On Focus, and Ignorance, During Hard Times

I decided to take a break from the Traits of a Godly Person series for this week. There are so many things going on in our world, and I often wonder should I talk about some of the more difficult issues. I like my blog to be a place of encouragement, whether it is to dress better or to grow in your walk with Christ. However, there are people out there, some of whom might be following my blog, that need a different kind of encouragement.

Life really can be stinking hard! Relationships are complex and often the source of our deepest and darkest pain. More often than not, people who are going through great difficulty do not feel at liberty to talk about the situations they are facing, which means, they are not getting any support or encouragement. People who are going through great loss, also, don’t always feel free to talk about their grief and pain. I’m not really sure, how we got to this point. Why is it that we are afraid to let people know that we are not okay? Why do we hide our pain behind a smile and tell everyone who asks that we are doing fine? Maybe it has to do with not being able to express the deep pain and sadness we feel. Perhaps we are afraid that others will think less of us, if we show them our reality. Maybe we are just too dang tired from trying to cope, that we’d rather not put in the effort to explain all that is going on.

Image by  lisa runnels  from  Pixabay

Image by lisa runnels from Pixabay

I think there is something much deeper and darker going on when we are struggling. Obviously, I believe in a real God and a real devil. I believe that Satan is our enemy and he is out to kill and destroy.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
— 1 Peter 5:8 (NASB)
Image by  steffenwienberg  from  Pixabay

Image by steffenwienberg from Pixabay

Our enemy is compared to a roaring lion. Why do you suppose Peter used the idea of a roaring lion, rather than that of a snake or some other creature? Obviously, lions are creatures to be respected. A lion can easily kill a man along with a host of wild creatures. Peter didn’t just make the comparison of the devil to a lion, but to a roaring lion. There is significance in the roar. Roaring commonly means, “This is my territory. Don’t get anywhere near.” Isn’t that interesting? Our enemy isn’t just trying to trip us up, he is trying to make us his own. He wants to claim us as his territory.

There are two problems that come up when we are going through difficulty that really affect our next step and our way of thinking. The first is our own focus. It is incredibly easy to focus on our pain. It is, our pain. The struggle is our struggle. Why wouldn’t we focus on it? This is made even harder when there is pain, illness, anxiety and broken relationships. Job loss is hard, but add to that a divorce and a persistent gall bladder problem and you are probably going to be feeling pretty overwhelmed.

Let your eyes look directly ahead
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.
— Proverbs 4:25 (NASB)

Why is our focus so important? When you are walking you need to watch where you are going. This is especially important if you are walking on a narrow road, a path along a steep gorge or across a Lego filled living room. in those situations, it might be important to not be looking at your cell phone, reading a book or closing your eyes. This is also true when we are driving. The need for this straight forward, pay attention routine is even more important when things are getting chaotic, such as heavy traffic or passing pedestrians or bikers.

Image by  Free-Photos  from  Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

When we are going through the hard bits of life, or even through the longer pits of life, we need to keep our eyes on our Savior. In fact it is even more important to focus on Him when we are faced with difficulty. I have been reading, Abide in Christ, by Andrew Murray. I started this book a while back, got about half way through and got busy, so put it aside. When I picked it up a week ago, I decided to start again at the beginning. There is so much good stuff in this book. Read these two quotes:

It is not the yoke, but the resistance to the yoke, that makes the difficulty; the whole hearted surrender to Jesus, as at once our Master and Keeper, finds and secures the rest.
— Abide in Christ - Andrew Murray - Chapter 2

Remember how Christ tells us if we are weary and heavy laden we should come to Him.

28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
— Matthew 11:28-29 (NASB)

Murray was referring to these verses when he was talking about the rest that is secured in Christ. Now look at this next piece from the same chapter in Murray’s book.

With this grace secured, we have strength for every duty, courage for every struggle, a blessing in every cross and the joy of life eternal in death itself.
— Abide in Christ - Andrew Murray - Chapter 2

Christ is to be our focus. Come hell or high water, this Warrior Prince named Jesus, has our back for every duty, every struggle and every cross we have to bear in this life. All you have to do is come to Him and believe He will do it.

The other problem that arises when people are going through hard times is the ignorance of those around them. How many of you have been struggling with a situation, only to have a friend give you advice on how to solve your problem? How did that make you feel? If you are like me, when I was going through a very difficult time in my life, the last thing I wanted was advice. What I really wanted was an arm around my shoulders, a friend who would pray with me, not tell me they would pray for me, a sincere hug and two listening ears.

