Mulling It Over - Part 4

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

 Pixabay

Pixabay

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

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

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

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

But refuse...

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

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

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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)

A Look Back at 2017 - My Favorite Faith Posts

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

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

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

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

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

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

Mulling It Over - Part 9: Ephesians 6:17

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

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

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

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Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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Pixabay

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

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Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mulling It Over - Part 6 - Ephesians 6:15

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

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

Piece # 3 - The Gospel of Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

 

 

Mulling it Over - Part 1

We struggle with life, just like everyone does, but we live with knowledge of a world beyond what our own eyes can see. A spiritual world where a real battle wages. This is a battle of good versus evil, more real than anything we might read in a Tolkien saga or the world of Harry Potter.

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Three Little Commands - Give Thanks

I thought it appropriate after the climax of the political campaign and subsequent election of Donald Trump, to bring things back to scripture. And how fitting that the series I've been doing on three little commands, ends with this powerful statement:

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

The Thanksgiving holiday is fast upon us. Sometimes it seems this day gets lost after the decorous celebration of Halloween and the the onset of the hectic preparations for Christmas. However, I believe it is a holiday of great importance. If we allow it to not get lost, Thanksgiving can be the perfect spring board into the Advent season.

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

Thankfulness is sometimes slow in coming. There are always things to be thankful for, but that doesn't mean it is easy for us to turn our minds away from our difficulties towards the things that we can be thankful for, or even more appropriately towards the One from whom all blessings flow.

Life can be a trial. Maybe you just found out you have breast cancer and your husband told you he's leaving you for another. Perhaps you just discovered your thirteen year old daughter has been having sex resulting in a pregnancy and your son started doing heroine. These things are real, folks. Sometimes life brings difficulties one at a time; a pace that is manageable, however, there are times and lives that are full of nothing but difficulty. How do we give thanks when we are careening down a one way street the wrong way?

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 10:5 (NASB)

I brought this verse up a few weeks ago. Whether you are a Christ follower or an agnostic; a Muslim or an atheist, this verse can be taken to heart. With so much media input it is easy to get focused on the bad - murder, suicide, mental illness, disease, bombings and death permeate our news feed and therein lies the problem, we are feeding on the bad, rather than feasting on the good.

So, how exactly do we feed on the good? One bite at a time. Much to my hubby's chagrin I am always asking him, "What are you thankful for?" It is especially pertinent when things are stressful at work, or we are having issues in the family or he is just feeling like he has nothing left. As much as it drives him crazy, it does help his mind to move from that which is bothering him, to He that is!

I have always felt that gratitude changes the attitude, but it wasn't until I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp that it really came home. Here is a little description of the book on Goodreads with links for purchasing. (I do not receive any kickback for recommending this book, I just think it is a fabulous book that everyone should read.)

And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.
— Ann Voskamp - One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully...

Just as a child learns to walk, one baby step at a time, we can learn to be thankful, one bite at a time. Did you take a hot shower this morning? Thank Him. Did you eat today? Thank Him. Did you get to turn up the thermostat? Thank Him. Did you drink clean water? Thank Him. Are you breathing without help? Thank Him. Are you on an oxygen machine? Thank Him for that technology to help you breath.

The prayers we weave into the matching of socks, the stirring of oatmeal, the reading of stories, they survive fire.
— Ann Voskamp

I love that! The fire is the trial of life, but our prayers of praise and thanksgiving and petition, survive any fire that life throws at us.

It is in the dark that God is passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by. God is in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us..
— Ann Voskamp - One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully....

Is it dark where you are? Does it seem impossible to find anything to thank Him for....then be thankful for Him. You are not alone. He is with you. He will always be with you.

As we look forward to Thanksgiving day, why not try each day to keep a record of what you are thankful for. Use a small notebook, a sticky note pad or a calendar page. On the date for that day write: I am thankful for....and start listing things. Maybe you only write one or two things, but those are things you weren't thinking about before. If your mind starts going down that path of difficulty, write more things you are thankful for. Turn, turn, turn and be thankful. God will always meet you in that place.

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.

