Live, Really Live!

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Dear friend, listen well to my words;

    tune your ears to my voice.

Keep my message in plain view at all times.

    Concentrate! Learn it by heart!

Those who discover these words live, really live;

    body and soul, they’re bursting with health.

Proverbs 4:20-22

I wonder is that true, that most people just exist?

Do I live, really live or just exist?

Do I just go through the motions day after day?

Could I use these words to describe my life – rut, mundane, daily grind, humdrum, routine?

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Book shelves abound with self-help books. No shortage of people willing to tell us how to live the life we have dreamed of; knowledge does indeed abound. I have read a number of them. I have them dogged-eared and highlighted and sitting on my book shelf. But truth be told, once they are put back on the shelf and life goes on, I am still me, still just going through motions more times than I would like.

Many may consider the Bible to be just another book, full of wise words, but once read, placed back on the shelf, forgotten and gathering dust. This verse from Proverbs, written by the wisest man, Solomon tells us that though that the Bible offers something the self-help books can’t. Words that bring life and health to all areas of my life – and yours.

Self-help books give us snippets of wisdom but they all require self-effort. How many of you know that self-effort is a recipe at times for disaster?

God’s word, however enters our heart with God’s power to perform what He sent it for, which is healing and bringing health to our body and our soul (our mind, our will and our emotions). All that we have to do is take the medicine He offers, apply it to our lives daily (maybe even minute by minute) and let the love and the power of God bring wholeness to our lives through those words.

God’s word applied daily may not change our circumstances, though it might. More likely though, His word will change our thoughts and our heart so that regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we can have peace and joy and a body and soul bursting with health.  That’s good news, isn’t it?

 

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pic credit: fengshuidana.com

A New Start

 

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If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land;

Isaiah 1: 19

When the Israelites first came out of the wilderness, before they entered the Promised Land, they encamped at Gilgal.  It was a stopping off place for the Israelites. They were no longer in the wilderness where they had been for the last forty years, but they weren’t in possession of the promised land either.

The forty years leading up to this time in Gilgal had probably been marked by frustration ( when God when?) and unanswered questions (why God why?) and may have left them wondering if they would ever get out of the wilderness. Ever feel that way? You thought you were headed somewhere but it has taken so long to get there that you have given up hope?

These Israelites  were born in and grew up in the wilderness. They didn’t learn about faith from their fathers, they didn’t learn about fighting or even hunting. Basically, their skills for survival were limited. Their skills for taking possession of enemy owned land, even less.

But God brought them to Gilgal where He rolled away the reproach of Israel, all the shame and dishonor that came from being slaves rolled off leaving them better prepared to start afresh in a new life, one they could barely imagine.

It is easy to think when we go through a wilderness time, that our live will never be good again. That we will never get out of this, never have another chance and nothing about our life will amount to anything. That this time spent in the wilderness is such a waste. But that is not the message of Gilgal.

As God cleaned up the people and began preparing them to start a new life, I picture him looking over their resumes for transferable skills that would be useful in the promise land.

First, He would see that they know how to grumble and complain.

Second, He would see that they know how to set up and take down tents.

Third, He would see that they know how to gather manna.

Not terribly useful skills for their new adventure, but then He saw it:   they know how to wander; they had walked in the wilderness for forty years.

And so, He came up with a battle plan to take their first city – Jericho.

All these Israelites had to do was walk around the city with their mouth shut until God said to let loose the battle cry! These men knew how to walk and God saw a way to use that to lead them to victory.

God would do the rest.

They did what they could do, God did what only He could do and they took possession of their first city in the new land! They were willing and obedient and God used them to take possession of Jericho.

If you are in the wilderness, don’t lose hope. God isn’t angry with you nor has He abandoned you or forgotten you. He can take what seems like waste and use it to lead you to the victory you may have given up hope of every seeing.

It’s a new year and this could be your year to take hold of what God has planned for you! Hang in there!

 

 

pic credit: relentless.taketheinterview.com

Sweet Sleep

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But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    you are my glory,

the One who lifts my head high.
 I cried out to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy mountain.

 I lay down and slept;
   yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.

Psalm 3: 3-5

I love the sound a sleeping child makes – the rhythmic melody of their breathing. When my kids were young, I would check on them at night while they slept. Standing in the dark, I would listen for that sound that reassured me that they were ok.  When I couldn’t hear the sound of their breathing, I would watch intently until I saw the up and down movement of their chest at they slept. I can’t do that anymore; they have grown past the years of mom checking on them. But not past the years of mom wanting to be reassured that they are ok.

It’s probably every mother’s desire that her kids are ok and beyond, but there comes a time when we can’t kiss their boo-boos away and make it all better when things aren’t ok.

