Monday, December 9, 2013

Three Words

Four years ago today, December 9th, 2009, I heard 3 words no one ever wants to hear - three words that will change your life forever.  That day, a doctor looked at me and said, "You have cancer".  It confirmed the feeling that this was something God was going to allow to occur in my life.  But I knew I wouldn't be alone.  God was with me.  My awareness of Him and my need for Him was magnified in such a way that I came out better for the experience.  He does indeed work all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.  I believe that with all heart.

Today, I consider myself blessed.  I unashamedly praise God for the grace He has shown me in this journey.  My perspective has grown and allowed me to see through more spiritual eyes - eyes dependent on the God who has saved me.  I have discovered that life is short and the things that are important should be the things that I am about.  For me those important things are God, family, friends, and a world that needs to meet the Jesus who came to save us all.

On this day, I think Jesus wants us to hear 3 different words that will change our lives forever.  He said these three words as He hung on a cross, suffering and paying for the sins of the world.  The three words?  "It is finished"!  That means, no matter what we have to go through in this life, He has paved the way for our journey to end up in heaven for eternity.  Yes, it is finished, and I am so grateful to hear those three words!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The stuff we "write" isn't always the "right" stuff!

Today's blogosphere and various forms of social media offer any number of valuable, and also not-so-valuable, opinions on everything under the sun.  A post can make me elated because it has a feel-good factor to it.  Or a post can frustrate me because my opinion is so very contrary to that of some writers.  Yet, everyone has a right to their opinion and I guess that means everyone may "write" their opinion.  Such is our freedom of speech, to a limited degree, I guess, in this great country.  My own posts are proof of that multi-flavored pudding, I suppose.

Yet, when I read, or write, various posts, I'm reminded of what the bible has to say about the attitude we are to have in expressing ourselves.  2 Timothy 2:23-26 says, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will".

Human nature is such that we don't all agree, but godly nature, for those that aspire to have it, dictates that, even when we don't agree, we remain kind with our words.  I sometimes see that principal displayed, but, most often, not so much.  It even happens in the "Christian" world.  People who identify with the person of Jesus Christ as the One they love and follow, can sometimes be difficult to identify by what they do, what they say, or what they write.  It's disheartening, but it rings true that people's perceptions vary and their ability to put others before themselves, or to surrender to God's way over their own choices, is a constant challenge.  Therein lies the problem of most writings and opinions, as I see it.  When it is "my" opinion, it may become so self-focused, according to my likes and dislikes, that it becomes irrelevant to the tastes of others, or even to real truth.  In other words, we all tend to have a selfish nature, unless we allow God to keep us in check and reveal those things that tend to glorify ourselves, and the ideas we fancy, instead of pointing people to Jesus and glorifying Him.  The nature of selfishness is indeed rampant in our self-serving culture of today.  I think we must make God mourn with our little agendas and campaigns.

People, including myself, have opinions on everything from worship preference to social justice, from parenting to personal choices.  Our ideas have become our own and it's often difficult to come down off our mountains - even if we proclaim that we will die there!  I have found my own stubbornness to be a little silly, really.  And I have to inquire of God, "Is this me, or is this You?!"  A lot of times, it's been me.  Only one Person's sacrificial death on a mountain ever carried enough weight to make an eternal difference - and He arose three days later.  I think He should remain the King of the Mountain.  All other amateurs should dismount; cease and desist, if you will, from our little pilgrimages of self-proclaimed know-it-all-ness.

So this leaves me in a quagmire.  When someone writes about worship, as if it's all about them, and the Holy Spirit, or the heart of God enters nowhere into the equation, will I become frustrated or will I ask God to reveal to them who or what they really worship?  After all, it's His job to be God - not mine.  When someone is so completely wrapped up in their own version of WWJD "differently"in today's challenging culture and world of injustices, will I carve a path of my own new and revolutionary ideas or will I revert to the path God laid out for us so long ago?  After all, He never changes and His ways are not our ways.  He is still able to use the truth, love and grace of yesteryear to heal the problems of today.  If I take a different path, I'm denouncing that the path of Jesus was always enough.  It was enough then and it will always be enough.  I think the problem is us recognizing that.  We want to play God when we already have one that does His job very well.  He doesn't need our little ideas.  He just needs our obedience to His wisdom and will.  Unfortunately, I think He spends a lot of time in damage control for our follies and for our attempts to wear a crown that only He can wear.

