Deep Waters

Summer weather always makes me long for the beach, or at least somewhere near the water. What is it about water that fascinates us so? I know for me, some of it may be the lovely pictures I come across in magazines of quaint sea side cottages decorated with lovely reminders of the vast ocean just outside the door. Water has a therapeutic effect. I love to sit near it, watching the waves rolling in or listening to the rush of foam hitting the shore. 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Water can also be frightening. It can cause catastrophic flooding and overwhelm the largest ocean going vessels. We all desire safe harbor, but sometimes God has something very different in mind. Once in a while He will cut the lines that tether us to the shore and set us on a sea that would scare the bravest and most seasoned sailor. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Oswald Chambers states it perfectly:

If you yourself do not cut the lines that tie you to the dock, God will have to use a storm to sever them and send you out to sea...If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the calm waters, just inside the harbor, full of joy, but always tied to the dock. You have to get out past the harbor and into the great depths of God, and begin to know things for yourself—-begin to have spiritual discernment.”
— My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

I love word pictures. This picture struck me right between the eyes. I love being in safe harbor. I love to feel at peace and know that life is running smoothly. I like organization, and like many women, I want to feel like I am in control, at least of some aspect of life. For me that is safe. What isn't safe is not knowing where your kids are at three or four in the morning, having pain or illness that can't be diagnosed, losing your job or getting old. These things are all reminders that we have very little in our control. 

I believe that we can become dependent and even prideful of our place in that peaceful harbor. We become fixated on the ropes that are tethering us to the dock believing that it is the ropes that keep our boat safe and secure. That is when the storms come and sever our ties, ripping the very ropes we took pride in and depended upon, from the dock and setting us adrift on an angry,  sea.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Why would God do that? Why would He take us from that safe place and send us out on a stormy ocean? Doesn't He care about us? Doesn't He know that we are afraid?

Of course He does, but He also knows that you will never grow if you are forever in the safe harbor. He knows every hair on your head, every cell in your body and He knows just exactly what you need. Our journey in this life is about our relationship with Him. It is about letting go of everything we hold dear and clinging to Christ alone. 

I know this is hard. I have experienced the storm and I have felt my strongest ropes (the things I thought were right) torn away from that peaceful dock. I have cowered, terrified, in the bottom of the boat wondering when that monster wave would finally take me under. But always at that darkest and most chaotic moment, I would lift my eyes just a bit over the edge of the boat and I would see Him coming to me on the waves. He would come, climb into my boat and we would ride those stormy seas like a surfer hanging ten! 

Oh yes, my stomach has roiled, just like the sea. My mind has crashed just like those tumultuous waves, but gradually the storm would move away, the waves would soften and the wind would calm. He would take my hand and say,

"Peace, dear lamb. Be still."

He alone can overcome our pride. He alone can ride the storm out with us. He alone can speak peace into our troubled hearts.

Dear ones, don't cling to tightly to those plans you have made, nor those ropes that tether you to the dock. He may be calling you out into deep waters.

Mulling It Over - Part 6 - Ephesians 6:15

This month as I continue to look at the armor of God we are going to talk about shoes! As a fashion blogger, I love shoes of all sorts, whether it be sandals, boots, heels or flats, I love to have a variety of shoes to go with the variety of outfits that I post and talk about. 

I find it interesting that God mentions our feet when talking about His armor. 

Piece # 3 - The Gospel of Peace

15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
— Ephesians 6:15 (NASB)

There are several important points that we can pull from this simple verse.

1) We are supposed to have our feet covered. Seeing as it is summer I am sure most of you have made the run to your mail box without any shoes on. When I was a child we spent most of our time outside in bare feet. Our feet became tough and we could walk just about anywhere. I don't go without shoes, or at least flip flops, anymore. Time has made my feet soft and age has made me less tolerant of pain. Ha, ha. God made a provision for our journey in life, in the armor He gave to us. Our feet need to be covered, because we need to keep walking and keep fighting. We wouldn't get far at all if our feet were not in working order.

2) We are to be prepared. The word preparation implies that we are to do some training or making ready in advance. When speaking in terms of military readiness, our soldiers go through weeks of intensive training. They also learn additional skills about tactics, weapons and psychological readiness. I am sure many vets will tell you, even with the training they had, they still weren't prepared for the horrors of real warfare. 

We are directed in the Bible to be prepared, not only for Spiritual warfare as is being discussed in this passage in Ephesians, but to give an account for why we have hope.

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
— I Peter 3:15 (NASB)

 What exactly is this hope that we have? What exactly are we, as Christ followers, supposed to be prepared with? 

3) The gospel of peace. I'd actually like to break this phrase into two separate pieces. 

a. The gospel. Simply put, the gospel is the good news. Christ followers believe that we are all sinners and all fall short of measuring up to God's perfect standard. Because of this there had to be a sacrifice made to bridge the gap between God and ourselves. Jesus Christ bridged that gap. By committing our lives to Him we are able to enter into God's presence and have fellowship with Him. When we share the gospel, we are sharing the fact that Jesus paid the price that we ourselves should have paid and by believing in His work on the cross and His resurrection we can and will be with God. John 3:16 is the gospel in a nut shell.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 (NASB)

b. ...of peace. I love that the word peace is included with this piece of armor. Jesus came so that we might have peace with God.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
— Romans 5:1 (NASB)

However, it doesn't end there. The idea that this piece of armor is for the feet implies that we are taking it with us wherever we go. We don't put on our shoes to get into bed. We put them on so that we can go out of the house to work, shop, play and the many other things we do throughout a day or a week. For us, the gospel is to be an integral part of everywhere we go and everything we do. Not just the good news, but the peace that the good news brings.

In a world of unrest we all need a little peace, not only for ourselves, but for those we work with, hang with, and encounter on a regular basis. You would be amazed how responding with a peaceful and loving attitude can diffuse a volatile situation.

As we go forward this week, let's be prepared by having having our feet ready with the gospel of peace, so that we might have opportunity to share the good news and bring His peace to all we encounter. 

You can see the first 5 parts of this Mulling It Over series on Ephesians 6:10-18 by clicking on each of the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

 

 

Mulling It over - Part 5

If you follow my faith page on the blog, you know that I have been doing a series on Ephesians 6:10-18. I have been going very slowly as we look at the armor of God, endeavoring to savor and fully understand each verse and even words within each verse. (To see the original posts click on the links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4) Let's review. 

