Love is . . .

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Fatigue has been plaguing me as of late. I have some pretty big stress factors in my life currently and I’m 90% sure that’s what’s generating most of the fatigue.

I woke with Bob, as usual, and began to prepare his breakfast, as usual, and felt myself being irritated internally. It was the last day of the work week. I woke up feeling tired and short of patience. It’s amazing how cranky I can feel so early in the day. That’s not good. I doubt Bob noticed as I kept by my mouth and actions in check. I, however, knew something was brewing internally and it wasn’t Bob’s fault. After he left for work, I made short time in getting to my prayer chair and my Bible. I felt prompted to read what most believers dub, The Love Chapter. This is it in part:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT

I felt horrible. I wonder how long I can live, reading that chapter over how many years, and still fall short. I trudged to the kitchen to sweeten my big mug of tea which had been steeping. I felt defeated, helpless, and hopeless. I was certain Holy Spirit dropped that portion of scripture into my spirit today. Was I to be banged up by yet one more thing?

The whisper was sweet. “No, go back and read God into it.”

Immediately the scripture, “God is love”, came to mind.

This was new. I’d always heard that God is love but I never looked at this passage of scripture that way before. With renewed vigor and eagerness I returned to it.

Read aloud with me but replace “love” with God.

God is patient and kind. God is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. He does not demand His own way. He is not irritable, and He keeps no record of being wronged.  He does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  God never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Tears streamed down my face again but for a different reason this time. They were not born of sorrow and repentance, but of gratitude. Especially the part about God not recording our wrongs. That is why I felt so sorrowful; I do not love as He loves and we both know it. I feel like I fall so short at times!

“You are too hard on yourself,” the LORD told me again. “You exact from others the perfection you expect from yourself. Stop it. Let it go. Adjust your course as the course demands.”

We don’t walk in a straight line, but God will keep us on the straight and narrow if we let Him. That’s what He meant by adjusting my course. And the “let it go” part, well that made me think of part of the story a man told about his visit to Heaven.

He was in presence of God. His glory and holiness were palpable. His glory weakened him and His holiness kept urging him to repent. When in the presence of Jesus, the man was able to stand. He began to say, “I’m sorry–” Jesus interrupted him. He didn’t see a sinful man, He saw a man who was holy because he had received His gift of redemption. God does not keep a record of our wrongs, to do so would invalidate the price Jesus paid and we would not be forgiven. Those of us who choose Him, we are forgiven; we are holy.

I wept and worshiped God. He truly is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. He is with me whenever, through whatever, and wherever. We have a nearly constant dialogue. It got me to thinking about others in my life.

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I then visualized an old fashioned library catalog. Each drawer represents a person or relationship in my life. I reflected on The Love Chapter and changing course in light of this. We do have constant needs. The need for love, for example, is constant. However I do believe that there are different facets of love that we may need to call upon during different phases of our relationships. I prayed for the LORD to show me how I can display His love to certain individuals at this point and time in their life.

I’m not doing this love thing perfect. But then neither are you. But that’s okay because God is love, and as long as we are willing, He will help us grow in it.

Join me today in basking in the love of God and sharing it with others.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=234MrMdWo8E

Oh, and by the way, Love (God) never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8a

“Get Out of the Boat”

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A close friend of mine called to tell me how much she’s enjoying God’s Word Girl. She is really encouraged and read “It is Settled” several times. Even before this story went public it was one of her favorites. It was a timely call; I did need encouragement, not necessarily concerning God’s Word Girl, but I did need encouragement.

Ever feel like the ceiling is coming down on your head? Boy has that been the case with me lately!

I told my friend, “I feel like I’m in a boat on a stormy sea.”

“Well then,” she says, “be encouraged. Know that Jesus is walking on the water and He’ll come to you and tell you what to do.”

“Yeah,” I says, chuckling, “He’ll tell me to get out of the boat.”

She says, “I’m sorry I didn’t encourage you like you encourage me.”