Image by  Anemone123  from  Pixabay

Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay

My dear friends, I can not emphasize enough how important it is to keep your mouth shut and refrain from giving advice when someone close to you is going through a hard time. Give hugs, give time, bring food, pray with them, listen to them. If they ask you for advice, then and only then, open your mouth and be sure you are speaking from the Lord, not from your own large vat of worldly knowledge. In addition to that, sincerely, truly and intensely pray for that person. You will not know all the details and that is okay. God’s bigger than you and will work it out. Just pray.

He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, But a man of understanding keeps silent.
— Proverbs 11:12 (NASB)
Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.
— Proverbs 17:28 (NASB)
Pixabay - hope

Life is difficult. Some of you are going through things that you never thought you would have to go through. Don’t give up. Keep you eyes fixed on the author and perfecter or our faith. And for those of you who are watching a friend or loved one suffer, don’t give up on them either. Pray, for and with. Love, help and even just sit in silence with them. For all of us, let’s remember this:

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



Mulling It Over - Part 1

I wanted to get back to my Mulling It Over series, where I look at a portion of scripture, taking it apart in order to more deeply understand and think about God’s word. When we dig deeper into God’s word we learn new things. It doesn’t matter how many times we have read through the Bible. The Holy Spirit is capable of teaching us something new over and over. Searching through the scripture is often like going on a treasure hunt. My goal with this series is to discover some of the wonderful nuggets that God wants to teach us.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Beginning this month, I want to take a look at the book of 2 Peter in the New Testament, specifically verses 1 - 11. Both 1st and 2nd Peter were written by Peter, one of the original 12 apostles. If you know anything about Peter, you know that he could be rather bull headed, overly enthusiastic and thick, but Peter was the one to which Jesus posed statements such as,

And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
— Matthew 16:17 & 18 (NASB)

Scofield’s reference notes from 1917, makes clear Jesus was not intending to build the church on Peter, but on Himself. Jesus’ statement to Peter was a confirmation of the faith he had; a faith that is necessary for all believers to have. The fact that Peter was privy to this information reveals the depth of trust and love Jesus had for this man.

Pixabay

Pixabay

As a shepherd of the flock, Peter had the responsibility to teach and instruct the members of the early church. In his first letter he encourages the church through the difficulties of persecution, which Christians were facing at the time from Nero. Many followers of Christ were being used as torches, if you get my meaning. Peter speaks of hope and the grace of God.

In his second letter, Peter addresses the presence of false teachers and wrong doers within the church and suggests the need for growth in the faith and watchfulness for Christ’s return.

This week, I just want to introduce the passage and then look at the introductory verses.

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

Take it apart:

Verse 1 -

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

The author identifies himself by giving his name and then by giving his credentials. He is both a bond-servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ. These two descriptions say much about the man Peter.

Pixabay

Pixabay

I have looked at this idea of being a bond-servant on an earlier occasion, but lets review. Another word for bond-servant is slave. Typically, a bond-servant is one who works for someone else without wages. Basically a bond-servant is owned by their master. Why would a person want to identify themselves with this moniker? The Apostle Paul also used the term bond-servant to refer to himself. The common denominator for these two is the person of Jesus Christ. They had committed their lives to Him in such a way that they identified themselves as being His slaves. They were sold out to the person of Jesus and knew their lives were no longer their own.

Peter also identifies himself as an apostle. One way to define the word apostle is to list other words that have the same idea. Words like, advocate, backer, proponent, promoter, supporter and herald, all are synonymous with apostle. Peter was one of the original 12 men who followed Jesus and lived with him during his three years of earthly ministry. This fact gives Peter a huge amount of credibility to speak about Jesus’ message to the early church and to us today.

Pixabay

Pixabay

…to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours…

This letter is written specifically to those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Many people today who are not proponent’s of the Bible claim that it is no longer relevant in our world today. They claim it is outdated, yet Peter, over 2000 years ago wrote his letter to those who were of the same faith as him. In other words, his letter is as real and living to us today as it was to the early church, for the very reason that we share a common faith in Jesus Christ.

…by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:

This confirms that same faith came about by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Our faith in Him is secure because of what He did and who He was. Jesus is God and his life on this earth, was not to preach a social gospel. The gospel that Christ preached was not salvation from the hardships of life, but salvation from ramifications of sin. It is His death on a cross and his rising from the dead that enables us to place our faith in Him.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Verse 2 -

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord

Who doesn’t long for grace and peace. We desire others give us grace when we are having a hard time. We desire peace from all the fears and anxieties that plague us on a daily basis. The author states that these will be multiplied to the readers in the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. Knowledge of God and Jesus are essential to knowing peace and grace. This is not a head knowledge that nods absently when asked the question, “Do you know Jesus?” This knowledge is a personal, burning knowledge that can only be obtained when we call Him Lord.

