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I’M STAYING IN BED TODAY

I think I’ll just stay in bed all day.

I wonder: did Paul ever wake up and think “I don’t want to face the Jews or Gentiles (non-Jews) today. 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. The acts of Paul: full reliance on God, perseverance, patience, tenacity, loyalty, faithfulness, endurance…

If you’re like me, you are weary and tired.  Tired of world issues, politicians, violence, hatred, extreme reactions and, of course, COVID-19. Feeling battered and battled. Paul’s life was much worse than mine. How did Paul keep moving forward under difficult circumstances?

Philippians 3:4b-11 (ESV) If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

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 (TPT) During our stay of several days, Agabus, a prophet from Judea, came to visit us. As a prophetic gesture, he took Paul’s belt and tied his own hands and feet with it as he prophesied, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘The one who owns this belt will be tied up in this same way by the Jews and they will hand him over to those who are not Jews.’”When we heard this, both we and the believers of Caesarea begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But Paul replied, “Why do you cry and break my heart with your tears? Don’t you know that I’m prepared not only to be imprisoned but to die in Jerusalem for the sake of the wonder of the name of our Lord Jesus?” Because we couldn’t persuade him, we gave up and said nothing more except “May the will of the Lord be done.”

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” or give in to his persecutors.  He sang and praised God from his prison cell. God met him right there with an earthquake and a beam of light. His ministry did not cease while he was imprisoned and continued long after his death. In fact, today we still read 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 heinous crimes, national and international responses (or lack of response), health issues, life or death issues.  Paul’s heart must have ached for everyone to know Jesus. How can I have just half of the perseverance and endurance Paul exhibited?

Father God, thank You for Paul’s example.  Show me how to rely fully on You! Give me the acts of Paul!

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Somethings Stink!

Writing today from a stuck place. Stuck between earthly pain and heavenly desire. Feelings want to overwhelm and overtake me. Not the fun, happy, content feelings. The feelings that are not fun. No one wants to share about them. Just put them in the closet and lock the doors. When the closet is bursting, a volcano of emotions spew over any and every one in sight. My brain understands I must feel the array of emotions, not picking and choosing which ones to keep and which ones to dump. My heart rejects it. Why? Why do we dart away from the unhappy emotions away like a venomous snake? Did culture evolve and teach us this? Misconceptions carried off to the next generations? 

The Bible  reveals the gamut of emotions. For instance, the book of Psalms is full of the rawest emotions of mankind. Read these snippets from David’s heart. (The full chapters are great!)

Psalm 103:2-5 (TPT)  Yahweh, you are my soul’s celebration. How could I ever forget the miracles of kindness you’ve done for me?  You kissed my heart with forgiveness, in spite of all I’ve done. You’ve healed me inside and out from every disease. You’ve rescued me from hell and saved my life. You’ve crowned me with love and mercy. You satisfy my every desire with good things. You’ve supercharged my life so that I soar again like a flying eagle in the sky!

Psalm 38:1-10 (TPT) O Lord, don’t punish me angrily for what I’ve done. Don’t let my sin inflame your wrath against me. For the arrows of your conviction have pierced me deeply. Your blows have struck my soul and crushed me.  Now my body is sick. My health is totally broken because of your anger, and it’s all due to my sins! I’m overwhelmed, swamped, and submerged beneath the heavy burden of my guilt. It clings to me and won’t let me go. My rotting wounds are a witness against me. They are severe and getting worse, reminding me of my failure and folly. I am completely broken because of what I’ve done. Gloom is all around me. My sins have bent me over to the ground. My inner being is shriveled up; my self-confidence crushed. Sick with fever, I’m left exhausted. Now I’m cold as a corpse and nothing is left inside me but great groaning filled with anguish. Lord, you know all my desires and deepest longings. My tears are liquid words and you can read them all.  My heart beats wildly, my strength is sapped, and the light of my eyes is going out.

David pours out his emotions with all of his heart. He documents the highs and lows of life on this earth. David was a man “after God’s own heart” 1 Samuel 13:14. Shouldn’t we strive for the same?