“Oh, but you did, just by calling,” I tell her. And I also tell her, “I guess I’ll have to write the post that I want to read.”

That, coupled with, “Get out of the boat,” really got me to thinking.

I maybe feel like I’m in a little boat on a stormy sea because of transition.

I resigned from the Sunday evening leadership of our small group.

There is a church situation that at times has made me feel sick to my stomach with what I sense going on in the spiritual realm.

I have a friendship that feels like a ticking time bomb.

Death is still around us.

And I’ve been having a lot of pain — which I shamefully admit I also believe is mostly stress related.

I’m not the only one in this boat or in this place.

So here we are, eyeballing each other, mystified and wondering, Where do we go from here? It’s wet, it’s cold, it seems endless, fruitless, and feels hopeless. And yet . . .

. . . look with me toward the horizon. Squint your eyes if you have to. Do you see the figure, the form of a Man walking toward you? He’s on the water. We’re in our boats, weeping and wailing and wondering, “When God, when?” and yet here He is, bearing the scars of His love for us. He’s walking toward us.

Read the account in Mark 6:45-52. It’s interesting. The disciples, against their better judgment, are in the boat because Jesus told them to get in and go to the other side. They were fishermen. Something tells me they had read the storm in the sky, but they proceeded out of obedience and respect for the Master. What they fear, a storm, comes upon them and Jesus isn’t with them. He remained behind to pray.

In the wee hours of the morning, the boat is rocking, the disciples are toiling, and here comes Jesus walking. Only there’s a peculiar verse that says He would have passed them by. Isn’t that a curious thing? Jesus would have passed them by. What stopped Him? They cried out to Him.

That sounds so simple, but look around. Do you think our world is in the state that it is in because people are crying out to Jesus? No. It’s in the state that it’s in because people are still determined to do it their way. Worse, there are some who are sold out to doing it satan’s way.

Back to our story:

“It is I,” He said, “do not be afraid.”

Here’s where it gets even better.

Peter says, “If it’s really You, LORD, then tell me to come.”

“Come,” He says. And Peter goes. He walks on the water! Yeah, yeah, yeah, so Peter began to sink. Who are we to criticize him? How many of us have even gotten out of the boat lately?

I was reading commentary and found some correlating notes and scriptures fascinating. But it was this in particular that struck me. Let’s look at Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,”. We love the first part of that verse. God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think! Yay, God! You go! Ah, ah, ah, hold on. He does all of that according to the power that works in us. What does that look like? It looks like Peter getting out of the boat and walking on the water.

We want God to stop the storm and He is able, but are we going to cooperate with Him through faith to obtain the miracles we so desire? Are we willing to get out of the boat let alone cry out to Him? Are we willing to follow Him wherever He may go?

No matter how stormy, rocky, or scary, if Jesus says, “Come,” then get out of the boat. The boat is false security. True safety, shelter, and security is where Jesus is, even if there are gales and 30 foot waves to go with them. We’re deluding ourselves if we believe there is peace outside of Jesus Christ.

I implore you, HOLD ON. Wait and listen for His voice and when He bids us, “Come,”

. . . join me in getting out of the boat. Remember, if Holy Spirit is in us then we have the power to get out of the boat and walk on the water. Is the risk worth the benefit? I believe that it is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeTu8twnGvU

Waves of Glory

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I woke up this morning feeling like I was under a black cloud. The basement had water. Bob and I both had pain. I was thinking about needs of other family members and about a conversation I had with a friend yesterday. She wanted my advice as to what she should tell her children (who are younger than mine) about Russia and Ukraine. They are afraid. I didn’t have much to tell her. Quite frankly, this world has been a flat out freaky place to live for over the past 2 years. This is “just one more thing”, says Columbo, one of my favorite detectives.

But today I decided to shut that black cloud down. There was a time in my life when I might have bore it for the rest of the day, maybe even into the next. But not now.

