The Light of Joy

One of the things about the Christmas season that I get very excited about is lights. I love the look of houses outlined in tiny specks of shimmering light, whether they are white, green, red or blue, I love them all. I enjoy driving home from somewhere and seeing how many houses are embellished with twinkling splendor. Now don’t judge me, but I also enjoy seeing Christmas trees inside people’s homes. It’s not that I am being nosy. After all, don’t we put our trees in windows for that purpose, so the outside world can see our beautiful displays of light?

 Pixabay

Pixabay

What is it about light that we so enjoy? I know that most of us would rather be out and about when it is day time. We enjoy when morning comes and feel loss at the slipping away of light as night time takes over. I personally have to convince myself that darkness is good and God allows the darkness so that we may rest. What I find fascinating about this God of ours is that He didn’t leave us in total darkness. He provided, even before sin became a reality, He provided the moon and the stars to rule the night, so even in darkness the light is still meant to preside.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

There is a lesson here for us, if we are willing to see it. Light is always present even in the darkness. Darkness is, for lack of a better definition, the absence of light. But even in the deepest and darkest dark, somewhere there is still light. If we lost all electricity, the sun would still rule the sky by day and the moon and stars by night. As long as God allows the planets, stars, moons and sun to hang in space, there will always be light. What if those things disappear, or burn out? What if there is nothing left, but darkness? That will never be the case, because God is light and in Him there is no darkness.

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Pixabay

When we think of Christmas we often have images of children playing, laughing and looking with awe and wonder at the lights and decorations. Can you even imagine a Christmas without the idea of child like joy being a part of it? I realize, not everyone grew up with wonder filled Christmases like many of us did. Some of you may not even celebrate Christmas or may think of it as merely an overly commercialized holiday meant to line the pockets of corporate America. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I think most of us can relate to the idea of joy.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Joy is often misunderstood. It is regularly mistaken for happiness, but joy is eternal, whereas happiness is temporary. Let me see if I can explain this in a way that makes sense. Joy is light. Joy comes out in dazzling displays like fireworks and rocket launches, but it also twinkles like Christmas lights and candle flames. The difference is that when the fireworks and rockets are burned out and the Christmas lights break and the flame smokes, joy still shines. The reason for this came in the form of a bundled baby boy, born in a stable over two thousand years ago.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

No matter how deep the darkness is, joy still shines. There is no darkness or evil thorough enough to overcome joy. You might not feel like you have joy right now. Maybe you feel like you have never had joy, but you know those moments that bring tears to your eyes; those moments are shimmers of joy. You experience them when a movie has a happy ending or a musical movement runs together into a river of sound so beautiful it sweeps you along with it. You experience it when you come upon a breathtaking view or stand at the water’s edge when the sun begins its descent into a cloudless sea. This is joy.

Pixabay - nativity

Then when life tries to break you and you cannot hear the music or see the sunset, that is when you must reach back and in, deeper and deeper, to the event where joy first burst onto the scene of humanity. A virgin birth. Shepherds watching their flocks. Animals in the stable. A straw filled manger. This event was and is and evermore shall be the birth of joy. At that moment joy moved from happiness to an eternal possibility. Joy became the essence of bliss.

If you believe in that light, then even when all is dark, all you have to do is call his name. Jesus. And that light of joy will explode, once again in your soul and the darkness will scatter.

How to Keep Christ in Christmas

Last week I discussed Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind. You can read that post by clicking on the link. In that article I gave four areas to look at to take care of yourself during the busy holiday season. Those areas I referred to included, figuring out what you can let go of, setting boundaries, taking care of yourself and practicing gratitude. These things are applicable to all who experience stress during the Christmas season. This week I would like to specifically speak to those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

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Pixabay

For those of us who follow Christ, Christmas is equal in importance to the celebration of Easter. If Jesus had never been born, we wouldn’t have access to the Almighty God, who created us for His good pleasure. Christmas is the epitome of strength becoming weakness; that almighty power coming into acute focus as the baby born to Mary. He was fully God and became fully man. Imagine, a being who is so huge in our incomprehension, being made into a tiny, fertilized seed, growing for nine months in the womb and making the pressurized journey down the birth canal to explode into the light of a sin filled world. To me it is incomprehensible! Yet, I know it to be true. I also know that it was not just love for us, but love for His Father, that drove Jesus to choose obedience to that vulnerable birth and obedience to an even more vulnerable cross. It is this mentality that needs to drive us as we immerse ourselves in the festivities of the Christmas season.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the busyness of this season. There’s shopping and decorating, baking and cleaning, wrapping and gathering, all good things, but so often as we focus on getting our to do list checked off, we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. I know I do. I can easily become overwhelmed with all of the things I need to get done and fret that I don’t have more time to do them. We also, all know that fretting does not lead to peace and isn’t peace, part of what makes this season so beautiful? At least it should. So, just how can we keep the true meaning part of our focus? Here are several ideas.

Keep Jesus Close - As you shop, wrap, bake and decorate meditate on Him. Remind yourself of His birth and remember that He is with you wherever you go. You might think it is silly, but I often imagine Jesus sitting next to me in the car or standing next to me as I wash dishes. Hey, He endowed all of us with an imagination, so I have no shame in using it. Envisioning Him as a person with me, helps me to focus on the fact that He really is there even though I cannot physically see Him. It helps me to remember why I love Christmas, because it is all about Him.

Listen to Music - There is nothing better, in my mind, to help me get in the true Christmas spirit, than listening to Christmas music. It doesn’t just have to be traditional carols like The First Noel, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, or Oh Holy Night, but songs that really speak to the message of why we celebrate this season bring the truth back into focus. It is also good to listen to different versions of these Christ-focused carols. For instance my husband and I both agree that Josh Groban’s version of O Holy Night sings as if he was actually there, feeling the peace and beauty of the birth of Jesus. On the other hand, What Child is This, as portrayed by Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige is the most amazing and powerful version of this song I have ever heard. The culmination of their voices is almost angelic as they usher us into the powerful glory of our Lord’s vulnerability.

Having music playing while you are in the car going to the mall, or to a party, or when you are wrapping presents or baking cookies can help to keep your mind in a state of peace and joy throughout the season, even if circumstances around you are difficult.

Watch Christmas Movies - I know a lot of people don’t like to watch the same movies over and over. My husband is one of them, but he tolerates my love for seeing these classic movies every year and occasionally watches them with me. There are fun movies like White Christmas and Jingle All the Way, but there are also movies with a message that transcends this particular holiday. Take for instance A Christmas Carol. A book originally written by Charles Dickens, it was first made into a movie in 1910. Hollywood has come a long way since then, but my two favorite versions are the 1984 version with George C. Scott and the 1992 version with the Muppets. I just finished watching the George C. Scott version the other day and these two scenes really stood out to me.

Obviously, Marely is miserable and it is his knowledge that everything he did in life was meaningless. “….mankind was my business….” Wow! If that doesn’t remind us to take a look at our priorities, I don’t know what will.

I love this scene of transformation. Scrooge was a changed man. Oh, that we would be so changed by the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ who dwells within us and gives us the ability to be new, each and every day!

Do Something to Serve - I know this seems a bit counter intuitive, when we are so busy, why do something that makes us even busier? The point is to love and worship Jesus by showing love to others. It might be something as simple as baking cookies for your co-workers or leaving a card for your mail carrier, thanking him/her for her hard work. It can be something more complex like visiting shut ins or serving at your local soup kitchen. Often these places are inundated at the holidays, because people are thinking about serving others. Why not schedule your service for February or March, when many of these people are forgotten?

Set Up Some Sort of Memorial - This might be your nativity. Letting your children be involved in getting the pieces out and setting them up helps them to remember Christmas is about Jesus. If you don’t have a nativity and don’t want to make that purchase, decorate a jar with Christmas colors. Every day have you and your family members write down on small slips of paper things they love about Christmas, the Christmas story or things they are thankful for, then on Christmas eve or Christmas morning go through your jar, reading these things out loud. You could then spend a few minutes in prayer, praising and thanking Jesus for all He has done for you.

However you celebrate Christmas and no matter how busy you are, I hope that you will take the time, even if only for a few moments to really think about what the reason for this season really is.

Have a great day!

A Belief that Leads to Commitment

Commitment seems to be a thing of the past. How many people do you know that are going through divorces, or never made the marriage leap in the first place? How often do you run across people who have changed jobs more times than you can count or who have alienated their families due to disagreements or just different ways of looking at things? It seems that the concept of being committed, whether to a person, a job, the pursuit of a dream or a belief is becoming a way of thinking and living that is no longer looked upon as attainable.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

In relationships, people might struggle with commitment issues due to factors from their past, feelings from the present or fear of the future. It may be hard to make a commitment, when you grew up in a home that was affected by messy divorce. Anxiety over meeting new people, starting a new job or traveling to a new place might keep people from committing to a new significant other, applying for a job or moving to find a better economic situation. Often, it is easier to commit to what is already known, ie. a bad relationship, a lousy job or comfortable bad habits, than to change to something new.

I came across this quote from My Utmost for His Highest when I was reading today.

