disowning my life look like? Is it abandoning my family and giving away all my possessions? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I must evaluate all aspects of my life and purge any part that is contradictory to a Christ filled and led life. Personally, I am being convicted of the many distractions keeping me from focusing on Him. One of my favorite hobbies is putting together jigsaw puzzles. I had the app on my tablet and completed at least one puzzle per day. Notice, I used “had”. One day as I am about to open the app, I felt a nudging to delete it! WHAT? Are you sure? Deleting the app would delete all the puzzles I have added and the list of completed puzzles! Longing to be obedient to the Lord, I deleted the app. I still enjoy puzzling, but I am sticking to the tactile version on a table. In the puzzling vein, I am a bit of a wordsmith and enjoy playing and watching word games. Sometimes this “love” inserts itself before quiet time with God, before reading Scripture. My need for focus trumps my need for puzzles and games. I have found when I put those things behind me and study God’s Word, listen to praise music, or pour myself into a book study, I do not feel deprived of anything. In fact, I feel the opposite. My spiritual cup is filled and overflows.

What’s that? I’m talking about minor things not sinful habits to shed? Then, let’s get real. In our culture, it is common to speak damaging words regarding others. This can be viewed as venting or telling the facts. Matthew 15:18 But what comes out of your mouth reveals the core of your heart. (TPT) This verse has been nagging me for a few weeks. Just last evening, I was caught up in speaking poorly regarding a contractor who lives in my neighborhood. It was not my intention to make others think less of him. Or so I thought. In reality, I gave in to the peer pressure to agree with someone else’s assessment. To truly follow Christ’s example, I must refrain from even thinking disparaging thoughts about someone else! This world is deeply broken and humans disappoint other humans. If by God’s grace I can see the other human as God sees them, I can see the good person created in God’s image. I am far from perfect and have disappointed others on too many occasions to count! I would hope for God’s grace to cover my inadequacies. 2 Cor.5:17-19 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (NASB) (emphasis mine)

Father, thank you for revealing distractions in my life! May I be obedient to Your nudging and remove distractions. Please keep one hand on my shoulder and one hand over my mouth to keep me from mouthing off. May I remember You are the God of reconciliation and You see me as Your child, perfectly loved. Amen.                          lg

Ps. 40:3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord. (NASB)

Take this world. Give me Jesus.

imagesSomedays it seems that the world is full of more darkness than Light. Recently, I read that if I focus on the Light in the world and the good things people do, I will be less influenced by the darkness. I equate this to the “junk in, junk out” philosophy. When I continually, focus on the dark it becomes overwhelming. My attitude deteriorates. My mood becomes cloudy. When I notice the kindness of others, the beauty of nature, the smile of my grandson, the many blessings God has given, my attitude becomes lighter. My outlook reflects this with gratitude.

One recent afternoon, my attitude was flushed down the toilet (so to speak). Initially, I was unaware of the change. But, God gently nudged my inner being. Thankfully, not with the iron skillet I deserve!  He was waiting for me to reach out to Him. To readjust my focus to the Light, the Word. We were created for union with Him. Each human is searching for Him. When we do not commune with Him, we seek other ways of satisfaction and are disappointed when it doesn’t work. We must look to God first. I know I fail at this more than I’d like to admit.

My prayer for each of us: Father, thank You for Your Manual of Life! Help us not to give in to distraction. Gently, guide us back to Your Word, Your Truth. May we begin each day with praise for the many blessings You provide.

Matthew 6:33-34 (TPT)  “So above all, constantly chase after the realm of God’s kingdom and the righteousness that proceeds from him. Then all these less important things will be given to you abundantly.Refuse to worry about tomorrow, but deal with each challenge that comes your way, one day at a time. Tomorrow will take care of itself.”

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution?

 

2466553-pine-branch-with-icicles[1]Proverbs 19:21  A person may have many ideas concerning God’s plan for his/her life, but only the designs of HIS purpose will succeed in the end.

Many people make resolutions: lose weight, read the Bible, clear out the clutter, exercise more, get married, get a new job, etc. Those are human hopes for 2019. While some of those hopes may happen, God’s timing trumps our resolutions. His path may have different twists and turns than our plan.

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.

