Monday, February 12, 2018

Magnificent Monday

So happy with the beautiful colors on my first bed sized quilt.

As his divine power has given to us all things which relate to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us by glory and virtue,through which he has given to us the greatest and precious promises, that through these ye may become partakers of [the] divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  II Peter 1: 3-4 (Darby)



"Monday, Monday,"goes the song by the Mamas and the Papas. How often I have dreaded the day called Monday. For it ended the recreation of the weekend, and time to go back to school-- (grroan! way back when!) or back to work. As if God would not be faithful in the challenges of the new week. To be honest, don't a lot of people hate Mondays?

I thought about it: One seventh, or approximately 8 years of my life so far has been composed of Mondays. How many have I wasted in dread?

Today I put on my bed the quilt I've made over the last six months or so. It is my first bigger one and there are many mistakes, if you look on the back. I mainly used scraps of fabrics I had on hand.  Like on the quilt, I got to thinking about the many tints and colors of God's grace, bestowed upon me in this life. As the lovely pastel colors, the promises of God are variegated and beautiful, covering all the needs I have. In I Peter 4:10, we learn about this many tinted grace:

As every man hath received the gift, [even so] minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

The word for manifold is poikilos. It is #4164 in Strong's and is defined this way: 

ποικίλος poikílos, poy-kee'-los; of uncertain derivation; motley, i.e. various in character:—divers, manifold.

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4164&t=KJV

Getting back to Mondays ,this morning I realized instead of just asking God for things I wanted, I could instead give him thanks for things, and turn all my requests into thanksgiving. In this way, I could demonstrate that I knew ahead of time He would take care of all the things I was concerned about. So instead of making my usual requests, I would say, for example, "Thank you for how you are working in so and so's life, in spite of the fact that I don't see by sight any answers." More and more things to be thankful for came to mind.

I decided on Mondays it would be a good day to give him thanks for all His blessings in all of my life. Just thank Him for physical blessings, for who He is, for all the  things I take for granted everyday. Just about every request I had could somehow be turned into a way of praising and thanking Him instead.

I need to tell you this was not my original thought, thanking instead of always asking. Long ago this was suggested to me by a dear friend who not only gave this advice, but lives it and demonstrates it before others. As a result, she radiates peace and tranquility even in the midst of storms.

Eureka! Mondays are a day to give Him thanks. Instead of groaning facing a new week, I can instead praise Him. When I look at it in this wonderful new way, I realized that Mondays are indeed magnificent.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Really Loving Myself

So shall they fear The name of the LORD from the west, And His glory from the rising of the sun; When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him. Isaiah 59:19



Have you noticed  the enemy raging against God's children in a present day tsunami? Have you sensed that something has changed, that life is not going on as usual? Especially around the time of the holidays I feel it in my bones: desperation as people search for happiness anywhere, everywhere, except the one place where they really could find it.

I used to think that loving myself was to indulge myself, to be a little selfish and to put myself first. That's the world's way, looking out for number one. But I find there is a different way to love myself spelled out in the Bible. In a simple Proverb, we learn that to love ourself is to allow our mind to be saturated with His mind.

He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good. Proverbs 19:8
 If I love myself, I'll acquire wisdom. The only wisdom there really is comes from God and we are all given enough time to acquire it, that is, if we want it. But how easily we find other things that are more important. But the time is short. The accuser storms in like a flood. How can I ever resist him?

I overcome him by taking time to feed myself in the Word of God. It is not just a good idea, it's our life, especially in these last days. Jude 1:3 tells us we must earnestly contend for our faith. Satan is pulling out all the stops, how can we ever resist his wiles? How did Jesus resist him?



Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.
Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."
But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' "          Matt. 4:1-4
Every word of God is important. I have one life, one life only. I was thinking the other day, I am in my midfifties. Say I live another twenty years. Roughly, I have about 7500 days left. That isn't a whole lot of days after all, is it?

Jesus mastered the Torah by the time He was twelve, so much so that all the teachers were amazed by His knowledge. One might object, "But He was the Son of God."