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
— Ephesians 6:10-13 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

A quick review of the first four verse reveals Paul's encouragement to be strong in the Lord. We are told to put on the full armor of God, so we might be able to stand against the schemes of our enemy, the devil. Paul reminds us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood armies, but against rulers, powers, world forces of this darkness and spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. If we just stopped there we could get pretty discouraged. Life is hard enough without throwing in all those forces and battles we can't even see. Again, we are encouraged to take up the full armor of God so that we can stand firm.

Last month, I looked at the first part of verse 14.

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
— Ephesians 6:14 (NASB)

In last month's post I talked specifically about having our loins girded with truth. Truth is the foundation for our ability to protect what God has established in our lives, through His word and His Spirit. If we are not listening to truth and seeking truth, we will be weak and defenseless when it comes to the assaults of the enemy.

Pixabay

Pixabay

This week I want to look at the second piece of armor that we are to put on.

Piece #2 - Righteousness

What is righteousness? Webster's defines it as "acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt or sin." Okay, so those of us who are Christ followers, know, without a doubt that we are not righteous. Doesn't God's word say:  

For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
— Isaiah 64:6 (NASB)

It also states:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)

Where does that leave us? How do we put on righteousness if we are, indeed, unrighteous? If you have been a Christian for a while, or you have had some Bible training, you may have heard of the term, imputed righteousness. Simply put, Christ, who is the Righteous one, gives us His righteousness when we believe in Him by faith. If we believe that, then how is it that we have to put on, righteousness, as part of our armor?

Just as with so many things in our Christian walk, we have to make a choice. Putting on truth, is choosing to seek truth, adhere to the truth and love truth. Putting on righteousness is a choice to do the following three things.

1. Admit - Admit that Christ is your righteousness. Being a good person, does not, in fact, a Christian make. Christ and belief in Him, is what makes a Christian. Following Him and believing all that He did in His life, death and resurrection are what make us righteous. 

he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit,
— Titus 3:5 (New English Translation)
Pixabay - cross

2. Allow - Allow Christ to be your righteousness. Too often we are trying to play this spiritual game on our own and we have no business doing that. Sure you might be a very strong person, but strength in our own might is a hindrance, not a help. God has been working in my life on this very point. It is His goal to make us Christ like, not more human like. I don't know about you, but I have always liked to think of myself as a strong person, able to get through difficulties and still appear to have it all together, at least on the outside. Let me tell you, in the long run, that will do nothing, but produce sleepless nights and plenty of anxiety! 

I am beginning to embrace this idea that when I am weak He is strong....oh what a glorious and wonderful thing to know. 

3. Abide - Andrew Murray is a preacher/teacher of yesteryear and has many good things to say in his writing. Right now I am trying to get through his book called, Abide in Christ, and have learned so much. In fact, I had gotten away from it, because it is not a book I can just breeze through. I have to take notes and ruminate on it. I recently thought, I need to get back to it, because I need to abide in Christ. 

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
— John 15:4 (NASB)

This is one of the red letter sections of scripture. I have always thought, it is particularly important to pay attention when the letters are red, because that is when Jesus is talking. He says we cannot bear fruit apart from Him. If I am going to put on righteousness, I need to be abiding in Him. 

Pixabay - grapes

Abiding is simply doing all those things we know we need to do anyway. Read the Bible, go to church, fellowship with other believers, be thankful, pray without ceasing, rejoice always, spend time with God speaking to Him and listening for Him. 

I hope you will think about putting on righteousness today. Just like truth, we need to put it on, even before we get out of bed every day. 

Dread or Anticipation?

I wish I could tell you I had my act together and always have my blog posts figured out ahead of time, but I don't. My life resembles that pattern, doing things by the seat of my pants. I am not sure how I got to this point. I used to be such a planner, able to think ahead, meal plan, make lists and right now I seem to be hovering somewhere between a misty valley of apprehension and a deep dark cave of despair. 

pixabay - check list

I have always been an emotional person. I feel things, not just experience them. I have teared up at kids movies, cried when we had to put our dog down, or the guinea pigs died; i have also had bouts with anger and frustration as well as times of great laughter and happiness. More recently, I have become well acquainted with fear. I've always been a bit of a nervous person, feeling almost sick the first day of school or when I have to go to the dentist and so on, but now, it is just full blown fear. 

Pixabay - fear

I think things happen in our lives for a purpose. God allows circumstances to bear down on us at times to make us more like Christ, but we still have to choose to bend. That is where I am at. I am trying to bend. I want to be like Christ, but I am learning that I cannot do that in my strength. He seems to be reminding me of that even more so lately with sleepless nights and bouts of anxiety. Yet, I can still see clearly enough that I know this is an opportunity to bend.

Pixabay - bending
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 3:12-14 (NASB)

This is what I need to be doing, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I will be the first to admit, sometimes the future looks rather scary. It is certainly a great unknown. However, I can choose to look to the future with anticipation for what God will do, rather than dread for what He won't do. 

I need to remember, God's plan is perfect, no matter what I am feeling, His ways are perfect and His love is just as real and sure as the air I breath! 

An Old Fixer Upper!

Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who have served our country in the armed forces. It is also a day to remember those who have gone on before us, our loved ones and friends, whose lives were ended by age,  disease or accidents. I am thankful for the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom and security. 

My husband and I were able to get away for two nights after our "kidney stone vacation cancellation" occurrence this past week. We went somewhere just a couple of hours away and had a fun, relaxing time. On part of the trip, rather than take the usual interstate highways, we traveled a few country roads which meandered through smaller communities and old farming towns. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Each town and community are unique. Some are still bustling, with streets lined with pretty houses, lawns freshly manicured and flowers blooming. They have downtowns that are full of cars, with people milling about in cute little shops, pizza joints and coffee houses. Driving through these villages you get a life vibe, like the whole town cares about and contributes to the upkeep and betterment of the community.  Others, however, feel dead. As you drive through these places you might see a few houses where the lawns are mowed and flowers grace the porch, but many are untended. The downtowns of these communities, while boasting businesses of the past, are now mostly empty except for an occasional gas station or quickie mart. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

When we drive through this sort of community I always feel sad. My mind begins to wonder, who were the people that made up this community in the past? What were the businesses that used to call this town home? What happened to cause the eventual end of those businesses and why didn't new businesses move in? Who used to occupy those big old houses that now stand empty? Or if they are still lived in, what occurred in their lives that made them lose hope? Are they too old to properly care for their homes? Do they have some sort of debilitating disease that keeps them from getting out to mow their lawn? Did their lawn mower die and they don't have any money to replace it? Maybe life has thrown them too many curve balls and they have just giving up!

