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 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. 

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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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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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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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!

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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.

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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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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

Living in the Valley

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

Devil's Lake State Park

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

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

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

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

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

BUT GOD!

No enthusiasm?

BUT GOD!

No one noticing?

BUT GOD!

No encouragement?

BUT GOD!

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

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

Remember, we are all together in this valley. 

 

Introvert? Yup!

Hi! My name is Amy and I am an introvert! Are you surprised? Maybe you are an introvert as well. You might be wondering how and why an introvert would have a fashion and faith blog. The faith part of it is a little easier to swallow, at least no one is looking at you. Fashion, however? How do I manage to stand in front of a camera, posing and smiling and not feel like a fake? Believe me, I often do feel that way. 

Hiking - Mohican State Park

I have been an introvert for as long as I can remember. Here is how Webster's online dictionary defines the word:

...one whose personality is characterized by introversion; especially : a reserved or shy person who enjoys spending time alone
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Pixabay

I can remember as a child often hiding behind my mother when people would talk to me. My mother would often push me from out behind her to make me visible to whomever was addressing me. I didn't like people to notice me or talk about me. It is unknown to me why some of us are introverts and some of us are extroverts, though I am confident it is due to God making us one way or the other. I'm sure there have been all sorts of studies and articles on the differences between introverts and extroverts. Here are a few to look at: 

23 Signs You're Secretly an Introvert

What is an Introvert?

While the truth is, one personality type is not better than the other, as an introvert I have often felt the scorn of others because of my shyness. I have been called stuck up, aloof, a prude and other descriptive words that were not kind. I have also skulked away from a conversation or a social situation because my voiced opinions were laughed at, cut down or ignored. I have felt the icy coldness of what I call being invisible

Pixabay - invisible

As an introvert I struggle with the dichotomy of wanting to crawl under a rock and wanting to be noticed and remembered. It is an odd place to stand, as though I am permanently on a tight rope walking between two cliffs. On one side are roaring lions and on the other side are stomping dinosaurs. 

The reality is, I am not stuck up. I struggle socially. It is hard for me to make small talk, especially with people I don't know. When I go to a gathering, even with family, I am often overwhelmed. I am most comfortable in my home with a good book or an escapist type movie. That doesn't mean I don't want friends. It doesn't mean that I don't want to be with other people. It just means that I need more time to think, and refuel. 

Being an introvert who also struggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder is a further conundrum. Not only do I have the normal need for alone time, I also struggle with feeling alone, especially when it is dark and cold. Not only do I need more time to process, I have a harder time with the processing...and cravings for chocolate cake! 

By now you might be wondering what the point of this little post is. My goal is three-fold:

1. To make you aware.

Introverted people are not cold, aloof or mean, they are simply different. They have emotions and feelings that run just as deep as extroverts. They love deeply, worry deeply and might just make fantastic friends. Instead of judging a person to be this or that, try getting to know them. If you see that person standing alone at a party, go introduce yourself and ask lots of questions. Usually, an introvert is just as pleased to talk about themselves and give their opinions as the next person, they just need a little help. Also be understanding if they just want to stay home and read a book rather than go to that concert or other outing with a bunch of friends. Most of us introverts are more one on one or small group types of people. 

2. To remind you.

God created you. He meant for you to be just exactly who you are. I have found that being an introvert often pushes me towards God as i struggle to find my place in a very social world. It has also helped me to be more in tune to His voice when I have alone time. No matter if you are an introvert, an extrovert or somewhere in between, God made you exactly as He wants you to be. I can praise the Creator because:

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.
— Psalm 139:14 (NASB)

 

3. To encourage you.

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

We all have our struggles, but with Christ we are able to do anything. Christ has been my strength when I don't want to go to that social gathering, or start that conversation with my fellow employee, or network with those people at the coffee shop, or put myself out there, when I really would rather find a warm hole to crawl into. He is always there, ready and willing, to help me step out and up.

Twoo Wuv!

Who can forget the iconic marriage scene from the Princess Bride?

If you have never seen this family friendly movie, be sure to check it out. It is everything we want in a romantic comedy...danger, sword fights, a beautiful couple and plenty of bad guys. It is one of those old fashion love stories where the couple truly lives, happily ever after.