The idea of Lordship takes us back to the term bond-servant. Have you chosen Jesus as your Lord? Are you sold out to Him? Do you call Him master?

Next week we will delve into verse 3. If you have any thoughts on this passage or these first two verse, I love to have your feedback. Just leave a comment.

Have a wonderful weekend.












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
Pixabay

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.

The Real Romance

My regular devotional book is My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. If you have never heard of him, he is one of those men of the past that, like David, seemed to be a man after God's own heart. The wisdom he had as a young man and his passion for Christ drove him to eventually start the Bible Training College in London. I have used this devotional book for years and it never grows old. 

Oswald Chambers devotional book

Over the years, I started writing in the margin at the top of the page what various events had occurred on that particular date. It has become a way to keep track of life. I always write the year and the event that took place. For instance on September 15, 2010 it says, "Quintin Arthur Vern Christensen born." That is my grandson. On May 31st 2014 it says, "Rebecca Christensen marries Daniel Trumbull." That is when I gained a son-in-law. There are pages filled with vacation travels, birthdays and family gatherings. It is also filled with broken engagements, hospital stays, unwed pregnancies and deaths. 

Oswald Chambers - devotional

It seems apropos that a devotional book that reminds us over and over to draw closer to Christ, hold a record of the very events that have caused that closeness to take place. The good events caused me to pour out my heart in thanksgiving and praise for blessing. The bad events caused me to pour out my heart in despair and grief. This correlation brings me to today's reading from the devotional and one quote in particular. 

Without the sovereign hand of God Himself, nothing touches our lives. Do we discern His hand at work, or do we see things as mere occurrences? Get into the habit of saying, ‘Speak, Lord,’ and life will become a romance.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - January 30th

There are several truths we can pull from this quote.

1. God is Sovereign.

The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.
— Psalm 103:19 (NASB)

God is all. ALL powerful. ALL present. ALL good. ALL loving. ALL knowing. How can a being like that not be sovereign. The word itself means, one who holds supreme power. I have a feeling that this word that was first noted to be used in the 13th century, does not begin to describe the sovereignty of God. 

2. Nothing touches our lives that doesn't pass through Him. 

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.
The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where do you come?’
Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.’
The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.’
Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.’
Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.’
So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord.
— Job 1:6-12 (NASB)

This passage from Job is the perfect example of God's sovereignty and how He filters the events that touch our lives. 

What exactly does that mean? It means that no matter what is going on in your life, He is aware of it and He allowed it. That may seem a bit overwhelming and bring questions to your mind like, "If He's all good and all loving, why are all these bad things happening?" Quite simply, God knows you and your circumstances even better than you do. He knows what will push you towards Him or away from Him. 

If we allow ourselves the freedom of trusting Him, then we know that He's got us, no matter what is happening. If we bend to His will and sovereignty in our lives we will enter into an amazing relationship with Him. More on that in a minute. 

3. We have choices. 

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
— Joshua 24:15 (NASB)

I've said this before and I will say it again. We have choices. We can decide to trust His sovereignty or not. We can accept His truth or reject it. Each of those choices we make will have an affect on how we think and how we maneuver through life. 

If you read the Old Testament at all you know that the Israelites were constantly changing their choices. One day they chose God, the next day they chose idols. On and on, over and over. When they chose God, they prospered. When they chose idols, they floundered. Our choice to believe God's sovereignty will make life more stable and peaceful. It doesn't mean life will be smooth sailing, but it does mean we will always have someone to rely on and who will give us supernatural means to deal with the hard things in life. 

If we look back at Joshua, who lead the children of Israel into the promised land, we know he had to conquer cities, and battle for every inch of land, but God was with Him and as long as they put God first and worshipped and trusted Him they were victorious. That didn't mean people didn't die, or get sick or have marital conflict or....fill in the blank. But God was there through it all. In all honesty, if I have the choice to have an all loving and all powerful being, walking with me through those dark and treacherous valleys, I'll take it. 

4. Life with Him can be a romance.

that the Lord called Samuel; and he said, “Here I am.
— I Samuel 3:4 (NASB)

Who doesn't love romance? Even the most jaded person, if they do a little soul searching will admit, they want to be pursued and loved. Romance has to be nurtured. When you are in a romantic relationship it isn't about getting what you want, it is a beautiful dance of giving, receiving, listening and talking. We can have that with our Lord. Isn't that amazing? The all powerful, supreme being who created the universe from nothing wants to woo us and have a romance with us. 