Isaiah 55:9 As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, My thoughts higher than your thoughts.

We have to stay in-step with God. We must be intentional in seeking His path. We need to unplug from social media, games, life’s distractions and turn to God’s word – the Bible – for guidance. We need to be still and listen for His voice.

Personally, I stopped making resolutions years ago. I want to be my best everyday. I don’t need to wait for a holiday to start managing my time or taking care of my body. Tomorrow never comes…there’s always another tomorrow. Or is there?

Here’s the take away: Focus on God and live as if today is the last day of your life.

May God richly bless your 2019!    lg

HOPE: Bringing Light to darkness

Recently, the news told of two tragic celebrity suicides. We try to understand: “Why?” “They seemed to have everything.” Some would say they were selfish, only thinking of themselves. I disagree. Taking one’s life is an act of desperation. The intensely overwhelming darkness of pain and hurt boxes in a person until the only way to stop the pain, they feel, is to exit this world. I have been affected by the attempted suicide and suicide of some I know. My why is “why not ask for help?” There is no shame in asking for help. We are meant to be community, supporting each other.  Social media makes life look so perfect. Well, I, personally, DO NOT post my deepest hurts on social media. That doesn’t mean I don’t have hurts. It means I guard what information I put out for public display. No one on this earth has a perfect life. 

Jesus befriended the most unlikely: the Samaritan woman at the well John 4:1-42; Zaccheus, Chief Tax Collector Luke 19:2-10; many leapers and blind healed by Jesus, and more. Jesus looked for those who were most likely to be alone in the world. He demonstrated genuine love to them. He was interested in each individual.

Ponder this: How do you (we) demonstrate genuine interest, like Jesus did, in your (our)  community? Do you offer the drive-by “how are you?” not really wanting or expecting an answer, let alone a truthful answer? If you are asked, “how are you?”, do you answer honestly? Or play the game with a “fine”?  We need to take time, make time, to REALLY listen to our friends and family. Check-in on a deeper level. We need to reconnect to each other.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, communities had barn raising. Multiple families gathered to build one farmer’s barn. They went to each property until each barn was raised. I imagine a giant potluck of food went with each raising! And, the children would run and play nearby. Most people knew everyone around them. How many of us don’t even know the next door neighbor? You know, the one you have seen frequently at the mailbox? We are meant to have fellowship.

Connecting in fellowship, friendship, community on a deeper level will help to expose the darkness to the Light. By talking about hurts, depression, anxieties, helplessness, we can share the burdens and bring them into Light. Where there is Light, there is no darkness.

Pray! Ask God to bring you help! I have prayed for help and God is faithful to answer!

Pray! Ask God to show you someone YOU can help! I have prayed for this and God is faithful to answer!

2 Samuel 22:29 “for You are my lamp, O Lord; and the Lord illumines my darkness.”

So, can we bring Light to the darkness of depression and hopelessness?                lg

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What is the new normal?

Often, relatives ask me if Houston has recovered from Harvey. My response is to explain that from the outside we may look like we’re back to normal, but inside is a different story. Although some areas still have debris needing pickup, many places have been restored on the exterior. The interior is another story. My neighborhood friends whose homes flooded are still repairing, replacing, renewing areas inside their domiciles. Some still do not live in their houses. Many businesses have not reopened. What is the new normal?

Originally, many offered help. People came from across the United States to assist. Human kindness at its best. Since Harvey hit Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico have been sucker punched by storms. The helpers followed the urgent need. I completely understand. It’s natural to plug the biggest hole and move on to the next biggest hole. Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t stop when the exterior is polished. He continues on the project to work on the interior, the heart, the closets we have locked. He restores completely in a way only He can. It is difficult to understand why things sometimes have to be so challenging, but know that we can persevere with Jesus on our team. AND our experience gives us the ability to help someone else! (I feel like a cheesy cliché goes here!) Just know this: prayer works, Jesus hears you and knows your pain and struggles, you will get through this strange season of new normal. It may not be fun, but we are survivors! 

LG

Post Hurricane Harvey Status: In the chaos, do you have calm?