To believe is to commit. In the area of intellectual learning I commit myself mentally, and reject anything not related to that belief. In the realm of personal belief I commit myself morally to my convictions and refuse to compromise. But in intimate personal belief I commit myself spiritually to Jesus Christ and make a determination to be dominated by Him alone.
— My Utmost for His Highest - Oswald Chambers - November 6th


What I find fascinating and eye opening about these few sentences is that it seems to be easier to make a commitment in the first two areas, than in the third. When it comes to intellectual learning, I live with a philosophy professor. There are few who are as committed to intellectual learning as those who have studied the works of people long dead, like Aristotle, Plato, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard. Learning is an activity that many commit themselves to, but we must ask the question are we more committed to intellectual pursuits than to people?

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Pixabay

Getting an education is important. Parents often push their children to do well in school and go on to college so they can have a career, get a good job and support themselves. However, I bet everyone of us knows a young adult who just can’t seem to make it in college, or who would rather start a band in their garage, than spend all that money to go to college where they end up with boat loads of debt and no guarantee of a job afterwards. I understand. More than a few young people have worked to get a degree and end up being a server at a restaurant because it pays better.

When we start talking about personal belief and committing ourselves to our convictions, I think that this too can be easier to actualize than making a commitment to a person. We hear get all sorts of input about people’s convictions. Many times convictions become a battle ground for differing opinions, which we have seen can lead to anger and even violence. Having personal convictions and beliefs are also important, but are they more important than having relationships?

When Oswald spoke about intimate personal belief, he suggests something more than an intellectual pursuit or a personal conviction. He is talking about a relationship. He says that when we have that intimate personal belief we are committing ourselves to Jesus Christ.

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Pixabay

Let’s take a closer look at some of the words used in this quote:

Intimate - Webster’s online dictionary defines this word in these ways:

- marked by a warm friendship developed through long association

- informal warmth or privacy

- engaged in, involving, or marked by sex or sexual relations

- of a very personal or private nature

- marked by very close associate, contact or familiarity

These are not the actions of people who don’t have some sort of relationship.

When we talk about intimate belief we are talking about belief in a person, or in this case Jesus, who is trustworthy and with whom we are able to be ourselves.

Commit - Websters gives these definitions:

- to carry into action deliberately

- obligate or bind

- to put into charge or trust

- to obligate or pledge oneself

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Pixabay

When we commit to Jesus we are pledging ourselves to Him. This is not about our convictions or what we have learned or know. This commitment is a matter of choice and a matter of trust. In a sense we are to bind ourselves to Him.

Spiritually - Usually when we hear this word we think of that which is not physical. Typically we associate the term spiritual with things related to church, heaven, hell and the soul. As Christ followers most of us believe that we have a spirit and there is a Holy Spirit, who acts in accordance with the will of God the Father and who also translates the person of Christ into our own spirits. Spirituality is thought, by most to be a very intimate part of who we are. This would concur with Chamber’s idea that we are to commit ourselves spiritually, to Christ. This is the most intimate way to commit ourselves to another person.

Determine - When we determine to do something we are making a decision. This decision is come to after thought and contemplation. Usually, when we determine something it is because we have come to believe that this particular choice is what we want and what is best for us. We determine to eat better, exercise or get more sleep. We determine to not let anxiety run our lives. We determine to change, improve or become a better person.

In the same way when we commit to Jesus in spiritual intimacy we have made a choice that involves a relationship with Him. What follows in Oswald’s quote may make the hackles on your neck go up, but here it is.

Dominated - Oswald says that we are determined to be dominated by Christ alone. We hear this word most often in association with something negative. Women are dominated by men. Children are dominated by bullies. Third world countries are dominated by power hungry leaders. I’m sure given enough time we could come up with a long list of who’s dominating whom.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Is Oswald loopy to think that we should determine to be dominated by Christ alone? I think not. I completely agree with him. Who better to dominate us than one who truly has our best interests at heart. This is not a domination as a dictator trying to turn us into mindless zombies. On the contrary, domination by Christ is a life of truest bliss and freedom.

The question then is this, do you have an intimate personal belief that has lead you to commit? I am using this in relation to our spiritual nature, but this could also be true in everyday life. Being committed to a person in a relationship, whether in marriage, as a parent or a child or in our friendships must come from an intimate personal belief that this person we are committed to is valuable. This holds true in our jobs or as we go about our busy lives. Every person we come into contact with has value and it is our belief that will determine how we commit to treating others.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
— Psalm 37:5 (ESV)
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
— Psalm 31:5 (ESV)
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
— Proverbs 16:3 (ESV)













How to Fight Giants

A couple of weeks ago I posted a fiction piece that I wrote about giants. (See that post here.) A week after that I shared with you a few of the giants that I regularly fight in my life. (See that post here.) This week I would like to focus on a few methods for fighting the giants in your life.

We all are battling giants. Most of these we live with, without even thinking about it. Fear, anxiety, depression and selfishness are just a few of the giants that many of us regularly battle. Perhaps you have let the giants take over. Maybe they have moved into your life, unpacked their bags and decided to stay a while. Are you even aware of the giants that are claiming ownership to your space: physical, emotional and spiritual? Often, the first step to fighting against a giant is to acknowledge the “elephant in the room”.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Name Your Giants

I think it is essential to know what you are fighting. Sometimes we might name one thing, but in reality it is something else. For instance, you might think that the giant you are battling is depression, but in reality it is fear. Scrutinizing your feelings and the circumstances behind them can help to identify what the real giant aka problem is. Here is a list of questions you can ask that might help to identify what giants are hanging out at your place.

  1. When do I usually notice this feeling/giant (name the feeling - is it fear, sadness, frustration, anger, self-loathing, etc.)?

  2. How often does this feeling happen? Is it only once in a while, every day, only in certain seasons, and so on. I struggle with discouragement, but it is much more prominent during the winter months when there is less sunshine. You can see a previous post I did here on Seasonal Affective Disorder.

  3. Are there certain triggers that bring this feeling on or make this giant appear? For example, I struggle with fear, as I pointed out in my previous post. Things out of the norm will often produce a feeling of fear in me. It can be something mundane like going to the dentist, or it can be something fun like planning a trip where I have to fly.

I believe being able to recognize what giant you are fighting will enable you to have victory more often.

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Pixabay

Study Your Giants

When dealing with any enemy or problem it is best to come at it with some sort of knowledge base. If you deal with anxiety read up on anxiety disorder. Don’t just read secular works, pick a few that are written from a Christian, Biblical perspective. Know what the root causes of anxiety are. Become more self aware, not to the point of becoming self absorbed, but to the point of understanding yourself and the people and circumstances around you, so that you know why you are feeling what you are feeling.

Until I finally read up on Seasonal Affective Disorder, I had no idea why I felt so overwhelmed and discouraged during the winter months. Obviously, we all get a little tired of the long winter with the cold, illness and unpredictable weather, but my fatigue was more so than usual and my desire to crawl into a warm hole with a fuzzy blanket was very real. Once I began to look into it, just reading a few online articles I realized that was, what affected me every winter. Knowing what it was and why it happened actually made me feel better. It also gave me access to resources to actually fight against this seasonal giant.

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Pixabay

Fight Your Giants

Before I get to far into this portion of the post I want to clarify that not everyone is capable of fighting their giants without help. Depression can be so extreme that a person can’t even get out of bed, let alone raise a sword and fight. I am not a professional counselor or a licensed, practicing psychiatrist. These ideas are merely coming from my own experiences. I trust that if you feel your giants are too big to battle on your own that you will seek help, both medically and/or psychologically.

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Pixabay

1 - Pray. In our lives as Christians there is nothing more powerful or effective in fighting our giants than prayer. Prayer puts us in contact with the Almighty God and it is from Him that we receive the power, wisdom and tools for fighting our giants.

The Lord has heard my supplication, The Lord receives my prayer.
— Psalm 6:9 (NASB)
May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high!
— Psalm 20:1 (NASB)
Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; Fight against those who fight against me.
— Psalm 35:1 (NASB)
Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; Set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me.
— Psalm 59:1 (NASB)

2 - Use scripture. God’s word is powerful. It is compared to a double edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) Since the Bible is compared to a weapon, it would seem to make sense that we can use it as one. That being said, what does wielding the scripture as a sword look like? That depends on what giants you are battling.

Let me use my own giant called Fear as an example. I have learned over the course of my life that in order to counteract thinking that does not line up with God’s will for us, I have to got to the Bible and find the scriptures that deal with those thoughts. In the case of fear, these are a few of the arrows, I have in my quiver.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
— I John 4:18 (NASB)
For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NET)

If God did not give me fear, then where is it coming from? You bet! From the same place the giants originate, Satan. We would have never known fear except that sin entered into the world. My ability to remember and recognize God’s word as truth, makes a big difference in how effective my weapons are going to be against the giants.

When I become afraid, I go back to the scripture. I quote it, I yell it, I stomp and I shout. My goal is to chase the giant out of my house. I tell him he is not welcome in my life and according to God’s word he has no hold over me. Whether your giant is fear or food, depression or discouragement, selfishness or sexual addictions, scripture is the weapon to ram through that beast’s beating heart!

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Pixabay

3 - Speak truth. In a world where truth has become a relative thing with no concrete foundation it may sound strange to say speak truth, when we are talking about battling giants. However, since as Christ followers we believe God’s word to be truth, then it makes sense to speak this truth and back it with scripture.

If you are being crushed by the giant called Worthless speak this truth,

“I am made in the image of God; Genesis 1.”

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Psalm 139.”

“I am loved with an everlasting love; Jeremiah 31.”

