White Adirondack chairs

An Invitation to Let Your Soul Find Some Breathing Space

White Adirondack chairs

Do you ever feel like life just doesn’t stop?

Are you longing for a moment of peace and quiet, or a little time to yourself?

Would you like a little help allowing your soul to take a breath?

I would like to invite you to join me as I join well-known blogger, author and speaker, Emily Freeman for 7 Days of Still Moments.

I have been reading Emily’s blog now for some time, enjoyed her newest book, Simply Tuesday (and studied it with my women’s small group at church), and watched some of her Periscope videos. Her thoughtful writing is calming and encouraging, and will gently challenge you with her motto of “creating space for your soul to breathe”.

For seven days, Emily is inviting us to listen for a few moments each day as she reads some scripture and her thoughts, designed to encourage us to make a little space to listen to what’s going on inside. You may use this as a morning devotional, as I am, or find time in your busy day to just stop. Or you may find this a good way to quiet your heart before you go to sleep at night.

This morning I listened to the first audio session. It was only about five minutes long, but set the stage to put my whole day in perspective. Emily’s voice is gentle and soothing. She will encourage you to pay attention to your heart. I’m so looking forward to each of the next six days!

I hope you will sign up (it’s free, of course!), and take a few minutes to care for your own soul with me. Just click on this link, scroll down and sign up; you’ll get an email each day with the audio offering to listen to on your own schedule.

I hope and pray that this will be a small encouragement to you and help you pause at some point in your day to care for your soul. Please let me know what you think!

*****

 

 

 

Memorial Day cemetery photo

Remember What it Cost – A Memorial Day Weekend Reflection

1280px-Memorial_Day_at_Arlington_National_Cemetery

What do you have planned for this Memorial Day weekend?

It’s easy and normal to fire up the grill, get together with friends and loved ones, and eat some great food. If we’re lucky (like this year), we may even enjoy some warm summer-like weather and many will head to the beach.

But what is Memorial Day really about?

History.com describes Memorial day as, “the official beginning of summer and America’s most solemn occasion”, a somewhat interesting juxtaposition of celebrations.

According to their website, here’s a brief summary of the history of our Memorial Day celebration:

“Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, at least, it marks the beginning of summer.”

There is also an informative and contemplative video on the same page, which you may like to view for more details.

So while it’s good and important to spend quality time with friends and family, and healthy to rest and relax, let’s take a little time this weekend to stop and consider the cost of this freedom we enjoy.

Let’s meditate on the price that was paid by the men and women who served and paid with their lives, so that we can enjoy our lives in peace and security.

Let’s remember those whose families are missing loved ones today, so that we can spend the day with those we love.

And let’s thank God for our country, which though imperfect, is still one of the best places on earth to live.

Take in a Memorial Day parade which will help to focus your thoughts on the true meaning of the holiday. Watch one of many video clips which bring honor to those who sacrificed for us. Or just take some quiet time to reflect.

I like this simple cartoon, which really says it all:

While we’re at it, we can be thankful for those who still serve today to help keep our country peaceful. We can pray for the ones who served and returned, but left a piece of themselves in the trenches or on the battlefield.

We can take this one step further (or perhaps I should say, “closer”), and take some time to be thankful to all those around us for all they do to add quality and enjoyment to our days, such as family and close friends. We can show appreciation to those who support and protect us in a myriad of ways, such as our pastors, teachers, doctors & nurses, and all those who wear a uniform that represents any kind of service.

The ultimate sacrifice was made by One who paid the price for my sin and offered his Son for my eternal freedom.

I agree with the sentiment that “freedom isn’t free”.

So as we enjoy this weekend with those we love, let’s take time to stop and remember what it cost.

*****

 

 

 

2016-05-10 Life is Good cabin tee shirt

Life is Good (Why I Choose to Wear Positve Message Tee Shirts)

2016-05-10 Life is Good cabin tee shirt

 

You know, some of us just naturally see the glass as “half empty”.

If left to my own devices, often I tend to notice what’s wrong, give in to worry, or think and speak negativity. I must be a lot of fun to be around, huh?

Many have said they can’t believe I’d ever yell at my kids, say an unkind word, or have a negative outlook, but it’s partly because the introverted part of me helps me keep this “under wraps”. (I actually think I’m one of those ambiverts, but that’s another story.) In public I’m usually on my “best behavior”.

