Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reflections


I found a new website today while reading one of Michael Hyatt's blogs. he's the Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers. It's called Radical Mentoring. Today's post was about questions and reflections, an appropropriate topic for this time of year. I found the questions challenging, difficult and yet exhilirating -- questions that will be ruminating in the back room of my mind, and which I hope to formally journal upon between now and the beginning of the new year. I would like to share some of them with you below, and encourage you to embrace them and act upon them as well.

What do you enjoy about Christmas that no one else knows about?

What am I grateful for?

What did I learn this year?

Where did I go? What did I experience?

Who do I know better today than I did a year ago?

If I died tonight, who would carry my casket? Would those six men know me…really, really know me?

Am I closer to God today than I was at this time last year?

What is my vision for next year? Who are those six friends whom I will “let into” my life next year?

Am I open to God’s will for my life, even if He takes me in a radically different direction? takes me out of my comfort zone?

I also invite you to share in the comments section some additional questions that would be helpful to answer as we close out this year.

Blessings,
Linda

(Photograph taken by me -- the Delaware River on the bridge in Washington Crossing Park, NJ)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An Invitation to Advent


I would like to invite you to join me at my blog entitled MY LITTLE CHRISTMAS BLOG beginning December 1st. It's my way of offering to you my version of an advent calendar, filled with daily devotions, Christmas music, recipes, Christmas film clips, a holiday movie poll, Lots of links and trivia, and if you scroll to the bottom, you can watch my all-time favorite movie, "It's a Wonderful Life" in it's entirety! Just click on the title above!

May you enjoy counting down the days with me!

Blessings,
Linda

Dandy Dozen Christmas Movies

I am a Christmas movie freak. I unabashedly LOVE Christmas movies. There’s nothing like snuggling up on the couch, grabbing a bowl of (air-popped) popcorn (hold the butter and salt, please), and getting all sloppy and sentimental. I admit, I can sing along to any of the songs on Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (… with razzleberry dressing…). I feast my eyes, ears, and soul and just lose myself in the classics. I become 8 years old again whenever Rudolph is on, and I want to hug the humble bumble before I die.

Now I know these are fantasy escapes, and there’s usually no way to solve all the relationship and world problems within a two-hour time span. But watching George search for Mary, and hearing a bell ring knowing somewhere an angel got her wings, always chokes me up. What can I say? and who doesn't need a bit of an escape during the stress of holiday preparations?? I just love watching all the classic TV specials (Rudolph, Frosty, Jack Frost, Rudolph's Happy New Year... the list is endless).

So, here are my top 12, dandy dozen favorite Christmas movies of all times (in order). Always get the original black and white versions if possible!!! During the course of the next month, may I suggest you exercise your sloppy sentimental muscles, get together with family and friends, and watch a few? There’s sure to give you a case of the warm fuzzies! I hope this list will take you down a happy holiday memory lane walk! I would love to hear your comments as to your favorite holiday movies or TV shows, or if you have a favorite memory with one of the movies I mentioned!!!

Blessings,
Linda

1) It’s a Wonderful Life – we all have probably seen this one. George Bailey learns what it’s like if he’d never been born. Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed are great together! I even have the soundtrack!

2) A Christmas Carol – must be the one with Alistair Sim as Scrooge. Others are good, but this tops them all.

3) Miracle on 34th Street – again, must get the B/W original with Edmund Gwynne and Natalie Wood as Susan.

4) White Christmas – A staple for the holidays – love Rosemary Clooney’s dress and performance in the torch song “Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me”.

5) The Bishop’s Wife – Now don’t get me wrong, I also can watch Denzel and Whitney in the remake over and over, but there just ain’t nobody like Cary Grant!

6) Christmas in Connecticut – Move over Martha Stewart! The premise here is that Barbara Stanwyck is the ULTIMATE homemaker/wife/mother writing a column each month for a women’s’ magazine – only to find out she can’t even cook. Then she has to host a veteran for Christmas dinner, and it’s hysterical what happens next.

7) Heidi – I have been watching Shirley Temple’s classic for years and years, and it just gets better each time.

8) Come to the Stable – a little known classic Christmas movie with Loretta Young (from the Bishop’s Wife) and Celeste Holm (the original Philadelphia Story, All About Eve) as nuns. I actually had the joy of meeting Celeste Holm once – I gushed like a teenager!

9) Mr. Magoo’s Christmas – I grew up with Mr. Magoo cartoons, and this wasn’t shown for years on regular television. When it finally came out on videotape I was overjoyed. It just wasn't Christmas without it!

10) March of the Wooden Soldiers – I can remember being a little girl, decorating the Christmas tree in my grandparent’s home, and watching this on television. It always makes me want to buy tinsel and hang it on the tree – I usually put this one on when… yep… I decorate our tree!

11) A Christmas Story – my favorite character is the father played to perfection by Darrin McGavin, and the FRAGILE line still doubles me over with laughter.

12) A Charlie Brown Christmas – I have worn out a CD playing the soundtrack over and over every holiday season. You have a stake of holly in your heart if you aren’t moved by Charlie and his little tree. This is a theological wonder – listen closely as Linus explains the true meaning of Christmas!

TV Specials Honorable mention:

Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas – back in the 70’s HBO put this “muppet-y” Christmas special out, and it is just so sweet. Unfortunately, it’s fairly expensive to get now, so be sure to see if you can find it on YouTube or borrow a copy. A real cuddle fest.

The Spirit of Christmas - if you grew up in the Philadelphia area in the 60's, chances are you saw this growing up. It was originally a half-hour Christmas special put on by Bell Telephone, and features the Mabel Beaton marionettes. There are two segments - the first is the retelling of "The Night Before Christmas", and the second is the telling of the nativity (in the Bible, Luke 2:1-20). It is simple and so beautiful.

The Snowman - narrated by David Bowie, this animated Academy-Awarded nominated short film is a charming tale of a young English boy who finds his snowman has come to life, and takes him on an overnight adventure. The illustrations and soundtrack are gentle and beautiful.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Turn Up the Heat


Isaiah 58:11 NASB
""And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail."

Anger and pain are often associated with feelings and adjectives associated with heat. When a personal or business relationship fails, you may feel as if you’ve been “burned”. Your face may flush red with heat when you are angry, probably the origin of the term “hot head” for someone who is mad. If someone infuriates you, they may “burn you up”. When your heart is broken, you may think that it has been seared and you might never survive the scars to love again. Another phrase that comes to mind when we are bone-tired and weary is “burned out”.

Our God knows our pain. He understands.

Recently while reading Isaiah 58:11 I was struck by the promise that God will satisfy my desire in scorched places and give strength to my bones. In the original Hebrew, the word scorched is also translated as parched land or drought. And yet the primitive root of that word is a verb that means to be dazzling, aglow. In Ezekiel 37 the Lord brings dry bones back to life, which ties into His promise here in Isaiah to give strength to your bones.

There have been times when I have been burned, seared, and burned out… where my heart was numb and my bones were weary unto death… and God was there. In the midst of it, even as I was “going through the fire”, He never left my side. He has been faithful, and taken me through it – not out of it – but through it. Instead of allowing me to hide or self-medicate to deaden the pain, He held me while together we sat with the pain. It taught me lessons I never could have learned in a textbook, and has made me stronger. Since then I can honestly say my heart has been reignited with life by His love for me – He never let the spark die. And while I am sure there will be times ahead where I will again have to “walk through the fire”, I can be assured and at peace because His promises do not fail, and He remains faithful to His Word… and His love truly endures forever.

I have learned that if He calls us to the scorching place, it is only to purify us as gold, to teach us, and to make us more into His likeness.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Taking Care of the Temple!


I have embarked on a new fitness regime, because I’m training for kettlebell certification in late January of 2012. I have been watching some of the other female trainers as they did their certification training, and they went from good bodies to GREAT bodies! Tight, lean and amazing. I am also going to begin training for Pilates Reformer certification about the same time, so I need to commit to getting very serious about my workout, my nutrition, and focusing on the goal. Pray for me!!!!!