So, in conclusion, let my words and thoughts be kind to those with whom I may not always agree.  But may God reveal to us ALL His way of doing things as opposed to us thinking our ideas and opinions will change the world.  They just might - if He is at the center of them and we defer to Him.  Yes, it's time to come off our mountains if He didn't put us there in the first place.  I pray that my opinions honor Him and point people to Jesus.  If they don't, they are simply not worth sharing.  The stuff I "write" may not always be the "right" stuff.  Yet, the stuff God wrote is eternal.  I should have a clue as to WHO is right!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Flying Lessons

A little tongue in cheek today.  Believe me, I've learned that my tongue is much better there than given free reign to slash about.  It can be sharp and sometimes not so kind.  That goes against who I want to be; who God created me to be to represent Him the best that I can.  I've picked the topic of kindness for this post.  It is one of my greatest assets, yet one of my greatest struggles.  God's spirit in me inclines me to  be kind to others.  I have no problem doing that - when they are facing hardships or when they are kind to me.  It is when they are prideful, annoying, or belligerent, that I have a problem exhibiting proper kindness.  Who's fault is this?  There would have been a day that I would have quickly said, "Their's", and meant it whole-heartedly.  Yet through God's ever-loving kindness, He continues to hone my kindness skills and teach me how to overcome my own pride.  He says love them anyway - be kind to them.  Actually, my reaction to rude or annoying people is my own choice.  It becomes as a big of a problem - my problem - as I make of it.

A little history here.  I am blonde, but no dummy, by far.  I do absent-minded stuff, but I can school most people in a game of Words With Friends and my wit is quicker and sharper than most snake bites. Yeah, that's about what it's like - a snake bite....venomous and poison.  If my tongue is not kept in cheek - so to speak - it can quickly take a wrong turn and go completely out of control.  Over the years, my struggle has been based on my prideful response to the actions of others.  It was much easier to put them in their place with my quick wit and sharp tongue than it was to ask God how I could shine brightly with love and patience as I deferred to allowing His Holy Spirit to direct my response.  There were countless times that I failed miserably at turning over the power.  I have to admit.  I still goof up.  But I'm much better at being genuinely kind that I once was.

Just to assure you that I'm no saint, as if you hadn't already surmised the obvious, I will give you an example of something that happened on an airplane today.  A disclaimer, albeit only a small one, is that I get many grace challenges on airplanes.  Yes, I have pretty regular flying lessons.  It's like God takes me to class when I fly.  I'm longing for First Class, but I don't think I've graduated yet.  But back to my transgression.  A guy in front of me reclined his seat - an action that has long been one of my pet peeves, but not the one I am discussing today - this put his head back by the window that was beside my chair.  He assumed all window rights at that point and proceeded to pull down the window so it would be dark and he could sleep.  How dare he?!  Yes, that is what I thought and I did not hesitate to grunt a little and raise up the window.  No one messes with my upcoming view of the Rocky Mountains....that would just be sacrilegious - possibly.  Now did I have a right to assume my window rights?  Of course!  Was it beneficial to do so?  I think not.  My proper response would have been to ask God to give me patience to deal with this person usurping my window rights.  He could have had a hard night with no sleep, albeit none of us had much sleep getting to LAX airport through traffic at 5 in the morning.  It requires lots of time and patience.  Maybe everyone was running short on both.  He could have just wanted to close his eyes and relax.  He probably thought everyone else wanted to do the same thing.  I should have, but I can't sleep on planes.  Whose problem is that?  Mine of course.  I realized mine wasn't a kind response a second after I raised up that window.  Not a stellar moment for me.  But the proverbial light had already shined on my shortcoming:-(