“I am chosen; I am royal; I am holy; I Peter 2:9.”

That is truth and that does not sound like a person who is worthless. That truth can help to chase those giants away.

I hope that reading this will give you hope. We all struggle with these giants that are constantly getting in the way of living a free life. I also hope these tips will give you some relief and some victory as you battle your giants.








What Giants are you Fighting?

Last week I wrote a fictional piece that was based on a dream I had a number of years ago. At the time a girlfriend and I were doing a study by Mark and Patti Virkler titled, How to Hear God’s Voice. It was an eye opening study and I would strongly recommend it to anyone interested in delving deeper into their relationship with God. However, I will caution, this study is not for everyone. Some of Virkler’s practices and teachings might grate against those who are more conservative and traditional. It is my opinion that the concepts Virkler addresses are solidly backed by scripture and accountability, thus eliminating the possibility for misunderstanding or being led astray.

All that being said, at one point in the study, the author encourages the reader to ask God for dreams that are of Him and to journal and share those dreams with an accountability partner, which is imperative to the study. It was during this time, God gave me the dream about the giants. When I wrote the piece for last week’s post, which you can read here, I added a few details, but the essence and message of the dream is the same.

All of us are facing giants in our lives. Some of those giants may have us so entangled in their lies that we no longer realize they hold us captive. Many giants we face are brutal and ugly and others are merely just annoying, simply taking up large spaces in our homes and eating our food. In this post I would like to share with you a few of the giants I battle on a regular basis.

The Giant Called SELF

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Pixabay

This one is a doozy. He is huge and like an oversized octopus has his tentacles digging into everything. I find him lounging around my home, like he owns the place and am often at a loss as to what to do with him. However, the Bible is clear on the likes of this one.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,
— Philippians 2:3a (NASB)

It says do nothing, from a selfish standpoint. That is pretty specific. I mean, shouldn’t I be able to do at least a few things from a selfish point of view?

I hear a giant growing.

I mean, isn’t my time, my time? Shouldn’t I be allowed to do what I want, at least once in a while? Don’t I get to wallow in the bad stuff that has happened to me? Don’t I get to voice my opinion? Don’t I have rights?

No wonder that giant has gotten so big.

Please don’t misunderstand there is a difference between taking care of ourselves and something called selfish ambition.

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
— James 3:16 (NASB)

Selfish ambition is a seed of self centeredness that is allowed to grow…well, into a giant. What ensues is disorder and every evil thing.

Let me give you an example that many of you might understand. In marriage there is little room for selfishness, yet so often it is self centeredness that leads to arguments, misunderstandings and eventual break downs of relationships. I know! I am married and I still battle with this giant almost every day in my marriage. I believe that is true for two reasons.

1. Satan hates marriage and has no problem creating havoc in a marriage.

2. Marriage and family is, perhaps, the toughest proving ground for living selflessly. After all, any time other people are involved that closely the giant of SELF is bound to interfere.

The Giant Called FEAR

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Pixabay

This giant may be a home dweller for some of you, but for me he just sort of comes and goes. He’ll pop up when I have to do something different from the usual, like go to the dentist or meet someone new. Sometimes, he comes around when it gets dark or just when I am going to lay down for the night. All too often he torments me when I am alone.

Once again, the Bible is clear on this as well.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

I quoted this verse in the New King James Version of the Bible, because that is how I learned it. I love the focus that this verse has. God is not the one who makes us afraid. Fear is from Satan. God gives us power, love and a sound mind.

Start listening to the news and you can tell people are afraid. People are fighting for power, dying for love and taking meds and drugs to create a semblance of a sound mind. Satan created fear and he bases fear on lies. Lies that say if you don’t have money or power or this or that you won’t ever have security. Lies that say, if you don’t dress this way or do this or that you’ll never have love. Lies that also say if you don’t have it immediately you aren’t going to be happy or that get you to focus on details that don’t even matter to such an extent that you can’t sleep or eat or think straight.

This giant is persistent and without divine intervention will be a constant companion.

The Giant Called DESPAIR

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Pixabay

This is probably one of the hardest giants to fight. He usually doesn’t make an appearance until I am so worn down I have nothing left to fight with. He often takes over where the other two giants leave off. When I have become focused on myself and am obsessing over my fears, then he steps in and I become hopeless. He often brings up things from the past and leaves me feeling useless and used up.

The Bible is full of stories of people who were sad and despairing. Job, Esther, Ruth, Naomi, David and many others felt the weight of having their souls in despair.

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.
— Psalm 42:5 (NASB)

Often when this giant is looming over us, we don’t even know for sure why he is there, but one thing is often the case, we begin to doubt. We doubt God and all the promises He has made in His word. This doubt is like candy for Giant DESPAIR. He feeds off of our doubt. That is why the psalmist placed his hope in the Lord. Only the Lord is a steady rock in a very shaky world.

Next week I’ll be giving a few pointers for battles the giants we face in our lives. Until then, don’t give up the fight!


Mulling It Over - Part 7

This is the final part in this series on 2 Timothy 2:20-26. If you are interested in the Parts 1 through 6, just click on each of the links. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6. Each week takes a look at one verse. Let’s dive in to this last verse in this chapter.

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Pixabay

26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:26 (NASB)

If you read last month’s post you know that the preceding verse emphasized gentleness as the cloak which correction should wear. Today’s verse is a continuation of that thought. If we are correcting with gentleness verse 26 can be the result. Let’s take this verse apart phrase by phrase.

…they may come to their senses…

First of all, let’s figure out who “they” are. “They” refers back to the previous verse and those that are being corrected or more specifically, “ those who are in opposition.” What were these people in opposition to? Remember, this book was written by Paul to Timothy, a young pastor of one of the early Christian churches. Timothy was dealing with many types of opposition, some of which was to his ability to lead a church because he was young. Paul reminds him in verse 24 to not quarrel with these people. Quarreling, most often, only brings about more problems.

People who are in opposition to us may be jealous, insecure, angry, impatient or any number of other attitudes. These do not necessarily have to be non-believers. Those who are in opposition to us could be people at church, people we work with or even people within our own families.

Now that we know who “they” are, what does it mean to say “may come to their senses?” Have you ever been a situation where volatile emotions begin to escalate quickly? If you have been on the receiving end of those volatile emotions you probably have observed that the ones becoming volatile are not always making sense. Often when our emotions become compromised, whether through overwhelming tragedy or circumstances beyond our control we lose our ability to think rationally. It is best, in these situations, to slow the situation down by being calm and responding with gentleness. When we respond in this way, we often allow people the time needed to regroup and come back to their senses.

This same idea is true with people who are adamantly opposed to Christianity. We will not win them by allowing our own emotions to become volatile and hateful. Those emotions will only give them a firmer foundation on which to base their own reasons to say no to Jesus. We want them to “come to their senses” with regard to the truth of the gospel and the best way to do that is through prayer and gentleness.

“…and escape from the snare of the devil…”

There are people who say there is no devil; that the reference is merely to a fiction made up by people who do not want to take responsibility for their actions. “The devil made me do it.” For those of us who are Christ followers, we do believe in a real enemy of Christ known by names such as Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan, and many others. This enemy is working in the spiritual realm to thwart the spread of the gospel and condemn the persons of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the world we live in.

The snare’s that Satan’s sets are many, but generally involve lies and deception. His purpose is to prevent people from knowing the truth, that Jesus came to give His life for us and desires a relationship with us. Snares may involve lies about our standing before God, our purpose and the purpose of humanity and creation. His lies include words like secularism, humanism, and rights. There are aspects to all of these which are good, but more often they are a ploy to set our eyes on ourselves and the stand we took at the beginning of time to “be as God.”

“…having been held captive by him to do his will.”

What could be more disturbing than to be ensnared by an enemy who is so charming and subtle that even with the chains on our wrists and ankles we bend to do his will? Friends this isn’t just for those who don’t follow Christ. As Christians how many of us are ensnared to things like food, pornography, sports, hobbies or even our own creeds? Satan can just as easily use a Christian who is bound by legalism, as one who is bound by freedom.

Any of us can be held captive by our enemy, even those of us who are walking with Christ. Our enemy wants to hold us captive and he wants to hold others captive as well. But…

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
— Galatians 5:1 (NASB)

Ready to Die

Dust and smoke rose into the air, creating a haze so thick the sun could barely penetrate. They had been fighting for days. Days that seemed to go on forever. They would push forward, but the enemy's forces always seemed able to push them back. She thought they were prepared for this battle. Her father, the King had thought they were ready, but now she wasn't so sure he had been right.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

The enemy soldiers were not like any other she had fought. They had battled against them previously, but something had happened in those months since that prince of darkness had taken her daughter. She wasn't sure what it was. Maybe it was because they were in his territory. Maybe it was due to the long journey their own army had to traverse to get here. Whatever, it was, she did not feel confident in their ability to win this battle. 

The thought made her cringe. How could she even be thinking these thoughts. She had never struggled with doubt before. She always had been confident in her Father's abilities as both a King and a commander. Now, however, doubts seem to plague her like some sort of blister on her foot and she had a lot of those. Her feet hurt. Her legs were stiff and her arms felt like lead. Fatigue filled her being from toes to fingertips.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Now, her small battalion was surrounded. She was not even sure how it happened. They began the day's fighting in the clear, but now they were backed up against a canyon wall. They were hemmed in on every side. The only thing that kept them from being slaughtered was that they were on the high ground. Every time the enemy tired to attack, they sent a volley of arrows flying and the enemy retreated, but their arrows were running out. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

"Your highness?" One of her men had come up behind her.