To that end, I will be keeping you posted on what’s happening with me, and sharing details about the workout, the nutrition, and the development.

I write this to encourage you to begin a program for yourself. Perhaps you already have a regular workout and fitness routine, and you just would like to take it to the next level. Or maybe you have been playing with the idea of starting a workout, but haven’t had the motivation to get it into gear yet.

Okay, wild women, it’s time – let’s do this together. Tell me about your routine, send pix, and let’s do this as a group! It would be fun to run this race together and encourage one another along as we progress. Join me!

Get those gotta do it muscles of determination and motivation flexin’!!!


Blessings,
Linda

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review - Stained Glass Hearts by Patsy Clairmont


While I purchased and read this book via Kindle, I am going to purchase it as a hard copy as well, and it will be under the Christmas trees of several of my friends. While I have always appreciated Patsy Clairmont's writing and speaking as one of the founders of the Women of Faith, and her wacky and hiliarous sense of humor, this book showed me a whole different side of her. I loved the way she opened the world of her readers by introducing them to beautiful words of art and thought-provoking literature and poetry. It's as if I had a friend come along side me and take me to museuems and libraries and open my world. It was a wonderful journey, and I hated to see it end on the last page! Get the book - it's a real blessing!

God is Love -- And He Loves Everyone

Today, with the permission of the author, I am sharing Pam's post entitled "God is Love -- And He Loves Everyone". She is spot-on, and I felt it was a message that needed to be heard by us all. Pam is a gifted writer, dear friend and fellow Christ-follower, and I encourage you to subscribe to her blog (click on the title to get there) In The Shadow of His Wings. (Note - you will need to go to her website to view the vidow she speaks of in the post.)

Be blessed, as I was, as you read:


I normally don’t take on writing about any subject or person that is considered to be controversial. I try my best to be the peacekeeper in my world, and like Rex the Dinosaur says in ‘Toy Story,’ “I don’t like confrontations!” However, I get the feeling that with this post, I may ruffle some feathers. Or perhaps not. We’ll see.

The other day, I came across a video posted by my friend, Curt Leininger, on his ‘Created For Blessing’ blog (please scoot over to My Blog List and you’ll find the link to his site). Curt was once my church’s youth pastor and is now the Pastor of Discipleship at a church up in Wyckoff, New Jersey.

To me, Curt has some very different and quite eclectic taste in music, so when I saw his post called ‘Sunday Afternoon Music Video,’ I figured it would be some way cool or deeply thought provoking tune by some indie artist or band I’d never heard of and my interest was piqued.

What I found was a very basic, simplistic, almost childlike musical offering by a band I actually DO know (thanks to my buddy, TJ), called Gungor. The song, which is several years old, is called, ‘White Man,’ and while the lyrics are again -- basic, simplistic and almost childlike -- they are at the same time, to me, profound and true.

And way cool. And deeply thought provoking. I guess two out of three ain’t bad.

The video was put together by a community of artists called ‘The Work of The People.’ It is also very basic with it’s childlike drawings and I must admit, kind of bizarre. I’m sure that for as many different people who view it, there will be that many different reactions/responses. Some may get a kick out of the video, yet totally get the gist of the chorus -- that God is Love and He loves everyone.

Others may not only find the visuals lame, overtly cutsie-pie and silly, ridiculous, somewhat irreverent and offensive, but the lyrics as well -- again, that God is Love and He loves everyone.

Everyone??

Everyone meaning, as the song states:

Atheists and
Charlatans and
Communists and
Lesbians and
Even old Pat Robertson

Catholic or
Protestant or
Terrorists or
President
 
Ok, hold on for a minute there. Really? I’m sure there are people reading this now that may not even stick around to view the video and listen to the lyrics after looking over the list of groups referenced. People who may see themselves in that list (or not) and possibly be:
 
Hurt
Offended
Confused
Irritated or
(e) all of the above

I can’t say that I blame you. Atheists and Lesbians and Terrorists. Oh my.

But -- let’s keep a few things in mind. Mainly, what it says in God’s Word.

First, though, I’m going to back up a bit. Back in September, a young missionary couple from my church sent out their newsletter via email. In it, they mentioned being burdened for people in the Muslim world and then they made this statement:

When Osama Bin Laden was killed, Bill and I truly mourned. We know this was a man who wronged our country immensely, but he was also a man who was spiritually held captive by a religion that led him into darkness. On the day he died, it felt like Satan had won the victory in the fight for his soul.

Apparently, they received some pretty negative feedback from some recipients of their newsletter (whom I’m assuming are mostly Christian) because of that comment and, the very next day, had to send out another email to clarify just exactly what they meant by their stating that they ‘truly mourned’ when Bin Laden was killed. Personally, I kind of thought it was a shame this couple had to do this. Because their saying that Bin Laden was a man who’d been held captive spiritually and led into darkness by his religion, and that they felt that Satan had come out victorious in the fight for his soul seemed to be quite enough of a clarification right there.

And yet, isn’t that what’s going on here anyway? Meaning that Satan, the enemy, has been and continues to be at war for our souls. The souls of everyone. The souls of those who were/are

Atheists
Charlatans
Communists
Lesbians
Terrorists
 
 
The souls of folks like

(Deceased)
Adolph Hitler
Karl Marx
Rock Hudson
Charles Ponzi
Osama Bin Laden

(Living)
Stephen Hawkings
Marilyn Manson
Ellen DeGeneres
Chaz Bono
Bernard Madoff
 
While not everyone in the world can be called ‘children of God,’ they are still His creations. Don’t you think God’s heart aches for those who choose to turn from Him and want nothing to do with Him, those who, for whatever reason, choose the wide path instead of the narrow one? And if we call ourselves followers of Christ, then our hearts should be heavy for those who have chosen the darkness instead of the Light, continually praying for their change of heart, recompense and a receiving of forgiveness, mercy and grace for them right up until the end, and mourning when they choose to remain held captive by the enemy.

So, back to what to keep in mind if you choose to view and listen to this video. And that is, what it says in the Bible, the very Word of God:

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” ~ Matthew 9:11-13 (NIV)

And we can see that it was while we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men. In human experience it is a rare thing for one man to give his life for another, even if the latter be a good man, though there have been a few who have had the courage to do it. Yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:6-8, (J.B. Phillips NT) 

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can't know Him if you don't love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent His only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they've done to our relationship with God. ~ 1 John 4:7-12, (The Message)
 
The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ~ 2 Peter 3:9, (ESV)

Believe me when I say that I’m not looking to offend anyone or to tick anybody off with this post. I just want to share that, because of this simple song, I’ve been reminded yet again that we are called not to love the sin…but to love the sinner. We are called to point those hard to deal with, hard to understand, hard to accept, hard to forgive, hard to look at, hard to listen to and speak with, hard to LOVE people to the One Who gave His One and Only Son for them.

Because God is love. And He loves everyone.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Beyond

Ephesians 3:20 “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us…”


In Ephesians 3:20, we are told that the Lord is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think. The words FAR MORE ABUNDANTLY in Greek are “huperekeina” (5238), and mean beyond – in one of the notes I read it means “the regions lying beyond the country of one’s residence.”

Come with me for a moment to someplace you know where you can see – someplace scenic, where the view goes on for miles and miles. Maybe for you it’s a mountaintop, or the top floor of a skyscraper, or standing at the ocean’s edge, staring out into the blue-grey horizon where the water meets the sky. That doesn’t even begin to encompass FAR MORE ABUNDANTLY. In the best view to our natural eye, we certainly can’t see the regions lying beyond the country of our residence. Even if you go on the internet and are able to find the site where you can see the earth from some satellite, you still can’t see beyond the regions lying beyond the country of our residence – because this is not our home, our residence is in Heaven. (Hebrews 11:13, 1 Peter 2:11, John 18:36). There’s a song entitled “This World is Not My Home” and the beginning says, “This world is not my home, I'm just passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”

We can be very short-sighted sometimes, especially when we’re hurting or waiting on God. We want what we want when we want it! We get an idea in our head/heart that this person, this possession, this job - whatever it is that we’re clinging to so hard – is exactly what we need in our lives. It becomes our focus, that which we dwell upon and on which spend our time, energy and resources as we pursue it wholeheartedly. Just like in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it becomes our “Precious”. We are taking our “Precious” and looking at it so closely, obsessing over it until it blocks out everything else from our spiritual sight… including all that God wants to give us.