Gratefully, I know someone who can. What greater peace can I have as a mother than to know that the Lord is watching over each one of my children and grandchildren as they sleep? He is a shield around them and when they (and I) cry out to them, He answers. He hears their rhythmic breathing and their quiet sobs and knows the deepest longings of their hearts and being moved with compassion, He acts on their behalf.

When my children were young, we said this prayer every night:

Be near me my Father, 

I ask Thee to stay,

Close by me forever

and love me I pray.

Bless all the dear children

with Thy tender care.

Prepare us for heaven

to live with Thee there.

Amen.

That is still my prayer for my children and my grandchildren.

I know He hears, I know He is watching over them,

I know He keeps them in safety.

I don’t have to hear their rhythmic breathing or watch for the rise and fall of their chests as they sleep.

Because I know the One who does! 

picture credit: dreamstime.com

Born in a Manger

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When I lived in Montana, I had an old barn on the property. It housed chickens and provided shelter for horses and goats. It was filled with bales of straw and had a rope swing hanging from the high beam. My daughters loved to play in that old barn. It probably wasn’t terribly sanitary despite the hours I spent shoveling out unsanitary things; animals being animals and doing what animals do. I would never have called it clean. Certainly not company ready clean. Certainly not clean enough for a baby to be born in, other than a colt. And definitely not clean enough for the Savior of the world to be born in.

That poor innkeeper, so many years ago, had no clue that on a certain night, his barn would be the birthing place of Jesus. Even if he had, could he have cleaned it enough?

The day that I asked Jesus into my heart, I hadn’t done any cleaning in the manger of my heart. It was dirty and even if I could have cleaned it, it would never have been clean enough for Jesus to be birthed there. But when I asked Him in, He came. He came into my mess and made no demands that I clean up first. He just came in and brought His peace and His love and He accepted me – mess and all and set up residence.

Isn’t that a wonder? God could have had Jesus born anywhere. The world, the universe was at His beck and call and He chose a place few of us would consider worthy of our presence, much less the presence of His beloved Son.

The beauty of Christmas is that Jesus came into the world to meet us where we are. And most of us, if we are honest, would admit that where He met us was far from clean, far from worthy and yet, when asked, He came in.

I hope you have an increased wonder of the Savior who came into our world to set up residence in our hearts this Christmas season!

 

pic credit:  Diane Reid

Shoulders

When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near

When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders

Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

This song by for King and Country has been stuck in my head for days now. Usually when that happens God is trying to tell me something. I have a list right now, it’s not short, of things that concern me. Things that if I didn’t give them over to God every few moments, would consume me. They wake me up at night, they are my first thought in the morning and they dog me throughout the day. I try hard to not let this show on my face, come out in my words, but it’s there and I see it and hear it. Probably no different than any one else going through a difficult patch. One line in this song that stands out to me is this:

I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders

I don’t see the answers; I seldom do. But I know they are out there. Maybe a moment away, maybe days away or maybe months away, but they are there. Waiting is hard work for me. Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it – waiting and working? But for me they go together hand in hand. I have to work at keeping my thoughts in control, I have to work at choosing peace, I have to work at letting go and not having answers. It wears me out! But I have tried throwing tantrums and they don’t work. I have tried taking matters into my own hands and that doesn’t work so well. I tried denial for a very long time and while it did work for a while, it didn’t work all that well. So now that I have looked this situation square in the face and seen it for what it is, now that I have let go of the things I can’t change and thrown my temper fits, I have nothing left but to wait and trust that God is lifting me up on His shoulders ever though I can’t see it. He is pulling me through even though I can’t see that either. I do know this – the day will come when I will look back on this episode of my life and say with certainty – He was there all along!

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Who’s Job Is It?

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 It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin.

You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live.

You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience.

We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat.

It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us.

Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us.

He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us!

Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.

Saving is all his idea, and all his work.

All we do is trust him enough to let him do it.

It’s God’s gift from start to finish!

We don’t play the major role.

If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!

No, we neither make nor save ourselves.

God does both the making and saving.

He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

Ephesians 2: 4-7  Message Bible

Left to my own devices, I could be a stagnant mess, a worrier, a control freak, a hyper-vigilant fix-it-all person. One look in the mirror, one honest look tells me that I couldn’t fix myself much less anyone or anything else around me. It’s good to know I don’t have to play the major role in fixing my life or anyone else’s for that matter. Jesus took that role; He saw me when I was a terrible mess and reached out a hand and I have been clinging to that hand ever since. Well, mostly ever since. Ok, actually only when I find myself stumbling and know I can’t get up on my own. In spite of what I know about my failings and His grace, I still let go of His hand way more than I should, thinking I’ve got this when in actuality, I don’t. I never did. I never will. I need His grace every minute of every hour of every day and I am so grateful that His grace is available to me and that He showers it upon me and there is still plenty left over to shower upon you in spite of the fact that we don’t deserve it? Isn’t that awesome?

pic credit: tabernaclefortoday.org

Gardening… Again?