"Yes?"

"We only have enough arrows for one more attack...then..."

She knew the time had come. She had to make the choice to surrender or to go down fighting. She turned to face the soldier.

"I want you to bring the men together. I want to speak to them."

The soldier nodded, bowed and quickly left her.

She went to her knees. "Father, I know you cannot hear me, but wherever you are, I want you to know how much I love you and how much I look up to you. I know that I have been angry, frustrated and impatient in this mission to rescue my child, but you have never wavered and for that I am thankful. I know there is no way out of this. My child might be dead and soon that will be my fate as well, but I will never surrender to that vile, son of filth. I will go down fighting. Thank you for never giving up on me."

Tears, brimmed her eyes. She clenched her fists rising to her feet. Turning, she went to where the men were assembled. She was shocked at how very few of them were left. She stood before them, her head high.

"I would like to offer you hope. The hope that I give you is not hope for life, but hope to die with honor. Today, we are going to die, but you have a choice in how you do it. You can go out cowering, or you can go out, sword in hand, taking as many of those cursed vermin as possible before you fall. If you do that, I will be proud. If you do that, my father will be proud."

Her voice grew loud and her words were clear. "Today, let us die, for the sake of our King!"

She raised her sword and the men raised their's, voices matching hers; a chorus of rebellion they hoped the enemy would hear.  

It was not long before they saw the dust of their enemies' horses, filling the small valley below their sacrificial high ground. She instructed the men to form two lines. The first line was made up of the remaining archers. They went down on one knee, nocking their arrows as they did. The second line was made up of what was left of the battalion. She knew they had no chance, but they would die with honor, fighting for their King, her father. 

"Hold steady archers!" Her voice rang out even as the noise rose ushered in by the approaching chaos. "Hold until I give the order!"

Closer the dust came and along with it the sound of pounding hooves, a battalion of enemy riders bringing death.

Her heart beat rose and sweat mingled with the dirt and grime trickling down her neck. It felt itchy. Funny, she thought, the things one thinks about before one dies. 

Suddenly, the sky seemed to turn dark. She lifted her eyes up and saw shadows coursing through the sky over her head. She felt confused, but then those shadows became the solid forms of horses and their riders. Her heart sank. They were surrounded...

But wait! Those riders wore the King's colors!

Her men looked just as confused as she felt, but more and more shadows flew overhead, diving straight into the approaching storm. She heard a shout.

"Daughter!"

 Pixabay

Pixabay

A dusty figure on his steady mount appeared behind her. It was her father, the King.

He smiled at her, then held down his hand. Pulling her up onto his horse, he commanded others of his battalion to take up her remaining men. Once all the were mounted with other soldiers, the King raised his hand and his voice.

"This ends now!"

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

*     *     *     *     *      *

This fictional work is meant to remind you, when all seems lost, the King is behind you. When the dust storm of the approaching enemy brings you to the end of yourself, the King is above you. When you are severely outnumbered and you have very little left to fight with, the King is diving in ahead of you. He will be there for you, every day, every hour, every battle and especially when you finally lay down your weapons and face the last enemy of death. 

....I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:20 (NASB)

For the other parts in this fictional series, click on the links below. 

Part 1: Return to Battle

Part 2: A Father's Perspective

Part 3: Waiting

 

 

Mulling It Over - Part 5

It is that time of month again, where I take a look at a particular portion of scripture and ruminate on it by tearing it apart verse by verse. For those of you who following me regularly you know I have been wading through 2 Timothy 2:20-26. The books of 1st and 2nd Timothy were written by Paul to Timothy a young pastor of a growing group of believers in the early church age. The books were written to encourage Timothy in the face of disgruntled church members. Not only were there members who looked down on Timothy because he was young, but there were members who were living a less than moral life style.

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Pixabay

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

You can see my musings on the first four verses by clicking on each of the links. Week 1 - Verse 20, Week 2 - Verse 21, Week 3 - Verse 22, Week 4 - Verse 23. Today I'll be discussing Verse 24.

24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
— 2 Timothy 2:24 (NASB)

Before we look at the traits of a bondservant we should take a moment to define what a bond-servant was in the New Testament time period. Note the following quotes from an online article regarding the role of a bondservant. 

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Pixabay

The term “bondservant” in the New Testament (bond-servant or slave in some translations) is a translation of the Greek word doulos. Unlike perceptions of modern slavery, bondservant or doulos is a relatively broad term with a wider range of usage. In the time of the New Testament a bondservant could refer at times to someone who voluntarily served others. In most cases, however, the term referred to a person in a permanent role of service. A bondservant was considered the property of a Roman citizen, holding no right to leave his place of service.
— from an online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth. org
In many New Testament books, the word bondservant was used in reference to a person’s commitment to Jesus. Most of Paul’s letters begin by referring to himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. James and Jude, half-brothers of Jesus, both refer to themselves as Christ’s bondservants. The apostle Peter called himself a “servant and apostle”
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org
The importance of these New Testament authors referring to themselves as bondservants should not be overlooked. Despite proclaiming a message of freedom from sin in Jesus Christ, these writers were dedicated to Jesus as their one master. Further, their service to the Lord was not one they could consider leaving. Just as a bondservant was more than an employee who could leave for another job, these Christians were servants who could never leave their master for another.
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org

If you are a committed Christ follower, then you could say you are His bondservant. It is something I struggle to be, in all honesty. I want to be committed 100% to my Savior and yes my Master...I am not afraid to use that word. We live in a world where the idea of calling someone Lord or Master is not pleasant and truth be told, there is no master that is worthy of our life's commitment other than Jesus. However, there is a disconnect between saying I want to be a bondservant and actually being one. Let's see what the qualities are of one who calls Jesus Master.

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Pixabay

1. Not quarrelsome.

Okay! I am disqualified already. How about you? As a wife, do you ever find yourself quarreling with your spouse? I think most of you know what the word quarrel means. It is not just a matter of disagreeing with someone. We often disagree with our bosses, other employees, our parents and people we are following on social media, but we don't necessarily quarrel with them. When we quarrel we are trying to make our point, not only heard but adhered to. 

Why do you supposed Paul brought up this particular characteristic with Timothy? I personally do not believe Timothy was a quarrelsome chap. In fact, I think it was because people in his congregation were opinionated troublemakers that Paul encouraged Timothy...don't even go there. It won't get you any where. Just like we looked at last month to refuse ignorant and foolish speculations, so too, we should not allow ourselves to become participants in quarreling. 

I find this is incredibly hard with our significant others. We often feel, that we have a right to spew at them, because, after all we are married and they have to take the good with the bad. I hate to tell you ladies, as the Lord's bondservants we are not to be quarrelsome, end of discussion!

 Pixabay

Pixabay

2. Kind to all.

Does that mean everyone? Yes. Does that mean that person at work that I absolutely can't stand? Yes. Does that mean that teller at the bank who is always grumpy and scowling? Yes. Does that mean that person I thought was a friend that talked about me behind my back? Yes. 

Kindness is one of the fruits of the spirit. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
— Galatians 5:22 (NASB)

What that means is we have the ability to be kind, all the time, to everyone. Once again, the fruit of the Spirit is His fruit. It grows in our lives as we become better and better at abiding in Christ. As His bondservant we must be kind to all. 

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Pixabay

3. Able to teach.

We could argue on this point that not everyone can be expected to teach, because not everyone has the gift of teaching. However, I would like to interject that we are all capable of teaching by example. You may not be gifted to stand in front of people and give a lecture like my husband is. You may not be good at leading a small group and explaining to others what a Bible passage means, but you can be an example of love and kindness to your children or your grand children. You might be able to teach a younger woman how to cook, take care of her first child or patch a hole in her husband's sock. The point is patience and willingness. We can all be teachers of this type by merely being willing to take the time to show others love and kindness. 

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Pixabay

4. Patient when wronged. 

This is right up there with not being quarrelsome in the hardness factor. We live in a society based on rights. If you hurt me, I have the right to seek retribution whether by payment or incarceration. I am not saying criminals should not be punished. However, there are times that we as the body of Christ are just as hard or harder on our own brothers and sisters when they have wronged us as the penal system is on a criminal. 

I am sure Timothy, as a young pastor had to endure a plethora of wrongs done against him by his own flock. Paul's advice to him is just as pertinent to us today. It is not easy to be hurt or wronged and then patient in the face of it. We want an instantaneous fix. We don't want to be mercy showers and wait for God to move in, not only the other person's life, but ours as well. God is on our side. He is just and merciful and we need to trust Him when faced with this sort of difficulty. It is never the case that only one person has been hurt. 

13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
— I Corinthians 13:13 (NASB)

If you feel a tad bit convicted after reading through these four characteristics of a bondservant of Christ, then know you are not alone. I am walking this journey with you. I am glad that He is long suffering and He keeps working on us, after all we call Him Master. 

I'm So Tired! Five Ways to Recharge Mentally.

Are you tired? I know I am. I know my husband is. I know many people who are intimately familiar with fatigue. What makes us so tired? Is it poor choices, like not eating well and not getting enough sleep? Maybe we are tired because we don't sleep, experiencing night after night being wide eyed and restless. Perhaps we are tired because of stress. Our jobs, families and difficulties can leave us feeling depressed and less energetic. Simply put, life is a problematic piece of the fatigue puzzle. 