Three Little Commands

As a Christian I am often about, what to do. How do I serve? How do I minister? I often become fixated on one or two commands in the Bible and forget about all of the other ones. In recent years my life has gone down a path I never thought it would take and suddenly everything looks so different. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

You know how it is. You decide to take a drive in the country. It's a beautiful fall day, the colors are at peak and you are enjoying the scenery. After a while you decide you need to head home. You have things to do. Instead of turning around and going back exactly the same way you came, you decide to take a different route. All of a sudden, you have no idea where you are. Everything looks the same, and nothing looks familiar. 

That is how life can be. You are traveling along and all of a sudden you don't know where you are, nor how you got there. At those times the things we know can be helpful, but they can also be to our detriment. Knowing directions such as North, South, East and West are helpful, but if you insist you are going North, when you are actually going South, well that could be a problem.

For many years as a college student at a Bible school and into adult life, my focus was on how do I spread the Good News; how do I tell others about Jesus? When I became a wife and mother my focus became how do I serve God in my family and train up girls who would want to follow Him? I have never lost my direction as far as wanting to do what God would want me to do. I have however, gone down a path of suffering that I was unprepared for and would often find myself looking up at Heaven and asking, "Are you sure I can do this?" 

His answer was always the same, "With me, you can!"

While my direction was still the same, the tasks that I once thought were all important took second place to the all encompassing work of knowing Him better. Believe me, when you walk a trail that goes through some deep valley's the only way to get through them is to keep coming back to the purpose of life: to glorify Him. It was along this path that He lead me to these three little commands.

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:16 - 18 (NASB)

I often find myself back at God's feet asking Him, "What do you want me to do?" 

In recent years His answer is always the same, "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all things."

"But Lord, is that really enough? Shouldn't I be doing more? Leading a Bible study? Helping at the soup kitchen? Going back to school?"

I always picture HIm smiling at me and saying, "Are you doing those three things yet?"

If you are like me, you know that rejoicing always is like backing your car all the way from Cleveland to Buffalo. It isn't something that comes naturally for most of us. Remember my post from a few weeks ago, Giving Up Grumbling? Yeah, well rejoicing always is a similar dilemma.

Let's talk about praying without ceasing? Does that just happen? Probably not. Prayer is work, just like exercise. It really must be intentional. There is a time and place for going into our prayer closets and having earnest prayer before the Lord, but how does that fit into our busy, chaotic lives? How do we actually pray without stopping?

Finally, in everything give thanks. It's easy to be thankful when things are going well, but when the poop hits the fan, being thankful sometimes goes right out the same window. 

We are all at different points in life. You may be a young Christian who is very zealous about telling others about Jesus. You might be a new wife, determined to love your spouse with the earnestness of the Song of Solomon lover. You might be a mother trying to fulfill the reality of a Proverbs 31 woman. There are so many ideals in the Bible, many of which we cannot fulfill, at least not without Him. None of these are bad. And God has each of us right where He wants us. 

path in the woods

So, for a little while this is the path I am walking. A path of rejoicing, praying and giving thanks, even when life is difficult. Maybe you are on this same path. Maybe life doesn't look exactly like you thought it would at this point and you are feeling a little lost. Don't worry. You are in good company. 

Over the next three weeks I want to look at each of those little commands in a much bigger way. I hope you'll walk with me.

Putting on Patience (or Keep Calm and Carry On)

The funny thing about patience, is how we obtain it. Patience might come naturally for some, but for most of us, being patient is a trait long in coming. It's easy to have patience when nothing is going wrong; when you don't ever have to stand in line or wait for the doctor's diagnosis. Patience comes easy when life is moving along pleasantly with no bumps in the road. But who has a life like that? Not me and I don't expect you do either.

When I was a young adult, especially a young wife and mother I used to pray for patience. Now where in the world, I got that silly idea, I don't know. What I do know now, as the mother of adult children and a grandmother is, never pray for patience. Patience has a way of becoming a part of your life without ever having to pray for it. In fact the only way we develop patience is by practicing it.

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull.  Make up  Rachel Christensen .

Webster's dictionary defines patience as follows:

: the quality of being patient: such as
a : the ability to wait for a long time without becoming annoyed or upset
b: the ability to remain calm and not become annoyed when dealing with problems or with difficult people
c: the ability to give attention to something for a long time without becoming bored or losing interest

Another word that could be used to describe patience is long suffering. I have become much more acquainted with this word as I have lived my life as a mother and grandmother. I was a very impatient mother. Though I loved my girls, I was often harsh and angry towards them. Believe me, if there was a do-over button I would have used it many times as a mom. When my daughters became teen agers and then adults and my ability to control their circumstances or their choices disappeared, I became intimate friends with the companion called long suffering. 