It’s time to stop. It’s time to close our eyes and open our hands and let go of our “Precious”. As you kneel before the Lord, ask Him to forgive your short-sightedness (and short-heartedness), and to give you Jesus eyes to see His vision for you. As you hear the clatter and thud of your will/wants, your “Precious” tumbling out of your possession, open your eyes – to His FAR MORE ABUNDANTLY. We are unable to imagine/visualize or wrap our minds around all He wants to give to us, all He has in store for us, if we will but surrender our wills to Him. His dreams are bigger, and better, His plans more glorious and grand that we can even dare imagine for ourselves.

Let go. Place your heart and your life in His hands, and give Him authority over all you ask or think, over your plans and dreams.

Look and live BEYOND.


This World is Not My Home - Words and Music by Albert E. Brumley, © 1965 - Albert E. Brumley & Sons, All Rights Reserved

Greek definitions from www.studylight.org

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stop... Drop... and Listen (from Coach Linda Bush blog)


Wild women are warm, generous and wonderful. Recently I was leading a group session and I asked the women what some of their goals were – not geared completely on physical/health goals, but life goals. After all, we are multi-faceted and multi-dimensional treasures, just like diamonds! One woman stated a goal I have never heard before in all my coaching time. I’ll call her Jane Doe, because if I gave her a shout out like I’d love to do, she would be terribly embarrassed (but you know who you are, dearie!). Anyway, Jane said, “I want to be able to give 100% of my undivided attention to each person who comes into my path.” W…O…W… this is her gift to each person she meets in order that they feel loved and special.

I gotta tell you, I was completely blown away. In this hamster-wheel world of pursuing Olympic speed multi-tasking madness (which, by the way, is proving not to be such a great idea after all), Jane has found a better way – a simple act which almost stops time itself, like a bubble surrounding Jane and the person to whom she is giving this beautiful offering of herself. I can personally attest to how warm and cared for I feel whenever I’m around Jane. I always look forward to being with her, and always come away feeling happier and blessed.

On my drive home that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I began to examine my interaction with others, and realized how lacking I was in giving someone my full time/attention. I may be listening, but often I’m doing something at the same time, my eyes are looking around, or I’m mentally elsewhere planning what I’m going to do next. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a complete oaf, but I became painfully aware of my scatteredness/duplicity in listening skills. Jane’s goal was inspirational, and got under my skin.

So… the next morning I vowed to make the same kind of commitment, to run towards the same goal as Jane. That’s the nice thing about positive, inspiration goals – they can be shared! I have begun to stop what I am doing when someone comes to see me and I give them my full, exclusive, unbroken attention. I turn towards them, focus on them, meet their eyes and listen. I avoid thinking of what I’m going to say in response to whatever they’re saying, I put down whatever I’m doing, and I’m just fully there for them. To me this is one of the simplest, loving acts I can give to another human being. My time and my attention.

I invite you to consider flexing your focus muscles, wild women, and fully give yourself into the conversation with the people you meet today. Stop… and listen… and gift them with the experience of walking away being a blessed person because they have been with you. After all, you are an amazing, warm, and wonderful wild woman!!

Blessings,
Linda

Friday, September 30, 2011

Setting Godly Goals


Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

October? Already? Wow, time has flown, hasn’t it? Looking back over September, have you reached any goals that you set at the beginning of the month? Did you even think about goals? Well, if you haven’t/didn’t/never even had a minute to think about it, don’t sweat it. That’s one of the nice things about the end of a month – a new start is just around the corner!

First, realize that everything you are/do/plan belongs to the Lord. Too often we go off and make all kinds of plans without ever thinking about inviting God into the process. Your life belongs to Him, and He has plans for you! So before you begin, set your October calendar before the Lord, get down on your knees, and place it all before Him. Pray about everything that is already on your calendar, and then ask Him to guide you in everything over the next month. Pray about each item specifically. Then pray for wisdom to set some specific goals this month in every area of your life, as He leads you. You probably wouldn’t take a month-long trip without lots of planning, maps and directions, right? So why go into a new month of your life without making some plans and setting a few goals, with the Master Designer as your divine Travel Planner? You want your goals to be S.M.A.R.T., which stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. For example, if I had a goal of saving money next month, that’s not really specific, so I have no way to measure my success come November 1st. However, if I say I’d like to save $100, here’s how I would do it.

S – specific – yes, $100 is a very specific amount

M – measurable – yes, I can see all month long how I’m doing

A –Achievable – hmm… can I save $100? That would be about $25/week, or $3.22/a day. Okay, if I brought my lunch a few days a week, didn’t go to Starbucks and made my coffee at home, pick up a lot of pennies, and made a few minor changes, I could probably save that much a day without feeling a crazy amount of sacrifice.

R – Realistic – Yes, I think saving $3.22 a day could be reasonable for me to do. Okay, maybe I have to do some couch-cushion hunting here and there, and shake out the bottom of the old pocketbook, but it is do-able.

T – Timely (or tangible). Yes, I can fit it in a timeframe, with a specific beginning and end.

Now that you have the goal-setting tools to use, how about gently stepping out there, taking a deep breath and make one target October goal for the following areas:

1) Physical goal (example: I’d like to lose five pounds)
2) Financial goal (example: I’d like to save $X amount)
3) Personal goal (example: I’d like to read that book)
4) Career goal (example: I want to get info on a seminar or college course that will help me in my career, or I want to leave 15 minutes earlier each day)
5) Relationship goal (I want to have a date night with my spouse/significant other this month, or spend some one-on-one time with a parent, child or friend)
6) Spiritual goal: (example: I want to read one Proverb a day, or read the book of Galatians, or memorize four Scripture verses, or pray about going/giving to that upcoming missions trip at church)
7) Dream goal: (I always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon. So this month I’m going to get information on traveling there – maybe visit a travel website, find out how much it would cost, get some brochures, etc.)

That gives you one goal a day to work on. They’re not big bahonkin’ crazy I’ll never reach them goals. They are baby steps, I can do this goals. Grab your calendar, make a note, break each one down into bite-size once a week bits, and mark a big red “GO FOR IT” on October 1st!!!

Share your comments here on what you goals will be – email me if you have any questions at linda@coachlindabush.com. I’m off to get an empty glass jar so I can drop $3.22 in it each day in October and watch my goal grow!

Psalm 20:4 May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Muzzle Me!


Psalm 39:1 I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth...”

I’m ashamed of myself. Yesterday I was unkind. I spoke harshly to someone and I just feel awful about it. My Mom calls it “verbal sniping” – when you shoot word bullets. Unfortunately, I think I was born with champion genes for this nasty little talent. Instead of taking this person aside and quietly and gently voicing my concern, I just was snippy and snotty and… sinful.

I am so thankful Christ doesn’t deal with me in this way, and heartsick that I did not reflect Him in my words or attitude. Yeah, some witness – and while I know I have asked His forgiveness, just as in yesterday’s post (boy don’t those words come back and bite me); the consequences of my sin are still there. When this person looks at me next time, will she see Jesus? Or will she see a mean-spirited, unkind and impatient woman? Oh Father, please give me an opportunity to apologize, and then won’t You muzzle these loose lips?

Psalm 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Aftermath


1 John 1:9 "“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”


Many of us here on the east coast are dealing with the double-header aftermath of last week’s earthquake and hurricane combo. Talk about a one-two punch! Some of us have come through with scratches, while others have had evacuations, flooding, and loss of property. Thankfully, it wasn’t quite as bad as was originally expected, but for someone standing in three feet of water in their basement, bailing all night because the electricity that powered their sump pump went off, it’s a little harder to stop and count the blessings of what has been left in the aftermath.