The Apostle Paul was familiar with fatigue. 

4 but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses,
5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger,
— 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 (NASB)
24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.
26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;
27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.
— 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 (NASB)

With all of the things he went through don't you think he probably felt a bit tired? Yet, we don't hear Paul give up. The fatigue that becomes most difficult is the kind where you want to give up.

Before I offer a few suggestions on how to deal with this sort of fatigue, I want to say that it is very important to know where your fatigue is coming from. If you are dealing with illness, depression, anxiety or other major issues, please seek the advice of a trained physician and counselor. These people will help to diagnose your fatigue and help you manage it in a way that gives you better quality of life. 

For the rest of us tired people, I'm sure you have read the articles and seen the advice on how to  get a better night's rest. The kind of fatigue I want to speak to is that which is mental, more than physical. For mental fatigue, I think it is more important to find things that will recharge us, in addition to working on those things that will give us better physical rest. Here are a few suggestions to combat mental fatigue. 

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Pixabay

1. Unplug.

You've heard this many times, but it is worth saying again. Get off your cell phone, i-pad, computer and other electronic devices. Our brains are not wired to receive constant input. Our minds are in need of output as well, whether it be doing a cross word puzzle, trying to cook a meal or put an outfit together, our brains benefit from being used, rather than just soaking in information. 

All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing.
— Ecclesiastes 1:8 (NASB)

Even before the invention of our electronic devices, Solomon knew that the eyes are not satisfied with seeing, nor are the ears filled with hearing. In other words, no matter how much information we look at or hear we still aren't going to know it all or be completely satisfied. God never intended that we find satisfaction and peace in anything other than Him. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

2. Unwind.

Find ways to unwind and relax. My husband and I both love the outdoors. Whether it is sitting out on our little patio on a lovely summer evening, going for a walk or camping. We find that reconnecting with the natural world around us, helps us to relax and bring our stress levels lower. 

Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.
— Psalm 34:14 (NASB)

Unwinding is a way of seeking peace from the hectic life so many of us live. I believe that we are to seek peace, not only between people, but in our inner selves.

What do you like to do to unwind? Dancing, swimming, listening to music, reading a book are all healthy ways to reduce the mental stress and fatigue we so often feel. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

3. Exercise.

I'm preaching to the choir here, ladies and gentlemen. It might seem counterintuitive to exercise when you feel tired, but for most forms of fatigue, including physical and mental, exercise actually helps your body to better cope with added stress and the challenges of daily life. Aerobic exercise helps to bring blood to all the places in your body that need it, especially your brain. Your brain also benefits from focusing on something other than the chaos around you. 

For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
— 1 Corinthians 6:20 (NASB)
Pixabay - school

4. Do something different.

You have probably heard that it is important for our brains to learn new things. This gives our brains the ability to continue growing and developing rather than stagnating. Doing something new, learning a new hobby, taking a class are all ways we can keep our brains healthy. 

For me, having a blog has been a real brain stretcher. I am anything but techie and I have had to learn how to navigate the internet, copy links, edit and post photos (or at least post my daughter's amazing pics and others I grab off Pixabay), as well as do collaborations with retailers and more recently use a smart phone! Ha, ha. I have learned so much.

You certainly don't have to start a blog, but how about taking a class? Many communities offer classes for adults through their senior centers, zoos and even colleges have more affordable classes for older adults on history, philosophy and other interesting topics. 

A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
— Proverbs 1:5 (NASB)

Once again, it may seem like the wrong thing to do when you are already feeling mentally overwhelmed. The point is not to add more stress, but to give your brain new, different and exciting things to think about. 

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Pixabay

5. Seek God.

This is probably the most important out of all of these points. Who better to give you peace and recharge your mental batteries than the one who created you? Seeking God through prayer, reading and meditating on scripture, worship and thanksgiving, will not only remove you temporarily from the craziness of life, but it will remind you of who is really in control and who has your back! 

The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever!
— Psalm 22:26 (NASB)

 

 

Mulling It Over - Part 4

Some time has passed since I worked on this passage in 2 Timothy, but I have the time, so I wanted to get back at it. If you remember we were taking a look at 2 Timothy 2:20-26. You can see the first three parts by clicking on each of the links: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Here is the passage again as a refresher. 

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Pixabay

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

Today's verse is quite pertinent in our society where social media dominates our time. Whether you are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or some other form of social media there is no doubt that these communication avenues are powerful both in a positive and a negative way. 

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
— 2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB)

As you know, I like to tear the verse apart. 

But refuse...

I think most of you understand the meaning of the word refuse. Words such as decline, refuse, reject, and spurn, all refer to the act of turning away by not accepting, receiving or considering what is being offered. I like the idea of not even considering. How often do we think about accepting an offer?

How many of you get sales emails in your inbox? How many of those do you read? Of those, how many do you actually click on to look at? If you are like me, you often find yourself clicking over to a site to see what new merchandise they have, and what the current sales offer is. Of course, it doesn't end there. I'll often put a few items into my shopping cart before I finally exit the site. Other times, I actually buy the items I put in my cart. I didn't refuse the offer and actually it started with just a consideration of the offer.

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Pixabay

Now lets move on to what it is we are to refuse, or even consider. 

...foolish and ignorant speculations...

I may get into trouble here, but I believe that a high percent of what is posted on many of these social media platforms are foolish and ignorant speculations. It is one thing to talk about what you did today, share an outfit or post a recipe you want to share, but when these platforms become soap boxes for preaching, arguing or spreading hate, I believe we have moved into the arena of foolish and ignorant speculations. 

Let me say at this point, I am not against having discussions about hard topics on social media platforms, but I believe as Christians we have to be extremely careful what we say and how we come across. Topics can quickly escalate from stating the facts to spewing hateful, emotion based opinions. When I think of what our Founding Fathers meant by Freedom of Speech, I do not know that they were thinking of photos sharing body parts or using explicatives like conjunctions to string sentences together. 

Let's take just a moment to look at the words foolish and ignorant.

     foolish - Webster's online dictionary uses phrases like - showing lack of good sense, absurd or       ridiculous, and marked by a loss of composure. 

     ignorant - Webster's defines this word in this way - destitute of knowledge or education, lacking comprehension, unaware, and uninformed.

Do we really want to look foolish and ignorant when we are putting ourselves out there on social media or any other communication platform. Whether you are having a discussion with friends at the local eatery, posting opinions on Facebook or writing a blog, use discretion when choosing your words. Remember words convey a message, both spoken and written. As Christ followers, we want our message to be one of hope, truth and love. 

Finally, 

...knowing that they produce quarrels. 

Isn't it amazing that Paul, who had no knowledge of social media, knew exactly the kinds of exchanges that could take place when we start rambling off our opinions and feelings without using forethought and caution? Obviously, the tendency towards volatile emotions and conversations has been around since Adam and Eve left the garden. We, by the sin nature into which were born, are protectors of our right to be right, even if we are wrong. 

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Pixabay

Why do you think Paul included these words in his letter to Timothy, who was a young man pastoring one of the early Christian churches? I believe it had to do with Paul's God given understanding of the outcome of such behaviors on the church. Dissension, arguments and quarrels will divide and destroy a church. They will divide and destroy a marriage, a family and yes, even a nation.

Let this verse be our standard when speaking or writing, for His glory and the encouragement of others.

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
— Colossians 4:6 (NASB)

Pow! Biff! Sock! Crash! Holy Trouble Batman!

I am foregoing my Walking With the Psalmist post for this month in order to bring you another amazing and trouble filled episode of life! If you have been following my blog for a while now, then you know last May, my hubby and I attempted to take a vacation to Maine. We only got as far as Rochester, NY when I gave birth to a kidney stone. Ouch! Not knowing for sure if the kidney stone passed, I ended up spending a night in the hospital and we made our way home, feeling down and discouraged. 

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Pixabay

Fast forward to May of 2018. Here we are again, planning a vacation, this time to my husband's old stomping grounds in various spots around Wisconsin. We were going to camp, hike, and visit with friends and family. Last week, I spent the entire week taking care of my grandson, who came down with whatever the going virus was at the moment for a week long battle with fatigue, fever, runny nose and loss of appetite. Guess who got sick this past Friday? Yup! Me. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

I did my usual regimen of echinacea tea, Zicam and other supplements to try to quicken the down time and speed up healing. No such luck! Today, I developed a fever, though I think I may have had one earlier. Today, I took my temp and it said, 99.5. Now, as you know that is not a high temp, but it is enough to make one feel pooky and even make my skin hurt. In addition to that I spent the night on the couch, coughing. I have always been a cougher. I had childhood asthma and I still think my bronchial tubes get especially irritated when I am sick. 

We were supposed to leave on vacation Thursday, but I am thinking maybe Friday or Saturday. Ugg! I'm sorry. I feel like I am complaining all the time and I don't mean to. I just feel that real life is happening all around and it is not always pretty or easy. Maybe when you read my stories of woe I will help you realize, you are not alone! We are all struggling through this journey together and I want you to know, I get the hard bits!

So when I started thinking about this post, I couldn't help but think of the old campy Batman and Robin show. Those of you who are my age will remember the silly fight scenes with the cartooned in words, "Pow!" "Biff!" and "Sock!" 