Patience requires a purposeful choice to let go. Let go of the traffic. Let go of the lines. Let go of that behavior you expect your husband or child to adhere to. Let go of those things that you cannot do. Let go of all those expectations placed upon you and be patient with yourself. Blaring the horn in your car does not make you move faster. Muttering in line at the supermarket will not make the cashier check people out faster. Yelling at your spouse or children will not make them move faster or change into the people you want them to be. Keeping a list in your head of all the ways you have screwed up will not make you a better person. Patience says take a deep breath in.....now blow it out. In and out. One breath, one step, one choice at a time.

I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
— Ephesians 4:1-3 (NET)
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others.
— Colossians 3:12-13 (NET)

 Maybe it's because I am a fashion blogger, but I like that image of clothing ourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Patience should be like putting on an article of clothing. Every day you get dressed. Every day we should put on patience. I like to think of it like putting on our rain gear. A rain coat and rain boots are a great idea on a day of thunderstorms. Isn't that analogous to putting on patience? Aren't all those things that drive us crazy - like road construction, traffic, slow moving lines, whining children, changes at work, etc. like so many raindrops falling on us day in and day out.  

 Pixabay

Pixabay

At the beginning of World War II the British came up with a poster to raise the morale of their people during upcoming air raids and attacks. Though the poster was little used back then, today you can see the saying on all manner of nick knacks, posters, mugs and so on.

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

In a manner of speaking, keeping calm is having patience. Remaining calm when life get's chaotic or stressful will enable you to practice patience. Patience enables us to show our love and care, not only for others, but for ourselves. 

Giving up Grumbling

How often do you realize you are complaining? How many times a day do you find yourself grumbling? If you are like most people grumbling and complaining come without thinking. They are similar to breathing, the brain just does what it does and we don't have to think about it. I don't have to tell myself to take a breath or let it out. Breathing comes naturally. Unfortunately so does complaining. Think about your drive to work this morning, or your fellowship with believer's at church yesterday. Did you cuss at the driver who cut you off and then gave you the finger when you beeped at them? Did you grumble to your spouse after you left church that you were asked to be on another committee or teach another Sunday School class? How about the last time you went out to eat? Did you complain about the service, or like my Dad during his last years of life, grumble that you no longer got a spoon with your meal? Complaining and grumbling come all too easy!

Do all things without grumbling or disputing;
— Philippians 2:14

There are many things in life that we do or don't do that we don't give a whole lot of thought to. However, when your life begins to look toxic because you spend more time ornery and cantankerous it might be time to evaluate what is going on and what needs to be changed. I can just hear you now, "It's not me that needs to change! It's all those idiots out there." Funny, they may be thinking the same thing about you.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

The Bible says, no, commands that we do all things without grumbling or disputing. Disputing is also translated as arguing. I know what it is to argue. We as wives do this without a thought. I am speaking to wives here, just because I can identify. Your spouse makes a suggestion and you question. He makes another suggestion and you balk. I know, I've been there. We can explain it away, "Well, I wasn't arguing, I was just trying to say my piece." "I was just trying to get the facts", or "I just wanted to be heard." All of those things are true, but the essence of grumbling and arguing is not in what is said, rather in the way it is said.

Let's look back to what is said, previously in this 2nd chapter of Philippians.

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, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 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. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
— Philippians 2:1-5

Doesn't complaining and arguing stem from selfishness? I know I wrote on this topic a few weeks ago (see that post here), but our selfish tendencies don't usually just disappear. In fact if we feed them they grow. When we don't get our own way, we grumble. When we are inconvenienced we complain. The world is not making me happy and I'm going to let everyone know. But to what end? Grumbling and complaining,usually,  does not get us what we want and rarely does it increase our joy factor.

If you look carefully at the above passage, it says that it is by having the same attitude as Christ, that Paul's joy was going to be made complete. He wanted the early church to follow Jesus. To follow His example, which surely wasn't one of grumbling and complaining. He also knew that being of the same mind as Christ would involve doing nothing from selfishness, but by being humble.

