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.

 Pixabay

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.

 Pixabay

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!

Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind

Most of us are aware, the holidays can be an incredibly, busy time. As women, the bulk of the preparations for holiday gatherings fall on our shoulders. Things might be different for you, but I know for me I am the one who makes the holidays happen. I do the shopping, the decorating, the baking, the meal planning, the wrapping and the packing when we travel out of town. I am also the one to clean up after the gatherings, take down the decorations, get rid of the torn paper, ribbons and bows and unpack and do laundry when we come back into town. This is also a busier time of year at a university bookstore as we are checking in students’ rental books, getting in books for next term and making those available for students who want to buy their books early.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

You might wonder why I do it all. Why don’t I delegate some of the holiday responsibility or just not do some of the typical holiday activities? Realistically, I do it because I want to. I love Christmas. I love everything about it. However, I do understand that not everyone feels this way. In fact, contrary to Andy Williams song It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, the holidays can be the most difficult time of the year.

There are numerous factors that can make the Christmas season more of a burden, rather than a delight. Financial strain, job loss, illness, family tensions, influences from our pasts and the loss of a loved one, can all make the upcoming festivities seem more like a chaotic, commercial filled nightmare.

For those of us who call ourselves Christians, the meaning of Christmas is clear. This is the time we celebrate and remember the birth of Christ, the one we refer to as our Savior and King. Knowing this and believing in Him are key to understanding the Christ part of Christmas. However, our society celebrates Christmas without Christ. The gift giving, family gatherings and well wishes are a way of showing love and of reconnecting with those who are important to us.

I’d like to offer a few ways to get through the holidays without losing your mind, even if you don’t celebrate because of Christ. I will do another post, specifically to that next week.

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Pixabay

1 - Pick and Choose

You honestly do not have to do everything. Figure out which things you absolutely love about Christmas and which ones don’t matter as much. I used to send out Christmas cards. I still love receiving cards in the mail, but I have found that is one thing, at this point in my life, that I had to let go of. As much as I love this tradition, I don’t have the time to commit to this holiday task. Perhaps you could do without all the decorating; a single Christmas tree in your window is as much decor as you need. Don’t worry about lights in the windows or a Better Homes and Gardens tree in every room of the house. Love baking, but feeling stressed out? Pick out one or two favorites to make. Let’s face it, often we just plain overdo.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

2 - Set Boundaries

You don’t have to go to every holiday party you are invited to. You also don’t have to be at every family gathering. If you have family out of town this can get a little bit overwhelming. For years after we were married my spouse and I traveled back to NY and WI every Christmas. We’d do four or five days in one place, come home for two days and then go to the other place for another four or five days. My spouse being a professor and homeschooling our girls made it easy to make this sort of commitment, but it was hard! We went through bouts of stomach bugs, snowstorms and not being able to have our own Christmas traditions. It was great for our kids in that they built an amazing relationship with both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, but there did come a time when we said, we couldn’t do it any more. Now we usually go to one place for Thanksgiving and the other for New Years, that way we are home for Christmas with plenty of time in between to regroup and prepare for our own holiday celebrations.

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Pixabay

3 - Take Care of Yourself

At the holidays we tend to get less sleep and eat more foods that, while delicious, are not necessarily good for us. Extra calories in cookies, rich high fat meals and eating out more when shopping and party going make us feel sluggish and tired. Those types of food need to be eaten in moderation and we still need to make good choices by eating enough fruits and veggies, as well as drinking lots of water.

In addition, make sure you are getting sufficient rest, as well as exercise. I am preaching to the choir here, everyone. I struggle with getting exercise at other times of the year, but the holidays and the cold, drab weather make it even harder, but we all know that exercise is not only good for our physical health, but our mental health as well.

Investing in your hobbies or learning something new can also be good for you. Knitting, painting, playing music or doing puzzles can give your mind a much needed break from the stressors of the season.

If you have the time and resources you can also invest in your well being by scheduling a massage, a manicure or taking yourself out to do something you enjoy, like a movie or a visit to a coffee shop to read a book.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

4 - Be Grateful

No matter where you are at in life, you have things you can be thankful for. Food, clothes, heat, a bed to sleep in and a pillow to lay your head on. Things might be difficult for you this Christmas, but you can still find things to be thankful for, if you look. Every morning I am able to get out of bed and stand in a hot shower, I am thankful. During loss, and difficulty gratitude can make the difference between thriving and floundering,

These are just a few ideas of how to get through the holidays without losing your mind. I hope you find these helpful.