The reality is, my life is more like that colorful show of the the 1960's, than what some people are going through. We know more than one person who is battling cancer, several who already know they aren't going to make it. People struggle with such hurts, illness and pain, that I cannot even begin to imagine, but I understand. Sometimes life just sucks! For reals!

Pixabay - shower

This morning, when I was standing in the shower, feeling like crud, I turned my eyes to Jesus. I went back to the basics. I confessed my discouragement and frustration, I praised His name, and then I thanked Him. I thanked Him that I had a comfy couch, a blanket and a pillow to spend the night on. I wasn't coughing and shivering in a box in some alley. I thanked Him for the hot water that felt comforting to my tired and achy body. I thanked Him that, although this morning I wasn't able to keep my shopping and lunch date with one of my daughters, I was able to lay on the couch and watch Netflix. 

in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NET)

I can't remind you (and me) of this verse enough! Even when we are getting struck down and beaten on all sides, it is God's will that we give thanks. I would make the distinction that it says, "in everything give thanks," not "give thanks for everything." I have heard people say you should thank God, even for the bad stuff, but I think it is more the case that when we are going through the bad stuff we continue to give thanks. That, my dear sisters, is what will keep us standing and keep us focused on Him. 

I hope that we will still be able to get away in the next few days, but even if we don't, I feel that once again, God is who God is and He is trustworthy. I hope you will find Him trustworthy as well. 

Divine Appointments

We live in a society of planners. Architects design and plan buildings. Engineers design and plan roads and parking lots. Fashion designers plan for the next season always thinking ahead to the next color palette or trend. Even those of us, who would not call ourselves true planners make dentist and doctor appointments, write up grocery lists and plan get togethers with friends. 

Pixabay - checklist

Jerry Jenkins, is the author of a myriad of books including the Left Behind Series and numerous biographies on people ranging from Hank Aaron, to Luis Pulau to Walter Payton. He even assisted Billy Graham with his autobiography, Just As I Am. Jerry also owns and runs The Jerry Jenkins Writer's Guild, of which I am in my second year of membership. I remember one of the first webinars I took from Jerry, where he talked about the difference between two types of writers; the panster and the outliner. Like Jerry himself and another big name author,  Stephen King, I am a panster.  I write my blog and my fiction by the seat of my pants. Where as an outliner has a plan or an outline they follow as they write. Neither one is better than the other, they are just different. There is also a hybrid of writers who combine the elements of both styles of writing. They come up with a loose outline, but fill in details by the seat of their pants. 

Pixabay - typewriter

When we talk about making plans versus living by the seat of our pants, we can see that there are good points and bad points to both ways of approaching life. Planners, usually, get more done, but they are often so rigid in their schedules that they have forgotten how to enjoy the moment. Those who live by the seat of their pants are usually more relaxed and easy going, but often have projects piling up, because they neglect to develop a plan on how to get them finished.

We as Christ followers can often be guilty of both, planning too much and not planning enough. When I was a young mom, trying to figure out marriage, family life and eventually home schooling, I was often impatient and frustrated because I looked at life as a list of things I had to accomplish. This mentality become more pronounced as I home schooled our daughters from kindergarten through high school. I became a list person, which is a planner, if you didn't know! I think it is amusing that I could be a panster as a writer but in every day life, I was a planner. I loved to get a new planner every year as I looked forward to a new year of home schooling. I still love planners, but I'm not quite as rigid in how I used them. 

Pixabay - planner

What does God say in His word about having plans? Let's take a look. 

Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established.
— Proverbs 16:3 (NASB)
The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)
Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.
— Proverbs 19:21 (NASB)
The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.
— Proverbs 21:5 (NASB)

Obviously, God inspired King Solomon, the author of Proverbs to pen these many verses about planning. It is normal and it is good to have a plan, whether you are talking about retirement or about next week's meals, planning can be beneficial in saving us time, money and frustration. 

Unfortunately, many of us have made plans that didn't work out. We have been disappointed by failed relationships, ruined vacations and the chaos of life that constantly seems to want to get in the way of our well thought out plans. The beauty of being a panster, when it comes to real life is a drastic reduction in stress and pain brought about by waylaid plans. 

A mindset that has recently come about in my own life, is that of divine appointments.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
— Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

If I really believe that God is sovereign, and I really believe that He is good, then I must also believe that every bump in the road and every plan that doesn't come to fruition, He already knows about and has a purpose for. How often have you had a plan for your day off and the day draws to a close and you didn't accomplish anything that you had planned? I see those hands our there! In addition to that, how many of you got frustrated because what you had planned got sabotaged by life....a child stays home from school sick, your mother needed your help with the garden, your teenagers and your spouse call saying that won't be home to eat that delicious meal you slaved to prepare....this is the reality of life. The question then becomes, am I supposed to stop planning? Do I just let life fly and go with the flow, like some sort of 1960's flower child, content to sit in the sun and listen to the music?

Pixabay - hippie

Like so many things we talk about, I think the key here is, balance. I think it is important to have plans, but we also need to allow God to do that thing that He does best...orchestrate our lives. Recognize that those speed bumps that come into life are allowed by Him. Everything that comes your way, even the little annoyance and inconveniences, have passed through Him. This is even more pertinent when we are talking about divine appointments. These are those interruptions to our plans that revolve around people. 

Sunday, my Grandson came down with a nasty virus. I am the primary care person when he is out of school, as my daughter, a single mom, has to work a full time job. He comes to my house, when he is home from school. Sunday, I had plans for Monday. I was going to get ahead on my blog, do some writing and try to tackle the laundry. It wasn't going to happen. In fact, here it is Wednesday and the poor guy is still running a low grade temp, so once again, he is home from school. You know what? It's okay. Did my plans get ruined? Not ruined, just adjusted. When I look at life as a series of divine appointments, not only do I have an easier time adjusting to the bumps, but I also keep my focus on the author and finisher of my faith. 

Whether you are a planner or a panster, allowing God to direct your life, day in and day out, gives you the capacity to be less frustrated and more in tune with exactly what He wants you to do. Next time you have a plan and it gets interrupted, ask yourself, could this be one of His divine appointments, then let Him meet you right there. 

Mulling It Over - Part 3

Once again we are walking slowly through a particular portion of scripture. I love to take a small piece, maybe a few chapters, one chapter or in this case, just a few verses and completely devour it, seeing what we can get out of His Word. I always find it fascinating that God can speak to us anew, even from a portion of scripture that we have read over and over. Just like this horse is chewing up that delectable grass, we too can enjoy the delights of God's word. 

 PIxabay

PIxabay

We are looking at 2 Timothy 2:20-26:

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

If you are just joining me today, you can go back and see the first two posts on: 2 Timothy 2:20 and 2 Timothy 2:21, by clicking on the links. Today we are chewing on verse 22.

22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
— 2 Timothy 2:22

This verse is pretty straight forward, but lets take a closer look.

Now flee...

Is there anything more able to get your adrenaline churning, than when someone yells, "Ruuuuuunnnnn"? Think about a few of the movies that have been on the big screen, Star Wars, Indian Jones. The Avengers, or how about the iconic Forrest Gump scene:

This is what Paul is telling us to do. Run as fast as you can away from those things that cause us to sin and turn away from God. We are to flee, like those monsters chasing us are going to eat us alive.

...from youthful lusts....

Paul was writing this letter to a young man, Timothy, who had become a pastor of one of the early churches. He encourages Timothy to flee those youthful lusts, or the things that so commonly grab our attention as young people: improper relationships, money, power, popularity and feeding our appetites are all things that constantly pull at us when we are young. It is sad that so many give in to these distractions, rather than waiting on God and allowing HIm to fill their every need. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Let me draw this out a bit further. I believe as mature Christians we can also be distracted by many things that are less than God's best for us. Think about the shows you watch, the food you eat, the things you buy. How many of these are done to fulfill our lust. Lust isn't just about sex. It is anything that takes precedent over our relationship with God. Am I saying you can't watch that show you love, or eat that cake or buy that dress? No, but we do need to allow God to monitor our actions and speak truth to us, if these types of things are becoming a problem. For some, moderation is easy, for others, myself included, not so much. Sometimes God has to rip things out of our lives to bring us into line with where He wants us to be. 

...and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace...

I decided to lump all of these characteristics together. These are four things we are to pursue. Behind us are the things we are to flee. In front of us is what we are to pursue. Righteousness or godliness, faith or belief, love and peace. We need to chase after these things as if they are rare butterflies that we are wanting to add to our collection.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

People who enjoy hobbies such as butterfly or bird watching, desire to see species which are rare or very rarely seen. It is their passion, just as a rock climber loves to scale mountains or an artist loves to paint or mold something out of clay. They have a passion about discovering or creating something new. In the same way we are to pursue these specific qualities We are to have a passion about pursuing God. He shouldn't be someone we occasionally think about, but a being we have a living and passionate relationship with. If we are pursuing the characteristics of righteousness, faith, love and peace we will be pursuing the author who created them.

...with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart.

Not only are we to pursue those characteristics, but we are to do it with others who call on the Lord with a pure heart. This seems to encourage us to be in a fellowship with other believers. My husband and I are between churches right now, but we both feel the need to get back into a regular fellowship. It is in the corporate worship and gathering together of like minded people, that we find accountability, stability and the sort of input that encourages growth in our relationship with Christ. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

That being said, let me say, I know what it is like to feel as though the church let you down. Or, to feel like an outsider because of circumstances you had no control over. I get it, and sometimes God will draw us out of the body, to walk a path through a valley, in which we are alone, but I do not believe He intends that we stay there. We need each other, even if only to aggravate each other enough to pursue God with even more passion! Ha, ha.