Corrie Ten Boom comes to my mind. She endured the unimaginable at the hands of Nazis. I do not know if I would have had her faith. Yet, she did NOT lose faith. She relied on God to provide what she needed, including keeping the only Bible hidden during strip searches!
Harvey was an unbelievable rain event for the greater Houston area – and more. It may seem that after five days of mostly non-stop rain, that the storm is gone. But if you live in an area hit hard by floods, your neighborhood looks like a war zone; a third world country. If your home, business, and property were spared, do you experience “survivor’s guilt”? Soon those who came to help will leave. Some will return to their homes. Others will move on to the aftermath of Irma. In Houston, the restoration will be far from over. Some areas still have flood waters in houses and businesses. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) will be seen in the eyes of those who have lost so much of what daily life was to them. Many wonder “where is God in all of this?” My response, “just look around at the communities coming together, churches organizing work teams and supply shipments.” There were so many volunteers at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center, that they lined the street in front of it! I saw photos of donations spilling out of boxes, neighbors helping neighbors, strangers helping strangers. Many people were watching out for the safety of others and properties. Celebrities have been raising money and sending supplies. No one is checking political opinions or religious beliefs. It’s been people helping people. Simple? Yes, but sometimes difficult in these times.
Life is often like a jigsaw puzzle, but we don’t have a clue what the picture looks like until it’s almost finished. God gives us only the pieces we need for today’s portion of the puzzle. It may or may not be something recognizable. Those who know me know that I am quite a puzzling aficionada. I love to assemble jigsaws even when I do not have the final picture for clues to help. However, I will admit, when it comes to life, I want to know what the bigger picture is! I believe that in our humanness, we cannot process life’s big picture all at once. It reminds me of hiking Half Dome in Yosemite. I couldn’t do it in one step. It is miles and miles of trail that weave through the park higher and higher. I trained strenuously for three months. It takes 6-7 hours to reach the summit. Many of you remember how that worked out for me, or didn’t! (See hiking blog beginning with post on 8/25/15). It has been two years since I almost died and had to be life-flighted by helicopter to a trauma center. I am glad I did not have that piece of the day’s puzzle! God redeemed my experience in so many ways. Throughout my healing process, I had peace and calm given by God. I didn’t know if or when I would drive again or have semi-normal vision. My daughter told me that she was amazed at how calm I was about all of it. I can assure you that was divine not Linda! Some of my family and friends have experienced PTSD from living through my story. Life can be traumatizing! BUT:
God is in the healing business, redeeming business, restoring business. We need to walk through the storm’s aftermath with confidence in Abba, God the Father. This is our temporary home. Material possessions are fleeting. Turning to God will bring the calm and peace amidst chaos. Which will you choose?                                                                     LG

Psalm 3: 3-5
But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the LORD,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.

The Acts of Paul

Glory Hole enlarged dryIf you’re like me, you are tired. Tired of world issues, violence, hatred, extreme reactions. Feeling battered and battled; a dried and cracked vessel.

How did Paul keep moving forward under his difficult circumstances? Paul endured more than I can imagine. He CHOSE to go back to Jerusalem even though he knew it would me beatings and imprisonment, or worse. (Acts 21:10-15)
I wonder: did Paul ever wake up and think “I’m tired. I’ll just stay in bed today.” Or “Hey guys, I’m just gonna soak in the tub today. Take the day off.” Somehow, I don’t think he did. He relied on God completely. He counted his loss as gain. He was repeatedly beaten to break his will; imprisoned to prove a point. He didn’t curl up in a ball and think “woe is me”. He sang and praised God from his cell. His ministry did not cease while he was imprisoned. In fact, we are still reading the letters he wrote while in prison. Paul’s conversion was dramatic and life changing. His passion for spreading the news of Jesus as Messiah was fueled by the multitudes who were converting. Maybe he was the original “Jesus Freak”.
Most days I don’t have 1/10 of the energy and passion we find in Paul. This world and its chaos breaks my heart. I’m talking about grieving heinous crimes, national/international responses. If my heart aches over these things, how much more is God grieved? How can I have just half of the perseverance and endurance Paul exhibited?
Acts of Paul:
Perseverance, tenacity, loyalty, faithfulness, endurance…
Father God, thank You for Paul’s example. Show me how to rely fully on You to restore and fill me! Give me the acts of Paul!