Do you have lots to do at this time of year? Be sure to take time to relax and enjoy the season.



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?

 Pixabay

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.

 Pixabay

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

 Pixabay

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.

 Pixabay

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.








The Making of Giant Stew

They were coming. The giants. I couldn’t see them, but I could feel their footsteps. Every step shook the earth. I could see the chain reaction of each large foot, even though I couldn’t actually see their physical forms. Trees shook, streams sputtered, even rocks seemed to shake in their places as the vibrations of those giant feet reached the ground all around me.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

I was terrified, running away from the sound, but knowing it was only a matter of time until they found me. They were hunting. The prey they longed for was me. They wanted to crush my bones and drink my blood. The thought, kept my feet moving, though my lungs were ready to collapse from the effort.

I stumbled to the ground, tripping on a branch that had fallen and become buried in the long grass. Breathing, panting, I got to my knees. What was I supposed to do? I had nothing left. I couldn’t run any more.

I heard His voice, “Head for the high ground!”

 Pixabay

Pixabay

I looked frantically around me. There were not many places to hide. A few trees dotted the landscape, but they would only become like broken down fence posts once the giants came through. I looked ahead of me. Off on the horizon, there appeared to be a small rise. It didn’t look like much, but It was a direction to go.

I stood up and felt myself collapse as pain shot up my leg. My ankle! I must have injured it when I tripped over the branch.

Thump! This time, I not only felt the vibration, I heard the sound of their feet hitting the ground. I had to get up. I had to move. The alternative was going to hurt a lot worse than my ankle.

I stood up, cringing and started to limp. Each step hurt, but eventually I knew It was this pain or death. I started to run.

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Pixabay

The small rise on the horizon didn’t look like much, but He had said to head for the high ground and it seemed to be the only hill around. I would like to say I ran without questioning, that I completely trusted His voice, and His wisdom, but I doubted. All the way there, the doubts in my mind were like the fire in my ankle, lapping at my confidence, trying to tear it down and make me falter.

But hadn’t He always proved himself faithful? Hadn’t He always been there in every difficulty and tragedy? Hadn’t He told me to be strong, to have courage, to not be afraid, because He would be with me.

I was Joshua, going places I had never been before, and I was afraid. Afraid of the giants that were after me, but more afraid that He wouldn’t come through for me.

I could hear them more loudly now. Their steps creating small quakes in the earth that threatened to throw me off balance. I reached the bottom of the small rise.

“What do I do now,” I shouted, my voice angry. “You lead me here. How is this supposed to end well?”

“Trust me.” His voice was just a whisper.

I stopped. Every fiber in my being wanted to lash out at Him. I was going to die. I was going to be giant stew, What was the point? Why had He brought me here?

I took a breath, remembering, when things were at their worst that was the time to breath and focus on His voice. I closed my eyes and breathed in. I could smell the earth, the trees, the grass, all around me and I could smell water.

“Take the high ground.”

I moved as quickly as I could up the grassy hill. There were only a few scrubby trees that would provide no place to hide. Going to the top of the hill would, in reality expose me further. I had made my choice. I was going to trust Him, no matter what the outcome.

At the top, I found a small brook, just barely as wide as my body. It was as clear as the sky was blue.

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The footsteps! Now I could smell their rank breath. They had to have seen me by now.

“Enter the flow.”

I looked at the stream, then I was in it. I laid back in its deep coolness, feeling it wrap around my tired, sweating body like a cocoon. My whole body was covered, except for my face.

“Enter the flow.” His voice was persistent.

Once again, I doubted. He wanted me to completely submerge? Once again, I was afraid. This was a place I had never been before. Is that really what He wanted me to do? What was going to happen to me if I did what He said? Would I die?

One thing was sure, if I didn’t do what He said, I most certainly would die and it wouldn’t be a pleasant death. To just lay back and enter the water…and enter His flow, I closed my eyes and went under.

When I was under, I began to count. How long could I hold my breath? Long enough for the giants to pass my little hill by? What if they decided to use the hill for a seat to rest.

But no! He was faithful. He always had been and He always would be. Even as I, once again, made the decision to trust, every part of my body exploded with fire. I thought perhaps one of the giants had stepped on me, but I soon realized this was not a crushing, weighted feeling, but a feeling of complete release and freedom.