Seeing as it is Valentine's Day, I thought it would be good to talk about twoo wuv, excuse me, I mean true love. Everyone is looking for true love. We all would like to find our soul mate, the one we instantly connect with and with whom we will always feel giddy and excited. Do you remember your first date? How about your first kiss? Weren't those magical memorable moments? And then one day you finally meet that special someone and you know they are the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. You date, get engaged, plan a wedding and get married. This is the beginning of your happily ever after....

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Fast forward five years. Who is this person you married and what did they do with that one you fell so madly and deeply in love with? They leave their clothes on the floor, whiskers in the bathroom sink, the toilet seat up, squeeze the toothpaste the in the middle, and when they finally think to replace the toilet paper roll, they put it on the wrong way. They don't help around the house and you could count on one hand how many diapers they have changed. What happened to true love and the happily ever after?

 Pixabay

Pixabay

The last two weeks, I wrote about The Real Romanceand Why is Love so Hard?  The first dealt with God's love for us and the second spoke more to our perspective on how trying to love in our own power is a very hard thing to do. I looked at 1 Corinthians 13 last week and I would like to take another look, in detail, at a few of those verses this week. Using these as a guide we can define what twoo wuv looks like. 

1. Twoo wuv is patient. 

Love is patient...
— I Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)

Patience is a virtue, as the saying goes, and it is essential in a loving relationship. Patience will cover many of those things that might irritate in a marriage, such as toothpaste tubes and toilet paper placement. If something about your significant other is irritating you, take a deep breath and let it go. 

2. Twoo wuv is kind and is not jealous.

...love is kind and is not jealous;...
— I Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)

I find it interesting that these two things are connected with a conjunction. Kindness is key in a loving relationship, just as is trust. I think it is very hard to be kind without the warm blanket of trust surrounding the relationship. There is no place for jealousy in a relationship. 

3. Twoo wuv does not brag and is not prideful. 

...love does not brag and is not arrogant,...
— I Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)

My husband loves to talk about things he's done in the past, as well as when he does a good thing at work. When we were first married, I often thought this was a matter of boastfulness and pride. I have learned, however, that some families have a tradition of story telling, much like many cultures of the past sharing their conquests and victories. Oral tradition used to be the way to pass on a culture's identity and traditions. 

Bragging and arrogance often go hand in hand. When thrown into a relationship they soon become a source of bitterness and frustration. Let's face it, bragging and pride usually are self serving and being self serving in a marriage doesn't not epitomize true love. 

4. Twoo wuv does not act ugly.

...does not act unbecomingly...
— I Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)

I know all about acting ugly in a marriage. My hubby and I affectionately call our first year of marriage, "the year from hell." Yes indeed! I have always been an emotional person. While the years and menopause have done wonders to temper my emotions, the early years were not pretty. I always had mood swings when it was "that time of the month", but being on the birth control pill contributed to emotional rants that were extremely volatile. My poor spouse must have thought he had married an alien or that a demon had come in when I said the marriage vows and taken over my body. 

Allowing ourselves to be "ugly" to our spouses does not create an environment of trust, nor even one of desire. Acting unbecomingly does not foster true love. 

5. Twoo wuv isn't selfish. 

...it does not seek its own,...
— I Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)

We are all selfish by nature. The Bible, says none of us are righteous and we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That sin nature expresses itself in the form of selfishness. If you think about all the bad stuff that happens in a marriage and even in our world we can probably link most, if not all, back to selfishness. 

Selfishness is basically the act or mentality of looking out for ourselves. There is a lot of talk these days about self love, and that is important, however, if self love becomes such a focus that it hurts and offends others, then it becomes selfish love. There is no place in a marriage for this type of love. Unfortunately, so many of us start out marriage thinking about what I am going to get from this other person, rather than being confident in our place with Christ and being a loving and gracious servant. 