In Philippians 2:5-7 we are told that in His first appearing, Jesus laid aside His prerogative as Deity to fully identify with us as a man. If that is true, He did not use that Divine ability in learning the Torah, but His humanity learned it. And if He mastered it, then He wants me to do the same thing, as demonstrated in the story of Mary and Martha:


Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word.
But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me."
And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.
"But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:38-42
The part Mary chose, sitting at Jesus' feet and learning from Him, was the one thing that would not be taken away when she reached the end of her days on earth and faced eternity.

 My mind is not quite as sharp as in my thirties and forties. Today,  I was visiting Mom and stooped down to get something off the floor and I had to grab hold of something in order to pull myself back up. That wouldn't have happened ten years ago but each day a tiny bit of the physical vitality of the young me fades away.  Yet God's Word gives me spiritual vitality in spite of increasing frailty.
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

A complex time on Planet Earth requires God's Divine solution: humbling myself and my own preconceived notions and ideas and learning and leaning on His mind instead. That's what I'm here for, the one thing that will stand the test of time and eternity.


"And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.  John 17:3
He is the One I long for. To love me is to learn Him while I have my being. 

Dear Father, I ask that You would graciously incline our hearts to want to know You first and foremost in our remaining days. For the glory of Your name, Amen. 





Saturday, January 6, 2018

Me... and a Key

God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend.
For He says to the snow, 'Fall [on] the earth'; Likewise to the gentle rain and the heavy rain of His strength.
He seals the hand of every man, That all men may know His work.  Job 37:5-7


 This is a story about losing a key twice, and how God is faithful and cares even about little trifles like losing keys, especially ones that are quite expensive to replace. You see, I have two keys for two cars on the same key ring. A couple months ago, somehow part of the chain that carried the key for the smaller car became separated from the main ring. That key was for the little car, but I was driving the big car that day and did not realize the little chain came off the big one. The next time I looked down, I realized part of the keychain was missing and with that the expensive car key for my little car. It was on a Sunday and I took my Mom to church that day.

I think it was a day or two later when I noticed it missing so I tried to backtrack in where all I had been since then, calling the diner where we had breakfast and the church. No one was at the church at the moment, but I did get hold of the pastor at his home number. I asked him if anyone had turned in some keys or if he had found some but he reported no. I told him thank you and told him not to make a special trip out there to look for it, as the weather was not the best that day.

I put a little note on my facebook with a small request that prayers could be made to find it, even saying it was a dumb request. Many wrote they were praying, and that it was not dumb at all to ask for prayer for such a tiny little thing as a lost key.

Though I thought the key was a goner, when my cell phone rang it looked like the number I called before. The pastor called,  he kindly went out of his way to go over and look for the key and found that it had fallen off my keychain just where I parked the car on Sunday morning. It was just laying there in the gravel and had my husband's tag on it, so there was no question it was mine. He gave it to my son, making a special trip to their house to give him the key. I thanked him profusely when I saw him the next Sunday and breathed a big sigh of relief.

You would think I would have learned my lesson, then, when I got my oil changed the other day and had to take the key for the little car off the ring.  Even though I could almost here a little voice saying, "You'd better put it back before you lose it," I put it off. I decided to ask my husband to do it because it is hard with small fingers to get that thick key back on the ring. I even put them out so he would see them, but forgot to ask him.

The next thing you know, I had to run an errand and needed to look for something in the little car before leaving in the big one. ] I looked for my item and then put the single key in my jacket pocket because I needed to leave. Little did I know but the key slipped right out of my pocket into the space between the driver's seat and the console.

Yesterday, when I realized it was gone, I went out into the bitter cold and looked everywhere in both cars for the key. It was so cold I could not stay out there long but finally my husband said to come in, that was enough looking though.  I stewed and stewed over the loss of the key until finally I realized I should just commit it to God.

 After I thawed out a bit, I again asked facebook friends to pray a second time, a few months later,  for that same lost key. I was so touched that many people responded and told me they were praying. Indeed, a friend from a writer's conference wrote out a beautiful prayer to God right then and there asking God to directly lead me to the key so that I would be able to go and do the things He would have me to do. I was touched by her taking the time to write that out and her faith that God would answer.

This morning, my husband again encouraged me not to worry. I put on my clothes to face the elements to look a second time and I decided to pray the same prayer silently that my friend had written on facebook.