The passage continues with the very purpose for not complaining and arguing:

so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,
— Philippians 2:15
 Pixabay

Pixabay

We are to be examples of Christ-likeness. We are to be above reproach. In other words we are to be acting, talking and being people of whom others cannot disapprove. Wow! That's a pretty big order. We might as well board up the windows in our houses, go inside, lock the doors and never come out! Ha, ha. But really, we are to appear as lights in the world, so I guess that means we can't board up the windows! 

This may seem like an impossibility, but the whole point of Christ giving us His Spirit is so that He can do it. He can shine through us, even when we feel dark and gloomy. He can love through us, even when we don't feel like loving. He can spread joy through us, even when we feel like grumbling and complaining. The key to all of this is to let Him! Once again, that idea of control. We want to have control. But even on our best days we might love and give and spread joy for a while, but we will at some point crash and burn. At least I will. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

I have learned that in these littlest details of life, the words we speak, the steps we take, I must let Christ work in and through me. So, I will continue to try to give up the grumbling and complaining and work out my salvation....for His glory!

Abide

What does it mean to abide? When we talk about our homes we sometimes refer to them as our "abodes". Simply put, our homes are where we abide. We sleep, eat, shower and live in these places we call home. Why then does Jesus say in John 15:4, "Abide in me, and I in you"? How do we abide in Jesus? 

Think about the other people that live with you. Perhaps it is only you and your spouse, like my husband and I. Your children are grown and have (finally) moved into their own abodes. Maybe you are a multi-generational family with children, grandchildren and grandparents all living together. Whatever the situation, who we live with can affect our daily lives. Parents with small children are (hopefully) trying to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their kids. Their main concern is caring for those children. Families who are caring for their aging parents live their lives around the care and security of people who have their own sets of needs and sometimes health issues. Two people who are new to the empty nest syndrome may be trying to navigate rediscovering this stranger they married. All of these situations require time, effort and choice.

In the same way if we are serious about our relationship with Christ and we desire to abide in Him and allow Him to abide in us, we must invest time, effort and choice. Don't limit yourself to certain times of the day, after all, the people you live with are there on a regular basis. You can rationalize, "I don't have time to do daily devotions." Do you also not have time to clothe and feed your children? You do that without thinking. So too, our relationship with Christ should be done without thinking.

When you wake, pray before you get out of bed. When you are standing in the shower, recite those scriptures you are trying to remember or think on the words of a hymn or praise song. When you are driving to work pour out your concerns to Him. When you are at the grocery store thank Him for all the good things lining the aisles. Abiding is living with our focus on Him. Day in. Day out.

And observe especially, it was not that He said, ‘Come to me and abide with me,’ but, ‘Abide in me.’ The intercourse was not only to be unbroken, but most intimate and complete.....

Who would after seeking the King’s palace, be content to stand in the door, when he is invited to dwell in the King’s presence, and share with Him in all the glory of His royal life?
— Andrew Murray - Abide in Christ

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?)

Pies, Processing and Proclamation

With all of the terrible things happening in our country, around the world, even in our own families, it is difficult to not want to run away and hide. A Gilligan's Island type shack on a sunny tropical beach sounds pretty good about now. No radio, no television, no cell phones and no internet. I want to be blissfully ignorant. Who wouldn't? But that is not reality. Reality is harsh and troubling. Reality screams of violence and injustice. Sometimes, reality just plain acts like a vacuum! It really sucks!

 Photo credit Lisa Jessamy on StockSnap.

Photo credit Lisa Jessamy on StockSnap.

We all have to process life's difficulties and we all have different ways of processing. Some people go to the gym, while others sleep. You might lose yourself in a book, or curl up with a movie. Still, others turn to drugs, alcohol or food. We all have to process. You can't get away from it. Oh, you can ignore it for a while, but eventually it will all come crashing in on you, forcing you to process.

Today, I was very tired. My brain felt fuzzy. I really didn't want to do anything. Thoughts of the families of victims of violence flitted through my mind. I also dwelt on a friend who had a heart attack. There were others that my heart grieved for; my nephew who was supposed to marry next weekend, but whose fiancee called off the wedding, my daughter and her five year old son, who is struggling to find full time work, my mother who is almost 90 and still living on her own. Processing, processing.

One way of processing is to worry. Worry basically plays that same scenario through your mind, over and over and over. That doesn't get you very far. Another way of processing is to blame. It has to be everyone else's fault. Good luck with that. Today, I chose to process, by making a pie.