But sometimes my poor, unsuspecting family (and perhaps a close friend or two), see me at my “worst”…..which is not always particularly positive.

Not only is being a “negative” person no fun (for anyone involved), but it goes against everything I believe.

I’m not saying that if you’re a Christian nothing will go wrong….or that you should go around with a phony smile on your face pretending to feel happy (please, don’t do that!).

But we have a hope which should affect our thoughts, attitudes and words.

 

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Philippians 4:8, NLT

I truly intend to think and speak in ways that are full of love, hope and goodness, but sometimes I need a little help.

Enter my “Life is Good” tee shirts.

Life is Good tees on bed 2016-05-10

Call them, “bumper stickers for people”, if you will. I like the fun and positive messages, even if they’re not theologically “deep”. They’re soft and comfortable (which helps with the positive feelings), and I’ve enjoyed wearing them now for years.

Wearing a shirt with a positive message like this is making a statement, both to myself and to those around me. It seems to express in a simple way the values I’m striving for…..even if I sometimes struggle to keep my attitudes and actions in check.

Life is Good tees (folded)

Now I’m not suggesting that wearing a shirt with a positive message will change your attitude in and of itself.

And there are plenty of more serious methods of dealing with a negative attitude (which sounds like a post for another day).

But a little visual reminder of what I believe and what I intend to be like can go a long way towards helping me to change. What we speak strongly affects our attitude and our actions.

So why not sport a cute shirt with a happy message??? (Or carry a happy, little pink drawstring backpack?)

Life is Good pink bag 2016-05-10

I purpose to think, speak and act in a more positive way. I continue to ask God to help me to see things the way he does, to look for the best in every situation, and to help me to truly believe that my “life is good”.

 

May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

-Psalm 19:14

*****

Do you ever have trouble seeing the best in things? What helps you to keep a positive outlook on life?

 

lighthouse & cove

I Trust God’s Heart and His Intentions

lighthouse & cove

I’ve always loved music.

I took many years of piano, including one year of piano improvisation in college, and sang in choirs throughout middle school and in college. My mother taught me how to sing harmony at a very young age, which I seemed to pick up right away and have been harmonizing ever since.

My paternal grandparents were all musical; in fact, my dad’s talented blind father wrote and performed a ballad for the bicentennial celebration of their home-town, Niagara-On-The-Lake (initially “Newark” – the original capital of Canada),  with the “Queen Mother” (mother of Queen Elizabeth II) in attendance.

In my married years, I’ve enjoyed singing in our church Easter choirs and especially on our worship team, with my husband playing guitar in the worship team behind me. My sister married a gifted and trained musician-pastor husband as well, and one of our favorite activities on any vacation times together is to write and record a usually less-than-serious, but really quality song.

Have you ever noticed that music can transport you back in time, either to a particular event or to a time in your life?

Recently I received some “older” Christian music CD’s by groups I listened to regularly as a teenager, and listening to them (cranked up rather loudly in my kitchen, I might add, much to the dismay of my modern, earbud-wearing sons), made me feel like a teenager for a few hours. I could remember most of the lyrics and even the order of the songs, even though I hadn’t heard most of them in over twenty years!

All that is to say that music really moves me.

I find some of my most intimate time with God in the midst of an inspiring worship service or listening to a song in the quiet of my home.

A few weeks ago, this particular song landed in my inbox as part of a devotional reading. I listened to it and was immediately drawn into the music and the meaning. It’s called “Hidden” (by United Pursuit), both a song and a band I had never been exposed to before. Listen to it yourself, here.

The lyrics to the song are straight-forward and challenging, and remind me of truth. (Here they are for those of you who, like me, may have some trouble hearing them.)

You know how sometimes, especially in worship music, but in other songs as well, a particular line or phrase really stands out to you? Well, the line that struck me right away is,

“I trust your heart and your intentions.”

Wow.

I’ve been a Christian for a long time, actually as far back as I can remember. So I’ve been “trusting” God for many, many years. I’ve already written some posts related to trust, as it seems to be a basic element of my life, especially during some recent times of transition and challenge . If you are so inclined, you may read those posts here, here, and here.