With February starting tomorrow and Valentine's Day right around the corner, wouldn't this be a good time to reevaluate our romance with Jesus? Are we spending time with Him? Are we pursuing Him, just as He daily pursues us? Are we taking the time to converse with Him and quietly listening for His sweet whispers to our souls? Are we looking for Him in the simple and mundane things of life as well as the big and beautiful things? 

O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
— Psalm 34:8 (NASB)

Thanksgiving Thoughts - Thinking About the Receiver

Today is Thanksgiving Day, a day filled with good food, family and friends, football and for many of us the beginning of our Christmas holidays. It was Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, who declared this fourth Thursday of November to be a day of giving thanks. Considering the Civil War was in full swing at that point, I find it intriguing that our 16th president felt compelled to put in place a regular day of giving thanks to God, for initially that is what it was. Perhaps in the midst of the carnage of one of our history's greatest internal wars, Lincoln realized how very lost we were without God and that a day of giving thanks would bring us back to center.

We have heard much on what being grateful does for the giver of thanks, but what about what it does for the receiver. I'd like to offer several possible thoughts.

I did include a few pics of some of the food I'll be serving today....for which I am thankful. Ha, ha. Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Thanksgiving food

1. Giving thanks blesses the receiver. Think about how you feel when someone takes the time to say thank you. Doesn't it make you feel good? Doesn't make you feel noticed? Doesn't it make you feel like all that work you did was worth it? I know for me when someone takes time to thank me, I feel up lifted. 

Wouldn't the same be true for God? Granted God does not have to be consoled or motivated like we as humans so often do, but the Bible, especially the Psalms talk about blessing the Lord. 

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
— Psalm 34:1 (NASB)
I will extol You, my God, O King, And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
— Psalm 145:1 (NASB)

I would include passages that talk about praising God, as those which bless Him as well. Just as we can be blessed by being thanked, God is lifted up when we give thanks to Him. 

Thanksgiving food

2. Giving thanks creates a connection with the receiver. When you give thanks to someone you are acknowledging their existence. You are telling them they are worth your time and your effort. You are connecting with them as a real, and important individual. Isn't that one of the reasons we labor to teach our kids to say thank you? We want them to acknowledge there is another person in the world besides themselves, whether it be their teacher, the fast food worker at McDonalds, the clerk at a store or their grandparents. 

When we give thanks to God we are creating a connection with Him. I know I have days where I feel disconnected from Him. It might be sin, it might be that I am not feeling well, it might be things that are bothering me, or it might just be the weather, but regardless of what caused the disconnect, as soon as I go to Him with thanksgiving and praise that connection is restored. This is the result of our choice to acknowledge, He exists and without Him we are nothing. 

for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children
— Acts 17:28 (NASB)
thanksgiving food

3. Giving thanks creates meaning and purpose. When I receive thanks from another it makes me feel good. It reminds me that I am important and that what I am doing has meaning and purpose. Many of us work jobs that we do not feel make a real difference in the world, but we must never underestimate the power of a life planted exactly where God wants it to be. I try to remember that working in retail. At times customers can be less than grateful, but I always feel my job is worthwhile when I hear a thank you, either from a customer, my boss or a fellow employee. 

Obviously we cannot give meaning or purpose to a holy, omniscient God, but when we thank Him we are acknowledging the meaning and purpose He has given to us. Every time I approach God with a humble attitude of gratitude I am reminded of the great love He has for us. 

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)

Today as you gather with people you care about,  remember not only to be thankful, but that your giving of thanks has an effect on the ones you give it too. 

Have a blessed day!

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.

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

Light Beyond the Darkness

As the days begin to shorten and I realize the seasons are about to change again, I grow more reflective of the seasons of life. I am sure it is because I am getting older. Age has a tendency to make us more aware of our limitations, weaknesses and failed plans. But it also has the capacity to make us more aware of what is really important and help us to focus on our blessings rather than our difficulties.

sunset over the river

As we were driving this evening the sun was getting low on the horizon. Though I didn't see it actually set I could tell, it was going to be spectacular. The sky was streaked with brushstrokes of cloud residue. So often when that happens the sun reflects off the clouds in a brilliant display of orange, pink, red and purple. I have found in my 50 plus years fall sunsets can be some of the most stunning.