“Go beyond belief, dear one. Go from belief and obedience to child-like trust!”

I had believed in Him, and He had always been there.

I had obeyed Him, and He always rewarded.

Child-like trust….

Even though I was submerged, I took a breath.

The fire entered my lungs and I was flung upward out of the stream. In my hand was a sword and on my body was armor that felt lighter than clothing. Through my body coursed a wind of fire that made strength move outward into every limb.

Now I was David and I was going to make my own giant stew.

(This was a work of fiction by Amy D. Christensen)

The song below is an oldie, but goodie. Petra has always been one of my favorites because their words are so sound. Enjoy!





Gray

There are times where I feel gray. Being a fashion blogger I talk a great deal about color. Color is an important piece to the outfit equation. We usually don't say that an outfit has a non-color. Colors are colors and they all have names, whether it be orange, blue, pink or brown. We don't usually think of black or white as colorful, but they are made just as other colors from the absorption or refraction of light particles. 

It is interesting that colors have come to have certain associations. When we see red we might think of anger, as in a red head temper; or romance as in Valentine's Day. The color black can be classic and slimming in a pair of pants or hardcore and dark as in Goth. Yellow is sunny and elicits a feeling of summer. Light blue makes me think of the sky on a beautiful fall day, while red, white and blue remind us of the sacrifices many have made to give us freedom. 

But gray? What does that make you think of? What feeling does it draw from you? Sadness, depression or just a vague feeling of non-color. I actually own a number of gray tops, pants, shoes, bags and skirts. Gray is a wonderful color to pair with so many other colors whether it be classic and understated with black, or chic and elegant with yellow or purple. But gray as a feeling? Yeah, it's real. I feel gray. 

Gray day, water's edge

Some days, the gray is everywhere. The sky, the water, the land, my life, full of gray. Work, relationships, daily tasks, become a blend of various shades of gray. These are not shades of bad feelings, rather a lack of feeling. In some ways it is like being in a void, alone. They gray is not bad or good, it just is…just as I…am.

The gray becomes my focus, rather than remembering that gray is only a color. It doesn’t actually change the color of anything else. The trees are still green, my husband still loves me, my grandson is still a cutie, even when I feel gray.

Gray sky, rough water, sand

Other days, the gray is rough, gritty and cold. It pierces my being like the gray steel edge of a knife. This gray is unyielding, demanding I bend to its force. Driving me to my knees. Down here, nose to the gray, hard, ground, I remember, once again to seek His face. The gray drives me to Him, searching, wanting, begging to feel anything other than shades of gray.

Sunset behind gray clouds over water

He brings light to the gray. He opens a tiny window in the heavy expanse of gun metal sky. He raises a flower of light from the flat gray beneath my face, reminding me this gray will not last. It will be blown away by the breath of the Almighty One. He chases away the gray, raises me to my feet and breathes light and color back into my gray soul.

A gray day provides the best light.
— Leonardo da Vinci

So, it’s okay to feel gray, once in a while. It is normal, just like the gray fog, dark clouds and leafless trees are all part of the progression of life. Today, I choose to be thankful for the gray. God is still there being the light and soon He will again break through the gray, waking me up to His beautiful color.

Light arises in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious and compassionate and righteous.
— Psalm 112:4 (NASB)
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.
— John 8:12 (NASB)
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
— Psalm 27:1 (NASB)

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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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.

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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.

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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. 

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"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!"

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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

 

 

Too Tired to Cope

The other day my grandson and husband were having a pillow fight. The giggling and verbal noises got rather silly and loud, when all of a sudden I hear my hubby say, "What happened, did the pillow get you in the eye?" I went in to see what was up and my grandson was in a fetal position on the couch, tears running down his face. After trying to get him to calm down and looking at his eye, I determined no real damage was done, other than some amount of pillow fuzz that his eye would eventually wash out naturally. However, my grandson could not stop crying. I tried to console him and asked him if there was something else bothering him and all I could get out of him was, "I don't know," with more tears. Finally, I made him lay down on the couch and left him alone, to try to let him sort out his own issues. He fell asleep!

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Have you ever felt that way? As though something terrible has happened, when in reality the worse part of your day was eating that ice cream sandwich when you were really trying to be good on your diet? Often, life gets brutal and we get a poke in the eye and anyone who's been through it, knows that is not pleasant. Usually, we just keep blinking and get on with our busyness without really taking stock of how tired or worn down we might be. Little kids seem to get it. They know when they are tired and they've had enough they need to take a nap...often they don't want to and usually as parents we can tell and promptly lay them down for a much needed rest. Unfortunately, when children get older, they abhor naps, even though they still might need one once in a while. 