Jesus wept, was weary, got angry. 

John 11:33-36 (TPT) When Jesus looked at Mary and saw her weeping at his feet, and all her friends who were with her grieving, he shuddered with emotion and was deeply moved with tenderness and compassion. He said to them, “Where did you bury him?” “Lord, come with us and we’ll show you,” they replied. Then tears streamed down Jesus’ face. Seeing Jesus weep caused many of the mourners to say, “Look how much he loved Lazarus.

There are many questions running through my brain. Could my emotions be like the wind? If there is a slight breeze, it can refresh and cool. However, when you increase the intensity and duration, a destructive hurricane or tornado forms. If I can process these not fun emotions, such as fear, anger, sadness, when I first feel them, I will be refreshed. If I wait for the closet to burst open, I inflict my suffering on all around me, including (especially) myself. I wish for a book of rules to make processing emotions black and white. Where would that leave me? Only half human. God intended for us to fully feel emotions. It is what I (you) do with them next that has potential for greater damage.  I need to remember Abba will not reject me when I seek Him. “Rejection from man is NOT rejection from God.” Glynnis Whitwer, Proverbs 31Ministries. 

Ephesians 4:26 (TPT) But don’t let the passion of your emotions lead you to sin! Don’t let anger control you or be fuel for revenge, not for even a day. 

Father, forgive me for bottling my emotions. Grant me wisdom for healthy processing of all emotions. Give me strength for the tough situations. Protect me from the darkness that tries to engulf me through my emotions. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Positivity is Contagious

Have you ever known a friend or relative who is a “Debbie downer” or “negative Nell”? Someone who is continually complaining or angry? I propose that most of us know a Debbie downer. There was a point in my life when I realized the negative attitude would leap on me, wrestling with me to remove my positive thoughts. For me, it is a battle to keep positive. Some days are easier than other days. My struggle with depression is large component to this war. I need to consciously limit my exposure to Debbie downers and negative Nells. If our conversation begins to sour, I need to redirect it. When that is unsuccessful, I end the conversation as quickly as I can without rudeness.

Have you noticed when you smile at someone they almost always return the smile? One of the many downsides to COVID 19 is the mask. I cannot see if you smile under a mask. When we have Jesus in our lives, we receive His joy and peace. This is peace that passes understanding and is contagious. Even though we are experiencing stay-at-home orders, God brings contentment, joy and peace regardless of the circumstances. How to we share this? It is NOT complaining on social media. It is sharing parts of life that are beautiful. For example: flowering plants, playful pups, etc. When we demonstrate peace and contentment, other people want it too.

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NASB)

Like Paul, I want to be content in all circumstances. Being content isn’t just putting up with life and muttering under my breath. Contentment is more than accepting a situation. It is an emotional state of satisfaction and peace. I must rely on God to supply the peace. When my focus is on the good, I see more good. Since positivity is contagious, it can spread out to others from me.

Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. (NASB)

Father, during this unprecedented event, grant us Your peace. Remind us daily of the surrounding good in our lives. As our social lives are restored, may we remember to keep You first, to be kind to others (especially family), to live each day full of the life You provide.

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If I am accepted by God, why can’t I accept myself?

Most of us have been involved in some sort of personality test. You know the type that asks “what are your strengths, what are your best attributes”? I venture to say most of us can list our weaknesses, brain and body defects quicker than we can list our strengths and best features. Personally, I struggle with this type of comparison issues. I don’t think I mean to make it a competition. Our culture is self-focused on who makes the most money, drives the most expensive cars, has the best fashion in their closet, is the fittest or has the best hair style. Our eyes see what appears perfect in the movies, on television, YouTube, and social media. What is not shown, is how long and what steps it took to present this illusion. I believe it is illusion. Anyone can put on a happy face for a few minutes and let the professional airbrush the photo. Let’s pull off the mask and see what’s underneath.

I’m going down deep to the root of myself. What is the source of my perfectionism? Is my insecurity based in fear? Fear of rejection? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of hurt and pain? Fear of being vulnerable? Fear is not of God. I must rebuke fear and embrace grace!