6. Twoo wuv doesn't hold a grudge. 

...is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,...
— I Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)

I put these two ideas as one because what causes a person to be provoked is probably going to be the same thing that causes that person to hold a grudge. The word provoke, according to Webster means to arouse a feeling or action, or to incite to anger. If true love is not provoked then it doesn't become angry at the object of its affection. How many times have you gotten angry at your spouse? My husband and I have had to learn this one the hard way, by doing it. Ha, ha. Truly, it is not funny. Provocation and holding a grudge are a death sentence in a marriage. Even if you stick it out, like we have, it is very damaging. 

My husband and I have been married for almost 31 years and we are just now beginning to repent and turn away from these unloving behaviors in our relationship. We have a long way to go, but true love is worth the effort. 

7. Twoo wuv rejoices in the right things.

...does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth...
— I Corinthians 13:6 (NASB)

 What exactly does this mean? Certainly, there are all sorts of ways we or our spouses can be unrighteous. The goal is to not condone the things that we do or that we see in each other that are wrong. God wants us to be righteous and truthful, and even more as a couple, since many of us are examples to our children and grandchildren. 

I have found more recently that both my spouse and I have issues with wrong thinking. Meaning, we do not see ourselves truthfully, as God sees us, but as we think the world sees us, or as we see ourselves as coming up short. This is not good for a marriage. We need to be encouraging one another with the truth as it is written in God's word and rejoice in that beautiful truth. 

8. Twoo wuv is the bomb!

...bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
— I Corinthians 13:7 (NASB)

I love the insistent language in these four actions....bears, believes, hopes and endures. Isn't that just beautiful? True love does all of these things. Each of us have our own burdens in life and many of those come out of our relationships with those we love. But true love is called to bear those things, believe in God being able to work in those situations, hope in things getting better, but enduring if they don't. 

Please don't misunderstand. I believe there are situations where a couple just can't work out their issues and divorce may be the only option. Situations of abuse and infidelity are extremely hard to overcome without a great deal of counsel, and in those, each person has to recognize the problem and be willing to get help. 

9. Twoo wuv doesn't fail.

Love never fails...
— I Corinthians 13:8 (NASB)

The final point is, true love will not fail. That is precisely why, this love must come from a source greater than I. God is that source. It is easy to love when life is exciting and smooth, but the whole point of this passage, was that life can be very difficult and love that only sticks around for the smooth and easy times is not true love. 

I hope and pray that you are experiencing twoo wuv in your relationships. If not, I hope that you know, the One who created and exists as true love will always be there for you, day in and day out. 

 

 

 

Beauty from Ash

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

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

 Pixabay

Pixabay

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

 Pixabay

Pixabay

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

*          *          *          *           *

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

 Pixabay

Pixabay

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

It is because we are afraid. 

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

He alone can bring beauty from ash. 

(Written by Amy D. Christensen)

 

Lessons Learned from Miracle on 34th Street

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

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

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

 Pixabay

Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Great and Mighty Purpose

Do you ever struggle with your purpose? Do you ever feel as though the things you do are meaningless? Do you ever feel invisible? I do! I have struggled most of my life with feeling less than whole. I have too often been swayed by other's opinions of how I look, how I act or react and what my value is. Being a Christian does not eliminate the struggles, but it does put them in their proper perspective. 

You see, we are all sinners. We all fall short. 

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

However, the blood of Christ made it possible that I can now have a relationship with God and with His Son. What does that mean for my purpose? It makes all the difference. 

A Christian worker has to learn how to be God’s man or woman of great worth and excellence in the midst of a multitude of meager and worthless things.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 25th
 Pixabay

Pixabay

Life is full of worthless and meager tasks. Cleaning toilets, doing laundry and mopping the kitchen floor all too often seem worthless. You know the cycle. Just when you get those dishes washed, another stack of bowls and spoons appear. Both our daughters are out of the house, so I am not quite sure how we use so many spoons. Ha, ha. Don't forget laundry. When the girls were growing up I made up a creature called the laundry monster and had a song that I sang when I saw him rearing his ugly head, Now that they are out of the house he is not as prominent, but those loads add up. And the cycle continues over and over and over. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

If you have a job outside the home, it too can become seemingly worthless and meager. If you work retail like I do, the hours can be long, when the days are slow and the customers can be less than thankful when the days are busy. And the cycle continues over and over and over.