I mean, it’s easy to trust God when things are going well. Most of my life has been very good, but like all of us, there have been events and seasons (some longer than others), when trust feels fleeting. When there is pain, loss, transition, confusion, stress or disappointment, those are the times then we have to pull out our “trust with a big T”. That’s when the rubber really meets the road.

Trusting God is an ongoing process. Perhaps you are a long-time Christian like me, a brand new Christian, or someone who is just a little curious about this whole “trusting God” thing. I encourage you to keep investigating and learning, no matter where you fall on the spectrum. God has never been afraid of doubts and questions; I think he prefers it to pretense or simply not taking him seriously. Just read your Bible, and you’ll find that doubt and faltering faith are a normal part of being a human, and can actually help us to grow.

The idea of trusting God’s “heart” and “intentions” is really about believing in his character. We’ve all heard it said (so much so, that it has become somewhat of a cliche), that God is love. One of the most familiar and well-loved verses in the Bible is Romans 8:28, which states,

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

It means that even though God may allow us to go through times of difficulty, pain and uncertainty, all these experiences can be used to help us to grow and be strengthened in our lives. Most of all, because of his character, no matter what, GOD IS FAITHFUL!

As I was listening to and looking through the song lyrics, I noticed that there are several statements that the writer makes about his desire and commitment to God, and several “benefits” or promises of God to us as we put our trust in Him.

My desires and commitments to God:

  • I trust him completely
  • I’m “listening intently”
  • I want to love him more deeply
  • I will lean on his grace
  • He is my vision
  • He is my reason for living
  • I will walk in repentance
  • I will give God the honor, glory and reverence he deserves
  • I will seek him first
  • I want to love God more
  • I humble myself (bow) before him

Well, that’s quite a list, and I find it both challenging and motivating. The above list includes many of the desires of my heart as I purpose to know God more.

Benefits and promises of trusting God:

  • He knew (knows) us and the deep places of our hearts
  • He understands our sorrows and holds our hand
  • God leads us to trust him
  • We are hidden in the safety of his love
  • He will guide us through difficult times
  • His goodness to us is unending
  • He is my vision and reason for living
  • He gives us “sweet assurance”
  • God is a friend to us like no other
  • We are overcome by “the beauty of this perfect love”

These words express just some of God’s promises to us and speak of his unchanging character.

If we want to trust God more, we need to know him. We get to know God better by spending time with him.

My YouVersion verse of the day recently was Psalm 27:4:

“The one thing I ask of the Lord
    the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    delighting in the Lord’s perfections
    and meditating in his Temple.”

I think this captures the essence of getting to know him more. As we spend time with God in prayer, reflection and reading his Word (the Bible), we will come to trust him. We will be able to sing with the song writer, “Now I am hidden – in the safety of your love. I trust your heart and your intentions.”

*****

Good music helps my soul to flourish. I’m looking forward to listening to more of Hidden Pursuit’s inspiring music. If you have been touched by this song, perhaps you will be interested in purchasing it here, or getting this Hidden Pursuit CD for yourself.

There are also options to purchase in MP3 format or individual songs. I hope you have enjoy this song as much as I have, and find encouragement in the music and the words of simple truth.

What is your experience with music? Do you find that inspiring songs can help to lift your spirits and motivate you to grow in a positive way?

*************************

I’ll be sharing “I Trust God’s Heart and His Intentions” with some wonderful bloggers at the following locations. Feel free to visit their sites:

 

3-D Lessons for Life –
Missional Woman –
Missional Women
There is no condemnation...Romans 8:1-2

There is NO Condemnation!

There is no condemnation...Romans 8:1-2

Don’t you just love this verse???

This morning I opened up the email to my verse-of-the-day from the Bible App, and read Romans 8:1-2:

 

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 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.”

 

This is, in my opinion, one of the most meaningful and powerful verses in the Bible. I think it’s one verse that I can never just read and go by, without it sinking in deep. Maybe that’s because I need this reminder pretty much DAILYgrey-blue sky with moon

Somehow, even though I know God and believe what he says in my head, my heart needs a constant reminder that if I am in Christ, THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION !!!

 

Not some…..

Not just a little…..

Not sometimes…..

 

There is NO condemnation!

blue sky with puffy white clouds and tree tops

No condemnation from others…..