2 Timothy 1:7 (TPT) For God will never give you a spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love and self-control.

I long to be accepted, to belong to the group. The group can be at church, school, work, the gym, the neighborhood. Somehow I am always disappointed within a group. People will ALWAYS disappoint us. Humans are imperfect. Jesus will not disappoint. He is perfect love. We were created to crave a relationship with God, Abba.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB) He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Often, I feel inadequate for life! This fact may surprise some of you. Others will know it to be true because they feel the same way. In fact, I speculate more can relate to it than cannot relate.  I am my worst critic. Of everything! Jesus still loves and accepts me! Sometimes I need to ask myself, “what is the worst thing that could happen because I burned dinner or was late to an appointment?” 

Abba never meant for humans to live alone. We are to be community.  Safe. Supportive. So many times in life I have failed. I have eaten too many cookies, burned dinner, or opened my mouth when I should have kept it shut. Is there a voice in your head saying “me too!”? Isolation increases darkness. When I think no one else could possibly have ever felt this way, it is a lie.  Darkness cannot stand exposure. I am not alone.  YOU are not alone! WE are not alone!

Roman 8:1 (NASB) Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Here’s the kicker: God accepts me (and you) and I (we) belong to His Kingdom. When I am rooted in Jesus, the others fall away. Jesus meets us where we are, without a mask. On earth, there is evil and will be until Jesus’ return. We are in between the first garden and the last garden.

The takeaway: JESUS is the firm foundation for life. The Bible is the manual. When we seek Him first, our hearts have communion with Him. I won’t be perfect this side of heaven and I don’t need to be perfect. God uses my imperfections for His glory.  On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.

1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV) Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.

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What's in your tank?

COVID-19 has impacted the world. No landscape is immune! What has your reaction been? Have you gone to a place of fear, paranoia, anxiety, panic, depression? If so and you have ventured to the grocery store and have seen the empty toilet paper aisle, you realize you are not alone!

What you do next is what matters the most! You see, we each have a choice. We can follow the fear, anxiety, and panic and fill our tank with the black hole of darkness. Or, we can turn our focus to God and fuel up with peace. Personally, I find it difficult not knowing the whole picture. My mind likes to complete the puzzle. However, God knows I am unable to process the entire situation. He reveals portions at a time. While I find it frustrating not to have all the answers, I realize God does this not because He doesn’t want me to know, but because He is Abba to me. In the same way I would protect my child, my Daddy is protecting me from being overwhelmed or discouraged.

For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love, and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7 (TPT)

In any life, there will be times of uncertainty. Because this world is broken, people will have indiscretions, addictions, disease and illness. Corrie ten Boom was a courageous woman of faith in a horrible WWII concentration camp. As a survivor, she became a well-known author and speaker. In one of her books, she mentions how life is like a stitching project where God is weaving the beautiful embroidered scene, but while it is in process we only see the ugly threads on the backside. When I am in the midst of pain and heartache, I am unable to see the golden thread of good God is weaving into the tapestry that is my life. My tunnel vision sees only the knots of threads on the backside. Often, it is in hindsight I can view the overall picture of that season and see beauty from the ashes.

Our culture tends to complain just because something becomes inconvenient, not even close to life-threatening. Ponder this: if I change my attitude of fear to an attitude of thankfulness, will it spread to those close to me?

 I choose to be thankful my pantry is fairly well-stocked, my husband can work from home, and prayer warriors are stepping up and kneeling on behalf of the world. I still have moments of uncertainty, but God grants His peace and comfort. This situation is completely out of my control. Where do I turn?

I look up to the mountains and hills, longing for God’s help.
But then I realize that our true help and protection
come only from the Lord,
our Creator who made the heavens and the earth. Psalm 121:1-2 (TPT)

Abba, may we remember You hold us in Your arms of protection and grace! May our tunnel vision be a vision of Your love! May supernatural peace be contagious to those around us and spread faster than any virus, bacteria, or disease! Thank You for filling and refilling our tanks with Your peace, love, power and grace!