Suddenly, I realized, I am on the cusp of becoming one of those people. I'm tired! I'm getting older! I am, in some ways, becoming, not only like the people who live in those houses, but like the very structure itself; used up, in disrepair and feeling rather empty. I keep asking myself, what is wrong with me? Life has thrown an inordinate amount of curve balls my way. Maybe I have lost hope. But, I can't seem to get the words of that hymn out of my mind:

Pixabay

Pixabay

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
Refrain:
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand.
— My Hope is Build on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

When Jesus came into my life, he became the owner of this abode. It was His blood and His righteousness that bought me and it is His grace and His Spirit that enables me to live in this world. Just as if a person of unlimited resources could go into one of those old, abandoned houses and refurbish it, Christ came into my life, not to let me get run down, worn out and empty, but to repaint, rebuild and fill up. It is on this solid rock of Jesus that I must stand. If I try to build my hope on anything else, I will become an old, rickety, empty house.

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil. [Refrain]
— My Hope is Built on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

Even when things seem their very darkest and those curve balls keep coming and coming, I still can stand on Him. I rest, not in what I can see right now, but what I already know to be true of Christ through his Spirit and His word. He does not change. He doesn't get tired, or worn out or depressed. He is our anchor, always and forever!

Stocksnap

Stocksnap

His oath, his covenant, his blood
support me in the whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay. [Refrain]
— My Hope is Build on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

His oath, His covenant, His blood....not mine. We give ourselves too much credit. Every commercial you see, every song you hear, everything we read, tells us, "You can do it! You deserve it! You can win! If you just....." It wears me out and that is precisely where Christ can begin to do His work. Some of the greatest saints of the past were those who appeared, from a worldly perspective, to be the weakest. 

but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,
— I Corinthians 1:27 (NASB)

Leave it to God to switch things up! He's so good at that. Our human point of view would never think to use the foolish things of the world, or the weak things of the world. Our flesh is all about getting its own glory. I'm strong! I'm smart! I'm powerful! Not! But He is! Oh, the blessed peace and rest, to know that is true.

When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found,
dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne. [Refrain]
— My Hope is Build on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

One day, this will be true. I will stand before His throne, faultless, because I stand on HIm alone. His blood and righteousness, not mine. Until that day, I am going to keep trying to let Him work in this old fixer upper. I want people to be able to look at me and see, maybe my porch is a little saggy and maybe my flower beds are not completely free of weeds, but that Jesus is working, always working to make me into something beautiful. 

Wait! I Didn't Want that to Happen!

What do you do when you are very disappointed? Do you blame God? Do you complain and become discouraged and frustrated? Let's face it, life delivers plenty of disappointments. Relationships fail, those things that we wanted for so long break and get thrown away and we even experience disappointment in ourselves due to our failures and lost hopes. Sometimes life leads us down a path that looks appealing, other times, it leads us to a place we don't want to go.

path in the woods - Akron Falls Park, Akron, NY

My husband and I left Thursday evening to begin a ten day journey out east. We were going to spend two nights with my mom near Buffalo, NY and then point our car towards Maine, a state neither of us had been, but both of us were looking forward to exploring. I had already made reservations at hotels and Home Away type accommodations and was anticipating new digs to stay in, new scenery to take pictures of, new places to walk with our new hiking boots and new restaurants featuring local fair like lobster and other seafood delicacies. Little did I know my hope and anticipations were about to be dashed to pieces. 

While we were at my mom's we took her to a nearby park for a walk. At ninety plus she is getting a little unsteady, but she is able to still walk with a helping arm. Here are some pictures from our walk.

Akron Falls Park, Akron, NY
Akron Falls Park - Akron, NY
Akron Falls Park - Akron, NY
Akron Falls Park - Akron, NY

Saturday morning we left my mom's house at 8:30 AM and hoped to put the hours and miles behind us as we headed towards Portland, ME. We had only just gotten onto the interstate when the pain that had been plaguing me in my lower abdomen on and off for the last four days suddenly torqued up the intensity. We stopped at the next rest area so I could use the restroom. I seriously thought I was having some sort of digestive anomaly. Two years ago I had been diagnosed with diverticulosis, but had never actually had an issue with diverticulitis. 

By the time I began walking out of the rest area, my husband knew something was wrong. He could see it in the way I walked and by the look on my face. He asked the nearest rest area employee where the closest urgent care would be and we were directed to the hospital at the next exit. 

By the time I was finally checked into the ER and was actually given pain medication at least two hours had passed. After a CT scan I was diagnosed with having a kidney stone. I have never had kidney stones before. I was told I would have to stay in the hospital over night to see if the stone would pass and they put me on a regimen of pain meds, antibiotics and drugs to widen out the ureters to help the stone pass. 

Me looking lovely in the ER!

Me looking lovely in the ER!

After a mostly sleepless night at the hospital with my faithful husband in a very uncomfortable recliner by my bed we decided this would not be the year we would go on our adventure to Maine. I write this post at a Barnes and Noble as we travel back to our home in the Mid West after spending another night with my mom. I would have been ruthless to not let my mom see me and know I was okay after all that had happened. It proved most beneficial to have a good nights rest and some food that I could actually eat. I feel much better today!

With our car still full of bags and treats and hiking boots as well as five new prescriptions, we began our trip home feeling rather glum and disappointed that things had not worked out as we had hoped. Now I go back to my original question: How do you deal with disappointment? In all honesty I only know of one way. 

Thankfulness! 

Yes! You heard me! Thankfulness.

Here is my list:

1. My husband was with me through all of it. He did not waver. He did not get upset. He was just genuinely glad that I just had a kidney stone (he's had one of his own) and not having surgery for a colostomy or finding out I had cancer. 

2. The hospital staff was great. Every nurse was kind, informative and professional. They answered our questions, let us know what they were going to do with clarity and a smile and always asked if we needed anything. Even the aides who had to empty out my little pee pot to check for stones were friendly and helpful. 

3. We were right near a hospital. I didn't have to drive for several hours to get to a competent place of care. In fact the hospital is in the same city where my brother works. He even stopped by to check on me while I was in the ER.

4. I only had to spend one night! Hooray.

5. By this morning, I was no longer in any pain, and no longer felt like I wanted to hurl every time I thought of food. 

6. Our drive home has been relaxing and enjoyable. 

These are only a few of the thing that I can thank God for during this disappointing time. Disappointments, as I have talked about before, can push us away from God, or draw us closer. I would definitely choose to draw closer every time. 

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18

Mulling it Over - Part 4

After taking a month off, I thought it was time to get back to my Mulling it Over series. I have been scrutinizing the passage in Ephesians 6 on the armor of God. You can read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, by clicking on the links. Thus far we have looked at verses 10-13. We have learned that we need to be strong in the Lord, and take up the full armor of God so that we are able to stand firm against the evil one. Today we finally start looking at the pieces of armor that Paul writes about in this passage. It is important to remember that Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to pen these words. Thus, these are the pieces that God deemed most important to put on.