So how do we become those men and women of great worth and excellence as Oswald says? I think there are a few things we need to consider to realize our great and mighty purpose.

1. We are all human. There are very few of us who don't have to do dishes, laundry, take care of kids or aging family, meet the needs of a significant other or do some sort of work that wouldn't necessarily be considered fun. Obviously, there are wealthy people who can hire others to do many of those meager tasks, but they still have to bathe and groom themselves or at least wipe their own behinds when they go to the bathroom; a task that is not worth a lot, but we all do it or the world would be a pretty stinky place. 

2. We all start out ordinary. No one starts out as a movie star or the president of a company or a football player who gets paid millions whether he stands, sits or kneels. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

All God’s people are ordinary people who have been made extraordinary by the purpose He has given them.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 25th

I love this thought, because not only does it put us all on the same playing field, but it also reminds me that God is in control. If you are a mom, God put you there. If you are a corporate VP, God put you there. If you are a missionary to a foreign country, God put you there. We must come to grips with this idea that God allows the good, the bad and the mundane. 

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.
— Roman's 8:28 (NASB)

3. God is always at work. God's purpose in our lives is to make us into the image of Christ. He desires that we draw closer and closer to Him. What better way to do that than to put us in circumstances that move us closer to being what He wants us to be. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

It is not that you have gotten God, but that He has gotten you. God is at work bending, breaking, molding, and doing exactly as He chooses. And why is He doing it? He is doing it for only one purpose - that He may be able to say, ‘This is My man, and this is My woman.’”
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - 0ctober 25th

4. Our great and mighty purpose is to glorify Him. Paul knew this was the case when he was transformed from a hater and persecutor of Christians to being one of the greatest evangelists that ever lived. 

...I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
— I Corinthians 9:22-23 (NASB)

 

It doesn't matter where you are or what you do, your purpose is to glorify Him. How do we glorify God? We glorify Him when our actions, words and attitudes reflect the humility and love of Christ. 

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,
2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
— Philippians 2:1-11 (NASB)

Wash that load of a laundry with a song in your heart. Change that baby's diaper with thanksgiving. Deal with that cantankerous customer with kindness. Write, walk, work, love, play to the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

This is our great and mighty purpose. 

Deep Waters

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

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

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

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Oswald Chambers states it perfectly:

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

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

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

 Pixabay

Pixabay

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

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

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

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

"Peace, dear lamb. Be still."

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

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

Mulling It Over - Part 6 - Ephesians 6:15

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

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

Piece # 3 - The Gospel of Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

 

 

Three Little Commands - Pray without Ceasing

When we think about our lives how many things do you do without ceasing? Well, I can come up with a few like dishes, laundry and.....Okay, okay, so maybe they aren't constant, but it sure seems that way sometimes. The things that we do without ceasing have more to do with those functions of our bodies that we call involuntary....we do them without thinking. Breathing, swallowing, blinking, these are all things we don't really think about. Yes, our brain does think about them, but we don't consciously choose to breathe, unless we are taking a birthing class or meditating. Ha, ha. Our brain controls all of those cycles and tasks that our body performs that we never give a thought to. Good thing! If I had to think about making my digestive system turn food into all its usable and unusable components, I would probably just give up.

When Paul tells the believers at the church of Thessalonica to "...pray without ceasing..." what exactly does he mean? Is he saying that we should pray like we do our laundry and dishes....when the piles get so high they have to be done or we will be wearing the same pair of underwear again, or we will be eating without plates and silverware? In all honesty that is the way my life is. I only do laundry when we are starting to run out of the essentials and the dishes not only take up the space in the dishwasher and drying rack, but in the sink and on the counter next to the sink! 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Even more unfortunate, that is how my prayer life is. I put it off and put it off until I am driven to my knees by forces beyond my control. When life piles it on higher and higher until there is  no more avoiding it, the only option left is prayer.

I know I feel better when my laundry is done and my dishes are all in their homes in the cupboards rather than in messy piles around the sink (or even the whole kitchen when it is really bad). I feel like I have accomplished something and have a sense of peace that those things aren't hanging over my head, waiting to be attended to. When my home is messy, cluttered and chaotic, my life feels that way as well. So why is it, so often, things get to that point? Because life happens!