After Bob left for work, and I did a couple little things (stoke the fire, make a cup of creamer with added coffee 🙂 ), I sat down to a video devotion, worship music, and my journal. I was determined to have the Son. Holy Spirit did not fail to meet with me.

During Sunday morning worship, I was smiling ear to ear thinking about a sentence the LORD whispered. What He said to me was, “I Am riding the wave.” That may not seem extraordinary until it is coupled with the end of the prayer on my devotion this morning: “Redeeming God, bring a tidal wave of glory into the earth.”

So this is what I say to the water in my basement, to the pain in my body, to the concerns I have for family, to the dear friend who doesn’t know what to tell her frightened children, and to the unrest in the nations:

“Give way to the God of the tidal wave and His glory.”

I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but I know that I know that I know that God will have His way. And it will be good.

Let’s thank Him in advance for His deliverance. Join me in worship with this song that flooded my soul and let us proclaim together the holiness and worthiness of the LORD.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3LK3wIHnVE

It is Settled

brown and white short coated puppy
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Foxy came to us nearly 10 years ago as a stray.  Bob’s first thought was to shoot her because she looked like a fox and no healthy fox would get that close to people.  Erego the name Foxy.

Mother’s Day weekend in 2020 was cold.  Very cold indeed.  We brought Foxy in Friday night.  I let her out in the morning to do her business.  Bob took her out noonish and thought she would follow him around while he tinkered in the garage/yard.  Not that she’d do much following, she’d been pretty sedentary those days, especially since the passing of Cowboy the prior spring.  The wind was frigid so Bob’s tinkering was short-lived.  Foxy’s near deaf so he motioned for her to come in but she showed her disinterest by not giving up her spot by our swing in the yard.  I doubt the air effected her much, her coat’s incredibly thick.  Hey, the animal wanted fresh air.  When she wanted to come in we’d gladly receive her.

We checked on her periodically but she still showed no interest in coming in.  Then, when once again I looked out, she was gone.  Just like that.  Gone.

We hated to think it but wondered if she ended up in a ditch.  She never was really road savvy.  Bob didn’t find her there.  We were bewildered as to what might have happened to her as she didn’t move fast or far.  About 2 weeks after her mysterious disappearance we saw vultures circling the hillside across from the road where we live.  Bob bemoaned not knowing for sure what happened to her.  If she had died he had at least wanted to give her a “proper burial”.

I wrestled with her disappearance for different reasons.  It had been that March, perhaps April, when I was thinking about making plans for her care as camping season would soon be upon us.  Suddenly, the LORD says to me, “Things will be settled with Foxy by the end of June.”  Her sudden disappearance in the middle of May was disconcerting.  Disappearance is not “settling”.  Did I hear the LORD right?

The days after Foxy’s disappearance plodded on.  Bob had had hope, but it, like Foxy, had vanished.

Stay with me as it may seem like what I’m about to tell you next isn’t connected, but it is.

On the last day of April, we had a visiting pastor minister to us.  He was preaching on waiting for promises for 5, 10, 15 years and he basically said, “In the next 30 days you are going to see the beginning of the fulfilling of those promises.”

I could go into detail about some of the promises we’ve been holding onto but now is not the time for that.  Suffice it to say, we had been holding to a promise as a couple for 20 years and I had been holding on to a personal word for 30 years.  “In the next 30 days . . . .”  I received the word with gladness.

The girls did major bedroom cleaning in that spring.  Due to covid, I guess a lot of people did.  It warranted having a yard sale and, boy did we!  People came by the droves just to have some semblance of normalcy.  One young woman asked if she could have her picture taken with our wares so she could share “First yard sale of the season” on Facebook.  That was funny.  So was the woman who said her son left her somewhere because he said she could have 10 minutes but she took 15.  We had a lively conversation and a lot of laughs with her.

The girls went to collect our sale sign at the sale’s end at the intersection near our home.  Laura came in with an expression on her face that I’d never seen before.  She scared me.

“Mum,” she said, “you’re never going to believe who we saw walking on the road!”