No condemnation from myself…..

No condemnation from a perfect God, who created me and the whole universe, but still loves me…..

There is NO CONDEMNATION!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t hear this enough.

blue sky, could, treetops

There is no condemnation for not spending enough time praying or reading my Bible.

There is no condemnation for not speaking to and treating my family in the best possible way at all times.

There is no condemnation when I lose my cool completely.

There is no condemnation because I missed a day of exercise, I’m a little behind on my blogging schedule, and my home is not perfectly cleaned and in order.

There is no condemnation if I spent the day in yoga pants or went out without my make-up.

There is no condemnation if I haven’t found a job yet, or because I don’t love the one I have.

There is no condemnation because I don’t use my time perfectly, am not in perfect physical shape, and sometimes run late.

There is no condemnation because I spent too much money, there are things we haven’t fixed around the house, and my yard needs work.

There is no condemnation for not making healthy eating choices all the time.

There is no condemnation for the piles that clutter my surroundings and my mind, and for the list of responsibilities I have not gotten around to yet.

dark sky with peach-colored clouds and branches

There is no condemnation for the duties I put off out of fear, laziness or feeling overwhelmed.

There is no condemnation for the myriad of criticisms that I feel from others, put upon myself, or falsely believe to be true, but they are in fact lies.

There is no condemnation for the areas in my life that are not OK, but I either haven’t dealt with them yet, or I am in the midst of the long, hard process of changing.

There is no condemnation for the feelings I experience as a normal part of being an imperfect human living in an imperfect world.

There is no condemnation for the raw emotions I feel so strongly when life has hit me hard, I’m grieving a loss, my hormones are out of whack, or I don’t understand the path God is allowing me to travel.

blue sky, bare treetops with evergreen

Do you believe it yet???

 

I am not suggesting that everything we do, say or feel is OK at all times. I am not saying that we should not strive to better ourselves, repent from real sins (no matter how “big” or “little they may seem), and ask God to help us to be more like him. Where there is actual sin in my life, I am to ask for forgiveness and STOP it.

I will continue to learn more and make positive changes, plans and goals, moving intentionally towards a better way of living.

What I AM suggesting…..no, PROCLAIMING…..is that we DON’T HAVE TO LIVE UNDER THE WEIGHT OF CONDEMNATION !!!

sunny tree branches with red buds

God loves us, he offers forgiveness, direction, courage and help. And sometimes we need to enlist the guidance and assistance of others.

But God clearly tells us that there is no condemnation!

forest trees with curvy trunks

Take a look again at the end of the verse:

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.”

There is no freedom in the feeling of condemnation.

Whether it comes from others, ourselves, or straight from the father of lies himself (Satan), it’s definitely NOT from God.

gray sky and treetops with pink

His life-giving Holy Spirit has given us power to leave the past behind and live in freedom. We can only flourish in this life when we simply surrender to God, open our hands, and humbly accept his gift to us…..of freedom.

green tufts of grass with snow

*****

Is feeling condemnation a struggle for you, too? Where do your feelings of condemnation most often come from? Do you believe what God is telling us in this verse?

 

 

 

 

sandbox in garden

A Few Thoughts On Politics (Lessons From the Sandbox)

sandbox in garden

I’ve never been much for politics.

In fact, my family members reading this title probably immediately clicked to my blog to see what on earth I had to share on this topic.

As a child, I wasn’t naturally interested in news or politics. When I got a little older, once in awhile my parents would actually ask me to sit and watch the news, because they thought it was something important about which I should have some understanding.

As much as I agree with them, I still don’t think I got much out of those sittings, and I still don’t relish watching the news. I try to read about important happenings in the most minimal way possible to stay somewhat informed, then move on with my day.

As for politics, it’s a similar scenario. I only voted exactly one time in Canada, before being away at school for three years near Rochester, NY. I then married and moved all the way to Massachusetts, the home of my husband, where I have lived ever since. Now I confess that I don’t fully understand the details of either US or Canadian governments. Someday I hope to at least become literate on this topic.

So I may not be an expert in politics, but I do know some things about life.

boy in sandbox

Isn’t there a book called,  All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten ? Although I doubt I agree with many of the author’s personal beliefs, I’ve always been intrigued by a truth in this title. When it comes down to it, many of life’s most important lessons are pretty basic.