The same is true of our prayer lives. When I am in sync with God and I am praying in His spirit, I feel at peace. Life can be chaotic around me, but I am one and at rest with HIm. One of my favorite authors of the past is Oswald Chambers. His devotional My Utmost for His Highest is a daily read for me and has been since my husband gave me the book in 2007. I'd like to share a few things from one of His devotionals. 

Prayer does not equip us for the greater works—-prayer is the greater work.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 17th

We live in a world that is work oriented. Not only do we work at work, we work at home and we work at play. All that work is good. Having a job helps pay the bills. Doing the laundry gives us fresh clothes to wear. Being part of a health club or a sports team gives us benefits socially and physically. However, as a Christ follower, my greatest work is prayer. 

Ever since I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of twelve I have acknowledge this idea in the back of my head, but it didn't really become a central part of my life until I became an adult and then became a parent of adult children. Prayer is the force that moves mountains. I cannot change a person's heart, but God can. I cannot heal a sick child, but God can. I cannot direct this country, but God can. He is in control. I won't go into why God says yes or why He says no, but it comes down to trust. 

When I became a grandparent a little over six years ago, I was able to revisit the idea of child like faith. As I watched my grandson grow and learn and experience life I realized how very much God desires we come to Him as a little child; full of wonder, curiosity, and trust. My grandson never wondered where I was. He always knew I was there. He didn't wonder if I would pick him up when he cried, he just knew I would. 

We must go to God as His child, because only a child gets his prayers answered; a ‘wise’ man does not.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 17th

A little child has a degree of trust that far exceeds anything we can understand, that is, until that trust is broken. The little child has an amazing capacity to believe. Just think about children and Santa Clause. Unless someone explains that Santa is merely a tale based on the historical figure of Saint Nicolas a child will enjoy the belief that Santa is a very real and magical being. He will also believe that Santa is good and will bring him gifts on Christmas morning.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

That is what coming to God in prayer should be like. We should come to Him, regularly, consistently and with anticipation of what He will do. He may not answer our prayers in the fashion that we deem best, but we can choose, like that little child, to trust Him, because we know that He is good. Goodness is a part of His character and He cannot be otherwise.

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
— Psalm 106:1 (NASB)

How do we pray without ceasing? Just like we breath. Without a thought. When the day is sunny and the sky is blue, I breath a prayer of joy. When I am tired and need His strength, I breath a prayer of petition. When I am sad, or scared, I breath a prayer of scripture, knowing that His word brings peace and hope. When life is so overwhelming I feel as though I cannot go on, I only breath and let Him do the rest. 

Three Little Commands - Laying the Foundation

Last week I began a series of posts on this verse:

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5: 17-19 (NASB)

I have felt in recent years that God has wanted me to pay special attention to these three little commands, not that God doesn't want me to follow all the other specifics He has outlined in scripture, but these three have stood out to me as being ones I need to work on. As I was contemplating how I wanted to write about these three commands, I realized I needed to spend one post just laying a ground work for the rest of the posts. 

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
— 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Whenever we are commanded to do something in His word we can be sure that struggle will follow. Obviously, if I choose to not do what is commanded, I will not struggle with bringing my flesh under God's authority. However, when I make a decision of the will to do what God has said, my flesh and my sin nature will rear its not so pretty head!

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Think for a moment of a young child out in a public situation, say a store or a restaurant. Their parent(s) have, most likely, given them the line, "You need to behave while we are at the store. If you are really good, I will let you get a gum ball after we check out." Or something similar. The child is very happy, at least initially, thinking about that wonderful treat he would get at the end if he just behaved. Eventually, he sees something else that looks more appealing. When he is told he cannot have that more interesting treat (or toy, etc.) he starts to whine. When that doesn't work he starts to cry. When he still doesn't get what he wants, he behaves in a most unbecoming manner and said parent either gives in or leaves the store feeling humiliated and frustrated. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

While a young child doesn't understand the complex layers of inner struggle and saying no to his flesh, we can see a simple progression that most of us are guilty of when God tells us to behave. See if you see any similarities in your own life.