I was mystified.  She looked like she’d seen a ghost.  “Who?”

“Foxy!”

“Foxy?!”

For 2 days I walked around in shock.  While ruminating, I felt prompted to look at the calendar.  Foxy returned to us exactly 30 days after her disappearance.  Thirty days.  We found out that a neighbor had taken care of her.  We never saw her because she was in their backyard, across the street.  Imagine, gone 30 days and she was literally on the other side of the highway.  I was just as mystified by her return as I was by her disappearance.  In fact, I had written in my journal that, “Foxy departed as she came, quiet and unexpected like.”  But was this the “settled” that God whispered to my heart?  It was only the beginning of June when she returned so I kind of thought not.

We have a departed friend who used to say that the physical realm mirrors the spiritual.  In light of this I asked Mum what was the meaning of Foxy’s return.  She said her first thought is that Foxy represents restoration.  She was restored to her home.

“You and Bob have had a lot of things stolen from you over the years.  You are going to have it restored.  You are moving into a season of restoration.”

As if to reinforce her immediate thought, a friend that the girls had lost contact with nearly a year before suddenly emailed them and made plans to camp with us. Restoration.

Has God said, “‘You are healed”?  Then you are healed.

Has He said, “I will supply all your need”?  Then all your need is met.

Has He said, “It is well”?  Then be at peace.

Has He said, “Vengeance is Mine”?  Then let it go.  

God who spoke cannot lie.  Not won’t lie; cannot lie.  Sometimes it is difficult for us to grasp the things of God because we have allowed ourselves to become too familiar with humanity.  Take my husband for instance.  Occasionally he sells things.  Sometimes people call and say they’re coming to look, we wait, and they never come.  On different occasions people have even given us cash down on the item he is selling but they never return to pay in full and pick up what they said they would purchase.  Humanity has taught us that it will fail us, it will let us down, it will lie.  This is the experience that we walk in everyday.  God is wanting us to look past our experience with humanity and place our hope in something we can’t see, Him and His Words.  And He’s asking us to hope until faith comes and we do see.  This is alien to many of us.  But until we grasp this we don’t get to experience what:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  1 Corinthians 7:9

And He does love us, so very, very much.

And what of Foxy? She quietly passed away on a Sunday afternoon, June 28, 2020, before our first camping trip of the season. Things with Foxy were settled.

Those words that God dropped into our hearts, let’s hold on and don’t let go. They will all come to pass.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTrf5hwA5T0

Broken Whosoevers

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There’s a horrible misconception in the world that one must be perfect to come to God.

“If I darken the door of a church,” says the sinner, “the roof will cave in.”

Are we not aware that, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”? (Romans 3:23 KJV Bold letters are mine).

What is the difference between the saved and the unsaved? According to the words of the LORD, it is “whosoever will”. The whole salvation “package” has always been about whosoevers. We are told in a couple of places in the Bible that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

Not once did God say, “Get yourself clean and then, and only then, will you be saved.” That’s impossible. We can’t clean ourselves. Can a child who played in the mud all day be cleaned simply by sitting him in a tub? No. It takes water and soap and scrubbing and sometimes it requires a rinse and repeat.

God doesn’t choose equipped people. He equips people who choose Him. He isn’t chasing down the self-righteous. He is running after those whose hearts are turned toward Him. In and of ourselves we have nothing to offer, but when we wholly offer ourselves, mixing faith with grace, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

The Bible is full of unlikely heroes. History was built on the backs of people who succeeded during impossible times. The greatest victories are gained when it appears as though all is lost. How is this possible? It is impossible with man alone, but with God all things are possible.

Join me today in being a whosoever and let’s call on Jesus so that we, our families, and our nations, will be saved. We must move past our own selfish, brokenness and inject our broken world with the knowledge and love of Jesus. We are called to be more than this. We are called to be obedient champions, witnessing to others about our wonderful, healing Savior.