There have been other instances where I've learned to respond to irritations with more humility and patience.  At least I didn't utter a sharp response - thank goodness.  But I've asked God to keep me accountable and that can be a dangerous request if you don't want to know the truth.  The truth is, I need to be more humble and less prideful.  I need to remember to pray when someone bumps into my happy - or my window space.  I could have left the window down and glimpsed a little bit, now and then, to see if my beloved Rocky Mountains were in sight.  This guy doesn't know how much I love the Rockies.  Really, he probably wouldn't even care, but that's not the point.  He's not my problem.  I am my problem.  But, there is still hope.  God is ever-faithful to keep me accountable, because it is in my - and others' - best interest, and it represents Him so much better than when I act on my own.  You see, in my pride, I may think my attitude or my wit is necessary to bring someone back down to size when I think they've gotten a little too big for their britches.  In humility, God can show me that I don't do His job well - EVER.  It is not my job to size up someone else or jerk them into what I think is their rightful place.  It's my job to size up myself and make sure I'm measuring up to God's best for me so I can be the best example of Him to others.

On today's flying lesson, I definitely missed a few things, but I didn't completely miss the point.   I'm still a work in progress, but I'm thankful for these grace challenges God affords me.  I no longer want to spit on the head or kick the seat of a person who reclines into my lap - thank goodness:-)  Flying may be a luxury and convenience, but it sure can be unpleasant and uncomfortable.  Such is life.  We're not always in First Class.  We seldom are.  It's better to check my attitude before I ever hit security.  Now, THEY, can mess with my happy - if I let them.  As always, the choice is completely mine.  Flying can be as pleasant as I allow it to be.  I can come off a plane grumpy or I can stay in my happy place, no matter who tries to encroach up into it with me.  Maybe that's just where they need to be.  I should welcome them on in.  After all, it's truly the kindest thing to do.

On my next flying lesson, I hope I do much better.  I'm kind of looking forward to it:-)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

THE LORD is my song

Wow, I can't believe it's been so long since I wrote a blog post.  I actually did write a few, but they didn't make it to press.  They are sitting in my drafts box unpublished.  Our world has been a bit askew since moving from the Midwest to Southern California.  But it has all been good.  We are now living in the Santa Clarita area of California, which is northern Los Angeles County.  Valencia is within Santa Clarita and our little town is just northwest of there.  We are 45 minutes from Ventura, and the beach, and we got to spend a few months in that environment with friends.  For living out of a suitcase, we were pretty content with the blessings God provided.

We've also had a new grandson born within the last couple of months and I went back to KY, where they live, for a few weeks to share in that joy.  He is so amazing and I love him to the moon and back.  Those nights of sitting with him were a pure joy because I got to pray over him and commit him to the Lord.  My daughter and son-in-law don't know what to think about my assertion that he could become the next Billy Graham!  I have petitioned the Lord to set him aside for His purposes and gift him greatly for the Kingdom:-)  What a privilege it was to read scripture over him, sing to him, and ask the Lord to guard him, guide him, keep him, and bless him.  I'm reminded of how my mother prayed for me always and I prayed for my own daughter.  What a sweet gift God has given us in prayer.  The place where we can be with Him in sweet communion and communication, praising Him and bringing our needs to Him, and knowing all the while that He is in control.

Well, I've brought us up to speed on the goings-on of our personal journey.  Bill is working at Real Life Church in Valencia and we love it here!  We will be launching Celebrate Recovery at the end of September and are relying on God to bring many people to freedom through this ministry.  The support of the church is phenomenal and we are so grateful for our lead pastor, Rusty George, and a great staff. They are so helpful.  We get to see our ever-beloved, Mike Breaux, occasionally as well, as he teaches out here every so often.  We love his family and are so blessed to be able to see them out here on the West Coast.

