duck swimming

Look at the Birds…

Hebrews 13:5-6

Being the “good” Christian that I am, of course I don’t love money. Besides, I’m not rich, so there’s no chance of worshiping money. I’ve got that one down.

But wait a minute: “…be satisfied with what you have” ???

That part hit me square in the nose.

You see, if I’m really honest, I have trouble with contentment. Not always; sometimes I am so happy and thankful for all of the many blessings I know that I have been given. Truly, I am. But other times…..

No matter in what financial state you find yourself, there is room for discontent. Especially when money is tight, it’s easy to feel that there isn’t enough. But if you have enough or perhaps are even rich, you may still long for more than what you have. Our human nature tends towards greed, and our culture doesn’t help. There’s always someone with a bigger, newer, nicer house, car, job, family, vacation…..the list goes on.

So why is it so difficult to remain focused on the blessings, rather than our apparent lack?

Discontent is lack of thankfulness or gratitude, to be sure, but I think sometimes it goes deeper than that. I believe that often my feelings of dissatisfaction are fueled by an inner fear that there will not be enough. How can I trust that God will provide when sometimes I feel I must do without?

There is an answer within this passage. Look at the words again. God promises to never fail us, to never leave us, so that means that we have a choice.

We can choose to trust him and have no fear. Does that mean we will never have moments of doubt, sleepless nights, and thoughts and emotions of worry? I don’t think so. We are not yet perfect.

But I believe that when we are confronted with fear, God wants us to face it, then turn and look to him. And there we find the one place where there is no fear.

It’s not always easy, but he promises to care for us.  duck swimming

 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?” – Matthew 6:25-26

 

So next time you feel dissatisfied, look deeper.

Do not worry.

Look at the birds; observe the simple trust illustrated in nature.

Keep your focus on the One in whom there is no fear.

And be satisfied.

*****

Are you prone to fear? What do you do when you feel you don’t have enough? Have you ever taken a walk or hike and found peace in observing God’s creation?

 

Bible, journal and tea

This One’s For Your Spirit

 

Bible, journal and tea

Quiet Time

Hi friends! This year I’ve been enjoying finding and sharing various ways that we can make positive changes in our lives, and it’s never too late to start. First I shared about a 91 Day Declutter Challenge, then suggested another way to tackle several differnt changes in a 12 Mini Goals Challenge .

Today I’m really excited to share a challenge for your spirit! I was intending on discussing the benefits of the Bible App and YouVersion, and low and behold, they are staring a 21-day challenge tomorrow, February 1st, 2016!

So what better time to jump right in and check it out!

Do you ever struggle with wanting to read your Bible or do a study every day, but you just don’t always know where to start, what book or verses to read, or how to go about it in a practical way? Sometimes these obstacles can even distract us from spending any time in the Word at all!

I’ve been using YouVersion for some time now, and really enjoy and find it useful. You can sign up for the Verse-of-the-Day, read Bible verses and passages and share them with “friends” (with whom you link up, similar to Facebook), even make beautiful and impacting verse images on your mobile device to share on social media, and one of my favorites, chose and participate in one of numerous and varied Bible devotional plans.

Our church is one of many who provide the option of using The Bible App to follow along with the Sunday message and even take notes.

And the wonderful thing is these helpful tools are all free.

Let me tell you a little more about the plans YouVersion has to offer.

There are many, many interesting topics to chose from, with commitments from as short as three days to as long as a whole year. Each day includes a thought-provoking reading, a Scripture verse (or verses) or one or more passages to read, and usually a prayer. I really enjoyed one particular plan that had an optional music accompaniment. I found it very a relaxing and worshipful addition to my quiet time.

You can chose a plan that suits your desires, needs and your schedule. There is even a setting called, “Catch Me Up”, so if you miss a day, you can continue on without a hitch. This just may be the best few minutes of your day!

This special challenge is provided to help us form a good habit of spending time in God’s Word and in prayer daily. To participate, you simply need to complete a day (or more) of one of the YouVersion Bible plans each day for twenty-one days. There will even be daily prizes and a grand prize to help motivate you even more.

So what have you got to lose???

There is EVERYTHING to gain!!!

Why not download The Bible App to your mobile device, or participate on your computer or laptop (as I mostly do), and start right away? Join me today!