As I looked at the beauty the Master Painter created for our good pleasure, I thought about the sunsets of life. Sometimes, when we know the darkness is coming we grow anxious and fearful. The realization hit me, however, that we would not have the stunning sunsets if darkness did not come. We would not have some of the spectacular sunrises either. Darkness is a part of the cycle God put into place to bring rest and repose.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the sky displays his handiwork.
2 Day after day it speaks out;
night after night it reveals his greatness.
3 There is no actual speech or word,
nor is its voice literally heard.
4 Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth;
its words carry to the distant horizon.
In the sky he has pitched a tent for the sun.
— Psalm 19:1 - 4 (NET)

Darkness is the absence of light. That could refer to the light of day, the light of a candle or that of an electric light bulb. Darkness can also refer to a lack of understanding. There are times in life when, not only does the way seem dark, but we also travel the path without understanding. We need to remember that outside of the darkness there is light. 

I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.
— John 12:46 (NASB)

If you are in a house, board up all the windows and cover those with room darkening drapes, you will be in the dark, but the light is still glowing outside of your house. If you descend into a cave with no flashlight or matches and candle, you will be in the dark, but the light is still glowing up on the surface.

To me, what seems the most overwhelming about darkness is the absence of light. If I can't see the light, I feel as though I am suffocating and all of life is about to end. But the reality is, light is still glowing, I just have to remember that. When I come to terms with the fact that I am closer to seeing the sun set, than I am to seeing the sun rise and I can remember that just the other side of that darkness I am about to face there is light....perhaps it will go easier.

Pixabay

Pixabay

When God's face seems hidden by the darkness or by the clouds, remember that Jesus is walking on the tops of those clouds. When the path seems dark, perhaps is it best to stop walking for a while, stop fumbling in the dark. Take a deep breath, sit a spell and remember He is the light.

Jesus said of Himself, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12 - NASB)

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

The Gift of Tears

She had been waiting for what seemed like days. The antechamber outside the throne room was filled with people. They milled about faces filled with an odd expression of joy and fear. Those who waited with her had never seen Him face to face before. The thought of standing before the King of all Kings was delightful yet terrifying.

She folded her arms across her chest. Odd that she felt strangely self conscious. Her robes shone with the golden threads woven in a fashion she had never seen before and looked just as lovely as everyone else's, but still she felt...well, she wasn't sure. Her stomach bubbled with giddy anxiety knowing that she would soon be looking into His face.

No one in the antechamber knew for sure what He looked like. Those who went in, never came out. They had heard rumors, that once they had stood before the King and presented their gifts they were led to their new homes in the Kingdom. She thought fleetingly of her new home. She hoped it had a big wrap around porch with a swing and flower gardens bursting with color.

Her mind went back to His appearance. As a child she had imagined Him looking like a wizard; long white beard, flowing colorful robes,  mimicking one of the fictional stories she had read. When she grew into a woman He became more like a handsome warrior, her lover. She blushed. How silly she was to imagine the King of Kings as her lover. Yet she knew that He was all this and so much more than she could imagine. No book, or song or poem ever written, not even the Holy Writings themselves could truly paint the Master's face.

There were rumors that had floated back to them from those who had gone before. One rumor said he was dark like ebony and his eyes shone like blackest glass. Another found Him to be light like finest porcelain with eyes that looked through you like icy swords. Still another rumor had said that He had no form, but was merely glistening brightness, much like a chandelier of a thousand diamonds. She wondered how she would see him.

Trying to ease her anxiety she listened to conversations around her. Voices spoke in muted whispers, but once in a while, someone would come close enough and she could hear them talk about their gifts. Everyone was expected to bring the King a gift, and this was, perhaps, what terrified her the most. She had no gift, save herself. Everyone who gathered in that chamber had pledged their life to Him. What they spoke of were gifts that they had accumulated during their lives: others brought into His kingdom, gifts of gold and precious jewels, even gifts of service. She had nothing.

It wasn't that she hadn't done anything during her life, but she had nothing to show for it. She had lived her life according to His laws and desires, at least most of the time. Oh, she had struggled to submit, to love, to be kind and sometimes she failed, but she tried to do what was right. Maybe that is why she felt different than the others around her. She felt something akin to panic rise in her throat. She fought it down. She knew the King to be wise, patient and fair. Surely, He would let her into the Kingdom because she followed Him, after all she knew it was His mercy that had saved her, not anything she had done.