1. A simple command is given and a subsequent reward offered. In the case of the child the command is to behave. We can assume that means to listen, don't stand up in the cart, don't run away, watch where you are going and so on. The reward is a treat such as a candy, a small toy or renting a movie at the video store. If you are a Christ follower and you are somewhat familiar with the scriptures, you have probably come to realize that following Him and obeying Him come with rewards. These are not petty treats that a fickle god throws at us when we perform well, these are bricks of truth upon which we can build the foundations of our lives. A foundation that cannot be shaken.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty....
For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways...
He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
With a long life I will satisfy him
And let him see My salvation.
— Psalms 91:1, 11, 15 &16 (NASB)

2. The child is delighted to obey, knowing he will be rewarded. You might be thinking, "Does that woman have a clue? My children were born naughty." I completely agree, we were all born naughty, but children do delight in doing what is good and right, because typically doing what is good and right results in praise, approval and sometimes even in rewards. The Psalmist knew that doing what was good and right resulted in happiness. 

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the Lord. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, Who seek Him with all their heart.
— Psalm 119:1 & 2 (NASB)

3. The child becomes distracted by all the other pretty treats. Let's face it, stores are full of pretty things. Candy, toys, cereal in all manner of fun packaging, so many colorful and tempting choices. Suddenly the child forgets about the treat that was promised him at the end of the line, dependent on his good behavior. All of a sudden he is consumed with the here and now and all the other treats available. 

Let's take a moment to think about this. God has promise us good things, delightful things, if we just follow Him and walk in a way that is pleasing to Him. That is not Him being egotistical. That is Him being merciful and loving. He knows what is best for us. Just as most parents recognize their child will be happier within the parameters they set for him, our Creator knows what is best for us. But how often do we become distracted by all the pretty treats; the food, the clothes, the music, the movies, the good feelings.....all of a sudden I have forgotten about Him being my shelter or Him being my happiness. I forget all that His word says will be if I follow Him. I become consumed with getting the next pretty treat.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

4. The child throws a tantrum. Have you ever seen a child having a tantrum? Perhaps one of your own children just had one this morning before he or she had to get on the school bus. Maybe it was your teenager when you said she couldn't go out with that boy. Wait a minute! What about us? What about you? What about me? Have you had any tantrums lately? I just had a mini one the other day. My husband thought I was mad at him, but I had spent the day running after pretty treats and by 10:00 PM I just needed to send myself to bed, so I did. 

You see we aren't exempt as adults from tantrums. Oh, we may be very controlled and never let anyone know, but inside we are laying on the ground screaming, "I want what I want and I want it now!!!" Not a pretty picture, I know, but does it ring a bell? Ha, ha. Yeah, me too! 

Ok, so all of that said, let's look again at the verses in 2 Corinthians. Bear with me. 

Verse 3: "For though we walk in the flesh we do not war according to the flesh." 

The flesh is where we live. This skin we are in desires, craves, wants, feels, longs, for something to give it meaning and satisfaction. But we are not battling these desires, longings and feelings in our own strength. We can't. The flesh will give in. Whether you give in to lust and watch porn, or give in to lust and eat that second bag of chips or give in to lust and buy that new sweater when you already have 20 sweaters (not funny....I am a fashion blogger too) the flesh is powerful. Our desires are powerful. Just like that little child couldn't think of anything else once he saw that thing he wanted.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Verse 4: "for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses."

You see we must war against the flesh, against our desires other wise all chaos would break loose. The world would be a brothel born of madness unfit for anyone to live in. So God Himself is there to help us bring things under control. Think of a society where everyone acted on their passions and not one person could say no to fulfilling their appetites. 

Verse 5: "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."

Unlike a young child, as an adult I am responsible for the choices I make. A child is just learning how to maneuver the world, but as adults we have been given tools to make choices either good ones or bad ones. As a Christ follower, my desire is to honor and glorify God. I do not believe in living life as a free for all to meet my own needs and desires. That doesn't mean I don't have needs and desires, but I have to bring those to God and His word and see how they line up. 