In fact, this post reminds me of the kinds of interactions with children that I dealt with almost daily in my years as a teacher’s aide.

So why is it “acceptable” in politics for grown men (and women), to revert to behavior hardly appropriate for a young child? I’ve never understood nor appreciated this fact.

I’m not talking about everyone. There are many politicians who possess the desirable qualities of integrity, kindness and uprightness, and whose words and actions are admirable.

But so often I am disappointed (sometimes downright disgusted), by the way in which people talk and act when it comes to their political views. And Christians are unfortunately not exempt.

 

So I present some thoughts that we probably all learned in our formative years in the sandbox, which I believe apply to our politics as well:

 

1. Name-calling is not cool.

We all know that the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”, is pretty far from the truth. Names, unkind titles, and derogatory comments do hurt and they can negatively affect both the speaker, the listener, and the one of which the words are being spoken.

If we wouldn’t speak to someone face to face in the same way we talk about them in conversations and on social media (or driving in our car), then we probably shouldn’t be speaking at all. And often our comments are not motivated by speaking the truth in love, but rather an emotional reaction to something we don’t like.

“But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” – Matthew 5:22 (NLT)

boy crying in sandbox

2. Putting others down doesn’t make you look any better.

It is human nature to feel that if we put others down, we will look better. But it really isn’t true. Instead, we are often disclosing our own insecurities and the sinful attitudes of our heart.

Speaking of “the sandbox”, Jesus himself once wrote in the sand in response to the accusations of the crowd when a woman was caught in adultery. He reminded the onlookers that they were no better (or less sinful), than she.

Even if we disagree, we can still do it in a civilized manner.

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” – Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)

girl playing in sandbox

3. The “Golden Rule” Still Applies

All of the “elementary” teachings that many of us learned in church or school as a child are just as relevant in our grown lives.

I often think about and speak of this in our own family. It seems that “the basics” of Christianity are often the most difficult to live out in our daily, “real” lives.

Even if you are not a believer, I’m sure you want your life to be based on good principles and your words and actions reflective of a mature, kind person.

children playing in sandbox

4. Above all else, PRAY! 

This isn’t necessarily learned “in the sandbox”, but children do seem much more apt and willing to pray. They are not bound by complicated reasoning and years of emotional baggage.

The Bible teaches us most of all to pray for our leaders.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior…” – 1 Timothy 2:1-3 (NLT)

tractor and sieve in sandbox

I like the boldness of The Message version of Luke 6:27-38:

27-30 “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

31-34 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

35-36 “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.

37-38 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”

There is certainly a time to speak what is true, but I think the manner in which we deliver it will disclose our real intent. Also, it is responsible and right to research and check the facts about a politician’s values and character, as well as what they intend to accomplish in office.

Then we should pray and vote accordingly.

So let us think before we speak, examine ourselves before we judge, and treat others the way we wish to be treated, and above all else, pray for our leaders. Let’s behave not like disobedient children, but as wise and mature individuals, living lives of honor to God.

prove it by living an honorable life

*****

 

grey door

What Does It Mean When God Closes Another Door?

grey door

Another door slammed shut.

Sometimes it feels like a slap in the face.

At the very least, it leaves us confused, disappointed, perhaps even disillusioned.

But what does it really mean when God closes another door?

 

Recently, this was my truth. In fact, it still is.

I seem to be in a time of transition, at least as far as “work” (the paid kind), goes.

So I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about this lately, and frankly, just trying to figure it out.

Some friends on Facebook posted this, and it’s seems to be speaking truth to many.

If it does not open, it's not your door.

 

Here are some thoughts I’m having about the closed doors in my life:

 

A closed door is a type of boundary.

Boundaries don’t always feel good. They are not always fun. They feel like they are robbing us of freedom.

But they are always for our protection. It may feel uncomfortable, but when God closes a door, it really wasn’t our door. He’s not failing us. He’s keeping us from what isn’t meant to be.

Just as an earthly parent must provide loving boundaries for a child, so God shows us where it is safe and healthy to go.

We need to trust that when God puts a boundary in our path, it is not to hurt us, but for our good.

A closed door is not necessarily forever.