 And then God came through, just like we asked Him. I climbed in the driver's seat, looked down in the little space between the chair and the console, and saw something black. I forced my hand down and the item moved, so I knew it was not part of the seat itself. I scrounged my hand around and picked up a very cold black car key.

I thought about it a bit. Here I put my dilemma out for so many to see on facebook. I thought that maybe when God answered, it would not only be for my sake but for the sake of others too. For my friend prayed specifically and God answered specifically. Not because I deserved or earned it, but because He is in control of all the details of our lives, even our stupid mistakes.

He showed me and my praying friends He is Immanuel, right there with us in all the little details of our lives. He not only answers the big requests but also the ones due to our own carelessness. After all, He is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our distresses.

'Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.' Jer. 33:3





Sunday, December 31, 2017

Skip the Regrets and Forge Forward in Faith in 2018


"What is man, that he could be pure? And he who is born of a woman, that he could be righteous?  Job 15:14







I am but a silly sheep in the great I AM 's  overflowing pasture, and I lose my way all the time. He rescues me daily from my own bad decisions and keeps me in life. (Psalm 66:9) Yet the Bible says I am pure if I am washed in the blood of the Lamb. I am without spot and blameless. I share in Christ's very righteousness.

"Yes, but....!" I've said in my heart a million times. My own heart wants to readily condemn me. The voice in my heart demands to be heard. Yet God is far greater than that voice...
For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. I John 3:21

 At certain times, like at night when I toss and turn, the thoughts of what I should have done and could have done come back to nip at my conscience. Finally, I am able to put the day into the wastebasket and He gives me rest.

The trouble is I know what is in my heart. I know that I fall short of God's righteous requirements. And Jesus does too.He knows I can never clean up the mess within my own heart. But somehow He still loves me, not because of anything desirable in me, but because of who and what He is. There is nothing in Him less than absolute love and perfection. He knows that if I spent the next billion years trying in my flesh to be like Him I would never produce even one good thing.

So He waits. He wants only for me to trust Him. He alone will produce anything good that comes from me by His grace. After all these years of walking with the Lord, I  only see more of my failures. That's a good thing, though. It's good to be weakened, to be reminded that I am only made of dust, so that I look only to my Perfect Savior. He too was made of dust, but now is in an incorruptible body that has triumphed for once and all over sins and failures and death.

Thank God, this Perfect Savior does not see me the way I see myself. I say in my heart, "But Lord, remember the time I did this, or though that, or didn't do what I thought You wanted me to?"

But that's ridiculous to entertain that, for He tells us:
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Heb. 8: 12

If I believe the Bible, I must cast these thoughts off as vain imaginations. These feelings of guilt and regret do not make me more valuable or pious to God. They only serve to prove that my eyes are on myself and not on the Finished Work sacrifice that He made, once for all.

If He said it was finished, it was finished. No matter how bad I botch things, my sins, past, present and future have all been a part of what we could call Job's bag and thrown on Christ, once for all.

"My transgression is sealed up in a bag, And You wrap up my iniquity." Job 14:15

In the updated 1992 version of Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest today,  it gently and kindly reminded me, when once again I was ready to beat myself up for falling short that it is about looking ahead, not looking behind, as we reach this last day of the year 2017.

 "It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return...Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ. Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him." 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Make a Little Bright


For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.


II Corinthians 13:4











Our adversary is slick. He studies our countenance to see what kinds of thoughts he can throw at us to try to knock us out of God's plan. But he makes the thought seem like it is our thought, so we don't realize it is an attack upon our mind, an effort to deride any good thing that the Lord might be working in us.

I saw this so clearly today. I go on Thursdays to the assisted living place where my Mom is now and each week I share a chapter of my book Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering, with any who want to come in the back dining room at 10 am. But today, I planned on staying on even after that.

About 6 weeks ago, I started thinking about something small I could do for the residents. I deliberated and looked on Pinterest, googling ideas back and forth when finally I came up with something. I like to sew and I have lots of materials from the years. I found a pattern on Pinterest for a little sheep. I could make one for each of them. I copied the pattern onto parchment paper and set to cutting out some 60 sheep bodies, heads, arms and legs.  I just wanted to give the residents something to let them know that God cared about them, that Jesus died for them, and to try to spread God's Good News of salvation through a little poem I wrote and attached to a ribbon and tied around each one.