Aftermath – there’s an interesting word. What does it mean? Well, the dictionary definition is: A noun – (1) something that results or follows from an event, especially one of a disastrous; (2) a new growth of grass following one or more mowings, which may be grazed, mowed, or plowed under. Some synonyms include: results, consequences, outcome, upshot, repercussion, after effects.

Sin is often like an upcoming storm. We frequently know about it ahead of time – there are warnings (a troubled spirit, feeling uncomfortable, the temptation that we know we should avoid). The Holy Spirit sends those forewarnings to our hearts, and we know we should evacuate the premises of temptation immediately and run straight into the safety and shelter of our Lord’s arms. Sometimes pride tells us we can “ride it out” and we stay, thinking we can fight it in our own strength. Sometimes, like surfers riding the large pre-hurricane waves, we play with the sin just a bit. All too often (and I write this with far too much experience to count), we give in to the sin and it wipes us out. Perhaps no one knows but you and God. But sin always impacts, and the aftermath is always there. Like a single drop of water on a glass-smooth lake, the ripples flow, touching the entire surface of the body of water. Make no mistake, sin will ripple out and affect your life, your walk with the Lord, your family and friends and co-workers, and its aftermath can be disastrous, wreaking unbelievable havoc that you never thought could happen.

David knew all about that – just read his account of his seemingly secret one-night-stand with Bathsheba in Psalm 51. What began as one act of illicit passion turned into an unexpected pregnancy, lies, and murder. Yet read further and find that, in his brokenness, David still hoped in the Lord, in His forgiveness and restoration. In the New Testament in 1 John 1:9, we can rejoice that no matter what, we are forgiven when we confess our sins and repent: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

As you stand in the rubble of the aftermath of your sin, you can take comfort in God’s grace, knowing God loves you and through the grace of Christ we can be forgiven and forever cleansed of that sin. That being said, however, there are times we must deal with the consequences of our sins, whatever they may be. It doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us, but we are responsible for our choices, and they can’t always be wiped away like magic, like they just never happened. But like the second definition of aftermath says, new growth can come from an aftermath. Think about how the forest recuperates and often thrives after a forest fire. It may take awhile, but it does happen. Our choices can also be like the opportunities of the aftermath – will you allow it to plow you under with shame, or will you learn and grow from it, and allow God to work in your life as He sees fit in order that you grow stronger? The choices all belong to you. What will you choose today?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

George Müller on knowing the will of God

•I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people generally is just here. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are over come when our hearts are ready to do the Lord's will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.

•Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If so, I make myself liable to great delusions.

•I seek the Will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the Holy Ghost guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.

•Next I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God's Will in connection with His Word and Spirit.

•I ask God in prayer to reveal His Will to me aright.

•Thus, through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly. In trivial matters, and in transactions involving most important issues, I have found this method always effective.

Oh How He Loves You and Me

For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that anyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God, but His love for us when He sent His only Son to satisfy God's anger against our sins. It is from God alone that you have your life through Christ Jesus. He showed us God's plan of salvation; He was the One who made us acceptable to God; He made us pure and holy and gave Himself to purchase our salvation.

John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 1:30

Looking for the love of your life? Come to Jesus.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Secret Treasures Within Depression

Isaiah 45:3 And I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, Who calls you by your name.


Clinical depression is a place of great darkness and secrecy. It is a place that you wrap around you like a warm, safe (albeit it dysfunctional) blanket…until you discover you have become engulfed in what has become a prison, a suffocating cocoon from which you think you will never escape. It paralyzes as it squeezes the breath from your lungs and the life from your blood. The more you struggle, the greater the restriction, until you are numb from the heart out, exhausted, and ready to give up altogether. You forget how to think, how to hope, even how to pray.

Yet, even in these obsidian shadows of the abyss, God is still God. While you feel your soul has lost consciousness and perhaps even died, God is there, for He will not abandon you. You may not feel Him, but no matter, the truth is… He is with you. Once the silent screaming of your broken heart subsides, as you lie there quietly, listen past the lies of your feelings to the truth of His very presence.

It is only then that you become ready to receive the treasures of darkness, the hidden riches of this secret place to which He has allowed you to journey. It is there He calls you by name, and wipes away your tears, with the most gentle of caresses. No, He may not ever explain His reasons or ways. But He is with you, loving you, teaching you, restoring and renewing you into His design.

Listen…

Friday, July 8, 2011

In the Shadow of His Wings - a New Blog

My dear friend Pam has FINALLY begun her own blog, and I would like to share it with all of you. Pam has a real heart for the Lord, and one of her many gifts is writing -- her words are inspirational, gritty, funny, challenging, and always authentic and real. Please visit her blog (and subscribe to it) at: http://pam-intheshadowofhiswings.blogspot.com/

In the meantime, I'd like to introduce you to her writings by posting here her latest entry, called "Jesus Says". I know you will be blessed as I have been as you read it and let it flow over you. I'm printing it and putting a copy in my Bible, my journal, and at work and maybe even my bathroom mirror to be a constant reminder of how best to serve our Savior on a daily basis. Enjoy, and many blessings!

Jesus says:

Search for Me tirelessly
Pursue Me relentlessly
Pray to Me unceasingly
Listen to Me carefully
Wait for Me expectantly
Accept Me willingly
Live for Me joyfully
Hold onto Me tightly
Share Me unashamedly
Love Me sacrificially
Trust in Me confidently
Obey Me faithfully
Serve Me humbly
Speak of Me courageously
Worship Me authentically
Praise Me IN SPITE OF......
Endure with Me patiently
Surrender to Me always
Have faith in Me completely
Confess to Me honestly

Love others unconditionally
Forgive others sincerely
Give to others unselfishly
Extend mercy and grace to others consistently
And don't give up!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The One Who Lifts My Head

Psalm 3:3 “But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.”

I was talking with a friend about how we deal with the rough patches in our lives, and how pain, grief and anguish literally come down so hard that it physically takes its toll on our bodies. We even find ourselves walking with our heads down, looking at the ground. Our shoulders are rounded, breathing is shallow, and we physically encompass the phrase, “They’re carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.”

We’ve all been there, done that, worn the tee-shirt, and burned it! And, though I would like to think otherwise, the fact is we will probably face more dark valleys along the journey. I’d be lying if I said with a cheerful smile, “Oh, okay, God – bring it on! Sure, no problem, let’s do some more of those life lessons so I will be a more mature, holy, Christ-followin', Bible totin’ woman.” NOT!!!! I hate these lessons. I’m tired, I don’t want them, nor do I want any more stress, pain, pressure, anguish, brokenness, confusion, and tears. God, I just can’t do one more lesson, I can’t take one more thing. Can You just pllluuueeezzeee come back now so all this will be done and over with, because I am more than ready to go Home!!!

My friend brought Psalm 3:3 to my attention. And in my godly state, I must confess, I thought with a raised eyebrow, “Excuse me? You are a shield about me? Then why am I going through all this?” (Okay, so I don’t win the Steeped in Faith award this month.) I can intellectually wrap my brain around it, and I can believe it in my head, but when you’re in the middle of a big, bahonkin’ hot mess, it’s hard to fully embrace.

But here’s what resonated with me, what connected for me in this verse: “…the One who lifts my head.” My head has been so far down I have concrete scrape marks on my forehead. Yet here is a picture of a loving Father, who takes my head in both His hands, and gently raises my face up to His own. I imagine Him wiping the hair from my eyes, wiping the tears from my cheeks, and suddenly I take one long, deep breathe as I look up at Him. No words… just a silent moment. Then He gathers me into His arms and simply holds me, those everlasting arms shielding me.

It doesn’t mean it will all go away. It doesn’t mean I don’t have to go through this right now. It doesn’t mean I understand any better or like it any more or want it to stop any less. But what it does mean, for me, is that in this moment, I am shielded as I rest in my Father’s arms, and know He loves me, in spite of everything I’m experiencing and feeling at this point in my life. It may not be inspirational, nor is it some great theological revelation. It is what it is, and I find comfort in it, and enough courage to keep going on, my head a little higher.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Monday, April 18, 2011

After Awhile

An old poem that I've read since high school days... still so applicable...