You’ve heard it said that God always answers prayer; he sometimes responds with “yes”, sometimes a clear “no”, and sometimes with “wait”.

A closed door could be the end of a particular dream or season. Or it could just not be the right time. God knows things that we don’t (surprise, surprise!).

We need to trust God’s perfect timing.

A closed door is clearly leading us in a different direction.

When God closes a door in our lives, he isn’t just stopping us. He is making it obvious that we need to go in another direction.

This is most comforting to me. God doesn’t just stop us from doing a particular thing; he leads us in a better way that He has planned for us.

Sometimes I believe He wants us to leave the past in the past.

We need to follow His leading.

A closed door tests our trust.

Sometimes I think God allows a door to close in order to see if we will still trust Him.

I’m not saying He just closes doors to play around with us or tease us, but He may partly be testing our love, devotion and faith in Him. (Remember Job?)

I don’t believe God just does things to make our lives difficult, but sometimes he allows difficult things to cause us to uncomfortably stretch and grow.

Often times God needs to see if we are willing to give something up. Then He is free to either give it back to us (in our open hand), or give us something better.

We need to remain unconditionally devoted to our Lord, and truly trust Him with our lives, no matter what the outcome.

 

I’d like to suggest some reflections from Psalm 139. (Why not take a moment to read it?)

God knows us, He created us, and He planned every day of our lives before we were even born. Because He knows and loves us so deeply, the only reasonable response is to follow Him. As we surrender to Him, he will protect our hearts and lead us in the way He has planned for us.

 

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

*****

So what about you? Are there any closed doors in your life right now? Are you willing to trust that your Creator knows what is best for your life?

 

 

 

Our house with violets

How I Felt When You Complemented My Home

Our house with violets

I really do have a lovely home.

It’s not huge or new or rich, but it is pretty and cozy. It’s about “average” as far as houses go around here, but so much more than most people in our world would ever dream of.

We picked it over twenty years ago, and I can still remember how quickly it felt like “home” when we moved in. We added two kittens shortly after we purchased our house, and within about a year, I was pregnant with our first child.  It is where we are supposed to be right now.

our home - winter 2015-16

But often I notice what is wrong, not clean, needs fixing, isn’t new, is broken, or how small it feels when we have a certain number of guests. I see newer furniture and appliances that would just look nice, be more “functional”, or would make life easier.

Sometimes I look with envy at others’ homes, either in Facebook photos or in real life. We can always find someone with a bigger, newer, more modern house and more “stuff”.

I’ve already shared about how easy it is to struggle with discontentment; in fact, my second post ever was about how I often have to remind myself to be grateful for the things I have.

This is part of our own human nature, but also augmented by a wealthy culture which thrives on consumerism.

But I need to remember that there is probably someone looking at me in the same way, wishing they had a house perhaps, or maybe just wishing their big home was filled with peace.

Our living-room

Sometimes I just need a reminder of how lovely and wonderful my life really is. I need to focus on the positives, rather than the lacks.

This past week, I had two individuals complement my home.

One was someone we are just getting to know. He walked through our door on the first night he joined our church community group and said something like, “What a beautiful home you have!”

Exercise mat in living-room with cat

The second was a complete stranger. She was responding to a photo I shared on a Facebook page for those of us participating in a Pilates fitness challenge. It was a photo of a corner of my living-room, where I had my exercise mat, near the couch with the sleeping kitties. She commented, “What a lovely space!”

So once again I’m reminded of how blessed I really am. I needed those reminders (and I guess it took two of them), to get my attention once more to be grateful.

I needed once again to look at my life with fresh eyes.

There’s been a little video circling in social media lately that speaks to this, so maybe I’m not the only one who needs to be reminded.

 

And there’s another lesson as well.

Don’t hesitate to give out heart-felt compliments. It may be just what that person needs to hear on a day when life feels overwhelming. It may give them a renewed sense of how their life is blessed.

Our house with summer watermelon flag

And thank-you to those friends who took the time and followed your hearts to share your compliments with me.

They made my day and are helping to make my grateful life.

Our house - kitchen entrance

humming-bird feeder and hanging plant

enjoy the little things

*****

 

 

 

 

Proverbs 16:3

Flourishing Plans

Proverbs 16:3

 

…or as the NLT (New Living Translation) states,

 

“Commit your actions to the lord, and your plans will succeed.”