A couple of days ago I felt this sense of dread about the whole thing. I felt that everyone there would despise them and the staff people would laugh at me for being a "do-gooder." But it wasn't like I was working to "try" and please God in making them, I enjoyed the whole process of sewing them together and even wrapping them. It's hard to explain but I felt this oppression. I even cried a couple times yesterday.

I woke up still feeling heavy inside. But as I began reading my Bible this morning, God blessed me so much in His Word and I just felt that burden lift off my shoulders. 

God, You are my God, I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You; in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water. So I gaze on You in the sanctuary to see Your strength and Your glory. My lips will glorify You because Your faithful love is better than life. Psalm 63: 1-3 

I took a couple minutes to pray to the Father and I asked my little sister and my husband and son and daughter in law also to pray for me today when I handed them out.

All I can say is I was so deceived by the enemy in feeling intimidated in sharing my gifts with the old folks there. Some of them were so surprised that I had a gift for them and their faces lit with joy. Seeing that joy on their faces was more than enough to fill my soul with blessings.

It can be gloomy in my corner of the country, and often the darkness really can get to some of us. But today, there was just a little brightness added to my day and to their day, and to think that I thought of chucking the whole idea. Like I said, the enemy must have seen my needless worry on my countenance and tried to win a victory on this the shortest and darkest day of the year.

But once again, our adversary was defeated by the Word of God.

"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death." Revelation 12:11

When God is glorified, people are blessed, plain and simple. God's glory is for man's good. So let us lift Him up, unashamed, in this dark world. I remembered  suddenly this lovely quote by Edward Everett Hale, and realized how it can apply to small, tiny efforts to spread the love of Christ: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”  

When I hear and see of all  the terrible things in the world today, sometimes I feel like I can't do anything, it's hopeless. But seeing the light in the residents faces reminded me that is just not true. When I am weak, then He is strong. Praise be to His name.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hope from Christ in the Winter of Life

Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. Acts 14:17


Last night I went to a Christmas party at the assisted living center where my Mom now lives. I am there pretty frequently these days and am getting to know the residents. How is it that there are so many people living in assisted living and nursing homes and I can relate to them better now than any other time in my life? 

When I was young, every summer we drove halfway across the country to visit my Dad's mother who lived in a nursing home in a small town in Iowa. When we went there, I didn't take time to talk to the other residents, I was just there to see her. I did not view it particularly as a sad place, but for me saying goodbye was always tough. The reality is that people go to these places to die. It is their last stop after a long life.

Some of them are happy and lively, some are not. "Life is hard," my Mom reminded me last night.

"Yes, life is hard, Mom. I see it now," I could have said to her.

We joined all the others for the party in the dining hall as people scrambled to find a place to sit. Some were struggling with Alzheimers, one was blind, others had dementia. They all were there because they needed to be there for one reason or another.

As we came in, we were going to sit at the table where she eats, but one of her table mates snapped that what, were we planning on coming at midnight?  Now it was too late for us to sit there, the seats were gone. She scowled at us for not being there earlier, but I didn't want her mood to get Mom down.  I remained cheerful and eventually we were seated in the middle of the room, facing the beverage table and with a good view of the musicians there to sing to us all.

People who have a hard time remembering what they did a few hours ago remember the lyrics to the Christmas songs, like "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindoor" and Jingle Bells. But we also sang songs that reflected the true meaning of Christmas like Silent Night. A real treat was listening to singers perform the Christmas version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. I closed my eyes and though there was lots of room noise, I focused on the lyrics and the incredulity that God Incarnate came down to dwell with broken people like us.

Then, "Santa" and "Mrs. Claus" arrived to wish all the residents a Merry Christmas and hand out little bags with small gifts and candy inside. I thought to myself, "This is the first Christmas where my Mom is a resident at a home." Just like a little child getting candy, she eagerly took her gift bag from Santa.