I hope you are enjoying this study of 2 Timothy 2 and I hope today you will examine your own life and see what God is trying to say to you. Is there something you need to flee? Do you need to have more passion in your pursuit of God, or like us, do you need to get back into a fellowship with other believers? Seek God for wisdom and help. He is always faithful.

Have a great day. 

Walking with the Psalmist

Psalm 13 is a song of David, and a prayer for help in trouble. What I love about the psalms of David are the parallels to my own emotional ups and downs. Let's dive in.

1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 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)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

Do you ever feel like David? Do you ever wonder where God is? Does it seem as though He has forgotten you or is hiding His face from you? Have you ever felt like you are the only person you can trust? Do you ever have days where all you can feel is sorrow, or maybe you feel nothing at all, simply numb? Have you felt as though a very real, but unseen enemy is out to get you? Or maybe your enemy is something or someone real, like cancer, a hard nosed boss or a bully. 

I have felt this way. The truth is, I think most of us have felt pretty much alone at some point or other in our lives. Sometimes, we carry burdens that we cannot share, which make us feel very alone and like the psalmist we cry out to God, "Where are you?"

3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
— Psalm 13:3-4 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

The psalmist asks God to consider his situation. David spent a good portion of his adult life running and hiding from his enemies. I'm pretty sure this song was born out of the frustration and exhaustion of not being able to live a normal life. 

You are probably familiar with the phrase, the new normal. Most often this phrase is used by someone who has encountered a major life change, either a job loss, loss of a loved one, physical limitation or other difficulty that makes life different than it used to be. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I can't do that anymore. Now life is made up of looking at food labels, cutting my food in half so I don't eat too much and cutting out things I used to enjoy like donuts and ice cream. This is the new normal. 

I do not see anything wrong with asking God to consider us. We are His creation. Consider these verses:

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!
— Luke 12:24 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.
— Luke 12:27 (NASB)
 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

The one who has every hair on our heads numbered can most certainly be bothered to consider us, when we cry out to Him. 

I think the psalmist was also praying for wisdom, or maybe he was just asking God to help him stay awake and keep vigilant watch for his enemies, lest they overcome him and he sleep the sleep of death. Either way we can ask God for help, whether it be for wisdom, or for physical strength. 

1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
— Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him
— James 1:5 (NASB)

The last section of Psalm 13 is the upward swing.

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

Pixabay

There are four actions the psalmist does at the end of this song.

1. He remembers. He is speaking in the past tense, remembering other times the Lord has been faithful.

2. He trusts. He trusted in the Lord's lovingkindness in the past, and no doubt, will do so again. 

3. He rejoices. His heart rejoices in the Lord's salvation. We can derive from this statement, the psalmist has seen the Lord's salvation before. 

4. He sings. What a beautiful ending to a song that starts out at a rather low point. He can sing, because the Lord has dealt bountifully with him. 

What does this mean for you and I? First, I believe it is okay to ask God the tough questions. Where are you, God? How long will you keep quiet and not answer me? How long am I going to have to suffer? When will your deliverance come? God knows our frame. He also knows we don't see the whole picture, so I truly believe He understands and has compassion when we come to Him with our ceaseless questioning. Think about the many times your children or grandchildren come to you asking, why or when? Do you yell at them and tell them to be quiet? (Well, maybe once in a while, ha, ha). More often we answer with kindness and love. 

Secondly, I believe it is also alright to let God know we are at the end of ourselves. Consider and answer me, Lord, is a cry for help and reassurance, not a fist raised in defiance. God knows we hurt, sometimes in the deepest places of our being. There are people who suffer physically with pain we can't even imagine. There are people who hurt mentally or emotionally because of what others have done to them or to their family members. God knows our innermost hurts and struggles. 

Finally, I think the key is to follow the psalmist's example and not stay in that mindset of discouragement. Like him we need to choose to remember what God has done for us. We need to trust in the God whose lovingkindness is everlasting. We can rejoice in His salvation. Not only has He saved us from sin through His son Jesus Christ, but He has saved us from difficulties we cannot begin to imagine. Lastly, sing! Sing like no one is listening. Sing to bring the house down. If it is an age old hymn sing it with gusto. If it is singing along to your favorite Christian band, turn up the volume. 

Following David in his pattern of questioning, admitting and rejoicing we will be able to overcome. 

From Knowledge to Knowing

What is the difference between knowledge and knowing? Webster's online dictionary defines knowledge in this way - "the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association..." It can also be defined as, "the sum of what is known, body of knowledge..." The word knowing is defined - "having or reflecting knowledge, information or intelligence."

 Pixabay

Pixabay

From these definitions it would seem to be the case, we can all have some sort of knowledge about many things. I know that two plus two equals four. I also know, water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. However, knowing two plus two equals four does not mean I know how to do math. Nor does knowing water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen make me hydrated. Knowledge that becomes knowing is a direct result of acting on that knowledge. 

To take knowledge from our heads and make it a part of our lives takes effort. We are not sponges. We do not absorb knowledge and have it make us into a super human computer. We have to do something with the knowledge. Knowing what a number is, and a few, often quoted facts, does not mean we know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, let alone do more complex functions, like algebraic equations and geometric formulas. To take this step from knowledge to knowing we have to learn. We must sit under the tutelage of one who knows and understands mathematics in order to come to a point of knowing it ourselves. 

water fountain

In a similar fashion, knowing what components make up water, does not give me the hydration so important for life. I must take the water and actually drink it. That is the only way my body will obtain the life giving qualities that water has. 

In our lives as Christians, we come to have a body of knowledge. We know the Bible is God's word. We know from various passages in scripture of God's love, justice and mercy. We also know about Jesus; His birth, life, death, and resurrection. But how to we take knowledge in our spiritual lives and making it knowing?

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Pixabay

Anyone can have knowledge of God. Plug the word God into Google and see what comes up. However, having knowledge of God does not mean you are a person of faith. I have knowledge of Allah, but I am not a Muslim. I have knowledge of Buddha, but I am not a Buddhist. So what takes us from knowledge to knowing, when it comes to faith?  

Belief is not the result of an intellectual act, but the result of an act of my will whereby I deliberately commit myself.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - December 22nd

I personally believe that when we do as Oswald says in the above quote, we go from knowledge to knowing. When we apply our will and deliberately commit ourselves to God in a relationship we no longer have knowledge, we know. How does this take place? In a supernatural way, through the Holy Spirit. 

In Biblical times, the word know was associated with sexual intercourse. It implied intimacy. A person who has sex with another in this fashion, goes from knowledge of that person to knowing that person in an intimate way. One of the issues with sex outside the parameters of a committed relationship is the inability to truly know each other. This might partially explain why so many relationships fail. The partners involved have never gone from knowledge of each other to knowing each other. 

The type of knowledge that we want to have of God and of His son Jesus is an intimate one. We want to commit ourselves to Him in a deep, vulnerable way, so that we no longer just know facts and statements made about Him, but the deep inner layers of the Almighty Himself. This is not an intellectual act, other than the thought, "I want to commit myself to God." It is an act of the will, just as much as saying "I do" is an act of the heart. 

For example, read the following verse.

Shout for joy, you heavens;
rejoice, you earth;
burst into song, you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
— Isaiah 49:13 (NIV)

In the midst of chaos, I can read that verse and with the eye roll of a junior higher think, "Yeah, right."

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Or, I can commit my will to believe and suddenly it becomes the firm, heart felt statement of, "Yeah! Right!" Now, I get it. God really does comfort and have compassion. I know, because I know (intimately), that He will comfort and have compassion. I have felt it and I have seen it. 

Do you see what happened there? I went from knowledge to knowing. I committed myself to believe the promises in His word and His response to my commitment was to draw me into the deeper knowing of Himself. 

It is God and His Spirit who take us from knowledge to knowing - knowing Him; His mercy and grace; His long suffering and goodness. Merely reading, gaining knowledge and nodding our heads that we believe does not a believer make. It is our act of the will, our choices day in and day out, moment by moment that move us from rote belief and knowledge to true, heart felt faith; to knowing God. 

Beauty from Ash

There it was. A single, dark green leaf, beginning to unfurl. It had been conceived in darkness. A tiny seed that lay dormant, not dead, merely asleep in the cozy warmth of the dark earth. While it was sleeping the dragon had done his damage. He had ravaged the landscape, burning every tree and every living thing until all was nothing but ash. He thought he had destroyed life, but what he had meant for death, the One had meant for life. 

The ash lay heavy on the earth. It became, not a grave blanket of death, but a rich, comforting layer of warmth and nutrients. Gradually, over time, the rains came and the ash cooled and lingering life seeped into the black earth below. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

The seed drank the death life and began to swell. Swollen and full, it opened, releasing a shoot into the fertile soil above. Pushing, struggling, reaching, it climbed upward. It knew, above the darkness there was light and the light was what it wanted. The light was what it needed. The shoot didn't know how it knew, but it knew it had to reach for the light. It knew the light would help it grow. It knew the light would give it life.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Soon the pushing, struggling and reaching paid off. At the very tip of it's furthest point the shoot felt an odd sensation, warmth. It had only ever known the coolness of the earth in which it lay. It had only ever known the darkness, but now...now it reached. With one last ambitious push it poked through the earth and ash and found the light.  