AFTER AWHILE

by Veronica A. Shoffstall

After a while
you learn the subtle difference
between holding a hand and chaining a soul
and you learn love doesn't mean leaning
and company doesn't always mean security
and you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
and presents aren't always promises
and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and and your eyes ahead
with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child
and you learn to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight
after a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much
so you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers
and you learn that you really can endure
that you really are strong
and you really do have worth
and you learn and you learn
with every good-bye you learn

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Butterfly

One unusually warm November afternoon
As I sat outside, enjoying the unexpected warmth of the sun
Mingled with the chill of anticipated winter in the air
A butterfly lit upon my hand
Dark and glorious
Grand, sleek wings of midnight
Proud and luminous -- capturing my every attention
Wounded, struggling to keep its balance
On my skin
Frozen, mesmerized by the lightness and beauty
I held my breath
Time stopped as its presence kissed my soul
My heart longing to heal the injuries sustained
Before exploring my gentle, welcoming world
Cautiously it took one step towards me
Then another in hesitant, fearful retreat
The dance continued for what seemed an eternity
Tempted, I wanted so to stroke those exquisite wings
Bandage the wounds
But reality drew back the offered touch
Which could only harm, no matter the love
Behind it
An icy breeze intruded -- an uninvited guest
Calling my new friend, who just as abruptly
Bid me goodbye
With nothing more than that ephemeral moment
To linger with a bittersweet ache in my memory
To stir and awaken my lonely heart’s emptiness
The skies clouded grey as the frost of the season descended

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Moments of joy in the morning

Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (KJV)

Like the first rays of light on a new sunrise, so God’s love and comfort breathes new life into the darkness of our sorrows. No, it doesn’t mean that we will find immediate resolve to the problem, or that the pain will altogether disappear. No, sometimes it simply means that we aren’t crying constantly, but find an hour or two of blessed relief. Maybe it’s only a few moments when you first wake up in the morning and don’t remember right away your living hell.

But we must learn to cling to this verse and these blessings with all our might. You may be called to sit with this pain for what seems like an eternity. The joy may be only in moments at a time, but like a precious raindrop in a dessert starved for water, we must savor every one and remember it well until the next.

God is faithful. He will bring you through… in His time. Hang on.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Wall of If Onlys

Jeremiah 29:11-14 For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I will hear your prayers. When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul, I will make myself available to you,’ says the Lord.


I smash my fists against the Wall of “If Onlys”
The bricks of
… If only I had made this decision
… If only I hadn’t made that
… If only this hadn’t happened to me
… If only that had
… If only I didn’t have this in my life
… If only I did have this
… If only I had walked away
… If only I had chosen to

If only… If only… If only
Until my flesh is raw and bloody
And my head is bruised and bleeding
My body slumped and crumbled
Sobbing, brokenhearted
Gasping for breath as you only can when
Hope has been strangled by If Only
Like a dead dream tossed without a thought in some corner

The warmth of His presence
Awakens me, like Lazarus rising from the tomb
Except…
I scream ‘JESUS!!!!!”
How could You?
How could You let these things happen to me?
How could You stand by and heartlessly do NOTHING?!?!?!?
How could You let me down? Abandon me? Not care?
He gathers me up in His arms
Gently and tenderly, a bruised and tender rag doll
As if I were the most precious thing on earth

I sob as He rocks me slowly in Those arms of strength
“It’s not fair,”, I whimper, “I didn’t deserve this…”
He reaches for me, and I see His nail-pierced hand
Remembering, I am silent… my heart knows He knows my pain… He understands

“I love you with an everlasting love”, He whispers tenderly
“Someday all will be revealed, but for now I need you to have faith,
I need you to trust Me, to believe that I am working it all out for you
Even when it seems to make no sense – that I have a plan
Even when it seems to go against everything your eyes can see
And your mind can comprehend

He wipes away my tears
And collects each one like a precious jewel
His love surrounds… no, encompasses me
I bury my head in His chest, and breath… perhaps for the first time ever…
The sweetness of His righteousness fragrant and heady
And I choose Him… I choose to believe
In the safety of His arms
In the bizarre logic of belief in what I cannot see or comprehend
I rest… and find my peace
I focus on Christ, and on the blessings
As the Wall of What Ifs comes crumbing down

Friday, March 25, 2011

Broken Heart... Broken Dreams

Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the LORD with all your heart. And do not lean on your own understanding.

Into every woman’s life comes a broken heart at some point on the path. For some the path is littered by the rubble, and for others it is blessedly infrequent. Caused by many factors, it can be a long-expected tragedy, or it can suddenly appear out of nowhere, no announcement, no preparation… one moment you’re fine and the next you can’t even breath. All you can do is cry and cry and cry… and then cry some more, gasping for air and reeling from the agonizing pain. Or sometimes it just leaves you numb, dead stone cold numb…

Hopes and dreams lie shattered around your feet like blood-soaked bomb shrapnel, and as you drop to your knees you cry out to God. Maybe you can’t even speak. Maybe all that escapes is a groan that only the Holy Spirit can decipher. Maybe it’s nothing more than the choked whisper of the name of Jesus. Prayers you thought were answered are tossed away in confusion, and plans you thought were from the sanctioned center of God’s will have now turned to ashes.

There is no way out. You must go through it. There is no immediate relief, no easy answers, no escape, except perhaps to sleep, and even then the dreams haunt you and taunt you until there is no sanctuary… just pain and sorrow. And you just don’t think you can go through this one more time…

It is in this darkest hour, when there is nothing left of you, that you must remember that God is still God, no matter what. Our understanding is limited, but God is limitless. Through the tears we must seek His face and believe He loves us, and that His heart is breaking as well. We must look past ourselves into His sovereignty, His majesty, and His Lordship, and know that He is God. And know that He is in control. And know someday He will turn these ashes into beauty.

We are not called to an easy walk when we follow Christ. It won’t always make sense, and it may require us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death – including death to self and all our hopes and dreams and desires – put on the altar, sacrificed. We may never know on this side of Heaven the answer to the WHY that we cry out to him over and over. But we must try and find our rest, our peace, the mending and filling of our crushed heart, in Christ alone, our only hope. He loves us with a love that will never abandon us, never leave us… hold fast to this truth. Hold on, even if it’s one minute at a time… hold onto Jesus.


A segment of an old poem called “After Awhile” by Veronica A. Shoffstall:

…And you learn that you really can endure, that you really are strong and you really do have worth and you learn and you learn, with every good-bye you learn.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Feeling sheepish?

John 10:27 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Sometimes the days just plod along, one after the other, flowing into mindless, mundane madness. Nothing fantastic, nothing horrific… just basically nothing. It’s easy to begin to wonder what in the world God has put you on earth for – to yawn??? Like sheep on a hillside, we just go along, following the rest of the herd, doing the “dailies”, practically numb to the routine.

Well, take a look at this video. When I saw it, it made me think of the amazing possibilities life can have in store for us when we just listen intently to the Great Shepherd and follow His leading. Imagine how long this took, and then think of the fact that the sheep had no idea of the big picture, they were just all about following their Master’s voice. It’s a wonderful visual reminder of how God may be moving us into places we don’t currently understand, and we may not even agree with right now, but He knows why He’s putting you in THAT exact spot at THIS specific moment in time. He is moving you into places where you will be used for His bigger picture, part of His magnificent overall plan.

Listen to His voice today, and light up your world for His glory!

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE VIDEO

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

With Pen in Hand...

Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

I have a thing about writing instruments, always have. I have always loved the new box of crayons with their brilliant little bright heads peeking up out of the box, fragrant with the promise of creativity and art dreams. Of course, ink markers are wonderful as well, and any kind of colored pencils. But pens, ah, here is where the heart beats faster – when you open a journal page and have the perfect pen, it’s a little bit of heaven. The pen cradles into your hand like a custom fit, the smooth ink flows and practically writes the words itself, smooth and neat and precise.