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
— Ephesians 6:14 (NASB)

Piece #1 - Truth

When we look at the verse it says to have our loins girded with truth. When I started thinking about this I had to look up the word loin. I mean we all have probably seen some version of Tarzan and know what a loin cloth is, but what exactly is Paul talking about in this verse. 

From a purely physical standpoint our loins are the area of our bodies from the lowest ribs to the hip bone. There are many important internal goings on in this area of the body. The most obvious is our sexual organs, but that is also the area our digestive tract resides. Think about a time when you've had cramps and diarrhea, or a time when you've endured the pain of a bladder infection or a yeast infection. We can feel pretty miserable when our loins are inflamed and not feeling well. The loins contain the organs that reproduce. Think how important this was in a day and age when having children was a sign of your wealth and blessing.

So, why did God include this piece in the armor and why the connection to truth? Keep in mind, these are just my ideas. There are many excellent Bible studies on the armor of God, by great authors and speakers like Priscilla Shirer - The Armor of God; Chip Ingram - The Invisible War and Joyce Meyer - Battlefield of the Mind. I would recommend all of these books for an in depth study on the whole concept of spiritual warfare. 

1. The vitals are vital. We cannot live without our internal organs. We have to be able to eat, digest, go to the bathroom and so on. It is also important to humanity that we be able to reproduce. It is important to our marriages that we have a healthy attitude towards sex and meeting our partners needs and desires. When any of these areas are off we are usually miserable. In the same way, there are areas of our spiritual lives that are vital to our well being. Prayer, reading God's word, fellowship, study, worship, and thanksgiving are all important to our continued growth and spiritual health. 

When any one of these areas is neglected we begin to suffer. What happens when you don't eat well? What is your marriage like when you have not had sex for a while? How do you feel when you have a lower GI bug? The same thing is true of our spiritual lives. If we aren't worshipping, studying God's word or praying we are going to feel it. 

2. Truth is our covering. Over the years I have heard this particular piece of armor referred to as the belt of truth. The picture Paul had in mind was that of a Roman soldier in full gear. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

In the picture above you can see the belt that went around the waist. Attached to it were leather loin pieces, these particular ones are studded, that hung down and provided a little extra covering in that precious area. For us as Christ followers, truth is like that leather loin covering. Truth keeps us from getting hit in the vitals. 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
— John 14:6 (NASB)

If we believe what Jesus said, then we know that it is in having a relationship with Him that we can know truth. Some truths are evident to all. Mathematical equations like 2 + 2 = 4, or 3 x 6 = 18 are true facts. They can be observed. Truth can be found in the scientific realm. Scientists have observed that the earth is round and rotates around the sun. They can also observed chemical reactions that produce gases and color changes. But what about all those things that cannot be observed? Scientists derive theories, from things they observe, but that is what they are, theories. Physicist make conclusions from lengthy formulas about what's inside a black hole or how the big bang could have happened, but just as we have faith that God created the world, so too they have faith in their theories. 

Without truth, we are subject to the whims of the world....anyway the wind blows....truth gives us a standard of measure against which to compare our lives, our actions and our thoughts. Even if you do not believe in the claims of Jesus that He is the truth, you probably have some standard of measure by which you live your life. Many of you probably base it on what you call truth. For a good synopsis on truth see the following article Absolute Truth.

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’
— John 8:31-32 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

3. Truth is our Defense. Having truth available to us will enable us to fight the spiritual battles with more confidence. Knowing what God's word says and claiming those promises as we go through life, give us a tactical advantage over our enemy. When he comes us against us with lies, as you know he so often does, knowing the truth will protect you from doubt and place your feet on firm ground. I don't know about you, but if I am going into battle, I don't want my feet standing on a slippery slope of doubt and lies. I will place my feet on the solid rock of Jesus. 

 

 

A Father's Perspective

When the enemy took my granddaughter I knew it was a well thought plan. This vile one, knows how to plan. He is always plotting, and scheming. He knew by taking her, it would unleash a chain of events in my kingdom that would shake it to its very core. My daughter had been there. She had seen him take her child. Her first instinct was to chase after him and his vicious horde. Of course I could not let her go. She was too valuable to me, to all of us. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

My decision to leave my granddaughter to the vile whims of the enemy was not met without disagreement. My closest advisors looked at me as though I had gone insane when I said to let him go and to retrieve my daughter. They didn't know the torment that was going on inside of me. My heart was tearing into a million little pieces and yet I knew there was a greater plan, a greater purpose. One that had to play out before we could rescue my dear one.

My daughter struggled when they went to retrieve her, but eventually my warriors subdued her and she was taken back to the castle. I knew she was strong, but this was the biggest test she had ever undergone. She needed to rest. She needed to heal.

The first week was torture. I could not eat, for knowing the decision I had made had put my own kin at the mercy of the enemy. In addition, my daughter would not talk to me. During the daylight hours she would sit in a chair on the balcony of her room, with nothing on but her dressing gown. Her lady's maid would put a blanket around her shoulders to try to keep her warm, but she continued to sit, staring out in the direction of the battle where her child was taken.

Eventually, she fell ill. Her body could not cope with the trauma and her mind had shut down. She lay in bed at night, her mind clouded by the touch of evil the enemy had forced on her. I would sit next to her every night, praying. I knew that the One was the only one who could bring light to this darkness. She would thrash and cry out as the fever raged. Our attendants did their best to get water down her throat and cool her fever, but we all knew there was only One who could heal this sickness. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

One night, her fever was so high I did not even have to touch her to know I was dangerously close to losing her. I laid myself out on the floor next to her bed.  I wept and raged at the One. I argued that He could have prevented all of this. He could have kept my grand daughter from the enemy's claws and in turn He could have kept my daughter from the edge of the dismal abyss on which she now teetered. But, He hadn't. 

That night, I suddenly realized I was not only close to losing everyone left that I loved, but I was close to giving up on the faith that had become such a vital part of my being. It was that faith that helped me to rule with honor and integrity. It was that faith that enabled my to be just and fair. It was that faith in the One, that kept me from taking my own life when my wife had died. Over and over I had seen His faithfulness. Why now was I doubting? 

Because it was too close to me and it hurt.

As I wept, and prayed I realized I could give up my faith, but then where would I be? Everything I had come to believe as right and true would be meaningless and that would be the end of me. The One had never said this life would be easy. He never promised that terrible things wouldn't happen. He only promised to be there through it all, and I knew without a doubt He always had.