My thoughts for today are on God's Word.  It is always personal and He will direct us to areas wherein He wants to guide us and minister to us.  I believe He also uses other God-inspired tools, such as the little Jesus Calling book, to confirm things to us and navigate us through the highs and lows of life.  A little daily devotional that never fails to encourage me and remind me that God's Holy Spirit lives within me as a believer in Jesus Christ.  With that Power and Wisdom at my disposal, I can process and filter things differently than I otherwise would be able to - much better, I would say.

Today, my Jesus Calling devotion was so spot-on.  It's not uncommon for spiritual warfare to try and distract us from accomplishing the work God has set before us.  We cannot see this spiritual world, but we experience it and God allows us to recognize it.  He teaches us to look to Him to combat such opposition and to use the tools, the armor of God - if you will, that He has given us to stand firm.  When you are on the front lines of ministering the grace, truth, and power of Jesus Christ to a world that doesn't know Him, you get used to a few proverbial pebbles, rocks, darts, even bullets, being directed your way.  It is important to remember that satan uses people to pull off these distractions, yet they are NOT the enemy; he is.  He encourages them to believe misconceptions, to gossip and to think the worst,  to become critical and cynical.  Emotions will go beyond what Lysa Terkeurst calls indicators and become dictators.  Pride will trick us into thinking our way of thinking is superior to that of others.  We can become quiet self-focused.  It's just our human sin nature and, unfortunately, we all fall prey to this tactic of the enemy.  Yet, it hurts when we fall into these traps or see others fall into them.  It really hurts when we are the target, and none of us are exempt when we want to follow Jesus and tell others of His great love.  But God!  God affirms that He is in control and we can rest in His protection and provision.

Jesus Calling reminded me of that today, August 22nd.  It read, "TRUST ME, and don't be afraid.  I want you to view trials as exercises designed to develop your trust-muscles.  You live in the midst of fierce spiritual battles, and fear is one of satan's favorite weapons.  When you start to feel afraid, affirm your trust in Me.  Speak out loud, if circumstances permit.  Resist the devil in My Name, and he will slink away from you.  Refresh yourself in My Holy Presence.  Speak or sing praises to Me, and My Face will shine upon you.  Remember that there is no condemnation for those who belong to Me.  You have been judged NOT GUILTY for all eternity.  Trust Me, and don't be afraid, for I am your Strength, Song, and Salvation."

The accompanying verses for this included Isaiah 12:2.  I love this verse: "Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation."  There's a double emphasis on who my strength and song is....THE LORD!  And the letters are all Caps!  That doesn't go unnoticed by me.  I choose to allow Him to be my strength and song and salvation!

I'm singing IN CAPS right now for THE LORD is the great defender!  Spending the day with Him and flexing my spiritual trust-muscles is just what I needed.  The day has become brighter as His Face shines upon me.  It's amazing what a change in focus can bring about.  As I focus on worshiping THE LORD, my perspective changes.  He is bigger; He is greater; He is my salvation!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Love that keeps Driving me

Bill came in the house this morning with, "I've got bad news.  The truck's front end is shot.  It's going to cost way too much to fix and it already has over 230,000 miles."  I felt a twinge of concern, but calmly said, "Well, it's a great opportunity to see what God is going to do and watch how He's going to provide"!  Bill seemed to take this in stride, bear up his shoulders, and went about the business of making phone calls to see what our options were....but....not until we had prayed for God to help us in and through this situation.

I have to be honest with you, even though I appeared to do the "spiritual" thing and said the right thing to my husband that implied that we just needed to trust God, I quickly began to crumble...on the inside. For a short time, I let my thoughts be hi-jacked with fear and anxiety.  I thought, "What are we going to do to replace this truck?  We need this truck!  We cannot afford this right now - or ever!  We are getting ready to move, literally, across the country to the left - or west - coast.  Extra expenses, on top of the ones we're already facing, are not a part of the plan!"  Thankfully, the Holy Spirit whispered repeatedly, and loudly enough, to bring me back to truth.  This worrying was not going to do me, or our situation any good.  I had sank quickly.  The devil had successfully pulled the rug out from under me and left me lying on my couch, thinking "woe is me".  Yes, I was pretty pitiful until the Lord reminded me that I had a choice in how I was going to react to this situation.  Even though things looked bad, I could still continue to pray and turn this over to God.  I could ask God to help us know how to get through this situation.  I could ask Him to help provide for us.  I could ask Him for a miracle.  I prayed again and I enlisted some friends to pray with me.  I asked God to forgive me for reacting to circumstances before completely surrendering to Him on the matter.  God had not just shown up when I recognized Him - He had been there all along.  Now, that I was on the same page as He was, it was time to watch Him work.  I'm still watching Him work, but, so far, I'm loving His style!