Awhile back my mom happened to give me a pen, and it was love at first write. Fantastic! I was inspired, and the ink went right to my head. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a new life form, but it was a darned good writing pen. Since then, every time I’m in Staples, I get more of this brand of pen. I can’t get enough of these bad boys, I now have a stash in my purse, on my home desk, in my briefcase, there’s everywhere!!! So the other day, I opened up a new batch of babies with far too much excitement (seriously, I obviously need a life here), and pulled a few out, tossed them in my purse, and happily went about my business. Later in the day, I rooted around in the endless pit that is said purse, grabbed one, and begin to write. Three letters, then a skip, one more word, then another skip. What?!?!!? What?!!? My trusted pen was skipping and missing all over the place. I pulled out a second – no!!!! Say it’s not so – same problem!!!! It was frustrating for this crazy pen-lover. I guess they had been sitting around awhile and the ink had begun drying up for lack of use.

Well, it got me to thinking… am I like this pen in my Christian walk? Stay with me here, I’m not over the edge… seriously, is my consistency in my relationship with Christ, and my day-to-day life in Him, as hit or miss as this pen? You know, I can still “look good” on the outside – shiny bright, lookin’ all kinds of happy and obedient, tossing off all the standard-issue “Christianese” words that make me look more holy than a little girl in her patent leather MaryJanes and new hat at Easter! But that doesn’t mean anything if my interior isn’t right – my heart, my thoughts, my attitude, my daily reliable time meeting with my Father in prayer and the reading of His word. Is my walk fresh and new each day, or have I become complacent and allowed my faith to sit on the shelf and dry up like the ink in my pen?

My life, much like everyone else, is crazy busy, and I struggle to set aside time each day to be with my Savior. Or maybe I’ll squeeze in a few moments to read at the end of the day, then try not to fall asleep. I have every good intention of getting up early to spend time with Him first, and next thing I know I’m praying haphazardly as I negotiate my way through my morning commute. 2 Samuel 22:26 tells us to show ourselves faithful. Romans 12:12 exhorts us to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” And in Revelation 2:10 we are called to be faithful.

I want my daily living to be an unswerving, smooth, regular relationship with my God. Not blotchy, or spotty, or with patches of barely-there-ness. When the book of my life is opened when I am laid to rest and go to meet my Father, I want page after page to read the solidly-inked story of a life well-lived and wholly dedicated to Him.

May I be reminded of this every time I pick up a pen from now on!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Are You Tearing Apart The Marriage of a Friend?

Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage should be honored by all…”

I work with a guy whom I will call Joe. Joe is in his late 20’s, is someone you're always happy to bump into, and has been married for a little over a year or so. He and his bride were high school sweethearts, and have been together about ten years now – a feat in and of itself! We were talking about marriage and career, and where Joe was headed next in life. What he said next almost brought tears to my eyes.

He said that right now he and his wife were just focusing on their marriage. He shared that in his current job position, he has been asked periodically to work out in the field instead of the corporate office – not just for a week, but for extended periods of several months at a time. Joe confided that, when asked, he explains that this isn’t a good time right now, because his wife couldn’t join him. He said his managers look at him like he’s got three heads, and then say, “But your wife will understand!” They can’t wrap their brains around the fact that Joe would prioritize his wife to a higher position than his career. The concept just ain’t even showing up on their radar screens. This talented, hard-working young man is risking, even turning his back on, the fast track to “success” in the industry by choosing his wife and marriage over what may be seen as valuable career experience. What a rare thing to see, and I pray God will bless them both richly for this choice. I guess Joe’s managers haven’t considering Deuteronomy 24:5 (Amplified Bible): “When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year and shall cheer his wife whom he has taken.”

This made me think of how we honor the marriages of our friends and colleagues. When was the last time you prayed for the marriage of someone, not because they were having difficulty, but just because you wanted to support them and respect their marriage? In some traditional marriage vows, it is proclaimed, “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” Asunder – an adjective meaning “into separate parts, into pieces; apart or widely separated.” Do we not put asunder a friend’s marriage when we speak words of discouragement and disparagement against their spouse? Do we not tear at the very fabric of someone’s marriage when we participate with her in sarcasm/joking/little jabs about her husband? Doesn’t joining with the girls in a little (even subtle) man-bashing highlight their husbands’ weaknesses and expose/make vulnerable the problem areas of their marriage? I’m not saying this is a woman thing, this happens constantly for both sexes, for we often make our spouse the brunt of many a joke, making fun of them in front of other people, then covering the damage by an explanation of, “Oh, I was only joking, don’t be so sensitive!”

Instead we need to stand enmeshed, heart to heart, to weave a strong hedge of love, protection, and consecration around the honor of marriage, for the unity of a husband/wife, and to do everything we can to be a source of encouragement and support for these two who journey together in the partnership God has given them. Take every opportunity to lift up your friend’s husband, your friend’s wife – reminding them of all that is good and loving and respectable and wonderful in the person they have married. When they come to you with a problem, of course you listen and acknowledge it, but pray with them/for them, read the Scriptures to seek godly answers. Certainly, I am not addressing areas of danger and abuse – what I am speaking of is the everyday occurrences, the “dailies” of marital problems. Dr. Stephen Covey calls talking about someone else “confessing their sins” – don’t be part of that negative and ungodly practice. Instead, vow as in Job 27:4 that your lips will not speak wickedness, and your tongue will whisper no deceit, and each day remember James 4:11 “Do not speak against one another.” Instead use your words to build up, edify marriage and marriage partners collectively and individually, and let your words be skillfully spoken, “like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11) Imagine how many marriages could be made stronger, more satisfying, and more fortified against the threat of divorce?

Challenge – for the next week, speak only positive words of encouragement to your friends about their spouses, and especially make it a point to speak the same words of love and support to the one to whom you have entrusted your own heart.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

To Hold the Hand... To Hold the Heart

Isaiah 42:6 I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee.

Transliterated word for hold – “chazaq” verb – to strengthen, to prevail, to make strong, restore/give strength, to support, to repair, to encourage

Today I read the devotional “Hold onto the Hand” from “Joy and Strength” by Mary Wilder Tileston (see below). To be honest, I’ve don’t remember ever reading this verse in Isaiah before, but then again, sometimes when we need it God causes a particular verse or passage of Scripture jump out like a neon sign, doesn’t He?

Think about the last time you slipped your hand into the hand of someone you loved. It immediately makes both a physical and emotional connection. I’m an unabashedly unashamed lover of hand-holding, and my heart always is moved when I am walking along and see that special someone’s hand in front of/beside me extended in invitation to reach out and take hold. It is an invitation to intimacy. My smaller hand in his, fingers entwined – it is a feeling of warmth, of safety, of feeling very special and proud that I am walking with him – and it visually identifies our personal relationship to others.

When someone you know/love is hurting, how often have you reached out and held their hand? When you pray with a friend, do you often hold hands? At times of encouragement, have you leaned over and placed your hand on top of the one you wish to encourage? Again, it is a non-verbal way of saying you care, of offering your support, of saying “I’m here for you”. How often this one small act of giving yourself says so much more than words could proclaim?

Sometimes when I am praying, especially when I need to “feel” Jesus in a tangible way, I will reach out and pretend that I am holding His hand. It brings me great comfort, imagining that He is sitting next to me, my hand in His. Okay, maybe it sounds a little odd, but it works for me. In fact, on my way to work this morning, I was doing the “commuter prayers” and while talking to Jesus (yes, I chat away as if He was right there), I did in fact reach over the (seemingly) empty seat next to me, and envisioned my hand clasped in His.

There was a song in the 70s by Anderson Lynn called “Put Your Hand in the Hand” and it spoke of putting your hand in His hand, the One who stilled the waters and calmed the sea. May I encourage you to take a moment to reach out to Jesus, slip your hand in His, and know His love for you today?