Before the party, I attended a ladies Bible study across town. I hadn't been there for a while. It was a bit treacherous getting there with snow coming down but I had a 4 wheel drive and was OK, even going through the Fort Pitt tunnel. The day before, I really felt the seasonal affective blahs. I knew the day would be long and dark if I didn't brave the weather and go meet with likeminded ladies.

Though I drove 45 minutes to get there, I was reminded of why shortly after my arrival. I needed the encouragement that God's plan is grace. It is not based on merit that I can stand before God but on what the Son did for me that made me acceptable to God. How is it that we so easily forget that?

And so, when I reached the assisted living last night for the party on a bitter December night, that love and grace was still sustaining me and filling me. I realize I am starting to get attached to some of my Mom's companions and enjoy being in their company. It won't be long 'til I am in their shoes.

There are some there who are believers and some who are not interested in faith. It makes a difference, I think, as their end draws near. For the believers, they are confident that soon they will make an exit to a "better resurrection," that they will not be stuck with their limitations forever. I can see joy in their faces when we talk about Christ at our little devotions on Thursdays. Sadly, those who have said "No" to God all their lives seem unable to change their minds at this point in life. I am sure there are those who do, but they are the exception.

Looking at the residents there last night, I was overwhelmed with the fact that God loves us and wants a relationship with each one of us. He still honors our free choice, though, even when we are old and frail. Yet any time, any day, any person can simply take the free gift of salvation God so generously offers us. Then we truly can have a Merry Christmas, no matter what we are going through. For we possess the greatest gift of all: Christ living inside of us and sharing with us His gift of eternal life.

And so I will continue to share the good news, for "now" is the appointed time, now is the season. It is always a good time to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christmas is a time when we can truly think about why we are celebrating anyway.

It's about Christ. God with us, Immanuel. He will be with His children always, even to the end of their lives.

 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Looking for Truth in a world of lies

Therefore Pilate said to Him, "So You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?"

John 18: 38-39a


Pilate was looking at the Truth, and still he asked what Truth was. In the world today, many people ask the same question, and even though they are not Pilate, they too are judging whether or not they concur with the claims Jesus made about Himself are true or just a lie.

In the book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis talked about the claims Jesus made of Himself. Lewis said we cannot say that Jesus, after all the things He said and did while on earth, was merely a great moral teacher. He continues:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis%27s_trilemma

Thank God I decided many years ago to believe the claims Jesus made about Himself. I hope you, my dear reader have made that same choice too.

I look at this world. It grows more confusing every day. The lies become bolder and bolder, and Christianity becomes more and more foreign to this world. Only God's Word speaks the truth to us, but as time goes on, it gets more and more difficult to see the Truth in the midst of a haze of lies. And the lies seep into the church so subtly when we are not careful.

When I get discouraged, or feel let down by the way of the world, I have only one choice. Turn back to the mirror of the Word of God and find out who God says, not what the world says, I am. Look to the only Source in this universe that has not been tainted with the lies of the devil: the pure and holyWord of God. Jesus is the Word of God, and He is the Truth. He will not lie to me, He will not lie period.

There is an old Larry Norman song that says: "Why Not Look into Jesus? He's got the answer." And we will find the answers when we look into His Word.

The world lies to us all the time. In fact, we've been hearing lies since the day we were born. I remember hearing a quote once that said something like this: "If you don't think you can be deceived, you're deceived already." 

But we have one thing in this world that will not lie to us, it is the Book that God gave us to learn of Him. We each have so much time left this in this world, and the best way to use that time is to learn of a Person in the Book He lovingly left to us.

In the end, that will be the only thing that matters.

If you are not in the habit of reading the Bible, may I suggest to you to start reading it today? You don't have to read for hours, just start simple. The Gospel of John is a great place to start. I remember reading this gospel in college, although I'd been acquainted with the Bible for years, and it was like Christmas to me, finding such nuggets and promises in that lovely book. John 7:17 suddenly showed me that God was waiting for any person, anywhere who wanted Him to find Him. All of a sudden I saw His love and grace in a new way. But I never would have seen it if I had not found it for myself that day.

If you are facing some difficulty, I plead with you, why not look into the Word of God and see what it has to say about the problem you are facing?  If you have read this far,  thank you so much.  Find the Person of Truth in His precious book today.