Suddenly the doors to the throne room opened. Silence fell on the room. She waited...an inhaled breath....holding....her name announced so that all could hear. She let out the breath and lifting her gowns, slowly crossed the room. Those around her, a thousand faces smiling and blessing her, telling her to enjoy His presence. She could  barely lift her eyes noting every swirl and squiggle in the marble floor. Now she was at the stairs. One, two, three, glistening steps that lead up to the heavy golden doors. 

She was ushered in and words failed to describe the scene before her. The Holy Writings filled her mind:

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”

And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
— Revelation 4 (NASB)

Those beings who brought her into the room, now led her closer to the throne. As she came nearer she could make out His form on the throne and she felt as though her body would disintegrate. Unable to continue walking she felt a weight greater than any she had ever been under. The weight of all her pride, her fear, her complaints, her selfishness, all of it, felt like a great hand pushing her down to the floor. Those who had brought her in moved away from her and she longed for their presence...for now...she...was...alone.

She remained there until a voice spoke to her like the tinkling of wind chimes in a gentle breeze. It was soft, child-like, kind. The voice seemed to come from all around and even from within her. Then it changed to the voice of a man. It spoke with authority.

"Beloved."

She thought she had heard Him wrong.

"Beloved, stand up. You are forgiven. You are washed in the blood of the lamb. You are mine."

She raised her head keeping her eyes closed, but eventually curiosity won out. She looked up.

His appearance was all at once known, yet unknown; old yet young. He appeared to her just as she had imagined Him. A stately King, an aging jovial wizard, a handsome young warrior all wrapped into one beautiful omnipotent being. What raised her to her feet was His smile.

He had descended from the throne and stood near her with His hand outstretched. She rose slowly and extended her hand timidly. He took it and the tingle that went through her body chased every remaining fear and doubt away. She knew she was home.

"You have a gift for me, Beloved." It wasn't a question.

She lowered her face. "But I have nothing my King."

He chuckled and raised her face with a finger under her chin. "Look over there."

He pointed to a place near the throne where there were hundreds of jars. Small ones, large ones, fat ones, thin ones. They looked to be made of all sorts of materials from glass to china, to brass and alabaster.

She looked back at Him. 

He jutted his chin towards the jars and told her, "Go find yours. You will know it when you see it."

She let go of His hand and crossed the throne room to where the jars stood. There were so many. How was she to know which one was hers? She was instantly drawn to the alabaster ones, especially those that ran deep with rusty red and cream. They gleamed in the light of the throne room. She found herself running her hand along the tops, enjoying the smooth sensation beneath her fingertips. Suddenly when her hand brushed a rather large jar with a simple lid her heart shuddered. She had found hers and she knew the jar's contents. 

She turned and saw that He was sitting on the shining steps that led up to the throne. For some reason this action did not seem strange at all. He was a King. He was her King. The very things that she learned about Him from the Holy Writings now all made sense.

He smiled again. "Beloved, you have been filling that jar since you were a child. Every time you scraped a knee, fell off your bike or took a fall those tears went in the jar. Bring it to me."

She picked up the beautiful jar carefully, its weight not even an issue for her new body. She drew near to where He sat. She removed her robes, for now, there was no shame. She knelt before the King and saw that He did not wear shoes. She smiled up at Him. 

When she opened the jar the memories rose around her as so many ghosts of the past and with them the heady scent of familiar perfume, the perfume of tears.

"Yours is a jar of millions of tears. I saw every hurt you ever felt. I held you every time the salt coursed down your cheeks. Tears of love, tears of pain, tears of heartache, and yes, even the tears of joy. This is your gift to me."

She lifted the jar and began to pour her life onto His feet. Her tears were and always had been her gift to Him.

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

Confessions of a Clutter-holic

I had one of those things happen today, that just made me crazy with frustration. I used to be a very organized person when I was younger. But let's face it, it is easy to be more organized when you are only taking care of yourself. But then, I got married, had a few kids, decided to homeschool, worked a part time job and so on. Life happened and when it did, I usually found myself stuffing things into drawers, just to have them out of the way when company came. Now I find that I am still trying to recover from all the stashing and accumulating that we did throughout the last 29 years of marriage and raising kids. 

Pixabay (This is not my house - ha, ha)

Pixabay (This is not my house - ha, ha)

"Hi! My name is Amy and I am a recovering clutter-holic." Sure, it is a made up word, but you get the idea. Please tell me I am not alone! I have a feeling in our world of storage units and large houses with basements and attics, that we probably all have more stuff than we let on. Then throw in words like sentimental, obsessive compulsive and hoarding and we end up with hills that my husband and I affectionately call, "garbage mountains" outside of every major US city.