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Would you bring a rock to a sword fight?

And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you.” I Samuel 17:37 (NASB)

Young shepherd David brought a stone to a sword fight with a giant. The king insisted he wear armor, but it was too large and cumbersome. Here is this youngster with a slingshot and a rock standing before giant Goliath. David wasn’t just courageous. He had faith in God who called him to the task. He lived his faith. If you have read about David’s life after slaying Goliath, you know he did not live perfectly. Still, God called David “a man after my own heart.”

Each one of us has a measure of faith. When you step up to the sink to wash your hands, you turn the faucet handle or wave your hands for the sensor and water begins to flow. When you switch the light switch, you have faith the light will turn on (or off). When you start your vehicle by turning the key or pushing a button, you have faith the internal combustion engine will roar to life. If you drive an electric car it will hum to life. We like to joke that our hybrid vehicles should play “It’s a Small World” when in all electric mode. Then, people would hear us coming.

In some ways, that is living our faith. What about your true faith? So, you attend church, sing in the choir, lead a small group and greet everyone entering the building. While those activities are productive, what happens when you are away from a church related activity? I want to live my faith every day, not just on church days.  One of my difficulties is driving. I can turn into a real hot headed driver if traffic isn’t flowing the way I want it. God is working in me to fill my grace reservoir. Some days I have success and some I do not. Recently, I started thinking about what people would say was my impact in this world. I’m nothing different or new. I am definitely NOT perfect, but I hope I am consistent in how I live. So, in my little corner of the world, what I have contributed to community? I am working for The King of Kings not for Linda. As His representative, I must stay in constant connection and communication with Him daily. He desires His children to be beacons of light in this dark world. I am asking myself “am I a lighthouse in the fog?”

Father, my desire is for more of you and less of me. When frustration tries to derail my joy, help me to live my faith that you work all things for my good. Thank you for holding me when I stumble in my flesh. May Your light shine.

So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose. Romans 8:28 The Passion Translation (TPT)

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Clearing the Closet

Recently, I cleared out the floor in my closet. It had been six months or more since my last purging. My habit is to pile the items I will donate on the closet floor, usually in a box. Well, the box was overflowing like a volcano spreading lava all around it! And, I had a secondary box in my dining room! My intention had been to purge prior to Christmas. Obviously, my intention was gone with the December wind. January provided me with a needed ministry break. One morning after coffee, I resolved to tackle the closet. My thinking was that it would take the entire morning to complete. To begin, I pulled out the donation volcano. I separate the clothing from the non-clothing items and write the inventory. Once the inventory was complete, including the dining room box, I re-box everything. No more volcano! I set the boxes near the back door. Heading back to the closet, I reorganized my 3-drawer cabinet and my shoe rack. I really must vacuum the carpet. Since everything was looking neat and tidy, rearranging would be simple. It looks functional again. I feel less chaos when things are in the correct places. I finished in less than two hours!

Are you wondering “where is she going with this?”  Many years ago God revealed to me that my heart is like a closet for my life. I put in it things no one else will see: hidden things, out-of-sight things. I can shut the door or even lock it if I choose. In some cases, I treat it like a bank vault and only check that it’s still locked, rarely opening it. God wants in the heart closet. He already knows what is in it. The hurt and sin it has brought into my life. He wants to restore and heal my heart. I can clean it, but if I don’t invite God to inhabit it, dust and cobwebs will creep back into my heart.

Matthew 23:25-26 “Great sorrow awaits you religious scholars and Pharisees—frauds and imposters! You are like one who will only wipe clean the outside of a cup or bowl, leaving the inside filthy. You are foolish to ignore the greed and self-indulgence that live like germs within you. You are blind and deaf to your evil. Shouldn’t the one who cleans the outside also be concerned with cleaning the inside? You need to have more than clean dishes; you need clean hearts! (TPT)

Dear One, God is holding our hearts in His hand already. He sent Jesus to restore our relationship. Will you join me today and ask God to inhabit your heart, even the bank vault? God did not say life on earth would be easy. In fact, He said just the opposite: John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (NASB)

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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.”