There are many thoughts and ideas in the world that do not line up with belief in God. My goal is not to go into a long discussion of those ideas, but to bring this full circle to the three little commands. It is only by "bringing every thought captive." that I will have the capacity to do the things that God asks of me. I hope to expand on this idea next week when we look more closely at the first command, "Rejoice always."

Tell me your thoughts! You can post a comment below in the comments section or leave me a message on Facebook. If you follow my fashion blog be sure to check back tomorrow when we look at Aurora Red.

Pictures, Planning and Prophets

I suppose you are familiar with disappointment! Who isn't? If you know someone who has never felt the let down of being disappointed please tell me how they do it. Being a blogger, I have two goals, to write and to talk about fashion. In order to talk about fashion I have to post pictures. Many bloggers take their own pictures or have their spouses take pictures. I just got a new camera and have only just begun playing around with it. Until, I become proficient I still depend on my eldest to take pictures for my fashion posts. Usually, this means an all day shoot, trying to cover as many weeks of outfits as we can.

Today was our designated shoot day. I spent the last few weeks putting outfits together following a color theme that details the Pantone Fall 2016 color choices. I do this, not because I am so trendy, but because it gives me a spring board from which to put together an outfit. This had been a difficult task. Unlike the Spring 2016 color palette, the colors for fall are not the norm. Instead of yellow, it's Spicy Mustard; instead of green, it's Lush Meadow. The colors are just different enough to make matching them, at least some of them, challenging.

Since my daughter is married, I invited her and our son-in-law over for lunch, along with my other daughter, who does my make up for the shoots and our grandson. I made bacon and tomato sandwiches and corn for our lunch. The house filled with the scent of cooking bacon and the stove was covered in spattered grease. I enjoy having my whole family together, so our lunch lingered. When we were finished my youngest began her make up application, which takes about 20 to 30 minutes. After that, I ran upstairs and changed into the first of 11 outfits. Yes, that's right, 11. 

 Here I am looking at the storm clouds blowing in. Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull . Make up  Rachel Christensen.

Here I am looking at the storm clouds blowing in. Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull. Make up Rachel Christensen.

The sky had grown overcast, but the rumbling thunder made it obvious something was happening. We ran outside for a few pictures of the first outfit and just got back inside when the rain began. Our photo shoot was ruined! The forecast confirmed the possibility of storms were going to threaten until evening. After which the light would no longer be suitable for outdoor pictures. My plans failed. 

The book of Proverbs in the Old Testament has a number of verses that pertain to plans.

The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)
Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.
— Proverbs 19:21 (NASB)

Some of us are planners. My eldest, in true first born form, loves to plan, or at times feels that she is the only one that has the planning "gene". My husband on the other hand says, "Planning is a good way to make sure a particular thing doesn't happen." I'm not exactly sure at this point in my life, where I fall on this scale of extremes. I think I used to be more of a planner. I homeschooled, so planning was essential to getting my daughters through each grade. However, there were mornings where I would tell them, "Free time! Go play with your Barbies! We'll start school after lunch." 

As I've gotten older, I have a harder time wrapping my mind around planning. I mean, I still try to plan out the outfits for my blog posts and occasionally plan meals, but I don't spend vast amounts of time planning. In fact, in true Stephen King and Jerry Jenkins form, I am a panster as a writer, meaning, I write by the seat of my pants. 

The beauty of not being a planner is flexibility. The rub of not being a planner is never getting anything done! It drives my daughter crazy when there is an event coming up and no one has planned anything. My husband on the other hand would like the world to leave him alone and take their plans and put them up their proverbial bums.

The problem with planning comes when plans fall through. My plans to get a photo shoot done for my blog were not evil. They were good plans. My daughters and I both had the time to devote to the shoot, and my son-in-law, husband and grandson were fine with hanging out and having food together. The problem happens when I react to my plans failing. We tend to think that my plans and my life are the only things that matter in this world. But as the first verse above says, it is the Lord who directs our steps. We can think all we want that these are "my" plans, that this is "my" life, but only the Almighty has it all figured out.