After looking through seven boxes, yes seven, I still could not find what I was looking for. I sat down at the kitchen table and said, "Okay, God! You know exactly where that thing is that I put away so carefully so I wouldn't lose it. Can you help me find it?" I'll let you know if He does, or if He finds my lack of self-discipline amusing. In reality, it did get me thinking about how thankful I am that God is more organized than me. I am thankful:

Pixabay

Pixabay

That God, created our planet with just the right angle, spin and rotation around the sun that we have days, nights and seasons. (Genesis 1:14-19)

That God, created our bodies with the amazing capacity to move, breath, circulate blood, fight off disease and even heal themselves. (Genesis 1:26-27)

Pixabay

Pixabay

That God, created us with a brain that can create music, poetry and art, the same brain that can learn to perform surgery, design buildings and make a 300 ton airplane lift into the sky.

That God, had a plan from the foundation of the world to save us from our sinful nature. (Isaiah 53)

That God, sent His only Son, Jesus, to be born, live, die on a cross and rise again after three days. (Read any gospel in the New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke or John)

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull.

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

That God, sent the comforter, in the person of the Holy Spirit, so we could become more like Christ by His power, not our own and bring glory to Him. (John 16:5-15)

And I am so glad that I do not stand condemned because I am washed in His precious blood. (Romans 8:1)

Pixabay

Pixabay

Thank you, thank you, thank you! That even though I come up short and often make a cluttered mess of life, You still love me and you never lose sight of me. You are the good shepherd and You always know where every one of Your lambs are. 

The Trouble with Troubles

Have you ever been in the position where you keep hoping things will get better, easier, less painful, but they don't? In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, we just see more of the same barreling towards us like a five ton elephant. Nothing against the pachyderms, in fact, they are one of my favorite animals. However, I wouldn't want to be standing on an open plain in Africa, with a large tusky male charging at me! So why shouldn't I feel troubled that difficulty only stands just far enough away to get a running start? Over and over and over.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Okay, so maybe I am part of the problem. I keep getting back up! Stupid! Just lay down. Let Jumbo squash me again and again. Somehow that seems less painful than getting up only to be knocked down again. 

Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary
— Isaiah 40:31 (NASB)

When I am in that prone position, having gotten run over for what seems like the millionth time, I am in a perfect place to look up. Oh, there are times, the charge comes from behind me and I end up face down in the savannah, but eventually I roll over and I see the sky. God's word says, "those that wait for the Lord will gain new strength." If I am weary, it is most likely the case that I am not waiting for Him. I am probably frantically running, trying to fix things, trying to hide things, trying to take control of a charging elephant. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

God knew this fragile thing He made called humanity would get weary. We would get fatigued, tired, worn out, done in, call it what you want, but He knew. He said, "They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary." That's why I keep getting back up. I'm supposed to keep moving. I'm supposed to run. I'm supposed to walk and when I can no longer walk I am supposed to mount up on wings.....His wings. The wings of the almighty Jehovah Eagle!

Resting in the Lord is not dependent on your external circumstances at all, but on your relationship with God Himself.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - July 4th
StockSnap

StockSnap

Life is not going to stop being difficult. That elephant is not going to stop charging, but God! God can give us rest. He can give us peace. He can! He will, but I have to want it. I have to want Him. Sure I can tackle the elephant on my own, but I guarantee, that big old difficulty is going to come out in better shape than I do. Unless....Him.

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

Let Go!

What do we do when our faith is rattled? When something happens that shakes us to the core? When life just doesn't change for the better? When the small rock slide turns into an earth shaking avalanche?

Let go!

Usually we think hanging on would be better; hanging on means we still have some control, but we don't. Hanging on implies it has to get better, but it might not. Hanging on inevitably leaves me with sore hands and bleeding fingers.

Let go!

Photo credit  Ashley Knedler  on StockSnap.

Photo credit Ashley Knedler on StockSnap.

I know what you are thinking. I have been on the edge of that precipice looking down. I have clung with everything in me to that thing that was keeping me from falling to my death; that belief, that person, that job, that.......

Let go!

How does a baby bird learn to fly? He's literally pushed out of the nest. Perhaps he saw how far down the ground was and thought he wasn't ready. Maybe he liked the nest; it's cozy and he's getting free meals. But no! Mom knew when he was ready. Catch that? Mom knew. He didn't. One, two, three...shove!

Let go!

So, here you are. Free fall! Funny thing, you don't have a parachute. But God gave you wings. Spread them. His Spirit will buoy you up. He created the wind to lift you higher. Trust Him. He knew you were ready. Catch that? He knew. You didn't. One, two, three....shove!