Dear LORD, what can we do today to better serve and glorify You?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdUu6ZsdVfM

I Will to Forgive and Forget

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Rachel has been following her fancy as far as language arts is concerned. What I mean by that is, when she’s struck by a curiosity she begins to hunt, and if it seems a worthwhile subject, she’ll go on and continue her research and then write a report. Her latest was on Pierre Picaud. You’re probably familiar with him but don’t know it. Ever hear of the Count of Monte Cristo? It is believed that the character is based on the real life Pierre Picaud. I found this all fascinating as I didn’t know there was a strand of truth to the movie that I watched so many years ago.

The report was mesmerizing but one fact caused my jaw to drop and me to turn away from the paper and gaze at Rachel. Our main man, who was falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned, plotted his revenge for 10 years.

I looked at Rachel and echoed, “Ten years?!”

I mean, think of it, Picaud was released from prison after 7 years but whether he began to plot while incarcerated or not, he was in a prison of his own making for ten years. A whole decade wasted on the poison of unforgiveness and revenge.

Have you ever given the Apostle Paul much thought? He was a learned man. He was a very religious man. Why else do you think he sought to imprison believers in Jesus and relished in their deaths? Believing in Jesus went against his religion. He thought that he was doing God and humanity a favor by aiding in the destruction of these so called heretics.

Ah, but one day, the King of kings, the LORD of lords, had an intervention. Paul had a miraculous conversion. As you may recall, Paul was on his way to Damascus, papers in hand from the high priest, permitting him to bind any believer he found there and have them hauled back to Jerusalem where they’d be imprisoned, perhaps even executed, when he had an incredible encounter. This man, who had been bent on destroying Christians until Jesus got hold of him, had to forget all that he had been in order to fulfill all that God wanted him to be.

Let’s go a step further: Not only did Paul have to let his past go, fellow believers had to let his past go. I kind of feel for Ananias, whom the LORD sent to minister to Paul. He’s like, “LORD, You want me to go where? To see whom? Do You not know who Saul is? Didn’t You hear about all the evil he’s done to the saints in Jerusalem and now he has authority here in Damascus? I’ll be arrested!”

But Ananias did go and it doesn’t appear as though he put up much resistance. Apparently he trusted God. And isn’t that what we ought to do? Wouldn’t life be so much better if we could forget the pain from our past — both self-inflicted and the pain brought on by others? Paul is a shining example of forgetting what he had done by his own words and deeds.

Let us also remember the Christians of his day who must have felt sorely tested by his newfound faith in Christ. They, too, had to be willing to forgive and forget what he had done. I confess that I probably would have had my questions and doubts if I had been in their sandals.

I was listening to Christian radio one day before New Year’s Day, I don’t remember who was teaching. But he said something that triggered tears to stream down my cheeks. What he basically said was this: “After all he’d been through, there was Joseph. He was second highest in the land and his brothers (not recognizing him) were standing before him in need. He had not one thought of retaliation.

Years ago a sister-in-law said something especially hurtful to me. I dealt with it and dealt with it and dealt with it and concluded I was done with it until that Bible teacher made that statement. I shamefully admit that even after all of these years there was still a speck inside of me that wanted to throw what she said back in her face. I didn’t even know it was there until that statement smacked me. Thank God He deals with us where we are, and little by little if need be, until it’s all over.

Entering into a new year has given me much pause to think. (Yes, I realize we’ve nearly plowed through the first month but as you can see I’ve been dealing with some weighty stuff 🙂 .) I think on Paul’s statement in Philippians 3:12-14 but a phrase in particular which boils down to this: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I have also been meditating on various verses from the Bible that have to do with God making all things new.

This also grabbed me as Bob and I were talking one night and I shared a horrible memory from years ago concerning him. It dawned on me that the anger and pain were no longer present but I was still giving that instance a voice. I told him the next day, “I don’t want to hold your past against you anymore.”