Getting to my knees next to my daughters bed, I took her hand in mine and I promised the One, that from that day forward, no matter what happened I would never doubt again. It was as if a weight, the one that had sat solemnly on my chest since my grand daughter was taken, was lifted. I took a deep breath and then I felt it.

My daughter squeezed my hand.

Pixabay

Pixabay

I looked up at her face and she smiled. I realized then, we had both just fought a battle in a world unseen, a world that one day He, would overcome. I knew at that moment, the way ahead was going to be long and hard, but He would be with us.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.
— Luke 12:32 (NASB)

(This was a fictional piece by Amy D. Christensen)

How Do We Bloom, When Life is Tough?

I think as women we spend much of our time over thinking things. Have you ever asked yourself these questions: Is what I'm doing making a difference? How does my life count? What sort of legacy am I going to leave behind? Am I worthwhile? Am I enough? 

For this particular post I am not going to address all those other questions we ask ourselves: What am I going to make for dinner? Does my spouse really love me? Are my kids listening to me? Am I too fat? Am I pretty? You get the idea and I am sure you could add your own list of questions.

petunias

You have probably heard the phrase, "Bloom where you are planted." It has been around for a while. I found an interesting article on Huffington Post written in 2014. You can see that article here. The author, Smita Malhotra, MD has a basic premise; that we can live a full life no matter what situation we find ourselves in if we just practice four things:

1. (Remember) Every step in life prepares you for the next one.

2. Stop complaining.

3. Be a blessing.

4. Bloom through concrete.

To thoroughly understand where she is coming from it would be good to read her article. What I would like to do is use that as a spring board for us, specifically as wives, mothers, and grandmothers. You all know it is true, motherhood and sometimes being a wife is a thankless job.  I'm sure there are those who would say, If you teach your children properly, they will be thankful. While this is true, the hard bits of motherhood are not easily understood until experienced. 

I think there are several scriptural ideas that we need to be reminded of to enable us to better bloom where we are planted. 

1. God is in control. I know we all say it. It rolls off our tongues as easily as water, but how many of us actually believe it? It's okay to be honest. I have a hard time with it myself. Didn't the disciples struggle with believing He was in control those dark hours after Jesus was crucified then laid in the tomb? Read through the Psalms. David questioned God on more than one occasion.

Why do You stand afar off, O Lord?
Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?
— Psalm 10:1 (NASB)

But he always came back to the fact that God was in control.

The Lord is King forever and ever;
Nations have perished from His land.
O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear
— Psalm 10:16-17

Perhaps that is part of the problem. We let ourselves go through hours, days and even weeks of wandering, worrying and hand-wringing, when really all we need to do is exactly what David did. Bring it back to God. 

2. God is trustworthy. There is an element to trust that must be akin to jumping out of the airplane. Let go! When it comes to our kids and our grandkids, we want to be able to keep them from all evil, but frankly evil happens. Our wishing it away, or ignoring it, is not going to keep bad things from happening. However, we can choose to place our trust in the One who is higher than I. 

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
— Psalm 13:1-2 (NASB)

The Psalmist again, questions God's goodness at the beginning of the Psalm. This is showing us, it is okay to feel these difficult emotions. The worry, stress, fear, anger, are all part of being human in a fallen world. 

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
— Psalm 13:5-6 (NASB)

By the end of the Psalm, which isn't very long, the psalmist remembers who God is, and that He is faithful. He makes a choice to not allow his thoughts to stay on the despair and agony page. He is confident that God is trustworthy.

3. Thankfulness makes a difference. I can't say this enough. Ann Voskamp wrote an entire book on the subject, called One Thousand Gifts. Go to Amazon and type in books on gratitude to see the list that pops up. Nancy Leigh DeMoss wrote Choosing Gratitude. For perspectives that are not strictly Christian there is also, The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan and Daily Gratitude by National Geographic. Thankfulness can transform our minds and our lives. It is, after all, commanded in God's word.

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

4. Get positive. I wanted to differentiate this from being thankful because I think there is more to bringing our thoughts captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ, than just thankfulness. Thankfulness is a huge part of it, but we can forget to be thankful, or we can express gratitude and then quickly move on to something else that is wearing away at our peace. God's word expresses this idea of positivity in the book of Philippians.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
— Philippians 4:8 (NASB)

This verse comes after verses 4-7 which talk about rejoicing, not being anxious and the peace of God. This verse brings the whole idea of positive thinking into fine focus. We are to be thinking about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, reputable, excellent and worthy of praise. Start measuring your thought life up against that list. Would you say your thoughts are mostly positive or are you seeing some work that needs to be done? 

Positivity can come from music, good books, uplifting movies, non-toxic friendships, exercise, getting out in nature, owning a pet and of course things like going to church and reading God's word. 

mirror

There are times when I look at my reflection in the mirror and I talk out loud to myself. I tell myself I am valuable, loved with an everlasting love and beautiful. I also tell myself that most of the worries I have are never going to happen, so just chill. Sometimes, I pray out loud, doing battle with the enemy and hearing myself say it makes me realize I have the power of God available to me at all times. I love to go for walks and when I do, I try to thank God for the beauty of the world around me, even on a gray day. 

Blooming where we are planted is basically the ability to be the person God wants you to be no matter where you are at any point in your life. You might not think you are blooming, let alone thriving, but try to remember whose you are and that He's got it all figured out. Then just lean into Him. He will help you to grow through the toughest concrete out there. 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

The Hall of Shame

You have heard of the Hall of Fame. Pro football's Hall of Fame is in Canton, Ohio only a few hours from where we live. The Hall of Fame is a place where the greatest players of all time are memorialized for their contributions to the pigskin game. Pro football greats such as Jim Brown, Mike Ditka, Brett Farve, Joe Montana, Joe Perry (not the guitarist of Aerosmith fame) and Johnny Unitas are just a few of the men inducted into that Hall of Fame. This is just one Hall of Fame. There are Halls of Fame for aviation and space, music, show business and theater, sports and all sorts of other odds and ends. We place a great deal of emphasis on achievement and accomplishment. 

Pixabay - 

Pixabay - 

This week leads up to an event that is not remembered for its pomp and circumstance, but for its darkness and pain. If you have never visited the Hall of Shame, I hope you will continue reading, because this person and this place we all must visit and one day reckon with. 

When you first enter the Hall of Shame you will notice that it is not pleasant. It is a dark place that leaves your skin feeling clammy. The first room we come to is small and poorly lit. Two oil lamps hang from posts that hold up the ceiling. It is not good quality oil and burns smokey. A low wooden table sits in the center of the room and around it, pillows and cushions showing some wear. This was His last supper with those He loved. They couldn't even have a nice meal together without fighting over who was to be the greatest.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Their shame was their pride. 