 Photo credit Christy Lane Campbell on StockSnap.

Photo credit Christy Lane Campbell on StockSnap.

As I wearily got out the ingredients and started mixing them together, I began to process. Flour, salt, shortening, water, they are all simple ingredients. It felt almost therapeutic to mix the dough, pat it and roll it out on the table. It reminded me of what a lovely, simple task it was, but how very necessary to making a good crust. It occurred to me that God uses simple ingredients to bring about change in our lives and in our world. Difficulty is an ingredient. Heartbreak is an ingredient. So is love, forgiveness and repentance. If I want to make a good pie, I have to mix the ingredients together. God is mixing. I am processing. Sometimes, I process by writing. 

Part of processing is asking questions: Why is this happening? Why me? Why so much hate and violence? Why so much pain and heartache? It's okay to ask questions. You can even shout them at God in anger if you want. He loves you and He knows you are hurting. But after you've asked the questions, don't forget to listen for the answers. They may not look exactly like the answers you wanted, but go back to the basics. Flour - He is the bread of life. Salt - He is the salt of the earth. Shortening - like a fattened calf, He was our sacrifice. Water - He is the living water. 

 Photo credit  Markus Spiske  on StockSnap

Photo credit Markus Spiske on StockSnap

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
— Hebrews 13:8 (NASB)

Processing should always lead back to Jesus. Only Jesus can make this chaotic thing called life turn into a good pie. If we allow our thoughts to go the road of worry, hate, bitterness and anger, no problems will ever be solved. Jesus is the way. Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the life. That's what I choose to think on.

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

Get Out the Gardening Tools!

This month I have been talking about the idea of growth; growth in our faith, families, friendships and our diets. As we draw near to the end of the month I'd like to look at tools that we can use to help grow the gardens that we tend called life. When I decide to do some work in my flower beds I get out my gardening tools. I put on gloves, pull out my kneeling pad and gather my pocket pruners, trowel and cultivator. For bigger jobs I might need a shovel or a full sized rake. I pick the tools according to the job I am going to do. Our faith needs to be tended in the same way and we need to seek God's wisdom for the appropriate tools to bring growth in our lives. The following are just a few of the tools I use to grow my faith.

gardening

1. Bible study. In my belief system the Bible is God's written word to humanity. I go to His word to learn about His character and to read the history of the nation of Israel and the church. Often people are intimidated by the Bible saying it is too difficult to understand. Others believe the Bible to be full of contradictions and fairy tales. Still others feel that the "religion" that is based on Biblical belief to be harsh and legalistic. I feel that in order to have a better understanding of something or someone I must do research myself. If I want to cook, I don't just watch cooking shows. I have to actually buy the ingredients, get out the tools, mix it together, turn on the stove and put it in. Growth in any area requires a genuine interest in learning and having an open mind about the subject in question. When I go to God's word, I want to learn. I want to know Him more. I want to delve into His deeper layers. If I want to know more about my azalea bushes I need to read about them. If I want to help them to grow and flourish I will learn what is best for them. If I want to grow and flourish in my Christian faith, I go to the source. He knows what is best for me and He wants to see me flourish.

2. Other authors. There are many good authors who write about topics that can help us grow. Many of these authors have educational and experiential backgrounds that have given them knowledge of life and how to live it responsibly. They also have the Holy Spirit who has given them Godly wisdom and insight.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
— 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 (NASB)

Sometimes I will choose a book based on a study of the Bible such as Oswald Chambers' Our Ultimate Refuge: Job and the Problem of Suffering. Or I might choose a book based on the author's reputation for biblical teaching, like Ravi Zacharias' The Grand Weaver. I have also heard of books through my friends including One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala. My other personal favorites include authors from years ago such as A.W. Tozer's The Crucified Life: How to Live Out a Deeper Christian Experience or Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray. Any of these books or other books by these authors and many others provide added wisdom and knowledge about God and the Christian life that will help us to grow.

3. Fellowship. Webster's dictionary defines fellowship as "a community of interest, activity, feeling or experience." My husband and I currently do not attend a church regularly. We had been regular attenders at a local evangelical church for many years. We enjoyed the community of people who had interests in faith like our own and we raised our girls within that community. Unfortunately last year we learned a devastating piece of news which caused us to leave that fellowship. Having been without regular interaction with others who share our faith we feel a sense of sorrow and loss that watching preachers on Youtube cannot fill. While we do intend to eventually find a fellowship again, this experience has caused me to realize just how important a community of believers is to the regular growth of our faith. We know that no fellowship where people are involved will be without difficulty, but community is what God desires for us as we walk in this world. We can learn from each other and we are also supposed to be there to help others in their pain and difficulties.