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The same is true of us as adults. We go and go and go and go. Even when tragedy strikes we keep moving, doing, working, puttering, just so we don't have to face the shadows of our back stories. We have all manner of struggles, from childhood abuse, to rebellion in our own children, to grief from the sudden loss of a loved one. Here in the U.S. we have a tendency to not let our vulnerability show. I've noticed this in my grandson. If he's hurt, he usually shakes it off and says, "I'm fine!" So often we don't want to admit that, yes, it does hurt and it hurts so bad that I don't know if I will ever recover. Unfortunately, the way to rest, peace and a better life is being willing to admit when we are weak.

It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.
— Psalm 127:2 (NASB)

Take a closer look at this verse from Psalm 127. Rest is so important. Last week I talked about mental exhaustion, but today's thought is with regard to actual physical exhaustion. What this verse seems to be telling us is that even in our sleep God is ministering to us.

I don't sleep as well as I used to. I used to lay down and I would be out before my hubby even turned off the light. He has never been a good sleeper. Now that I have more nights tossing and turning or getting up to use the bathroom, I am beginning to see the toll that lack of good sleep has on a person. God has His reasons for what He does. Maybe as we age, He wakes us up to move us to pray. It seems there are always people to pray for. Or maybe it is that He wants our complete and total dependence. I know on those days that I don't sleep well, I am constantly going back to the verse:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)

I like knowing that when I am asleep, He is giving to me. What a blessing.

There are no easy answers to this thing we call life and the fatigue we often feel as we are traveling this road, but there are things we can do to help.

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1. Make taking care of yourself a priority

I get it ladies. We often give and give and give, until we are dead on our feet, but not taking the time to care for ourselves might lead to someone else having to take care of us. How should i take care of myself? By doing things physically, mentally and emotionally that will benefit you.  Exercise, eating well, getting enough rest (that may mean sleep or it may not, but at least resting), do things you enjoy...sew, read, swim, dance, listen to music, write, get together with friends, watch a movie, go for a walk. There are many things we can do to feel better and take time for ourselves. 

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2. Be honest with yourself and others.

Don't kid yourself. If you are tired, admit it. If you are sad, embrace it. If you are angry, stomp your feet and yell at the sky. Be real with yourself and let the people who love and care about you know what is going on. I have a tendency to keep silent when things are bothering me. I also, tend to keep pushing even when I am tired. Letting my spouse or my daughters know when I need a break or even getting them involved in making myself a priority is helpful. My older daughter and I go for walks with her dogs. My husband has learned to listen to my rants, and my younger daughter, not only thanks me for all the babysitting I do, but she tries to find alternatives when she needs extra help.

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3. Don't carry guilt.

Guilt is meant to be associated with sin. If you have done something wrong, then you should feel guilty, but taking time for yourself is not cause for guilt. Believe me, I know, people will try to make you feel guilty. The world tries to make us feel guilty. We are surrounded by the fabric of "not enough" day in and day out, but that is not from God. The guilt we have when we lie, or cheat, or hurt someone is deserved, but the guilt we feel for going out to eat instead of cooking dinner after a long day, or for a piles of laundry, dirty toilets and stacks of dishes is not worth the energy or time of feeling guilty. 

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4. Don't second guess God.

How much energy do you put into wondering if you did the right thing? I find this rather amusing, and I am guilty of doing it myself. We second guess God. "Are you sure this is what you want me to do?" "Aren't I supposed to be doing something besides being a mom, a housewife or working this job?"

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This quote is very appropriate to the idea that even though we may mess up, God is still the one calling the shots. Perhaps we would feel more rested if we just rest in Him rather than trying to take responsibility for everyone and everything. 

I hope this day will offer you the opportunity to rest, relax and recharge physically, mentally and emotionally. And if you find yourself crying for seemingly no reason, maybe it is time to take a nap. 

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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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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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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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!

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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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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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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)

 

 

What I Learned from a Grapefruit

There are lessons to be learned in all areas of life. We can learn from classes, books, videos and computers. We can learn from people, animals and even plants, but a piece of fruit? Go figure. I am always amazed at God's ability to speak into my life in the most random ways. Yes, He uses His word, but like so many, I am busy and don't always crack open my Bible. Often, unfortunately, it might be days before I look at the Word of God. However, God still miraculously speaks, even when I am not listening or looking for Him. 