He isn’t the man he was 20 years ago, 2 years ago, maybe not even 2 weeks ago. And I’m not the same woman. We can’t keep revisiting yesterday (unless it’s to aid the healing of others) no matter how much it hurt. How are any of us going to be the whole people that God created us to be when we still keep clutching the past? “New” is going to be an impossibility unless we let go of the old junk that’s holding us back.

Are you ready to release yourself today? Or perhaps someone else from the prison of your making? Then join me today in forgiving and forgetting as we take the journey toward freedom and wholeness.

Please go to the links below. I believe you’ll be blessed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_18SzbjJgaE

If only our dear Picaud would have chosen forgiveness. I am. Will you?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMn0QNdiuGE

…Behold, I make all things new.

Revelation 21:5 KJV
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What are We Missing?

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There I stood in a circle of prayer with our small study group to close out our evening. We had had a good Bible lesson and discussion, as usual, although it seemed the atmosphere was subdued.

I asked one of the men to lead us out in prayer, suggesting we would then pray one by one whatever Holy Spirit laid on our hearts and agree one with another. The man expressed that he did not feel like praying but did so anyway as a courtesy to me, a leader. Then it was my turn to pray. I felt the presence of the LORD, but I also felt heaviness. My prayer was followed by a lengthy silence that I broke by asking if anyone else had something they wanted to pray. That is when our dear Miss Debbie, who is normally effervescent, spoke up in brokenness and asked, “Are we missing something?”

Many of us have faced great loss over the past 2 years, but in our circle, this year has been especially difficult. The reason for the heaviness that Sunday evening was due to the death of a 14 year old girl who had cancer. There were those in our prayer group who had been praying and believing for her and yet here we stood, adding this young girl to our list of losses.

“I prayed for her. I believed for her. Look what happened. I have a sister who is battling cancer. What am I supposed to do? Where do I go from here? Am I missing something?” Miss Debbie asked.

The man who led in prayer shared similar experiences, the same grief, and asked the same questions. It was difficult to stand there in silence, not having the answers. My heart was bleeding for these precious ones lent to my care.

Mom brought up the first thing we must consider in these situations: we do not know the heart of those for whom we are praying. The battle can become too much. We can become weak. We can choose to die. True though it was, I sensed this did not pacify our small group. A 14 year old girl died. It was difficult to believe that she chose to die when she had so much to live for.

We stood in silence. What would You say to this, LORD? Your people need comfort.

God is good and faithful. Suddenly a couple of things came to me, besides the fact that we do get to choose life and death. I said it to the group like this:

“I did a small group study years ago and the author taught that the devil hits us in our strength. Look at it this way: What is the earth saturated with right now? Fear. Fear is the opposite of faith. It is satan’s currency. If he can continue to keep us discouraged so that we quit praying in faith, then we’ll never see the moves of God that we’re expecting. God is going to loose Himself on His remnant. We need to continue to be persistent and consistent so that we can be used by Him. Keep the faith.

“I also learned this from a man who has had phenomenal answers to prayer although not all of his prayers were answered in the manner in which he prayed. When he asked the LORD about this, the LORD told him, ‘You are quick to glorify Me when the outcome is positive but you blame yourself when the outcome is negative. You do not receive the glory, you must not take the responsibility. You must leave it all in My hands.'”

I felt the heaviness dissipate. The furrowed brows smoothed. Smiles lit the room. Miss Debbie hugged me and held me tight after we closed. She was refreshed. And I hope that you are too.

Yes, continue to pray. Continue to believe. Jesus did say that those of us who believe in Him, the things He did we will do and greater (John 14:12). But we must hold on through these times of loss. We must continue to trust in Him. Are there things I do not understand? Yes. Do I have questions? Yes. But I’ve resigned myself to give it all to God. I have decided that I will continue to believe that I will see the salvation of the LORD no matter what things look like. It isn’t easy. And yet it is. Fear and doubt wear a body out. If you will live, faith and trust are a must.