The book of Jeremiah is all about calamity and restoration. God's chosen people were on again, off again. God spoke these words to the prophet Jeremiah,

‘Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.’ Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.’
— Jeremiah 18:2-6 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

There are times where plans go awry. Things don't work out as we would like, or things happen that we feel totally unprepared for or that we feel are completely unfair. How do you tell a mother who is watching her child die of cancer that life is fair or that everything will be okay. What if it isn't?

I am trying to live life with my hands loosely holding onto the plans and the people I cherish most. I realize at any time, those plans could fall apart or those people could suddenly not be there. You might ask me, "How do you do that?" My reply would be "I don't."

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

Only God knows about planning. He is the Master. He created us from dust and to dust we will return. I feel compelled to trust Him, not only with my plans, but with the people that are part of my plans. I will continue to try to live with my hands open for Him to put in or take out,  to plan His plans.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

It's All About Me - Not!

I took my mother back to Buffalo this weekend and today when I was making my way home several things happened that inspired the idea for this post. One of the first rest areas I stopped at in Ohio was filled with summer travelers. Some of these were families trying to get their vacations in before school starts again. Others were moms and dads taking their students off to their first semester at college. Still others were families in flux, moving themselves and their belongings from one location to another. I haven't seen so many trucks and trailers filled with furniture and mattresses as I did today.

As I was walking back to my car I noticed a young lady walking into the building with a sunny yellow tank top on. Emblazoned on the front in white and silver letters her shirt read, "It's all about ME!" The first thought that ran through my head was the typical mom thought, "You might think it is honey, but good luck with that." Ha, ha. After scolding myself, I thought, there is a sad reality to the statement that graphic tee was making.

Our world, our society, our town, our family and yes even myself are all about ME! We want, we need and when we get, we want and we need more. We take pride in temporary fixes. I did this, I did that...We thrive on being at the center of life; my car, my clothes, my house, my job, my kids, my husband. We even own God....my God...whether said in vain, or said as a form of worship. Where exactly does it say in God's word that we are the center of the universe? God created us, we did not create Him.

When I got back into my car to continue my journey I mused over this idea. When I was in college at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, I joined a drama team. One of the dramas we performed was titled King Me. This short little skit showed a variety of characters all absorbed in themselves. Each individual would point to themselves looking quite pleased and say, "Me!" A couple was fighting, each pointing to themselves angrily, shouting, "Me!" A little girl with pig tails and a large lolly pop twirled her hair, licked her pop and said, "Me!" After the group had reached a sufficient decibel level, all self consumed in their me-isms, a light flashed and they all froze in place, stunned to silence. In walked God. He touches one of the frozen individuals and they awake seeing Him for the first time. "You!" Suddenly, the one begins running to all of the others shaking them out of their self induced comas and pointing to Him, "You! You!" 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

When I got on the Ohio Turnpike just past Cleveland, traffic became a clogged, slow moving mess. After about an hour of barely moving I passed a multi car accident. Tears came to eyes as I saw the extensive damage; a semi truck, a small car, a mini van were just a few of the vehicles damaged, crushed and even on the cement partition that divided the highway. The idea that it really is not all about me hit home. There were people in those cars. Maybe even families on vacation. Someone may have died. Someone, who was waiting for their loved ones to arrive would be getting a phone call. I felt sick.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
— Philippians 2:3-4 (NASB)

In a world that is saturated with self we need to look at what we are all about. Are you all about you? Are you impatient, demanding, and consumed with getting your own way? It doesn't matter who you are, what you do or where you are from. We all struggle with selfishness. Even as a parent, when our children do something wrong, are we upset because we want what is best for them, or are we upset because we look bad? 

Paul said to do nothing from selfishness. Nothing! Wow. I don't know about you, but I need to look at my life, my thoughts, my actions and so on and ask God to show me where I need to stop being selfish. This quote from George Bernard Shaw sums it up. 

This is the true joy of life: the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clot of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
— George Bernard Shaw

(An update that I saw later in the evening said that 10 cars were involved in that accident and a young girl was announced dead at the scene, while others were injured and taken to hospitals. Some were life-flighted. If you think of it, pray for those involved: the family of the girl who died, the truck driver that started the chain reaction and those others who were injured. It really isn't about us, is it?)