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.

 Pixabay

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. 

 Pixabay

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.

 Pixabay

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. 

 Pixabay

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. 

 Pixabay

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. 

 Pixabay

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. 

 Pixabay

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. 

 Pixabay

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.

 Pixabay

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. 

 Pixabay

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)

Living in the Valley

It has been a few weeks since I wrote a faith post. My husband and I went on a vacation to visit places and people in Wisconsin. It was an enjoyable trip, but I didn't have much time to write. While it is fun and important to get away, the reality is that we live in the ordinary moments of life much more often than in the extraordinary moments. Who doesn't want to live on the mountaintop, but most of us spend the majority of our time trudging through the valley bottom. 

Devil's Lake State Park

Let me say, the valley bottom is not the pristine, green grass, river filled valley. No, it is the valley that runs between two rugged, rocky cliffs and there is no water in sight for miles. Overhead the vultures are constantly circling, waiting for the valley dwellers to stumble and fall so they can begin to feed off their soon to be dead bodies. Not a pretty picture.

When you have no vision from God, no enthusiasm left in your life, and no one watching and encouraging you, it requires the grace of Almighty God to take the next step in your devotion to Him, in the reading and studying of His Word, in your family life, or in your duty to Him. It takes much more of the grace of God, and a much greater awareness of drawing upon Him, to take that next step, than it does to preach the gospel.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - March 6th

I love this thought from Oswald Chambers. He says it takes more grace and a more concentrated effort to draw on Him to take the next step in living the ordinary, mundane life, than to preach the gospel. What do you think? Do you agree? 

I have been finding life more and more challenging lately. My energy level is lower, I have physical issues that I never had to deal with before and I am continually reminded, not only of all the things I need to do, but also of all the things I have absolutely no control over. These factors all become part of life in the valley. Living here in the valley becomes a matter of trudging, not running, or skipping or even walking. Every once in a while, it becomes a crawl, a begging on hands and knees with the Master of this land to come and either let it end or bring about some sort of change. It was from this prostrate place that Oswald realized the thoughts he shared in the quote above. It truly does take the grace of the Almighty to take the next step.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

I know, without a doubt, that some of you are in this place. Just like me, you go to bed so exhausted, that you pray God will take you in your sleep, so that you don't have to get up in the morning. Some of you, don't sleep. He doesn't even give you that. But, you do get up in the morning and you start all over again...the walk, the stumble, the crawl. You feel like you could use time away, a retreat, but there is no retreat. You feel like you could use a good, long cry, but you know the tears won't change anything, besides you are too busy, too tired. You feel like you want to run away, to leave everyone and everything behind, just go somewhere and become someone different, but you know that is not the right thing to do and you are just too tired. Day after day, drudgery after drudgery. This is life in our valley.

BUT GOD!

No enthusiasm?

BUT GOD!

No one noticing?

BUT GOD!

No encouragement?

BUT GOD!

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;
— 2 Corinthians 6:4 (NIV)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
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.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
— Psalm 121 (NASB)
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
— Galatians 6:9 (NASB)

I know life can be overwhelming, but God is not overwhelmed by it. We've heard it before, but I need to hear it again. Peter walked on water, though the stormy waves raged all around, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. If you are down and out by life, look up. Jesus will always meet you exactly where you are at. 

Remember, we are all together in this valley. 

 

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. 

 Pixabay

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. 

Walking with the Psalmist

When we take the time to look at the Psalms we can learn much about human behavior and about God. It is not my intent to look at every single Psalm, but pick and choose ones that have been meaningful to me in my walk with Christ. I grew up in a Christian home and made a commitment to Christ when I was twelve. Ever since I can remember, the Psalms were important to me. I have often felt that they enable the reader to see inside another human being and experience their emotions. While my spouse likes to jokingly call David, an emotional yoyo, many of the Psalms he penned were ones filled with the raw emotion of fear, guilt, anger and joy. 

In Psalm 1 we saw the comparison of the righteous man with the wicked. Today I would like to explore Psalm 8. This Psalm is titled, The Lord's Glory and Man's Dignity. It seems an appropriate header for a song that begins with the line, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth..." (NASB) I thought this a beautiful Psalm to usher in the season of Spring and the coming of Easter. 

O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
4 What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
7 All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
— Psalm 8 (NASB)

As usual, I like to pull the passage apart verse by verse.

Verse 1 

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth,

This verse sets the tone for the passage. David immediately establishes the order of authority. God is Lord. He is our Lord. David also points out, God's name is majestic in all the earth. God is Lord over all people and all the earth. This is completely understood when we believe that God is our creator. The Maker is the One who created it all and because of that He is our Lord. We are His creation. We are not on the same level as Him. 