From this upper room, we move out into a garden. It is dark here too, as it was night when this event began. He walked with his followers to this place and told them to pray. He agonized. They fell asleep.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Their shame was their flesh. 

From out of this dark night come soldiers carrying torches. They came after Him like the villagers came after the Frankenstein monster. One of His own betrayed him with a kiss. Judas' kiss!

Pixabay

Pixabay

His shame was thirty pieces of silver and his own life.

The soldiers took the God-Man. The one, the Rock called Peter, said he would follow Him to the death.

Pixabay

Pixabay

His shame magnified three-fold when the rooster crowed. 

Moving on in the Hall of Shame, we come to the council chamber of the Sanhedrin. "Are you the son of God, then?" "Yes, I am."

Pixabay

Pixabay

Their shame was their inability to put out the flame.

On to the hall of Pilate. This was a place of order. This man had soldiers at his command. He could pass sentence on the just and the unjust. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

His shame was he wanted to pass the buck

This next room is rich and ornate. It bears the flare of a man of power and wealth, Herod Antipas. He was tetrach of Galilee and Perea. Another man of power, but unwilling to make the hard choice. He sent Him back to Pilate.

His shame was that he treated the King of Kings with contempt.

Back to Pilate's hall. Pilate could find no fault in HIm. The Jews would not give up. They wanted Him crucified. Pilate gave them a choice and they didn't choose Jesus.

Their shame: He was their Messiah, but they chose Him not. "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"

Now we walk to the place of the skull. Golgotha, the hill. The old rugged cross. 

StockSnap - Aaron Burden

StockSnap - Aaron Burden

It was our shame that nailed Him there. 

So you see it was not Jesus who created the Hall of Shame, it was us. It was because of our sin, our lust, our pride, our greed, our hatred of the truth, every wrong doing was a hit on the nails that pinned Him to the cross. We build the Hall of Shame with His blood.

But then.....

 

 

Thinking Ahead to Easter

I have always loved Christmas and Easter. When I came to Jesus the idea of a mighty, all powerful God willing to be born and die, for our sakes, was and still is, remarkable. What would possess such a powerful being to cram His holiness into human form? What great motivation moved that same being to go to a cross? Many say that it was His love for us. 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 (NASB)

Obviously, scripture concurs with the idea that God loves us. He loved us so much that He was willing to send His son to die for us, and not just die, but actually become human. That would be like me becoming an ant, so that I could save all the other ants from that shoe about to crush our hill. 

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
— John 15:13 (NASB)

What I find fascinating is that God didn't need to love us. I mean He could have gone on for another billion centuries, whatever that looks like in God time, and never created another living being. He was wholly perfect and, shall we say, content, in His God-head. He doesn't need us. He didn't create us because He was lonely and wanted someone to talk to. 

Photo credit StockSnap - Quino Al

Photo credit StockSnap - Quino Al

Could it be that God created us for something much more relatable than just a desire to make something out of nothing? Maybe God created simply because He could. Perhaps His artistic nature wanted to make something tangible and shall we say earthy. I'm not an artist. I can draw a little bit and took a ceramics class in high school, but that's where my ability ends. However, I can write. When I finish a piece and I  reread it and am moved to tears then I think, "Dang! Your good!" This isn't a matter of pride, it is a matter of being able to use that creative force that lies in all of us.

We are made in His image, so I must believe that God is especially creative. Just look at the fish, birds, bugs and animals. Look at the millions of people in the world, and we are all different! Amazing! If you gave me a yellow, blue and red crayon, I would only be able to come up with a certain number of color combinations, but God....well, He not only colors outside the lines, but outside the entire box! 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

I can just see God as He began that creative work called life, with all of it's complex DNA combinations and miracles at a cellular level. He had to be thinking, "Dang! Your good!" Ha, ha. Whether it be the complexity of the human eye being able to see or the return of salmon to their spawning ground without a GPS, God moved with creativity when He brought this world about. 

Photo credit StockSnap 

Photo credit StockSnap 

Now, try to imagine that the work of art you had just created wound up ruined. Would you have proceeded to pour your passion, your heart, your very essence into something you knew was going to get so messed up? God did! He knew that a serpent's whispered temptation and a human's lustful response would ruin all that He had spoken into existence. But with that knowledge He created a plan. A plan for our welfare. A plan for our salvation.

You see, just as we would do all in our power to preserve our creative efforts, or the creative efforts of others: think van Gogh, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello, Mozart, Handel. Bach, Beethoven, and so many more, God wouldn't just throw it all in the trash. He made a way for His creation to be redeemed. That redemption comes through Jesus Christ. 

As we look forward to Easter in a few weeks I hope you will take some time to think about Jesus and who He is. He is waiting for you. He loves you. He wants a relationship with you. 

Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
— Romans 10:13 (NASB)

 

 

Confession Time

There are days when I am working on this blog that I feel pretty good about what I'm putting out there. Most days, however, I feel pretty overwhelmed. I thought, why not share with all of you some of my struggles. After all, aren't we in this together? Maybe you are a blogger also. What made you start your blog? Was it your fantastic body of knowledge and information; knowledge that you wanted to share with anyone who would listen? Maybe it was your desire to help others. That is always an honorable reason. Or maybe you are like me. Maybe you've been through some things. Maybe you have felt feelings you never thought you would feel, or have experienced hurts so deep you didn't think you would survive. But here you are! You have survived, and now you feel, maybe something that you went through might make a difference for someone else. I mean, wouldn't all of it be worthwhile if it made a difference in some other person's life?

Photo credit - Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit - Rebecca Trumbull

What if it doesn't? What if we never have one word back of encouragement or positivity about what we are doing? What if no one ever thanks us or says, "Wow! I really needed to hear that today," or "You gave me such good ideas about what to do with that sweater in my closet." I'm human. Of course I want to hear those things. I want to know that all the writing, thinking, rummaging through my closet to create outfits is actually worth while. This is not a plea for you to pat me on the back and tell me what a good job I am doing...although you could comment in the comments section below....ha, ha!  No, this is more a confession that I do not have it all together! 

When I read other blogs, I think, "Oh my goodness! How do they do it all? They work jobs, have families, make money on their blogs, network, write for e-zines and journals, have already published a book...." Well, you get what I'm saying. They do it all and look amazing while they are doing it. That is not me. You might think I have it all together, but I don't. I struggle more often than not with why I am even doing a blog. Aren't there a zillion other good writers out there? Aren't there a zillion and one beautiful fashion bloggers, who already have thousands of subscribers? How is my one little voice and my one little opinion going to make a difference?