 

Well, that sounds simple enough.

So if I just pray about my plans every day, God will make me succeed?

 

On first glance at this verse, it would seem that if we are Christians (or perhaps even if we aren’t), and if we pray and ask for God’s blessing every day, then everything will go smoothly.

But there are two major flaws with this line of thought.

 

First, my plans DO NOT ALWAYS SUCCEED! 

At least, that’s how it appears. Life does not always go smoothly; in fact, sometimes it’s painfully difficult.

But do I ever consider that God has an even better plan, one that allows for my growth and His glory, and not just my comfort? Ouch!

 

The second problem is that I think we interpret this verse ALL BACKWARDS.

As much as I want it to mean that I just go ahead and plan my day and my life and God will bless it, I have to remind myself that I also need to consider that my ways may not necessarily be God’s ways.

Mother doesn’t always know best! (That’s me, by the way.)

I need to remember that my life is fully surrendered to Christ, not just when I go to church on Sunday, but for real, in the nitty-gritty of my everyday life.

 

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

Oswald Chambers expresses it this way in a devotional reading entitled, “The Surrendered Life”:

“To become one with Jesus Christ, a person must be willing not only to give up sin, but also to surrender his whole way of looking at things. Being born again by the Spirit of God means that we must first be willing to let go before we can grasp something else.”

Yes, I want my plans to succeed.

But first and foremost, even though it may mean walking through difficulty and pain, I want my life to be fully surrendered to the Lord, with the end result being His glory.

I want to grow and mature into the real person God designed me to be.

If going through difficulties may make my life a blessing or an encouragement to others, then so be it.

My true desire is to commit my way to the Lord, and allow His good plan to flourish and succeed in my life.

Besides, His plan is so much better than mine ever could be.

“If you are faced with the question of whether or not to surrender, make a determination to go on through the crisis, surrendering all that you have and all that you are to Him. And God will then equip you to do all that He requires of you.” – Oswald Chambers, from My Utmost For His Highest

*****

 

stone well with bucket

The Well Is Deep

 

stone well with bucket

 

This morning in my Bible plan reading of the day, Oswald Chambers, author of the well-known and loved devotional, My Utmost For His Highest, talked about the story of the woman at the well.

Jesus stops along his travels at a village in Samaria, and surprises a Samaritan woman by not only speaking to her, but asking her to draw a drink of water for him from the well. (In those days, the Jewish people would not associate with the Samaritans. See verse 9.)

After questioning why he would even talk to her, the woman then says this:

   “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water?” – John 4:11 (NLT)

This well is very deep.

Hmm. Sound familiar?

Have you ever questioned God’s ability or desire to provide for your needs or guide you through a problem? I know I have. Sure, I know with my head that God can do anything, but do I truly believe it in my heart?

After seeing what seemed to be an encouraging sign that God was moving in a certain area of my life this past week, I awoke this morning to thoughts of why this possible answer wouldn’t work, because of something I didn’t have.

My husband and I still laugh about the time years ago when a student from our College & Careers group said something like, “I know God created the universe, but I don’t think he can help me with my finances.” This person was expressing in so many words what we often live out in our lives…..that we don’t actually expect God to meet our needs.

But do we realize who we are talking about?

Oswald Chambers challenges us with this:

“The thing that approaches the very limits of His power is the very thing we as disciples of Jesus ought to believe He will do. We impoverish and weaken His ministry in us the moment we forget He is almighty. The impoverishment is in us, not in Him. We will come to Jesus for Him to be our comforter or our sympathizer, but we refrain from approaching Him as our Almighty God.                                                                                                                  The reason some of us are such poor examples of Christianity is that we have failed to recognize that Christ is almighty. We have Christian attributes and experiences, but there is no abandonment or surrender to Jesus Christ.”

Wow.

So if I truly believe that he is the Almighty God, I will understand his unlimited power. And in order to truly believe, I need to not only “act like” a Christian, but I must fully surrender my life to Jesus Christ.

 

Lord, help me to surrender my whole life to you. Let me know you so well, that I can do nothing but trust you. And help me to believe that you are not only my heavenly Father and a close friend, but my Almighty God. Amen.

*****