It is unfortunate in today's world that God's name has become a tool to be used, rather than a name that is honored and glorified. I have heard, even people who claim to be Christians, use God's name in vain. There is a commandment for that remember?

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
— Exodus 20:7 (NASB)

God's name is majestic and should be spoken with reverence and love, not flippantly like so many others words in our language. 

Lake Erie, sunset

Who have displayed your splendor above the heavens.

When i first became familiar with this psalm, I thought this was a question. I am much more aware of proper punctuation and grammar now, This would read more smoothly in both the NIV and the ESV - 

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
— Psalm 8:1 b (NIV)
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
— Psalm 8:1 b (ESV)

It is, no doubt, God, who sets the sun and the moon in their places. He dropped each star onto that blanket of blackness like a child playing with glitter glue. He is the one who places the rainbow in the sky and the planets in their orbits. Any sunrise or sunset I am privileged to witness, my mind immediately recites this first verse. 

Verse 2

 Pixabay

Pixabay

From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength

It is fairly common for the Almighty God to use the weak things of this world to overcome the strong. 

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
— 1 Corinthians 1:27 (ESV)

Jesus used children to explain the simplicity of getting into heaven. 

Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
— Luke 18:17 (NASB)

Because of your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

God did this, because of His enemy, more specifically Satan. Over 2000 years ago a baby was born and laid in a manger. That baby was the only one who had and still has the capacity to make the enemy and the revengeful cease! 

Verse 3

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained, 

The psalmist had no doubts about who created the world. He wasn't questioning the age of the earth or whether it was created in seven literal days or seven ages, he knew the world was the work of the One whose name was Majestic. He knew the moon and the stars were the work of His fingers. That knowledge made him shudder with humility.

Verse 4

What is man that You take thought of him and the son of man that You care for him?

The psalmist questions this God, whose name is Majestic, and so too should we. Who are we that God would take thought of us or that He would care for us? Yet He does. In fact....

Verse 5

Yet You made him a little lower than God

Whoa! Did you catch that? It doesn't say, He made us like pond scum. Evolutionists would like the world to believe that we came from just that, pond scum. But no! We are made only a little lower than God. How does that make you feel? It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, but also very humbled. God made us with intentionality to be only a little lower than His majesty! 

And You crown him with glory and majesty!

 Pixabay

Pixabay

How about that? We get to be majestic too! He chooses to crown us with glory and majesty. Wow! That is really all I can say. Wow!

Verse 7 & 8

You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,

I know there are people who take issue with this idea. I believe we are to treat all of God's creation with respect and dignity. I also believe in managing the creation we have been given and taking care of it, so yes, I eat meat, my husband hunts and we cut the grass. The verse plainly says that all things are subject to us and we are to rule over the works of His hands. That does not mean we are to abuse or misuse. He gave us this responsibility and that is exactly how we should treat it, as a responsibility, not a free for all. 

The psalmist then goes on to list some of the things that are under our rule.

All sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heaven and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

I am pretty sure when David penned these words he was thinking back to the story of Creation. He knew that man was made to take care of the earth and rule over it. This was a privilege and a joy. 

Finally, he bookends the psalm by repeating the opening phrase.

Verse 9

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. 

I think this is a lovely psalm to memorize or at least read over on occasion, especially as the seasons change. The dark, drab, cold months will be giving way to the warm rains, flowers and sunshine of spring and then summer. Let's try to remember how incredibly blessed we are to not only be able to enjoy His creation, but also that our position is meant to be only a little lower than the Creator Himself. That gives us worth, value and hope! 

Have a great day. 

 

 

 

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)

 

Preparing for Christ

The holiday of Thanksgiving is the perfect spring board for our leap into the Christmas season. It seems rather odd that we celebrate a day of giving thanks and then scramble to find the perfect gifts for those we love, as if they don't have enough already. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas and one of my love languages is gifts. I love to find gifts for people and I also love to receive gifts from others. Especially, when the person doing the giving has really thought about the person receiving the gift. 

In my last few posts I referred to giving thanks as that which brings us back to center, or back to where God wants us to be in our relationship with Him. What better thing to do before we enter into the hectic mayhem of the holidays. It is often hard to keep our focus on the reason for the season, which as most of you know is the birth of Jesus. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

It seems in our society today belief in God is a common occurrence. If you ask someone if they believe in a higher power or an intelligent designer, many will say yes. They also will tell you that this being is good and would never condemn people to a place  ofeternal damnation. What has become lost in the chaos of our daily lives is the need for a Savior. 