I'll tell you how....one person at a time. 

When Jesus walked the shores of Galilee, he spent most of his time with a small group of men who became his closest companions and followers. While Jesus did his fair share of teaching to large crowds, his most memorable encounters were with individuals. Think about the woman at the well, the man with leprosy, the blind man, the lame man, the boy with the loaves and fishes. Each of these individuals was personally influenced and touched by Jesus. Jesus never worried about how many people he was getting his message out to. He lived to do His Father's will and to glorify Him. 

StockSnap - Zukiman Mohamad

StockSnap - Zukiman Mohamad

If you are like me you have a passion to write. You may even believe that God has given you both the ability and the desire. If that is the case all that is left is obedience. I truly want to glorify God. Do I always do it? No. But it is my heart's desire. Would I also like to make a living writing? Oh yeah! Would I also like to know that the message I am writing makes a difference? Yes, of course. But, when the doubts come and I want to give up, it is not my desire to make a difference or my message that keeps me going it is obedience. I want to stand before God one day and hear Him say, "Well done!"

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men
— Colossians 3:23 (NASB)

I love that verse and often find myself repeating it. Whatever you do, whether it be chores in your home, taking care of kids, grandkids or aging parents,  your tasks at work, writing a blog post or taking pictures, remember who you are doing it for. Yes, making a difference is awesome, but the reason we do what we do is for Him. 

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
— Galatians 6:9 (NASB)

God knew we would get weary. Doing good can be hard work. It can be long hours, mentally and emotionally exhausting and thankless. He knew this, but He knows the end result. He knows that one person who came to Him because you posted your testimony. He knows that one lady who saw your article on dressing for work and got a job because she followed your advice. He knows that struggling wife who decided to start praying for her husband because of what you shared about your own marital struggles. He knows in due time you will reap the beautiful and bountiful harvest if you don't lose heart. 

StockSnap - Ray Hennessy

StockSnap - Ray Hennessy

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
— Isaiah 40:28-31 (NASB)

Another of my favorite passages! Even if we are weary and tired and thinking we should chuck it all out the window, whether it be blogging, parenting, being a spouse, a friend or a worker, He does not grow weary and He will give us strength. 

 

 

 

Mulling it Over - Part 3

Right now I am devoting the second Monday of each month to mull over a particular piece of scripture. I have been working through Ephesians 6:10-18. In Part 1 I looked at verses 10 and 11. Part 2 covered verse 12. I know I am going slowly, but I feel it is imperative that we examine each verse carefully. This week I want to look at verse 13, but as a refresher, let's look at the first three verses again. 

Bible
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
— Ephesians 6:10-12 (NASB)

Now let's move on to verse 13.

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
— Ephesian 6:13 (NASB)

When I was a young person taking English in high school one of my teachers would say, "If you see a therefore, you need to ask, what is it there for."

1. "Therefore..." When we stop and ask what is this therefore there for, I would say that it is referring back to what was previously stated. The apostle Paul begins this section of scripture admonishing us to put on the armor of God. What follows is a statement of just what sort of warfare we are up against. So important is this fact, that he says, "...take up the full armor of God..." This is the second time in just four verses that Paul tells us to "put on" or "take up" the full armor of God. Therefore refers back to the struggle against other worldly forces we are facing in battle.

2. "...take up..." This is an action. Passivity is not an option when dealing with spiritual warfare and being prepared for it. We have to be proactive. Think about the sort of training a soldier goes through when he enlists. He goes to bootcamp. Why do they put these men through such a rigorous training routine? They know that a prepared soldier is a soldier that will be able to fight. Bootcamp requires not just physical training, but mental and emotional training as well. If we were faced with a war we would want soldiers who know what they are doing and are not afraid to put their lives on the line. The same is true in the spiritual realm. We are God's enlisted men and women. Our job is to be prepared and then to fight. We can only do that by actively getting ready.

3. "...the full armor of God..." I love all the Marvel super hero movies, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Avengers are all fun to watch. If you think Iron Man has a cool suit, you haven't see what God has prepared for us. Tony Stark is a genius, but God created the mind of that genius! I know, those are just fictional characters, but you hopefully get the point. The God of the universe has armor and it is for us to put on. He created it, He knows it is our strongest defense and He knows we are capable of using it. 

StockSnap - Michael Kulesza

StockSnap - Michael Kulesza

4. "...so that you will be able to resist in the evil day..." That sounds rather heavy doesn't it, but look around you. You don't have to look far to see evil. However, what I find interesting is that we must put on the armor so that we are able to resist. This means that evil will be appealing to us. We often think of evil as being the blatant things like Hitler terminating the lives of thousands of Jews or Jeffrey Dahmer raping and murdering men and boys then eating their remains. Yes! That is evil, but most of us would easily be able to resist doing those sorts of things. Why, then, does this verse say "...so that you will be able to resist..." I think it is because there is so much evil that comes disguised as something not so bad. Aren't pride, selfishness, hatred and gluttony also forms of evil? 

In addition to those forms of evil that walk among us like wolves in sheep's clothing, I also believe that evil has a way of waring us down, to the point where things become a bit fuzzy. Eventually we won't even know the difference between right and wrong

5. "...and having done everything, to stand firm." Once a soldier has prepared he knows that he will go into battle having done everything he can to be ready. Those of us who have signed up for this spiritual boot camp and the ensuing war need to be able to face the battle knowing we have done everything we can to be ready. This brings me to a question that I need to ask myself. Have I done everything to be ready? Will I be able to stand firm, or will I falter as soon as the bullets start flying? Maybe now would be a good time to get back into the Word. Maybe now would be the right time to start getting back to church. How about you? What are you doing to ensure that you have done everything to stand firm?

Next month, we'll start looking at the armor. Please leave me a comment below about what you are doing to make yourself ready for spiritual warfare. I love to have your input! 

Have a great day!

 

A Letter to You

Dear One, 

You are my beloved. I know you can't see that right now. Perhaps you are feeling as far from me as you possibly could. Feelings can be deceptive. In fact feelings often become the focal point of a life, when in fact, truth should be the focus. I know you are hurting. Something terrible has happened to you. You are questioning everything you ever learned or believed. Your heart aches to the point that you wish it would stop beating, but I can't allow that. Not yet. 

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The Tower

I lived there once, the Tower. More accurately, I was held captive there. Maybe you are familiar with my story. I was young and curious and that curiosity would often lead me off the beaten path. One particularly beautiful day, when it wasn't quite spring yet, but the sky shone so blue and the sun so bright that I couldn't help but wander, I came upon the castle...his castle. It was beautiful in the sun light, covered with green ivy. The stone walls were built with some ingredient that sparkled, and I loved bling. Before I knew it, I was touching the warm walls with my fingertips. I wasn't afraid. I had no reason to be, or at least I didn't know of one.I walked along the wall until I came to a heavy wooden door and there he was.