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“The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News,

and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.”  *

Matthew 13:23

 Gardening season is upon us here in the Pacific Northwest. Neighbors are out working up their soil and planting seedlings. And so am I. I don’t have a green thumb but I try almost every year. I think I will learn from my mistakes; this year I will do better. I have discovered that I am really good at starting things and pretty bad at seeing things through to completion. I imagine the harvest; the juicy ripe tomatoes, the cucumbers turned pickles, the fresh strawberries. Problem is that between the planting of the seed and the harvesting of the seed, there is a season that I call work. There’s pruning, weeding, watering, fertilizing, pest control, etc…  and in the heat of the summer, egads, I would rather be at the river.

God’s word is likened to a seed. A seed that needs to be planted, weeded, and watered to grow and produce the harvest in our lives that make our lives meaningful. Whatever laws we may be able to skirt around, we can’t skirt around the law of seed-time and harvest time. The problem comes when we fail to realize that between those two times, there is a season that is easy to overlook. The season of weeding and pruning and watering. I can’t read the Bible once and put it back on the shelf like I can other books and simply move on to the next book and have the seeds that were planted while reading it come to harvest. I water these seeds by the daily reading of the Bible.

I can purpose  now to water the seed of God’s word in my life daily but daily I have to make the decision all over again to do just that.

A decision that is simple to make but simple also to not make.

I know because I have been guilty of not making that decision numerous times. Then I wonder why peace and joy seem so difficult to find. If I want the harvest that comes from the seed of God’s word, I have to tend to it. It’s that simple. That means I may have to turn off my phone or computer or tv for a little bit. I may have to say no to some things in order to say yes to this thing.

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 I think it comes down to this: what kind of harvest do I really want in my life?

 

* this from Jesus

pic credit 1: biblefunforkids.org

pic credit 2: familylifewinners.com

 

 

 

Does He Even Have a Name?

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As he (Jesus) stepped out onto land, a madman from town met him; he was a victim of demons. He hadn’t worn clothes for a long time, nor lived at home; he lived in the cemetery.

Luke 8:27

He was somebody before the demons victimized him. We aren’t told his name or what his life was like. But I would like to humanize him if possible. I suspect he was a man of significance; a significance he didn’t even recognize. Oh, it might not have been financial, though it could have been. Maybe it was influence; maybe he was a man that people respected, looked up to, enjoyed knowing. Maybe he had a wife and kids and a nice livelihood that enabled him to provide for them. We aren’t told these things.

Whatever his life was, it wasn’t anymore. Whatever his influence may have been, it was no more. The Bible tells us that he had so many demons tormenting him that they were referred to as Legion (Legion being 6000 Roman soldiers). So either Satan had a lot of unemployed demons just hanging out or this man’s significance had alerted Satan that something needed to be done to stop him.

So the torment began. The Bibles says that in the early stages of this torment, the townspeople could restrain him. This implies to me that he must have tried repeatedly to remain in the town he called home among the people he knew but he was dangerous to them and they sent him out – repeatedly. At some point, he was no longer able to be restrained because of his strength but it reads like he settled into the tombs and no longer attempted to go home.

And there he was when Jesus showed up. This man who had lost everything had finally succumbed to the voices that played in his head – the ones that said – it’s pointless, you will never be ok again, you will never be among your friends again, your old life is gone, you will never be loved again, never have any influence again and as for significance – forget that.

But I think there was an ember of hope in him. He was naked, he was miserable, he was cutting, but he didn’t commit suicide. Something in him wanted to live, wanted to believe that there was hope for him and when Jesus came into his path, that ember of hope fanned into a flame. And Jesus delivered him from his tormentors!  Epic win! Certainly not the biggest epic win Jesus would bring about but a noteworthy and life restoring one.

Regardless of the torment,

regardless of the length of time the torment has plagued you,

regardless of what you may have lost because of the torment,

Jesus is greater! 

The battle isn’t over until Jesus says it’s over!

pic credit: justcor.com

You’re on Guard Duty

My blog friend Ben, has yet another encouraging word for us, thanks, Ben!

Another Red Letter Day

Listen to me. Never let anxiety enter your hearts. ~ Jesus (Luke 12:22 TPT)

How do you guard your heart?

As I scanned through Luke 12 this morning, I was struck by how many times in this address, or this collection of addresses, Jesus gave instruction on what I would consider emotional control, or emotional intelligence.

The chapter starts with,

Don’t fear those who may want to take your life, but nothing more. (Luke 12:4 TPT)

Followed closely with,

The one you must fear is God (5)

A few paragraphs later we have,

Don’t worry about defending yourselves or be concerned about hot to answer their accusations. (11)

Next Jesus tells them,

Be alert and guard your heart from greed and always wishing for what you don’t have. (15)

Still further down the page,

Never let anxiety enter your hearts. Never worry about any of your needs, such as…

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