What did Jesus come for? Did He come, so that we might have a holiday to celebrate? Did the shepherds leave their flocks to come see where the baby Jesus was born, so we could have colored lights in the windows and pretty trees in our living rooms? Did the three wisemen leave their homes and travel for months to give gifts to the Christ child so we could give gifts to each other? No. They came because He was and is the Son of God. 

Jesus came so that we might have life and life more abundantly. The book of Romans in the New Testament explains:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 6:23 (NASB)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
— Romans 5:8 (NASB)
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
— Romans 10:9 (NASB)

The holiday of Christmas must lead to the holiday of Easter. The manger makes way for a cross. We cannot have one without the other. So you see, Jesus really is the reason for this season; a season of love, giving and caring.

In the words of Jesus Himself, 

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

As we begin our Christmas preparations, I pray we will not lose sight of the one who prepared the way for each one of us.

Mulling It Over - Part 10: Ephesians 6:18

Last month we learned about the sword of the spirit, which is the first of our offensive weapons in this passage on the armor of God. In this final post in my series on the armor of God I want to focus in on verse 18 and our second offensive weapon in our fight against the enemy.

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
— Ephesians 6:18 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

Besides our sword, which we now know is God's word, we have the offensive weapon of prayer. Let me take a few sentences to clarify the difference between defensive versus offensive. Defensive pieces are those which protect us from the onslaught of the enemy. Our armor, including the helmet and the shield are all pieces that we use to protect ourselves. Offensive pieces are those with which we can actually do damage to the enemy, through the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 

I think it is important to note that most of this passage in Ephesians 6:10-18 is spent describing the defensive pieces or the armor, which we are to put on. This suggests that our part as followers of Christ is to make sure we are battle ready and able to stand firm when the arrows fly. There are times when life is too overwhelming to actually fight back. Those are the times we have to let God, the almighty One, have His way and let Him fight for us. I firmly believe there are myriads of skirmishes going on all around us in the heavenly realms that we do not participate in. However, I also believe there are times that God calls us to pick up that sword and go to war. This leads us back to verse 18 and the offensive weapon of prayer. 

Let's look at what prayer does as an offensive weapon.

1. Puts us in contact with the commander. In what army are the soldiers not aware of who their commander is? From the generals at the top, to the sergeants in the enlisted ranks, soldiers are aware that there is a chain of command. They know who they report to and who reports to them. As Christians prayer puts us in direct contact with the highest head of all the armies at His command. Isn't that awesome? How much more time should we be spending in prayer, knowing that this is the way to get right to the top?

2. Places us under the headship of the Holy Spirit. When we really are seeking God and are trying to pray as He would want us to pray, we are placing ourselves under the movement and persuasion of the Holy Spirit. 

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
— John 14:26 (NASB)

Jesus tells us that the Helper will teach you all things. I think that includes teaching us how to pray. You might think that's a bit silly, but I'm not talking about saying a prayer before dinner or even reciting the Lord's prayer. I am referring to intense, battle worthy praying that gets us prostrate on the floor or pacing around the house with tears streaming down our faces and our hands raised in the air. This is Holy Spirit lead warring prayer. 

Please do not jump to the conclusion that I think this is the only time the Holy Spirit directs our prayer, because it is not. He leads us in prayers of worship, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of confession and prayers of humble petition as well. But there is something about warring prayer that makes praying in the Spirit seem even more real. 

3. Perseveres for the saints. Battle prayers are most often connected to others who need our added strength to help them get through a particularly difficult situation. Verse 18 encourages us to: "With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view (the idea that we are to be praying all prayers at all times in the Spirit) be on the alert (for the enemy, as well as for peeps who need our prayers) with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

Did you notice how many alls are in that verse. I bolded them so you could see them more clearly. Whoa! This idea of prayer is pretty important. I Thessalonians 5:17 says, "pray without ceasing." There isn't a command that is much more straight forward than that. Don't stop praying. 

Praying does not mean that life will suddenly be filled with sunshine and flowers. In fact, often times when we begin the intense prayer of warring praying, we may find the enemy's assaults also intensify. Don't give up. It is even more important when the battle is continuous and overwhelming. Someone needs you to pray, maybe even your own self. Remember you are fighting because the Commander has called you to. He knows who needs those prayers. 

Many of you, like me are older. Your children are grown and you may no longer be as involved as you once were in their lives. Don't stop praying for them. Now, more than ever, they need your prayers, because one thing is sure, our enemy is a roaring lion seeking to devour. He wants our sons and daughters, our spouses, our grandchildren, our friends, our churches and our nation. If you can't sleep at night, God wants you to pray. If you have a few moments alone, God wants you to pray. If you are sick, you can still pray. Driving in the car, pray. Taking a shower, pray.