*****

Have you ever tried YouVersion, The Bible App or subscribed to a verse-of-the-day? Have you found it helpful in your desire to spend time with God more regularly? If not, are you willing to give it a try? What sort of plan would interest you most?

 

 

 

 

the struggle between flesh and spirit

The Fight

Galations 5.16-17

 

OK….I admit it.

I did it again. And it seems I keep on doing it.

Do I have your attention now?

Maybe you’ve done it, too. Actually, it is probably more accurate to speak of what I have not done.

Oh, it’s not some horrible crime or obvious neglect. It’s just that daily struggle to put “first things first” and not be distracted.

This past Saturday I awoke with all the good intentions that I so often profess, and proceeded about my day. I probably threw in a load of laundry, cleaned up the kitchen a little and turned on my computer.

Once at my laptop, I probably looked for “just a minute” at Facebook, or checked “just a couple” of emails.

And before I knew it, it had happened again.

My intended priority is to spend some quiet time with God. But as so often is the case, I allow myself to be distracted by life. Yes, often by “good”  and “necessary” actions, but not what I intend to be the priority.

There are tools, tricks and plans to help us with our morning routines and our devotional life, but the first gadget I need is discipline.

Why is it so hard to simply apply oneself to sitting quietly to read God’s Word, think and pray a little?

It’s an age-old flesh and blood struggle, my friend.

The apostle Paul speaks of this battle clearly in Romans 7, where he discusses this predicament. Pay special attention to verses fourteen to twenty-five, which discuss our familiar struggle between the flesh (our human feelings and desires), and the spirit (that inner part of us that belongs to God).

 

21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power[e] within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”

 

And the result? It varies between mediocrity and downright disaster. This particular Saturday was somewhere in between, with one of the first events being a “disagreement” between my husband and I. I don’t even remember what it was about; all I know is it brought upon me the sudden realization of my mistake.

I need God to get through this life. I need him more than the air I breathe. But in the natural flow of our normal days, it’s so easy to forget the absolute necessity of this relationship.

So you see how it is.

And I know you’ve felt it, too.

Even if you are not a Christian, don’t you notice how hard it is to do good and those things that are truly important on a consistent basis?

Thankfully, the answer is also found in this scripture. It’s in Christ Jesus our Lord. We first need to accept the gift of himself offered to us, and then we need to pursue this relationship with him.

It won’t be a “magic bullet” or some guarantee that everything will go right, but it sure is a step in the right direction.

I want to let the Holy Spirit guide my life (as stated in the Galatians passage above), and to stand and fight against the desires of my flesh. I know that when I put him first and apply my focus to what is best and most important, I at least have a chance of doing things his way.

In short, I’m more likely to have a better day.

Yes, the milk may still spill, there will be conflicts and questions, life will still be “real”…..but I will be prepared and my mind and spirit filled with the strength, peace and wisdom from God. He will show me and remind me of what I am to do, and Lord willing, I will do it.

I am excited to share with you soon about some of the “tools” I’ve found that can help us to have a more successful morning. But for today, I encourage you to do just one thing right first thing.

Spend time with him.

*****

Do you struggle with doing what you know is important first thing in the morning? Do you intend to spend time with God first? What tools have you found to be helpful in setting proper priorities? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

 

 

junk pile

Junk Piles

junk pile

 

Have you ever looked out of a window and had to deal with a view filled with junk? I have.

It’s not a good feeling. In fact, it almost feels like a violation, to have your view accosted by garbage.

Recently I had such a window view. It gave me such an unpleasant feeling, and I proceeded to complain, criticize, even judge the perpetrators of the junk pile.

But, as so often happens with me, I immediately began to sense a lesson. And as soon as I begin to judge others, I am quickly reminded of my own short-comings.

You see, we all have junk piles.

Some of them are like the ones we can easily view outside of a window. They refuse to be hidden, refuse to just go away, and are difficult to avoid. They are in plain sight of the world.

Others are more secret. like the piles or clutter in our own real life basements: hidden, out of sight, and unknown to many.

But they all need to be dealt with. They all clutter our hearts and negatively affect the lives of those around us.

I am aware of some outward junk piles in my life. But because of (the introverted part of) my personality, most who do not know me well would not “see” my junk piles.  They may not even be aware that they exist.

But my family and those I love the most often live blatantly staring at my junk. I am guilty of presenting my sins or the result of my “un-dealt-with” stuff to those with whom I am closest.