As with many of my stories, there is a back story to this one.  Or maybe I'm just slow in recognizing God's continual help and blessings in my life.  Last week, we had experienced some "sputtering" in the truck when we first got on I-90, on our way to Indianapolis, IN, from Rockford, IL.  It's about a 4 hour drive and we were pushing it to get there on time for Bill to share his testimony at a 4-year anniversary Celebrate Recovery service for some good friends at their church.  We quickly pulled onto the side of the road and Bill got out to check tires and look under the hood.  Since he has little, or zero, knowledge of mechanical issues, this was really just an exercise in what he thought a man was supposed to do when there seemed to be a mechanical problem.  All appeared to be in-tact, even though there was a slight burning smell.  He said the tires looked okay and that it was probably the cruise control not working properly.  It was too late to go back and get my car, so we prayed for God to help us make it to the service that night so we would not let our friends down and be allowed to be used by Him to reach the people He intended to reach through our story, to protect us, and to keep the truck running properly to and from Indianapolis.  Bill had been on the phone with one of our friends in ministry at church, so I called her back and explained that everything seemed to be okay and asked her to pray.  I then texted another friend and asked her to, likewise, pray.  I'm so thankful for the righteous people in my life who can be counted on to pray.  In other words, to believe that God hears us when we pray and to then leave the results up to Him.

To make a long story short (well, sort-of), we made it to Indianapolis and got back safely the next day.  As we pulled into Rockford, the truck seemed to start it's sputtering again.  It just wasn't running smoothly.  Bill called our mechanic friend and arranged to get the truck to him at church over the weekend.  Bill had an inkling that we may need to trade the truck instead of taking it out to California with us for the upcoming move.  Fast forward to today.  Our friend called Bill and said things were much worse than we had imagined.  He said he was surprised the truck made it to his shop without breaking down.  He chuckled when we told him we got to Indianapolis and back by the hand of God and His angels who transported us so effectively.  He remarked that it was probably a good thing that Bill knew nothing about mechanics because, if he had, he would have turned around and come home and called our friends in Indianapolis with the disappointing news that we couldn't make it to the service as their guest speaker.  He said that if Bill had known anything about front ends, he would have recognized that ours was on it's last leg and wasn't up for the trip.  We didn't know any of this and we headed out on our adventure with much prayer and faith that God would help us get there to share our story for His glory and to get home safely.  He came through.  Undoubtedly, He became our Driver. Granted, we were a bit clueless - but we weren't without faith.  It's exactly what we needed.

Today, when I realized more of how God was at work, as usual, all I could do was thank Him for His faithfulness.  On top of the answered prayer on the back story, He continues to work out the details of us getting a new vehicle.  Friends in KY have helped us find a good "replacement".  We just had to figure out how to get the truck down there for the trade-in!  The battery actually died in our friend's shop:-)  Yes, it really was time to say good-bye to our, previously trusty, old vehicle.  This truck was no longer being driven anywhere.  It will have to be hauled anywhere it has to go from now on.  Yet, God is working out the details.  Our mechanic friend, Joe, was wonderful - as always.  He made a phone call and asked a friend from church, who owns a transportation company, to help.  He agreed to transport the truck to KY at no cost to us.  What a blessing!  Another friend brokered a deal to help us get a replacement vehicle by this weekend and end up with the same monthly payment.  Again, what a blessing!  At this rate, I almost think I could look out into the driveway and just find a new vehicle sitting there!  Now, I'm just kidding, but it is not outside the realm of God's miracle network, I'm sure:-)