*          *          *          *           *

Are we not like the seed? Were we not conceived in darkness? Did we not, when we were full with the nutrients of our mother's womb, the womb that would die after our life, death life, did we not move toward the light? We knew when it was time, as our mother's womb knew when it was time to help us, push, and reach and struggle, that we must find the light. We needed the light. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Why then, when we know the light is good, do we stop seeking it? Why, when we know the light gives us life and helps us grow, do we we hide from it? Why do we prefer to cover ourselves back up with the dragon's ash, trying to hide rather than growing to the potential that the One had meant for us? 

It is because we are afraid. 

Do not fear the light, or the One from which the light has its source. Rather, push, struggle, reach for Him. He will tend you like a tender shoot and raise you up into a mighty tree.

He alone can bring beauty from ash. 

(Written by Amy D. Christensen)

 

A Look Back at 2017 - My Favorite Faith Posts

I did this on my fashion page so I thought it would be good to do on my faith page as well. Since we are into a new year, I thought it would be fun to look back at my favorite posts from 2017. I picked one from each month. If you haven't read them and are interested, just click on the link below the picture. 

It is good to look back at where we have been, so we can get a better feel for where we need to go. As far as my faith posts are concerned, I want to keep writing and posting things that I hope will be an encouragement to you. We, as older women, are such a valuable part of society. We are capable, strong and worn, and that is just where God wants us to be. 

Here are my favorite faith posts from my blog from 2017.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

I hope you enjoyed this look back at my favorite blog posts from 2017. As we move forward into 2018, I hope to grow my blog in various ways, while still being true to my belief and faith in Jesus Christ. 

If you have any suggestions or things you would like to see me talk about on the blog, please leave me a comment in the comments section or you can send me a message on Facebook. I appreciate all your input and support. I am looking forward to what this year will bring and hope you will join me on the blog! 

Lessons Learned from The Santa Clause

In my opinion, next to Galaxy Quest, The Santa Clause is one of Tim Allen's best movies. It is a family friendly film, that both young and old can enjoy. The basic premise of the movie finds toy maker Scott Calvin (Allen), suddenly taking on the job of being Santa Claus. The fact that their initials are the same is only one of the fun little details in this movie. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Calvin is divorced and like so many dads in that situation has his son certain days and times. This particular Christmas, Scott has his son, Charlie, Christmas Eve over night. Being a good dad, although a bit jaded from the divorce, Scott reads Twas the Night Before Christmas, before Charlie goes to sleep. After, Scott turns off the light, strange things begin to happen that lead to a life altering event for this father and his son.

There are lessons we can glean from this comedy. These are a few of the things that I learned.

1. We Can Always Approach our Heavenly Father. Charlie knew when he started to hear strange noises on the roof that he could go wake up his dad and his dad would know what to do. This is a perfect example of child like faith. Children trust their parents to take care of them and provide for them. This is one of the reasons it is so devastating for a child when there is abuse or neglect involved. The very nature that God instilled in a child to trust their parents is the same nature that He instilled in each one of us to come to Him when we are troubled or afraid. 

Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
— Matthew 6:26 (NASB)

A father or mother who love their children will always be looking out for them. Even when our children become adults we still want what is best for them and quite often it is hard to watch them make choices we know are not good. Letting them flounder is part of letting God care for them and bring them into a right relationship with Him. He always cares for them and always knows what is best. 

Life becomes much more complicated for Scott Calvin. When he put on the Santa suit to appease Charlie, he didn't realize he was about to have a dramatic career change. 

2. Think Through Your Actions. Scott didn't give a second thought to putting on the suit, other than shuddering that he didn't know where the suit had been. It was warm and comfy, sort of like a heavy pair of pj's. After the sleigh, lead by the famous eight is done delivering toys for the night, it heads back to the North Pole. Scott and Charlie suddenly find themselves in the middle of Santa's workshop.

While our decisions won't necessarily lead us to the North Pole, they can have long term, life changing consequences. Not only do our actions have ramifications, but our words and our thoughts. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your body
And refreshment to your bones.
— Proverbs 3:5-8 (NASB)

God knows that we will often be tempted to make poor decisions, whether it is that second piece of pie at a Christmas gathering, or going out with a guy that is into drugs, He encouraged us to lean on Him, not on our own understanding. 

Scott Calvin, clearly believes he is wise in this movie. He thinks he has life all figured out, including how to deal with his ex-wife, her new husband and Charlie. As time goes along, and his job changes from that of toy maker to the being known as Santa, he realizes he really doesn't have it all figured out and he is willing to accept help to really see and understand.

3. Seeing Isn't Believing. Believing is Seeing. This is probably the most important message this movie makes. In a walk of faith, that is precisely what it is, faith. We don't see God, yet our belief in Him, enables us to see. Just like Judy the elf says, children don't have to see the North Pole to know that it is there, they just know. So too, in our lives as Christ followers, when we take that step to believe in Jesus, all of a sudden so many things that were hidden become perfectly clear.  We can't see God, but we just know that He is. His choice to reinforce our belief with the written Word, is a gift to us, that makes our faith even more solid. 

for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
— Romans 10:10 (NASB)

As Scott begins the journey from unbelief to belief he changes. He suddenly becomes aware of things that were unknown to him before, like the ideas of selflessness, love and sharing. He realizes that his life is changed and once he embraces that he is able to see that there is so much more to life than being the man on top. There is forgiveness, and the ability to adapt.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about the lessons I have learned from The Santa Clause. If you haven't see the movie, I hope you will give it a try. It is a fun view for the whole family. (Note: there is some language and mild suggestive elements so you may want to read a full review on IBMD.)

Lessons Learned from Miracle on 34th Street

Last year I did a series on lessons that I learned from a few of my favorite Christmas movies. You can see those by clicking on the title of the posts below:

A Christmas Lesson Learned from Charlie Brown                                                                                          Christmas Lessons Learned from the Grinch                                                                                                 "Come in, --- come in! and know me better, man!                                                                                               It's a Wonderful Life...or is it?

I thought it would be fun to look at a few other movies that I enjoy watching at this time of year and talk about what I have learned from them.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

If you have seen Miracle on 34th Street, either the 1947 version with Maureen O'Hara and Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle or the 1994 version with Elizabeth Perkins and Richard Attenborough, you know the basic premise of the movie deals with belief. An elderly man claims to be Kris Kringle, not a man with the same name, but the genuine article. A woman, Mrs. Walker, must be convinced that there is more to Mr. Kringle than just a nice old man. 

"....if you can't believe, if you can't accept anything on faith, then you are doomed for a life dominated by doubt." 

That line, spoken by Mr. Kringle in the video clip above is very powerful and may well sum up what is wrong with our world as a whole. How often, are we as Christians guilty of doubting the truths that God has given us? Do we really believe He is the good shepherd? Do we really have faith that He came to save the lost? Or are our lives dominated by doubt? 

We all live lives of faith. We have faith or believe the sun will rise tomorrow, when I flip a switch the light will come on and the bank I use is taking good care of my money. Whether people want to admit it or not, most of life is a walk of faith. Unfortunately, we often place our faith in people or things that don't deliver. 

When my children were small, I wanted them to know the truth about Christmas, so I told them about Jesus. However, I also told them that Santa, as a man in a sleigh with flying reindeer wan't real. I chose to teach them about Saint Nicolas, the source of the legend of Santa Claus. My motivation was well intended, but I wonder that I did damage to their ability to believe in things that were simply meant to be magical and fun. 

The beauty of putting your faith in Jesus Christ is that everything else falls into its proper place. If I would have had more faith in Him as I raised my children, I think I would have had more fun with them, rather than being obsessed that they come to know Jesus and live for Him. I think we as parents often forget that our children are watching us and the best way to show them Jesus is to live a life in the Spirit out loud. Of course, we all want our children to follow Jesus, but we must have faith in Him, and in His ability to bring it about in His timing. Hard, I know!

In this movie when Kris Kringle is sent to jail for being a menace and mentally unstable it is up to Mrs. Walker, her daughter and a lawyer friend to get him out. The case goes to trial and arguments ensue to try to prove that Santa Claus exists and Mr. Kringle is him. In the more modern version, perhaps my favorite scene takes place when Judge Henry Harper has a most helpful revelation.

I love that Judge Harper is so satisfied with himself at the end of his speech, undoubtedly because he was able to get out of a very sticky situation. Ha, ha. 

Isn't it true? We, the people of the United States of America put our trust as a collective whole in a being we do not see. Perhaps, we need to revisit why the statement, "In God We Trust" was originally put on our currency. 

I have often thought that the church has gotten too far away from the basic tenants of our faith. We don't talk about things like the virgin birth of Christ, the problem of sin or the outcome of that sin. We have a tendency to dance around the issue. The issue is, we need Jesus. Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas. We need to get back to that. 

One of the best things we can do as we walk out our journey on this planet is to be teachable. God is always bringing new lessons to be learned and drawing us deeper into His amazing layers. Sometimes He even uses movies to teach us things we need to know. 

Do you like this movie? Have you learned anything from watching a Christmas movie? I hope you'll share your ideas in the comments section. I'd love to learn something from you.