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This morning, I decided to eat the last grapefruit that had been sitting in my fruit basket. I always cut my grapefruit in half and eat the small sections with a grapefruit spoon. I am well acquainted with citrus fruit that goes bad. The outside usually becomes green and fuzzy and a soft indentation begins to appear. The rot is obvious. This one still looked fine, although, I thought it might be a little dried out, as it had been sitting around for a few weeks. This is what appeared when I cut it open. 

Grapefruit - rotten

Tasty, huh?

It was then the analogy hit me like a brick. Here I am a fashion and faith blogger. I put hours into coming up with outfits, thinking up themes for my fashion posts and so on, but when it comes to my faith posts, I am flying by the seat of my pants. Obviously, the fact that I just came up with this post this morning after looking at a rotten grapefruit, drives the point home. The point being this, I can be pretty and put together on the outside, but the inside can be deteriorating without me even being aware of it. 

There are a few points I would like to draw from my moldy citrus example. 

1. Rot often occurs slowly. 

The problem, most often, with sin is that we become comfortable with it. We think that as long as we look like we have it all together, have a positive vibe about us and don't talk about our inner struggles, then our inner struggles won't come to light. We all struggle. We all sin. 

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

I tend to forget that I am a sinner saved by grace. I bask in God's grace and I am thankful for it, but often as Christians when we move further away from our original conversion and initial consciousness of how sin separates us from God, we tend to forget what the cross was all about in the first place. This fading of our roots contributes to the rot that takes place in our hearts. Before we know it, we have allowed ourselves to become involved in activities we once shunned from watching movies with prolific language, violence and sex, to doubts about the origins of our world, to becoming part of the gossip chain. 

2. Rot spoils our taste.

Have you ever bit into something that is rotten? Ewww! It doesn't not taste good! In fact, one little rotten spot can spoil an entire piece of fruit. I will cut off rotten spots on most things like strawberries, peaches or melons, but trying to cut the rot out of an orange or grapefruit usually doesn't work. 

When I allow sin to slowly deteriorate my relationship with God, my usefulness will also deteriorate. 

Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?
— Luke 14:34 (NASB)

We are supposed to be salt. Salt is meant to season and preserve. When we begin to rot we are unable to season or preserve. In fact, we become less useful in God's plan, because we are less likely to hear His voice prodding us to move. 

3. Rot affects others. 

Our internal decay affects those around us. The rot of unexpressed discontent, anger, grief or sadness, not only affects us, but it affects those we love and interact with. Look at the picture Solomon paints of the husband/wife relationship.

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.
— Proverbs 12:4 (NASB)

Those are pretty tough words to hear. We can become rottenness in our husband's bones, if we are allowing ourselves to deteriorate on the inside. You have probably heard the word toxic in reference to relationships and people. We can become toxic if the rot inside of us is unchecked and takes over. 

4. Rot will be cut away.

As children of God, He will only allow us to continue to deteriorate to a certain point, before He gets out the cutlery and begins removing the rot from our hearts. That process can be very painful. However, if we desire to draw closer to Him, then we need to allow His scalpel to have its way. 

“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.
— Matthew 18:8 (NASB)

Jesus was speaking figuratively in this verse, but the point is of prime importance. If we allow something in our lives that not only causes us to stumble and fall, but causes others to fall as well, we need to let the divine surgeon do His work. 

We are beautiful creations of the Almighty God. We are meant to glorify Him and lift others up to Him. Just as a piece of ripe, whole fruit is full of nutrients and good things that bring life and sustenance, we are to be wholly His, rot free, so that we are bringing life and light to those who are perishing. 

Independent or Interdependent?

Today is a national holiday. We have been celebrating the 4th of July since our Founding Fathers declared our country independent of British rule on this date in 1776. While it did not become a Federal holiday until 1941, this declaring of independence has been important to our country and to us as individuals for a long time. Why is being independent such an important concept to us? So important, in fact, that we are willing to go to war and die, to actually maintain it. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

When we look at the definition of independent we see that it is multi-faceted:

1. Not dependent, as in controlled by or associated with a larger controlling unit.

2, Not requiring or relying on something else; not relying on another's opinions; not bound to a political party.