I don’t want to keep my junk piles for myself;  I don’t wish to share them with my loved ones; I certainly don’t want to leave them out for anyone to see.

I have to realize that what I do, and especially what I say, can be “junk” to my listeners’ hearts…..or it can give life.

And I don’t want this junk to be my legacy. I want to chose words and deeds that are life-giving. I want my influence to be a positive one. I desire to bring love, and peace, and growth to those around me.

Whether the whole world sees it outside my window, or whether I only present it to those who are close enough that I allow them into my “basement”, I chose to banish the junk. I purpose to clean it up.

And I need Someone to help me.

Lord, help me to live unashamedly. Forgive me for uncontrolled words and actions that kill, rather than heal. Help me to speak and live more like you…..both in my public and private life. Amen.

 

   ” The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain;
    the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions.”

   Proverbs 10:11 (NLT)

“Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” 

Romans 6:16 (NLT)

” And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

Romans 8:2 (NLT)

flower in cupped hands

 

*****

 

 

 

 

 

Psalms 84:11

What Are You Lacking?

Psalms 84v11

What are you lacking?

I often feel I am lacking something. Too often, I compare what I don’t have to what someone else has.

Many times I have found myself feeling sorry for myself, when the Bible says, “The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.” (Psalms 84:11)

How is it that we who live in the twenty percent of the world with eighty percent of the wealth can feel we are lacking in material things?

It’s not just about stuff.

I have also compared my gifts or abilities or how much I think I am noticed to the outward displays of others’ talents or ministries. It’s too easy to compare our “real life” with what we perceive as someone else’s life by way of the nice photos they share on social media.

But God tells me that He isn’t withholding anything good from me.

It’s a simple verse, really, but yet so hard to believe.

The straightforwardness of this scripture speaks clearly to my heart.

But I have to be constantly reminded.

Perhaps I don’t understand what constitutes a “good” gift. Am I really so shallow that I can only accept from God what feels comfortable, fits into my perspective, and is something I think I can handle as “good”?

What about those things that stretch me, wake me up, and cause me to grow closer to Him?

The Bible is quite clear.

But what about the part that states, “from those who do what is right”? Is that me? Do I fit into this category of those to whom He withholds no good thing?

I believe that to do “what is right” is not requiring perfection, but an honest attempt to do what’s right based on our relationship with the One who is himself righteous. If we are following Him, even imperfectly, we are “right” in God’s eyes, based on what Jesus did for us on the cross. When we accept his provision for our sins, God counts us as righteous.

So what is it that you’re lacking?

The next time you feel a sense of lack, I challenge you along with me, to stop and consider what God has already told us. He will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.

Maybe He just wants to get our attention and have us allow Him to be everything we need.

Maybe He’s just calling us to trust Him.

Perhaps we just need to count our blessings.

Here’s a book (and there’s a video study, too), that may help you cultivate a more grateful, thankful heart. It certainly changed my perspective.

I am endeavoring to record daily those things, both big and small, that deserve my attention and my gratitude.

Do you ever feel that you are lacking? How do you remind yourself to be grateful in all circumstances of life? Have you ever recorded blessings in a gratitude journal?

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isaiah 43:19

Embrace the New

Isaiah 43:19

 

 

On New Year’s Day, this is the Verse of the Day that popped up on my YouVersion app. I think it may just become my Verse Of the Year.

You see, now that it’s a new year, many people are talking about resolutions. Some are also sharing that they’ve chosen a special word for 2016.

I don’t have a habit of making a resolution (or list of them), as perhaps maybe I should.

I also don’t have the habit of choosing a specific word for my year, although the idea is appealing.

But last year (2015), was an exception.

The year 2014 brought uninvited job changes to my life. After not being re-hired to a position that I had held for ten years, my next job ended just days after the first of January 2015,  after only four months; due to some office staff restructuring. It was the start of a transitional time for me; a time where I have often felt lost. as well as emotions of disappointment and confusion.

But at some point, either at the end of 2014 or early in the 2015, I specifically felt God gave me the word, “hope”, for my new year. It came with a verse, which has quickly become one of my favorites.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13

This has been a source of encouragement for me all year long, and I have also been able to share it with others, such as the women in my church small group.

Now back to the present, January 2016.

As I was reading about others who had picked a special word for this new year, I wondered if there was a word for me.