*********************************
Title: Hold on to the Hand
Author: Mary Wilder Tileston
Scripture References:
Isaiah 8:6
Devotion: Joy and Strength

DON'T be content with spending all your time on your faults, but try to get a step nearer to God. It is not He who is far away from us, but we from Him. If you ask me the best means to persevere, I would say, if you have succeeded in getting hold of Almighty God's hand, don't let it go.

Keep hold of Him by constantly renewing ejaculatory prayers to Him, acts of desire, and the seeking to please Him in little things.
MOTHER FRANCIS RAPHAEL

Strive to be as a little child who, while its mother holds its hand, goes on fearlessly, and is not disturbed because it stumbles and trips in its weakness. So long as God holds you up by the will and determination to serve Him with which He inspires you, go on boldly and do not be frightened at your little checks and falls, so long as you can throw yourself into His arms in trusting love. Go there with an open, joyful heart as often as possible; if not always joyful, at least go with a brave and faithful heart.
ST. FRANCIS DE SALES

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Well, Shut My Garbage Spewin' Mouth!

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Lately I’ve become more aware of the things that come out of my mouth. It’s embarrassing and painful to admit, but way too often I find that I have a very acerbic tongue, a cutting humor, a critical spirit, and easily shoot verbal bullets at people (my Mom calls it “verbal sniping” – because it’s so easy to hurt someone with words). The original Greek refers to unwholesome as “rotten, putrefied; of poor quality”. Basically garbage mouth!

When I think of unwholesome words, the first thing that comes to mind is either actively cutting someone down or cursing up a storm. You know, the “big” things that you know you’re not supposed to say. But those little running comments, that little put-down here, that sarcastic answer there, well, they’re like termites in the foundation of a relationship that slowly eat away at someone, and also eat away at the foundation of my witness as a Christ-follower. Later in the verse we’re called to use words that build others up. Hmmm… that goes along with my whole termite scenario. I get this visual of each word that comes out of my mouth being a brick, and I can use that brick to either build up, or to slam and destroy. So much power, so much riding on everything that I say throughout the day.

I remember hearing once a good rule of thumb to check what you’re about to say – “Is it truthful? Is it accurate? Is it necessary?” I would also like to add “Is it beneficial – will it build up or tear down?” Which brings me also to two verses that I will pray each morning from now on:

Psalm 141:3 – “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

Psalm 19:14 – “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Monday, February 7, 2011

An Excellent Wife Who Can Find - I Can't Find Myself, and I'm Not Even Married!

Proverbs 31:10 "An excellent wife who can find?"

Excellent: the Hebrew word is a masculine noun for strength, ability, translated as able, capable, full, strong, substantial, a warrior, valiant, and worthy. The dictionary definition of excellent is “possessing outstanding quality or superior merit; remarkably good; extraordinary.

Wife: is the Hebrew feminine noun defined as woman (opposite of man), female, and in the NAS is translated and used often for a variety of women (from harlot to single to married to widow).

When I read the word for wife (woman), and how it’s used for so many women, I think of the song by Chaka Khan (and later Whitney Houston) “I’m Every Woman”. I also think of the old Peggy Lee song, “”Cause I’m a Woman (W-O-M-A-N). And how can we forget the 70’s feminist theme song by Helen Reddy “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar”? The definitions swirl in my head as I try to sort it all out.

Add to the mix the fact that I am an unmarried woman, so where do I find my place in this beginning of the first verse of the Scripture passage on the “Proverbs Woman”? It’s taken me years to tackle this section but now my heart desires to really, truly understand what it means, and what it means personally to me/about me/for me to emulate. What makes me an excellent woman?

I am immediately drawn to the words “strength”, “valiant”, “warrior”, and “substantial”. This ain’t no milk toast mama we’re talking about here – this female is fierce! My first visual is that of a Christian Amazon woman! (Believe me, considering all the books I buy, I already qualify as an Amazon woman … but I digress). I’m digging this already, but wondering how I balance this woman with the phrases “submissive” and “quiet and gentle spirit” from other sections of Scripture. Hmmm… That will have to be a whole ‘nuther blog post!

Where to first? Okay, excellence – from whence does my excellence come? It must come from Christ – He must be my example. Christ an example of an excellent woman? Whoa, hold on, won’t that get me tossed off the women’s ministry team and possibly excommunicated??? No, because His example rises so far above the boundaries of male/female. He is Savior, Lord, Perfection. When I define myself I must find my identity first in Him. My worth, my substance, any strength or valor comes from His Holy Spirit living in me, helping me each day be more Christlike. Romans 11:36 tells me all things are from Him and through Him, and Philippians 4:13 tells me I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Let’s not forget warrior – as a “warrior woman” I am to put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and battle the enemy daily. Another song comes to mind: “Onward Christian Soldiers”. Finally, worthy – to be worthy – I find my worth in Him as well, not in another person here on earth or in my own efforts, but in knowing Christ’s love for me and His sacrifice for me on the Cross, and the Father’s love/forgiveness for me. When I think on these things, how can I not recognize my worth to Him? To Him I am far more precious than jewels (as the second half of Proverbs 31:10 is written).

So there you go – today I will see myself through His eyes, and to join my sisters worldwide in the journey and goal of being a woman of excellence.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Singing in the Shadows

Psalm 68:4 Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, Whose name is the LORD, and exult before Him.

Some days my heart is like a barren woman hopeless for a child – empty, lonely, and sad. At times when I feel this way it’s as if I’m going to implode, that this aching hole will begin to suck me in until there is nothing left of me at all, only the gaping pain and blackness.

I hate feeling this way. Sometimes circumstances of my life bring me to this place – disappointment in a situation or person or myself, anticipated actions by someone don’t come to pass, overwhelming stress from a clamoring schedule, the loneliness that feels like solitary confinement. My plans/hopes/dreams aren’t coming to fruition, or my patience is running out. There are times it may stem from being physically tired, or just those crazy hormones/chemicals in my body going completely out of whack.

For whatever reason, I get so angry with myself for not being self-sufficient and able to handle it. I want to shut down my heart so that the pain (or people) can’t come in, or to self-medicate with the many unhealthy methods I’ve learned in my lifetime as I seek to “make it all go away”. It makes me feel weak, and out of control, and needy – and I hate that, for I want to be strong, self-reliant, never needing anyone. I fight not to cry, or to reach out, or to admit my need. Instead I close the shades, and withdrawl figuratively (and sometimes literally) into the searing shadows.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss recently quoted Oswald Chambers using the phrase “singing in the shadows” while speaking on serenity. Serenity… about the most opposite place I could be in these times. But when I think of “singing in the shadows”, the first thing I notice is that I’m not being asked to ignore what I’m feeling. It’s not saying that these feelings aren’t there, or that they are wrong, or that if I only had more faith I wouldn’t be in this mess and I’d be happy. It affirms that the shadows indeed are there, but it’s asking for a sacrifice of praise during this time. God is asking me to go beyond my feelings, to wade through the muck to a place where I can at least raise my face to Him and whisper His name. He knows I may not be able to do much else than that, but to Him that may be a beautiful melody, a praise beyond what I can imagine, even though to me it’s a failing, meager attempt at song, yet another disappointment for us both.

So, Lord, when I am in this bad place, I will seek You. I will ask You to take My hand and hold on tight. I will ask You to hold me close, and wrap Yourself around me. I will do my best to look for whatever it may be you are trying to teach me, or rest in the valley of darkness and wait on You. I will intentionally stop looking at me and lift my eyes to You. I know this doesn’t mean it suddenly will “all go away”. But… if You are there, filling up the emptiness/loneliness with Yourself, I can learn to sing in the shadows.

Weakness

Today's Devotion is gratefully taken from the 1/28/11 devotion "Joy and Strength" from www.backtothebible.org

Isaiah 40:29 He gives power to the tired and worn out, and strength to the weak.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people. Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities. Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite happy about “the thorn” and about insults and hardships, persecutions and difficulties; for when I am weak, then I am strong – the less I have, the more I depend on Him.

Philippians 4:13 I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.

Judges 5:21 March on, my soul with strength!