4. Circumstances. I shared with you earlier this month one of my own personal stories of growth. I believe that God uses the circumstances in our lives to mold us, teach us and help us to grow. That being said we do have a choice as to whether we do grow or not. God isn't going to force us. Part of growing is taking ownership, not only of my beliefs, but of my thoughts, actions and reactions to the circumstances I find myself in. I have found in my own life that obedience is key to growth. When I am struggling with something, say my relationship with my spouse and God shows me an area I need to bring under His authority, I pray that He will help me to make the better choice. When I do make that choice (and I don't always) then it seems as though God opens up a deeper layer of Himself to my spiritual understanding. Growth happens when the choice is made to obey what God is speaking into our lives at the moment. That doesn't mean you won't struggle with the same thing again tomorrow, but it does mean that today you made the choice to grow.

God is capable of causing us to grow in many ways and the ways I mentioned above are a few of the things He has used in my life to bring about growth in my faith. In the comments section below I would love to hear your stories of growth, or some of the tools God has used to bring growth to your garden.

Waking Up from Our Black Sleep

In all areas of life, remaining static is not an option. One of the grocery stores I shop at has a small rise in the middle of the parking lot. As much as I try to not park there, I still seem to end up at the top of that small rise. You can guess what happens when I get my cart to the car and try to open the trunk. The cart starts to roll away. Those who say multitasking is really not a very efficient way to do things have never seen a 52 year old grandma fling open the car trunk, hang onto the cart and stuff the bags of groceries inside. Multitasking is essential. In the same way growth is essential in our lives. Life, so often, is like a juggling act, one that takes off even as we struggle to hang on, just like my gravity bound cart. If we do not make purposeful choices to grow, life will get away from us.

Growth in our Christian lives should always be our goal. I don't mean to be the bearer of bad news, but no, we have not arrived and we never will until we meet Jesus in the air. We are to be imitators of Christ (Ephesians 5:1). We are called to be Christ-like (Philippians 2:1). We are to do whatever we do for the Lord, rather than men (Colossians 3:23). Unless you know of some special pill we can take to make us instantaneously Christ-like, we have to grow.

 Photo Credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit Rebecca Trumbull

It sounds so simple. You've heard sayings such as, "Bloom where you are planted," and "Sew seeds of love." So quaint. So easy. Not! True growth is like exercise: repetitive, grueling discipline. Wanting to do better, go higher and be more is a choice. And most often, not an easy one. Paul spoke in Philippians 2:12 of working out our salvation. Notice in the verse there is a four letter word - work. Work implies effort, but it also implies reward. When God gave Adam the job of naming the animals and tending the garden (see Genesis 2) he was rewarded, not only with a beautiful companion, but with the satisfaction of his effort.

Some of you may be gardeners. I like to play with flowers and plants. I find something richly satisfying about getting my hands dirty. I love the feel of the soil in my hands and the tearing of weeds from their deeper holds. This comparison transfers easily to our Christian growth as well. Is is satisfying to read God's word with attention and understanding. It can be enriching to find a church home where you can have fellowship and teaching with other like-minded individuals.

Think of growth like a river. As long as the river flows freely, growth and health are taking place. When the river hits debris in its path, it may become backed up resulting in a stagnant, murky pool. Do you want to be a stagnant and murky Christian? Or do you want to allow Christ's Spirit to flow freely, directing your life and taking you where He wants you to go?

 Photo Credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit Rebecca Trumbull

Is growth necessary? Absolutely! Examine your life and ask Jesus to show you where you need to grow. Maybe your prayer life is weak or nonexistent. Maybe you have secluded yourself because you have been hurt. Take steps to reconnect with those who care about you. Maybe you feel God calling you to get back into His word. Why not start a Bible study with other women at a coffee shop? Even in our wilderness wanderings, we still need to grow. In fact, it is often in these times of loss, loneliness and suffering that we have the most opportunity for growth, but it is up to us.