When you have gotten to the end of yourself and think you can no longer pray, then let go and He will pray for you. Now how cool is that? He will pray for you, until you are able to stand, put on the armor and go to battle again. 

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
— Romans 8:26 (NASB)
and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
— Romans 8:27 (NASB)
who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
— Romans 8:34 (NASB)

You can see the rest of this series by clicking on the links below. 

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9.

Mulling It Over - Part 9: Ephesians 6:17

Last time in this Mulling It Over series, I looked at the beginning of Ephesians 6:17. This week, I'd like to mull over the last part of that verse. 

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
— Ephesians 6:17 (NASB)

The helmet of salvation was the last of our defensive pieces of armor. All of the defensive pieces are articles that are worn on the body, or as in the shield of faith, are used to protect the body from assaults from the enemy. The sword of the Spirit, is the first weapon listed. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

We might wonder why God gives us so many pieces of armor to protect ourselves and only two weapons with which to actually attack the enemy. Obviously God knows what is best and I hope to illuminate why this is the case.

First, I think we need to look at 2 Corinthians 10

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
— 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NASB)

These verses clearly state the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful. In other words, our weapons are divinely empowered. In essence God does the fighting for us. Our job is to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-13) and resist in that evil day. Our job also involves destroying wrong thinking and taking all of our own thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. 

Next we need to look at what exactly this sword of the spirit is. We all know what a sword is. A long sharp weapon that was meant for slicing, chopping and stabbing. It was meant to inflict harm and even kill. There are numerous types of swords from the Roman Gladius, to the English Broadsword, to the modern foil used in competitive fencing. For the most part a sword was meant for close combat. While we occasionally see in a movie a sword being flung long distances and making its mark, the sword is meant to be used when the enemy is at arm's length.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

I find it interesting that God directed Paul to write the sword of the Spirit, not the axe or the spear, both of which were often thrown from a distance. The axe, especially one used during the Viking era, was often used in close combat to chop, hack and bash, but a sword enabled the user to finalize his victim with a well placed point to the heart or a slicing slash along the throat. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

This sword we are given to use is meant to be taken up when we are in close combat with the enemy. This sword is of the Spirit and is the word of God. God's word is a powerful, offensive weapon for us to use when we are face to face with our enemy, the devil. 

What does this look like in real life. I know for me, when I am really struggling with some specific difficulty, using God's word is the best way to kill the wrong thinking that is so often associated with sin. For instance, more recently I have had anxiety. Nothing new right? We all deal with anxiety. However, anxiety left unresolved and allowed to run rampant will becoming a raging bull, one that we will not be able to control.

When faced with anxiety I have learned to use God's word to remind me of His truth. His word says this in regards to anxiety and fear:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
— Philippians 4:6 (NASB)
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

I love the 2 Timothy verse in the King James Version because it uses the word fear and it also uses the phrase sound mind. What is more chaotic and confused than the anxious mind? 

Here are a few more scriptures that have to do with fear.

So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
— Matthew 10:31 (NASB)
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
— Romans 8:15 (NASB)
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
— Psalm 23:4 (NASB)

These are just a few of the verses in scripture that deal with fear. Perhaps your issue is not fear, but anger, or lust or pride. God's sword is capable of delivering fatal blows to all of our enemy's minions. Let me say, it may not happen immediately. When I was in college I was struggling against several different sins that kept coming back to haunt me, but as I matured in my walk with Christ and began to take His word seriously I just kept using it when the temptations returned. Over and over, I stabbed and jabbed, sometimes on my knees, sometimes laying flat on the floor and sometimes pacing with my fist in the air, but eventually that sword did its job. 

Often when we struggle against the same recurring lies of the enemy it might be our "thorn in the flesh" so to speak, but God's word is still faithful, no matter how many times the enemy returns to attack us. If you have His Spirit in you and you are able to yield the sword of His word, victory will come.

Don't forget when you put on your armor in the morning to grab that sword before you walk out the door. 

 

Mulling It Over - Part 6 - Ephesians 6:15

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

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

Piece # 3 - The Gospel of Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

 

 

Confession Time

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

 Photo credit -  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit - Rebecca Trumbull

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

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

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

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

 StockSnap -  Zukiman Mohamad

StockSnap - Zukiman Mohamad

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

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

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

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

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

 StockSnap -  Ray Hennessy

StockSnap - Ray Hennessy

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

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