Title: Receiving From God's Hand
Author: Mary Wilder Tileston
Scripture References:
1 Chronicles 29:12-13 Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name.”


WHEN I have nothing in my hand
Wherewith to serve my King,
When Thy commandment finds me weak
And wanting everything,
My soul, upon Thy greatness cast,
Shall rise divinely free;
Then will I serve with what Thou hast,
And gird myself with Thee.
ANNA L. WARING

HOW are we to approach such blessed strength? First of all, through a steadfast will to refuse nothing that God requires of us, and to do nothing deliberately which can displease Him. Next, we must learn to take our faults humbly, as proofs of our weakness, and use them to increase our trust in God, and our mistrust of self. Neither must we be discouraged at our own wretchedness, or give way to the thought that we cannot do or bear any special thing; our duty is, while confessing that of ourselves it is impossible, to remember that God is all-powerful, and that through Him we can do whatever He may require of us. We must learn to say with St. Augustine, "Give me what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt." JEAN NICOLAS GROU

Monday, January 24, 2011

Colossians 4:8 (Amplified Bible) "I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are faring and that he may comfort and cheer and encourage your hearts.


With the new year comes new goals, and we think things like “what do I want to accomplish, what do I want to lose, what do I want to learn, I, I, I….” Well, I would like to encourage you to take those I’s off yourself and focus them outward onto other-centered goals. For example, how about seeking out ways to be an encouragement to the people in your life? In the book of Colossians, Paul sends Timothy out to encourage the Colossians' hearts (Colossians 4:8). He also sent Timothy to the Thessalonians to strengthen and encourage them as to their faith. Paul then asks that they themselves in turn encourage one another and build one another up. (1 Thessalonians 3:2, 5, 11.) In Hebrews 3:13 we are told to encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called today! The Greek word for the Holy Spirit is parakletos, and can be translated as Comforter, Counselor, or Advocate. (John 14:16, 26; 15:26, 16:7). To encourage is the Greek word parakaleo (verb) from para – beside, by, from, near kaleo to call.

A few definitions of encouragement mention comfort, instruction; to strengthen by consolation, to teach. In this day and age of instant technology, it’s so easy to send a quick email or e-card to another just as a way of letting them know you’re thinking about them, and to provide them with a few words of cheer, even offer a “verbal hug”, so to speak. How long could it take us to do this, especially considering how lasting the result might be for someone? Do you have someone within your circle that perhaps just needs you to come up without a word and just wrap your arm around their shoulder?

When was the last time you opened your “snail mail” after arriving home, to find an unexpected card with warm wishes from someone? Do you remember how that lifted your spirits? Again, in this day of technology, actual real, hold-it-in-my-hand cards are a growing rare event! I have several cards that have been sent to me over the years which I keep in my Bible, and read over and over again whenever I need a pick-me-up.

This week, prayerfully consider a list of people you could come alongside to comfort, counsel and encourage. Make it your personal mission to contact at least a few by phone, email, Facebook, Twitter, or actual old-fashioned letter or card (okay, seriously, after looking at all our options, just TRY to find a reason NOT to do this)! In fact, I would be so bold as to suggest that if you yourself are in need of encouragement, make it a point to be that encouragement to someone else – put your eyes on them, and give of yourself at a time when it’s not easy or comfortable. Let it be a sacrifice of comfort to God – in spite of your needs/circumstances, you are going outside yourself to be His voice of encouragement to another.

As Dr. Robert A. Cook used to say as He ended his radio program, “Walk with the King today and be a blessing!”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's Okay to Cling

Deuteronomy 13:4
"You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.

Did you ever cling too much to someone, hold fast to them a little more than was healthy? I think of the movie “10 Ways to Lose a Guy”, and certainly one of those top ten ways was to be “clingy”! The character would show up at the guy’s apartment unannounced, when he was hanging with the guys, at his job, and would call incessantly. Just watching her antics (who, by the way, was purposely trying to make this guy break up with her) was painful, and made me want to take a deep breath and take a long walk – ALONE!

However, I’ve had times in my life that I’ve held people or things too dear, and like sand in my fist, watched them slip away. Sadly, one of my closest and most loyal companions over the course of my life has been abandonment. There he would stay, plopped down cozily on the couch, watching relationships come and go. He would take every opportunity to remind me of all the many reasons he stayed while others left – most specifically pointing out every fault I had and how I wasn’t good enough to deserve love. I listened intently, and tried to become perfect, but with every rejection, with the accuracy of a surgeon’s scalpel, he would cut away more and more at my sense of worth. If I could just be perfect enough, I would be accepted, loved, and cherished. I fell for the lie over and over again.

By God’s grace and mercy, I’ve taken the path of healing, and over the years have found my identity and worth in Christ. Occasionally, however, I do see myself slip into an old habit of perfectionism. Recently I caught myself, and shaking my head, wondered how I had let that pattern tempt me back again?

In Deuteronomy 13:4, and again in Joshua 23:8, we are commanded to cling to the Lord. It is the same Greek word, and means to stay close, to cleave, to stick with, join to, and remain steadfast. I can’t call upon Him often enough… He never tires of my presence… the more I’m with Him, the happier He is and the more love and devotion He lavishes upon me. I never have to worry that I’m in His face. My Jesus loves me 24/7/365! Most importantly, He has promised never to leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5). In His eyes I am perfect and adored and enough just as I am. He is my Beloved, and my heart is filled to overflowing with love, acceptance, and satisfaction.

Knowing this, I can enjoy my earthly relationships, and I am a healthier/whole person in those relationships. I realize that, no matter how wonderful someone can be, my sole source of identity, satisfaction, and contentment is in Christ alone – all others pale in comparison. No one can ever be my “all in all” – that is a horrible burden to put on anyone, and more importantly, they will always fail, not because they are necessarily lacking, but because they were never meant to fill that role. Only God can fill me to overflowing; only God can and should be God.

What freedom, what joy – I am His, and He is mine.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Race

Phil 3:13-14 I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: forgetting the past... I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to Heaven.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 In a race, everyone runs but only one person gets first prize. So run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears.

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Proverbs 27:17
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

I began this year doing something very different – I participated in a fun run, a one-mile run at my local park. The weather was perfect for a January morning – bright and sunny, much of the snow melted from last week’s blizzard, and surprisingly warm. I proudly donned my racing tag “Number 303”, and when the starting blast began off I went! I tried to stay focused on the course, to pace myself, and to stay on track. I didn’t remember the trail being as steep, and admittedly had to slow down to a fast walk several times on the journey. There were some before me, and some behind, all running with the same goal – to reach that finish line! As we neared the end, my friend took my picture, and the bystanders cheered us on. I received a ribbon for my efforts, and the satisfaction that I had achieved my goal.

What was particularly meaningful for me today was the analogy of my physical race to the spiritual race my Father calls me to run. It’s a new year, a fresh beginning, and I renew my commitment to Him to running the race strong, focused and steady. Yes, there will be unexpected turns, hills, dips, and at times discomfort and times of discouragement that perhaps I won’t make it. But if I fix my eyes on Jesus, in His strength I can do anything. My part is obedience, and faithfulness to run towards Christ and not let all the “stuff” in my life get in the way and entangle me/trip me up. Each step of the way I must choose Christ, and not lose heart and grow weary.

One day I hope to run into His arms in Heaven, and I wonder if there will be others there who have gone before cheering me onward, that great cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews. This run taught me the importance also of cheering on my brothers and sisters in Christ, to encourage them and support/lift them up on their race as well. We need to be there for one another – we’re not alone on the path.

So on this first day of 2011 I write to anyone reading this to be encouraged and feel strong and confident – God is for us (Romans 8:31)!!! Let us lift up one another, keep each other on track, running strong and focused towards the goal. Be daily in God’s word and in prayer, pray together, keep each other accountable, really be there for one another this year when we need a friend, in any God-glorifying way we can.

And most importantly, devote yourself to Jesus Christ this year in everything you say and do -- may this year be the best and strongest run of your life -- RUN STRONG! FINISH STRONG!