If you were a tiny seed or a bulb, down in the dark earth, you would not think to question, "Gee, should I grow this year?" As soon as the earth started to warm in the spring sun, an energy would fill you with urgency to push yourself up and out of that black sleep, to rise and bloom. We are the crown of His creation. If a little seed can be transformed into a beautiful plant then we too need to push ourselves our of our black sleep and grow.

What is the Point of Easter?

We live in a day and age where sin is no longer called sin. We classify, categorize and explain it away; or we don't talk about it. It doesn't matter how we define it, what God called sin from the beginning of time is, in fact, still skipping around on planet earth, just like those dust bunnies lurking under your fridge. Sure you can sweep them away; suck them up in your Hoover, but before you know it they will be back, breeding and growing.

Easter Eggs

I mean, what is the point of Easter? Colored eggs? Candy? A new dress? All those things are great, especially in the context of family, but that is not what Easter is about. Easter is about Jesus. Christmas is about Jesus. One is about life and the other about the death that leads to life. Without Jesus there would be no Easter. So what was that all about? The blood sacrifice, demanded by God, paid for by His only Son....It was because of sin. There! I said it! It was because of disobedience. Jesus died and rose again because of anger, rebellion, pride, gluttony, murder, rape, gossip, addiction, adultery, bullying, incest and a plethora of others.

So today, in this month, when we think about, ponder and celebrate Easter, ask yourself, "Why?" I'm celebrating because I believe in a God who is so good, not only did He love me in my most pitiful, dark and sinful state, but He provided a way out of it.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 - NESV)

 Photo Credit:  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit: Rebecca Trumbull

Exclusivity? Absolutely. Show me a belief system that is not is some way exclusive. But in Christianity we are not able to cross the gap that came about because of sin and it separates us from God. Only Jesus can do that. That is what Easter is all about.

When in Doubt.

Have you ever struggled with doubt? If you haven't you must be an exceptional individual. Most of us doubt at some point. We doubt ourselves, we doubt our families, we doubt our friends, and we doubt God. Doubt can stem from fear and anxiety, unmet expectations, fatigue, and other factors.

James says, "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God,who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind" (Js. 1:5-6 NASB).

 Photo Credit:  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit: Rebecca Trumbull

When I sat down a few minutes ago to start working on this blog I was assailed by doubt. It's the same old voices. Softly, whispered poison,

"You're no good!"

"You have nothing to offer!"

"Why would anyone want to read your blog?"

I have been hearing these voices for most of my life. However, God had been speaking too. His voice is much clearer than the whisperers. I always know when the enemy is speaking, he whispers, not like a seductive lover, but like an annoying mosquito! He always condemns and criticizes. So I swat him away with a heavy duty fly swatter.

Romans 8:1(NASB), "There is therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Many believe this verse only refers to the condemnation that comes from not being saved in Christ, but I believe it goes far deeper than that. I believe it is a weapon against the very doubts that so often hit us between the eyes. Once we are in the family of God, through our belief in Jesus Christ, we are no longer under any condemnation. Conviction, yes. If I sin, I come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. 

"You did something wrong."

That's it.

The voices of guilt and condemnation come after the fact and usually drag on and on.

Doubt is just another whisperer. If you are walking in the Spirit there is no reason to doubt. God doesn't play games with us. His commands are clear as written in His word, the Bible. 

"Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks..." I Thessalonians 5:16-18(NASB)

That seems pretty straight forward. That doesn't mean it is always easy. We are, much like the waves "driven and tossed by the wind." However, if we begin to recognize our struggle and our shortcomings we can ask God for help.

In the gospel of Mark (9:14-29 NASB) a man brings his demon possessed son to the disciples and asks them to cast the demon out. They are unable to do it. They bring the boy to Jesus and the boy's father says, "....But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!"

As a parent or a grandparent you can feel for this poor man who is nearly at the end of himself. His son has been this way since he was a small boy. He had probably seen all sorts of supposed healers and religious sorts promising a cure, to no avail.

Jesus' response to him is pointed, "If You can! All things are possible to him who believes."

"Immediately the boy's father cried out and began saying, 'I do believe; help my unbelief.'"

He knew his limitations. He understood his own struggle and he knew he needed help. He wasn't too proud to admit, "I don't get it! Help my lack of faith!" So, I am like that man, crying out, "I do believe," but recognizing my weak faith, I add, "help my unbelief."