Arundel Castel - Arundel, West Essex, England - Photo by Amy Christensen

Arundel Castel - Arundel, West Essex, England - Photo by Amy Christensen

He was tall and very handsome. His light brown hair fell in waves to his broad shoulders. He smiled at me and held out his hand. I took it.

I don't know why! What was I thinking? He was nice to me for a while, giving me presents and telling me I was special, but then he took me to the tower. It became my prison. It wasn't until after he had locked the door that I realized I had made a mistake. Fear grabbed my stomach like a claw then scrabbled its way up into my throat. What had I done? How could I have been so naive, so foolish? The tower became not only my prison, but my torture chamber. The first time he pulled me close I realized his flesh smelled like the breath of hell and rotting meat. He never took me, but would hold me close, until I nearly suffocated from the stench, then he would push me away, mocking me, telling me I was ugly and stupid. Then he would leave locking the door behind him, laughing as he walked down the hall. Over and over, day after day. I had no idea what he would do when he came in. I was terrified. It was always the same. He would hold me, his putrid scent filling my nostrils, until I no longer noticed it. Then he would push me away, railing me with insults. One day, he took the key to the door and threw it out the window. 

Tower steps - Raglan Castle - Raglan, Wales - Photo by Amy Christensen

Tower steps - Raglan Castle - Raglan, Wales - Photo by Amy Christensen

Turning to me he grinned, "You will never be enough!" He walked out the door, laughing down the hall until I could no longer hear him.

I fell into a heap and cried. I didn't even care if I was rescued. I just wanted to die. I was worthless. No one would come for me. No one would ever love me, especially now that I reeked of his lair, his stench. Everyone would know that I was not enough. 

That was years ago now. The Prince saved me. He rescued me. He came and defeated the master of that castle who held me captive. On that day He stood in the door of my tower, I will never forget the eyes that shown like that bluest sky I remembered so well from when I was captured. I cowered at the other side of the small room with a ragged blanket wrapped around my shoulders. He came and knelt down in front of me. 

Holding out His hand he said gently, "Why are you here? You are free. Come, beloved!"

I winced. Shaking my head I tried to back even further into the stone of the walls that had imprisoned me. 

He smiled, "Come, beloved!"

"No!" My voice came out like a squawk. 

He moved to touch me, but I scooted back. He persisted. "You are my beloved. Come, take my hand."

This time, I stood up. "No! I....am...not. I...am...not...enough!"

The prince stood and in one step gathered me into his arms. The first thing I noticed was that he smelled of earth and pine, flowers and fields. He took my face into his hands and said, "Beloved, I am!"

There are still times, I hear that other voice, "You will never be enough!" It comes as a whisper at the end of the day when the sun is waning and the sky darkens.Those words that once held so much power over me were real and cut deep. But the Prince brought healing. His voice has become a balm to my injured soul. He is enough. And I am His. 

“...I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
— Jeremiah 31:3 (NASB)
I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me
— Song of Songs 7:10 (NASB)

Come into the Light!

Next month the live action version of Beauty and the Beast will be coming out in theaters. When my daughters were old enough, the original animated version, which came out in 1991,  became one of my favorite movies to watch with them. What could be more intriguing for a writer like me, than a heroine who liked books. It also helped that she was brave, selfless and caring, all qualities I wished I were (and still do). If you are not familiar with the story, it is a tale of love and sacrifice.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Belle is a young woman, living in a small French town. She aspires for more than "this provincial life." Her father is a small time inventor and on one of his trips to sell a new contraption, he becomes lost in the dark woods. When he is chased by wolves and it begins to rain, he finds his way to a hidden castle and goes inside. 

When her father does not come home for a few days, Belle becomes worried and goes to look for him. She happens upon the castle with the help of Philippe the horse and bravely enters to search for her father. She finds him in a dungeon cold and shivering. She wants to free him, but is unable to open the door to his cell. 

The Beast, who has heard of a new intruder in his castle, confronts Belle. She pleads for her father's life. The Beast is not interested in letting his prisoner go, at least not until Belle says that she will take her father's place.

The Beast asks with amazement, "You would take his place?"

"If I did, would you let him go?"

"Yes! But you must promise to stay here forever."

"Come into the light."

Obviously, what Belle saw was not promising to her future. She had no idea when the Beast yanked her father out of that cell if he was going to cook her up for dinner or have her stuffed and put on display in one of the many cavernous castle halls. What follows is a beautiful love story that transcends skin color and massive differences. 

The point I want to expand, is the idea of coming into the light. Wasn't it the light that enabled Belle to see the Beast as he truly was? Over time, however, we realize the light didn't just give her the ability to see his physical form, the light eventually revealed his true nature. He was a young prince who had been turned into a beast due to his selfishness and pride.  As the two became friends, they were able to see past the ugly differences that kept them apart. 

He reveals mysteries from the darkness And brings the deep darkness into light.
— Job 12:22 (NASB)

God is light. If we are to understand life and how to live it, we need to step into the light. We need to be pursuing God and who He is, so that we might understand what the darkness is not. Darkness is not warm, inviting or satisfying. Darkness is not pleasurable or life giving. Yes, God created the darkness for rest, but it seems those who love the darkness are doing anything, but resting.

The Beast was living in darkness. When Belle arrived he made a choice to step into the light. This choice led him down a path of love and eventually redemption. We are faced with the same choice. Are we going to step into the light or are we going to remain in the darkness? Remaining in darkness is a choice that will result in confusion, fumbling and eventually death. 

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?
— Psalm 27:1 (NASB)

God's word, the Bible, tells us, the Lord is our light and our salvation. It doesn't say that our own knowledge is our light, or that man's wisdom is the light. Jesus Himself also declared He is the light. 

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
— John 8:12 (NASB)

The key here is that we have to follow Him and pursue Him. Let's face it, life can be overwhelming. In the last five days two dear women I know lost their husbands to heart failure. Both of these women walk in the light. They know to whom to turn during this terrible time of loss and grief. It is the light, His light that will give them the strength to go on when life is so dark.

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.
— Psalm 9:10 (NASB)

Where are you at today? Are you struggling in the darkness? Do you feel that you have been thrown into the dungeon of some beast with fangs? Step into His light. He will guide you out. He will bring life and love out of the darkness.

The song below was written as a Christmas song, but it is worth the listen at any time. Come into the light!