The first thing that popped into my head was, “Change”.

“But I don’t like change.”, I thought. And like so many times when God speaks to me, I just thought it came from my own head.

But the more I think about it, I think “change” might be the appropriate word for 2016. I think that God is showing me how to trust and follow Him on a new level. I naturally prefer comfort and the norm, but change might just be the good thing that’s in store for me this year.

In thinking about possible upcoming changes in my life (especially in regards to work), I have vacillated between downright fear and hopeful anticipation.

I am learning to trust God for his good changes in my life.

I am attempting to follow Him obediently in all he asks me to do.

I am praying for direction and provision for the right job for this season of my life.

And I am deciding to turn from fear and to embrace the new.

In fact, since I started working on this post, I decided to participate in a short Bible study plan on YouVersion about choosing, or asking God to show me, my One Word for 2016. I’m still not sure if my word is “change”, or perhaps “new”.

I am finding myself fearing less, and even feeling excitement for what is to come.

I would love to hear how you feel about change in your life. Do you naturally feel a sense of fear, or do you rise to the challenge and anticipate new changes?

*****

enjoy the little things

Make Do With What You Have (It’s not about the bacon.)

Happy New Year to you!

As I was throwing together a somewhat special breakfast on New Year’s Day morning (or shall I admit it may have been after noon?), I once again commented on how much I NEED a new, larger cookie sheet with sides.

We have been cooking our bacon lately in the oven; our latest favorite method, such as described here.

Not that it’s wrong to want new and better things, especially items that will help us to be more effective in blessing our families, but as I got out my still-shiny, medium-sized Pampered Chef baking sheet and began to cover it with foil, an idea formed in my mind…..or perhaps within my heart.

I began to realize that more than a new cookie sheet, what I need to develop is a new attitude of thankfulness.

You see, the recipe clearly states that the bacon strips should NOT be touching. By nature, I tend to be a perfectionist. And with the size cookie sheet I have (the one with sides; NOT including the countless other baking sheets I also possess), I have to often use more than one sheet, and/or overlap the bacon a little.

In other words, I don’t have the ideal baking sheet, but I have PLENTY of nice baking sheets.

raw bacon

Overlapping (breaking the rules) bacon.

Well, as you can see, this smaller package of nine strips of bacon just fits, and only if they are SLIGHTLY OVERLAPPED…..a cooking faux pas, to be sure.

But this is obviously another “first world” problem.

 

Other “first world” problems I encountered this Christmas were:

  1. – trying to fit all of the holiday food into my jam-packed refrigerator
  2. – attempting to serve and consume all of said food in a timely (and healthy) manner…before it spoiled and we had to resort to throwing it out
  3. – choosing which recipes to make out of the hundreds I have almost instant access to on my technology devices

 

I realized that this is not the first time I have had an attitude that wished for bigger and better.

Earlier in this Christmas season I suggested how much nicer it would be to have a stand mixer. This coveted, but expensive kitchen appliance would make my baking so much easier and more enjoyable (and I love to bake). It’s been on my “wish list” for years.

And maybe someday, I’ll get my larger, really nice baking sheet.

And possibly someday after that I’ll get that beautiful, colorful, powerful stand mixer.

Perhaps one day I’ll even replace my food processor that broke a couple of years ago,too.

But my bacon came out just fine.

cooked bacon

My bacon came out just fine. (You can blame my oven for the uneven cooking).

 

So for right now, I’ll just be thankful for and use what I do have.

I will remember how blessed I truly am.

I will use my arm muscles (and be thankful that I am healthy enough to do so), rather than a machine.

I will enjoy the little things in my life, and I will ask God to help me to be more grateful than greedy.

 

bacon breakfast

New Year’s Day breakfast.

 

Most of the time I can “make do” with what I have. And it’s not really even “making do”. In fact, it’s much more than so many others could even dream of.  

We are so incredibly blessed, especially in this part of the world. Yet we can so easily be caught up in the North American mindset (or is it just human nature?), of wanting that next bigger, newer, or better thing. Our culture cultivates this emotion and tempts us constantly with greed.

But I chose to be wise and creative with the gifts with which God has already graced my life.

I choose to be grateful.

 

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” – Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

 

enjoy the little things

One of my favorite Christmas gifts from my sister (my new plaque).

 

Please feel free to add a comment.

*****