I confessed to Bill on the way home that I had experienced some anxiety after he told me the news.  He laughed and said that he had come home this morning with a bit of anxiety of his own.  When he walked in and heard the song I had playing in the background saying God works all things out for good for those who love Him, and when I told him it was an opportunity for God to work things out, and especially when we prayed, he had great peace.  He said he just set about being led by God to make the necessary phone calls and let God work it out.  Maybe neither of us had started out with the right amount of faith, but God has used the little bit of faith we had - yes, even as little an amount as a mustard seed - and used it to encourage one another and put our trust into motion.

Chris Tomlin's recently released song about "the God of angel armies" always being by my side was prominent in my mind and heart today.  He made me aware of some of the ways He and His angels have been by my side.  He made me aware that our trip to Indianapolis was not by chance, but by His hand and His mercy.  I'm grateful for the person whose life He may have impacted there!  He made me aware that I need not fret about a vehicle, as long as I let Him always be the Driver in my life and in my affairs.  He simply, but profoundly, made me aware.....thank You, LORD!  I pray that I recognize, more and more, how you are always by my side, how You dispatch your angels on my behalf, and how you work all things out for good for those who love you and are called according to Your purposes.  I LOVE YOU, LORD!  May I continue to to surrender to You and Your purposes in my life.  #GRATEFUL!!!

As usual, this story was not a short one!  I tell Bill that details are important and I like to include them all!  I saw a quote on Facebook today that said something like, "I have OCD and ADD, so everything has to be perfect, but not for very long!"  I love'a sort of fitting for my detailed, rambling style:-)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I Surrender, God....2013 Mantra

It's a brand-spanking New Year - 2013!  Woohoo!!!  We all like to think that we will get rid of bad habits and start new and good habits at the beginning of each new year. This year is no exception. I see people postings on social media about their resolutions to "do" things better or differently, or to be better people because of some "change" they are going to put into practice in their lives. I hope they achieve their goals. But let's face it, some will do great and some...not so keeping their resolutions. A person's willpower can take them a long way, but can it keep them there? It depends on "who" holds the power to help them change. Are they doing it on their own, or are they surrendering what they cannot do on their own to God and asking Him to help them? It makes all the difference in the world.

A friend of mine posted something yesterday, asking people their mantra for 2013. She noted that, "A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of creating transformation". Her question really made me think. It occurred to me that transformation can only come through the belief and application to one's life of the truth and power of God and His word. Our action plan would be to "renew our minds", as God's Word instructs us to do. You may ask how one would do that. I'm so glad you asked! In Romans 12:2 it says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will". Now, does that verse pack a punch, or what?! It seems that all of us would like to know what God's good, pleasing and perfect will is for our lives. It also appears that He is telling us how we can do that. He is not going to renew our minds for us - but, as we start the process of renewal, He is faithful to complete the transformation. We just have to follow Him and His way....not our own.

A good question would be, "How do I renew my mind?". That's how I settled on the "mantra" that I would adopt for 2013. My mantra will be, "I surrender, God!". That's it. I've learned that, through God's power and truth, I can do what He instructs to renew my mind. I have to, or I will never know Him and His character well enough to allow Him to transform my mind. I have to read His Word. I have to talk to Him in prayers of praise and petition. I have to allow His voice, both through His Word and His Spirit, to speak to me and show me His good, pleasing and perfect will. But it occurred to me that it takes one thing for me to set this renewal action plan in place - it takes my surrender to Him and to everything He wants to teach me.
I can be transformed in 2013, by the renewing of my mind in God's Word and power. He will transform if I renew. I will be renewed if I surrender to Him. It's simple really, yet hard for me, as a human, to carry out in every day life. That's why this will be my mantra: "I surrender, God!". If I keep telling myself and God this, I know my life will change for the better. How do I know this? Well, I've learned that life is always better when I surrender to God and He is in control. That's a given:-)