3. Not requiring or relying on others; free from the necessity of working for a living.

4. Showing a desire for freedom.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Nobody wants to be controlled by someone else. Having the freedom to come and go as we please, speak as we please, and believe what we want, is primarily important to us. This freedom has been important since the beginning of time. Unfortunately, enslaving people and trying to control them, has also been an opposite ramification of the thirst for freedom. We might think that we are exempt from the mentality that enslaves, so important is the concept of independence to us; however, the drive to be independent can also be the force behind that which enslaves. 

Pixabay - slavery

Wasn't it Hitler that wanted to be independent from the blight of the Jewish people? Weren't the good people of the southern states desirous of independence from hard labor and the harshness of plantation life, which they obtained by enslaving others thought to be less than human? Aren't the men and women who engage in human trafficking looking for independence and release from the pressures of a hurried and stress filled life? When we demand to be right and to have rights, aren't we walking down a path that could lead to the fettering of others' freedoms and rights?

Often, when there are more questions than answers, I turn to the scriptures to get God's perspective on a matter. What does His word say about independence? First, let's take a look at a few of Jesus' thoughts.

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
— John 10:11 (NASB)
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Pixabay

Jesus knew who He was and that He was not independent of His people. His greatest desire was and is the care of His sheep. He doesn't say, "I am a shepherd. I take care of sheep." He says, He is the good shepherd and in being good, He is willing to die for the sheep. This is not a relationship of independence, but of complete dependence. We are completely dependent on the good shepherd and as the good shepherd He is well aware that He is bound to His sheep; to watch over them, care for them, look for them when they are wandering and die for them if need be. 

I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,
— John 10:14 (NASB)

Once again, Jesus established the dependent relationship. He knows us, those who are His own, and His own know Him. 

I am not saying that Jesus is dependent on us. He is God and has no need of dependence on another being, but He has chosen to be in a relationship with us and relationships require a certain amount of dependence. To much independence in a relationship can cause problems resulting from the struggle to be "my own person," rather than working together to be a better couple, family, community, city or nation.

17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.
18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
— John 10:17-18 (NASB)

Once again, we see Jesus taking the stance of interdependence, not independence. Even in the God-head there is a hierarchy. Jesus submits Himself to God the Father and the Spirit to Jesus Christ. Three almighty beings, completely independent, but completely interdependent. 

11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.
— I Corinthians 11:11-12 (NASB)

This passage is found in the context of head coverings and I am not about to muddy the waters in that regard, but the point is we are all dependent on each other. As a Christ follower, I believe in Creation and that, in turn, means I believe that verse 12 is the synopsis of our interdependence. Woman was created from Adam's rib, women birth men, but we all originated from God. 

What, then, does all of this mean when it comes to our freedoms and our desire for independence. As with anything, balance. God intended that we have independent personalities, likes and dislikes, abilities and talents. He did not intend to create a world of identical clones. He also created man with a desire to not see other's suffer at the hands of those who are tyrannical, power driven or only seeking financial gain. We were all created equal, as Abraham Lincoln penned and it is this equality and the ability to live a life with equal opportunities and resources that we are striving for. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Today, I am thankful. Thankful that our Founding Fathers, who were not perfect, envisioned a world that could be equal for all. I am also thankful for all the men and women who have served and continue to serve to expand and preserve the freedoms we have. I am also thankful that we are dependent on each other. To be truly independent is to walk a long road very much alone. 

Have a wonderful 4th everyone!

 

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)

Seasons Come and Seasons Go

We go through seasons in life, just like the earth goes through seasons as it travels around the sun. Spring, summer, fall and winter, all have their presence on the earth, even though they can look quite different depending on where you live. I follow a few fashion bloggers who are based in Australia and it is winter there. It seems odd to see them talk about enjoying their sweaters and heavier weight outfits, even though their pictures still show sunshine and no snow!

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Seasons in our lives can manifest themselves differently for each person. When you are a young adult, you might be going to college, checking out the party scene and figuring out what you want to do with your life. I wasn't a partier. I was studious, but I also liked to go out to eat with my friends and walk the streets of Chicago down to Lake Short Boulevard and the beach or State Street and the Gold Coast. That season of my life, helped shape who I am. I met my husband during that season and discovered I was more interested in getting married than in becoming a missionary overseas.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
2 A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
— Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NASB)

After college, my husband and I got married and it wasn't long until we started a family. I wish when I had been in the throes of that season of life, I would have had an older woman come along side of me and tell me, "This is just a season. Before you know it, in the blink of an eye, your children will be grown and gone. Enjoy it while you can." So often when we are in a particular season of life, we think, "When will this be over? When will it get easier?" The problem with that mind set is that we miss so much. 