I believe with all of my heart that there is coming a day that before the prayer is wholly out of our mouth the answer will be there, but we must hold fast until then. God loves you. He loves me. He loves the people He created and wants us to advance. Let’s take that attitude into 2022. Join me today in basking in the presence of the one and only True God. Whether it rains or shines, He is worthy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ehfif98GENw

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Gifts, Glorious Gifts

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A friend of mine was here briefly and we lavished her with gifts. This is one of the same friends with whom I agreed not to buy intentionally for Christmas anymore to help alleviate some of the pressure and expense of gifting. As I age, my philosophy is more and more becoming: Lavish someone on their birthday; after all, their birthday is their special day, Christmas is Jesus Christ’s day (unless that’s your birthday, too. In that case, I’m sorry 🙂 ).

This year, it just so happened that we came across some items that we thought my friend would really appreciate, even more so since she lost her home and all of her belongings this past late summer. She did appreciate the gifts. In fact, she is really fun to give gifts to. I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten a reaction other than sheer joy at whatever is placed in her hand. And when she said she had gifts for us, Laura clapped. My friend seemed taken aback at first but then we all laughed.

Laura and Beth are especially good when it comes to retaining likes, tastes, needs, and wants and matching people with items. It’s like they have bionic memory and perception. We snatched up discards recently and as the girls sorted through, they were able to meet one person’s need and another person’s desire. I mention Laura specifically because gifts are her main love language. It’s one of God’s love languages, too.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

God gave.

I have a print on my wall that I put near the Christmas tree. It says: The magic of Christmas is not in the presents, but in His presence.

Think about that. As wonderful as giving and receiving are there is no greater gift than God. Do you know what heaven is? It is the presence of God. It is the presence of hope, joy, peace, and love. I pray that this season is heavenly for you.

Lest you think I’m turning into a Scrooge where gift giving and Christmas is concerned, I have bought a few gifts this year that I am truly excited to give. From the looks on the girls’ faces, I’m receiving a few gifts that I’m going to be really excited to get. But without God, none of it matters. He is everlasting. Our material gifts are not. And as much as we may like what we receive, it will fade away, God will not. Yes, I’m excited for Christmas Day. But I’m more excited to sit in His presence and fellowship with Him. I hope you’ll be able to carve out some time today to join me in marveling at the Ultimate Gift Giver, God; the Ultimate Gift, Jesus; and the Ultimate Presence, Holy Spirit.

May you have a very, Merry Christmas.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aGLV5CfoTU

Focus

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Bob and I were at a local Salvation Army Store a few weeks ago. A small, woman’s voice came from the changing room.

“Does there happen to be a female out there? I need help!” came the pitiful cry.

Of course of every male within hearing range does what males do, they faced the changing rooms to see what’s going on ’cause they’re nosy.

Bother! thought I. Couldn’t the males at least have the decency to turn the other way?

The female needing help and the female in the cubicle beside her were both giggling.

I did a quick scan of the area and realized I was the only available female. “I’m coming,” I answered, unsure of what I’d find.

I have been given to the unfortunate event of trying on a dress of bygone years only to find myself stuck inside like a straight jacket. It’s kind of humiliating needing help to get oneself untangled from dress, elbows, and breasts. For the woman’s sake, who had the attention of all nearby males, I silently prayed it wasn’t that extreme. Thank God, it wasn’t.

I slipped through the crack in the door that she offered and discovered that she was fully covered except for her exposed back. She was able to get the dress on and managed to zip it but only so far. The zipper was hopelessly out of her reach no matter how hard she tried. I exited a heroine. The giggling behind closed doors commenced.

Ever feel like you’re in a straight jacket? This year has come close. It began with the loss of one of my uncles in the beginning of this year. It followed with the loss of Bob’s two uncles, a cousin, and his godmother — ages ranging from 48-80. It continued with two distant relatives on my side, four neighbors, two acquaintances, and rounded off with the loss of a dear friend of ours, the pastor who performed our wedding ceremony. Then there’s the many prayer requests for people sick and/or in the hospital.

When Mum saw the three phases of thorns and tears it was no joke.