Let go!

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)

We really need to pay attention to the words in that verse. Let's dissect it a bit.

"And we know..." We know....knowledge is important.  Knowing something means I am familiar with it. In this case is is God.

"...that God..." Our knowledge is of God. We know Him. We know His ways.

"...causes all things...." Just how can God orchestrate all things? Well, He is God after all. He created the world. He wrote the music. He can conduct the orchestra.

"...to work together for good...." I am sure that means the bad stuff too.

"...to those who love God..." Do you? Do you love Him? Do you even know who He is? Do you acknowledge His existence, or do you think it is all smoke and mirrors?

"...to those who are called according to His purpose." It may sound egocentric, but God is all about God. Our purpose has to do with bringing glory to Him. 

Photo credit  Amber Wolfe  on StockSnap.

Photo credit Amber Wolfe on StockSnap.

Let's go back to that bird. The bird, typically, is a mirror image of it's parent. A cardinal looks like a cardinal. A bald eagle looks like a bald eagle. You know what they are the minute you see them, because even if you aren't a bird person, you know what a cardinal and a bald eagle are. So we are to be mirror images of Christ. We don't look like Him, the moment we are born again, but gradually over time we can grow to look more like Him. God in His goodness and great love for you has pushed you out of the nest. No, it is not comfortable, but it is necessary for you to become an adult bird.

Let go!

 

Life Under Construction

Summer in the Midwest can bring many things including heat, drought, brown grass and extreme quick weather changes. Often the weather men will predict hot sunny days and then a cool front will pass through with gusty winds and driving rain. Other times they predict rain and we get days and days of sun blistering the grass and causing plants to wilt. But there is one thing we can always depend on....orange barrels!

We have come to call this time of year, not summer, but orange barrel season. Here in Toledo, we have numerous, large, road construction projects going on at the same time. My husband and I have lamented over whose idea it is to do construction on all the north-south roads at the same time, or the east-west roads, or it seems, all the roads going anywhere. Currently there is a massive construction project going on just around the corner from where we live. Traffic is almost always backed up and no matter where we go, there are pesky orange barrels.

Sometimes it seems that our lives are as much like a construction zone, filled with annoying barrels, as those streets we drive on. When I look at the construction going on, especially when they are reconfiguring major on/off ramps and moving bridges, I am amazed that the engineers have a plan. For such a long time it looks like a big mess; moving dirt here, tearing up large pieces of concrete there, cranes, bulldozers, dump trucks, noise, noise, noise, noise, noise. Eventually it begins to looks like it makes sense. A pile of dirt turns into the foundation for the future ramp. Those large chunks of concrete disappear and are replaced with steel beams for a new bridge. After time, like a butterfly making it's way out of a cocoon, the new ramps are finished and paved with smooth black pavement and the bridge is securely in place able to hold it's own weight and that of a million moving cars.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I wonder just what the engineer of this life is all about. Life looks more like the chaos of broken pavement and piles of dirt than it does smooth, newly finished pavement. God doesn't have to ask me what my opinion is. He is the master engineer, after all. However, there are times, when I look at the brokenness of the world we live in, even the brokenness of my own life and I wonder, what is He doing? Then I start giving me opinion:

"Wouldn't that pile of dirt look better over there?"

"Shouldn't you use that broken concrete as part of the foundation for the bridge? We are into recycling, you know!"

"Don't you think you could get some quieter machinery to do the work?"

As if I could walk into the engineers meeting for the highway department and begin to tell them how to improve their roads and highways. I do not have an engineering degree and know absolutely nothing about building bridges, unless they are made of blocks or Legos. Why then, do I think I know how to run my life? I did not create life. God did. I did not form a planet out of nothing or breath life into dust. Only an almighty God can do that. So simply put, He knows better than I how to construct a life. Sometimes He may dig and tear. Sometimes He may grind and pound, but He knows what He is doing.

orange barrel
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)

He has it all figured out. Just like I trust those engineers to build a bridge that will not collapse the first time I drive over it, I also must trust God that He is doing what is best in my life and in the lives of those I love. I am not sure why this is so hard, but think about it. God is the one who gave those engineers the ability to design plans to build roads and overpasses and bridges. So if the same God who made men with minds that can create amazing things has a plan for my life, shouldn't I believe Him? Shouldn't I trust Him?

Whatever mess you might find yourself in, take a deep breath. He's got this and He's got you! He desires to give you a future and a hope. There will always be orange barrels, but I feel better knowing that He's got my life in His hands.