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Pixabay

The writer of Ecclesiastes was Solomon, considered the wisest king of all time. I think he pretty much summed up the complexity and simplicity of life in those first eight verses of chapter 3. He knew that every season would come to an end and be replaced by another season, which would then be replaced by another season, and so on, and so on.

What season of life do you find yourself in right now? Is is a time of planting or a time of uprooting? Is it a time of laughter or a time of weeping? Or is is a time of being silent or a time of speaking boldly? The inevitability is, the season you now find yourself in will change. How do we handle the seasons we are in and the busyness and difficulties that come with each of those. 

1. Recognize that it is God who changes the seasons.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;
— Genesis 1:14 (NASB)

God, the Creator, is the One who designed the seasons to change. We often think that fall and winter must be a result of the fall, but it says in the above verse that God's intention from the beginning was an earth that changed on a regular basis. So many of us don't like change, but change is a part of God's plan. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

2. Don't be afraid of the changing seasons.

There is plenty to fear in the world we live in. Watch the news on a regular basis and you'll get a boat load of fodder for an anxiety storm. 

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 grew up reading the King James Version of the Bible. I decided to use the New King James Version as it is the one most true to the version I memorized. Many versions use the word timidity instead of fear. I am not a Bible scholar so I am not here to argue which version is closer to a word for word translation. I prefer the word fear, because I feel it is closest to what we feel on a regular basis. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

I am preaching to the choir here, friends. I regularly have to combat my fears. I don't think that fear is wrong, but I do believe that dwelling there or as Timothy put it, having a "...spirit of fear..." is not what God wants for us. I am sure the numbers of people in our country who are taking anti-anxiety meds is staggering. Yet, what is anxiety but a fear - fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of death, fear of illness, fear of any and everything you can imagine. 

It is normal to face fear, when the seasons of our lives are changing. It is scary to face an illness like cancer or the death of a spouse or child. It is terrifying to lose your long time job and have to suddenly be out there looking for a new position in a sea of people in their 20's. Yet, God knows these seasons are changing and as the Psalmist realized, we are precious to Him. 

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
Hide me in the shadow of Your wings
— Psalm 17:8 (NASB)

3. Look for beauty in each season.

Every season that comes and goes has something about it that I love. Spring ushers in new growth, returning birds and an explosion of green. Summer abounds with laughing, playing children, a chorus of lawn mowers and the clinking sounds of glasses filled with iced tea and lemonade. Fall, which is perhaps my favorite, throws an amazing party of color and smells during which the trees undress themselves as they prepare for winters' long sleep. Winter, in areas of snow becomes a white backdrop for red sleds and even redder noses and cheeks. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Yes, every season has its difficulties. Spring can be full of torrential rains and often the temps don't climb as high as we would like. Summer can be a time of drought and the ebb and flow of crowds vacationing and squeezing in to fairs and summer festivals. Fall brings early darkness and winter seems akin to the time of the dead, especially for those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

However, just as any transition in life brings change we need to focus on all that is lovely and beautiful, even in the sterility of a hospital room or the stifling sadness of a funeral home. Where else in the world can we get 24 hour quality care? The sadness of loss also brings with it the memories of lives journeyed together and moments of love and laughter. A diagnosis of long term illness allows us the opportunity to stand before our Creator and claim the promises He gave us in His word, that He would never leave us or forsake us and that He would give us peace and strength. 

Beauty exists in the form of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and He never changes, no matter what season we are in.

4. Have patience.

Remember what Solomon pointed out in those verses? The seasons change. Our lives are in constant flux. Knowing that God is orchestrating our circumstances allows us to lean back on His strong arms and wait for Him to do what He is going to do. The sooner we realize the reality of this next  two verses, the better. 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
— Romans 8:28 (NASB)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

God is at work and will never give up on us! Isn't that amazing? It drives me to my knees to realize that the Almighty God who created us from dust, loves that same said dust to the point of sacrificing His only Son, Jesus, so we might be able to have a relationship with Him.

I don't know what season you are in. I hope it is a season of reaping and praising and planting, but if it is a season of tearing apart, war and great weeping, don't forget He is with you. Always and forever.