I was thinking about these heartaches and hardships when other thoughts began seeping in like a dye. I thought about those we prayed for who are now healed. I thought about one of Bob’s aunts and uncles who were in a rollover and survived. Everyone I show the truck’s pictures to says, “How? It’s a miracle!” And it is.

In the midst of contemplating this year, it was as if the LORD asked, “What are you going to focus on? The losses? Or the miracles?”

In rapid succession, I saw sea spray. Jesus was in the midst of it. He was wearing garb typical of His day but the smile He was wearing was what most attracted me. His dark, wavy hair was a wonderful mess, and His eyes were sparkling as He looked back to me. He was going into the deep, His hand was outstretched behind Him, an invitation for me to join Him. Would I focus on the losses or on Him? Would I take His hand and follow Him into the deep? Yes, yes I will.

I invite you today to join me in setting aside your sorrows. Trust Him. Take the hand of the Man who has great adventures set before us.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GGFb6LcX3U

Choices

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News Flash: satan is alive.  I’d say “and well”, but he isn’t well.  He’s sick.  In case you haven’t figured it out by now, he hates us.  He hates everything about us.  Our bodies, our minds, our talents, our happiness, our relationships — you name it, he hates it.  His soul purpose in life is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  It really doesn’t matter to him how he does it just so it gets done.

A story suddenly comes to me.  When I was in high school I got a frantic phone call from one of my classmates.  We weren’t real close, but I did know her and her sister as they were neighbors to family friends of ours at that time.  The girl’s name was Angel.  Oddly enough, she was practicing white witchcraft.  I’m just putting this out there: witchcraft is witchcraft is witchcraft.  No matter how we slice that cake, witchcraft is satanic.  Period.  No matter how well a pig is dressed, it’s still a pig. 

And that’s why Angel called.  She bought the white pill lie.  She was practicing evil but she was using it for “good”, or so she thought, so everything was okay.  Only it wasn’t okay.  Things were beginning to go a little freakish in her world and she was getting scared.  I don’t remember the details.  What I do remember is that satan was beginning to expose himself to her in ways that had her running scared.  The payment exacted from her for her practice of witchcraft was more than she bargained for.  With myself and Mum’s help, she was educated, advised, and delivered.

We have choices.  Sometimes we make bad or uninformed ones like Angel did when choosing to practice witchcraft.  But then, like Angel, we can change directions and  make good choices like choosing Jesus.

A “church” girl argued that fact with me this summer.  She said when our number’s up, we’re gone no matter what and there’s nothing we can do about it.  Our choices don’t have an affect on our demise. 

It had to be God because it would have taken me too long to come up with this on my own.  I told her: “What about drinking and driving?  Say a 20 something makes the poor choice to drink and drive and maybe kills themselves or someone else.  God isn’t in that.  A bad choice was made and there were consequences.  Drinking and driving shortens some people’s lives.  That’s not God’s fault.”

She was quiet.  The arguing ceased.  I think the rebuttal took a little chip off of the chip on her shoulder.  We can’t blame everything on God.  We do have a part to play in some of what happens in our lives, probably a bigger part than most of us would admit.  That’s one of the takeaways I hope you receive from this post.

The second: Angel called me.  I didn’t always feel like I portrayed Jesus Christ properly in school . . . sometimes I still don’t.  But when that girl needed someone genuine, guess who she called?  Uh-huh, me.  Someone out there today needs to hear the words of a prophet that have stuck with me: You are doing better than you think you are.

Go into life with eyes wide open.  Ask Holy Spirit to advise and reveal.  satan is roaming about seeking whom he may devour.  Let us not be prey for him.  Take careful attention of habits, practices, and thoughts.  Beware of what lurks in the mind!  We have a very, very real enemy.  Let us not forget, we also have a very, very real Savior/Deliverer. 

Join me today in being observant and vigilant.  Keep choosing the only Hope this world has: choose Jesus.  And let’s continue to choose to pray, praise, and keep the faith.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rL2bZfHmsDs