Mulling it Over - Part 8

I love to watch British mystery shows. I’ve worked my way through several and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I often think of reading and studying the Bible as a mystery investigation. We have many questions in life that we want answers for. The Bible gives us understanding as we learn to investigate its depths and trust God to teach us from it.

Image by  M W  from  Pixabay

Image by M W from Pixabay

Just as a child has an immense sense of curiosity, in the same way we need to be curious about what God says in His word. Reading it, is a good start. Studying it, is even better. Mulling it over and ruminating on it is best. This is how we have our curiosity satisfied and it is how we learn.

Today we are looking at 2 Peter 1:9

For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
— 2 Peter 1:9 (NASB)

For he who lacks these qualities…

Peter is, once again, referring back to the qualities that were listed in the previous verses. Let’s review them as they are listed in the verses 5-7.

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.
— 2 Peter 1:5-7 (NASB)

We can draw the conclusion from the beginning of verse 9, that not everyone was practicing these qualities. This letter written by Peter was specifically for Christians, people who already believed in the death and resurrection of Christ. We can better understand this if we look back at the book of 1 Peter and the beginning of this chapter.

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen
2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
— 1 Peter 1:1-2 (NASB)
1 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 Peter 1:1 (NASB)

It would seem, then, that not all Christians have these qualities. That may give us added insight into why Peter wrote these two letters in the first place, aside from the Divine Inspiration, aspect. God inspired him to pen these words, because there were Christians who were not exemplifying these qualities.

…is blind or short-sighted…

Talk about a slap in the face! What Peter is saying is that those who are not exhibiting these qualities are unable to see. What exactly does that mean? Obviously, there are lots of people who call themselves Christians, because they have accepted Jesus as their Savior, but they are not showing the qualities that Peter lists above.

Image by  OpenClipart-Vectors  from  Pixabay

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Let’s stop for a minute and talk about this. All of us fall short. I believe I have mentioned this before. None of us is perfect. As I have mentioned I struggle with things like self-control, diligence and love. However, struggling with doing these on a regular basis is different than not exhibiting these qualities all together. If you ask my kids and my husband, they would tell you I love them. If you ask my boss at work, she’d say I am diligent. The fact that I have chosen to not drink alcohol or smoke, tells you that I have some self-control. So what does Peter mean when he says that those who are not practicing these things are blind?

I believe that when we do not practice these qualities we become insensitive to the movement of God’s spirit in our lives. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, when we accept Jesus’ work, life, death and resurrection, is the string that connects us to the Almighty. The Holy Spirit’s work in us is to make us more like Christ.

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
— John 16:13 (NASB)

The Spirit’s job is to guide us into truth. He teaches us about diligence, knowledge, brotherly kindness and all the other qualities that we are to be practicing. When we don’t pursue these things, we become blind or short sighted to what the Spirit of the Living God wants to teach us.

…having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

Sin is not something we spend huge amounts of time talking about or thinking about, but we should. When we forget sin, we forget the whole reason, Jesus had to die on the cross. We begin to forget that we were and are sinners, saved by God’s grace and mercy. We buy into the lies that the world puts out there, that sin is a bad word and all the bad things in the world are a result of bad luck or the choices of others. We are playing a long, drawn out version of the blame game and in the end it leads to destruction.

Image by  ErikaWittlieb  from  Pixabay  

Image by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay 

As we begin to think about Easter, which is only a few weeks away, I hope that each of us will spend a little time in self-reflection asking these questions:

Am I practicing the qualities Peter lists in verses 5, 6 and 7?

Have I forgotten why Jesus came to die on the cross?

Have I stopped believing what God says about sin?

Have I really taken a look at myself lately to see where I am sinning, and where I need to confess and receive His forgiveness?

Let’s keep practicing these qualities. Not only will it draw us closer to Christ, but it will make us much better human beings.

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.












Stopping the Train Wreck

Over the course of the last few weeks I have been looking at how are thoughts can easily sabotage our efforts to form new habits, and be better people. Many of us, when we enter a new year want to reboot. We want to try again to tackle those extra pounds that we have cumulatively put on each holiday season. We want to go at those piles that pervasively appear in each and every room of our house. We want to be better people; more giving, kind and loving. Many of us begin a new regimen of exercise and dieting, clutter control and clearing out, and even invest in pod casts, books and other things to help us think and act differently. Why then, is it so hard to stick to it? Why after a few days, a few weeks, or if your are really good, a few months, do we typically fall off the wagon?

In my post of two weeks ago, When Our Thoughts are a Train Wreck, I examined three mentalities, I believe, contribute to our inability to stick to our new habits. These three thought patterns include being self absorbed, demanding our rights and not caring. I’d like to reexamine these patterns and discuss ways to change our thoughts.

Being self-absorbed

As I mentioned in the original post, taking care of ourselves is not a bad thing. We need to exercise, eat right, get enough sleep and stimulate our minds to give ourselves the best life. Being self-absorbed revolves around a preoccupation with certain ideas about ourselves. These can include thoughts that we do not measure up to some invisible standard that we think other people have set for us, and self-degrading messages like, “I’m too fat,” “I’m not good enough,” which can lead to self-destructive behaviors like cutting, addictions and even suicidal thoughts.

We all have self-absorbed thoughts from time to time. It is easy to get into that mind-set when life is hard and things are not going well. It is also easy to dress in this mind set when your past holds tragedy and pain. However, life cannot be lived to the fullest if we allow those things to imprison us.

I am not a professional counselor, but I’d like to suggest a few things that can help us to get out of the self-absorbed mind-set.

1 - Get Moving

This is partly about exercise and partly about behavior modification. Often when we get into an anxious or self-absorbed circuit, we are unable to get out of the loop. Much like a hamster running on his little wheel, our thoughts keep coming back around to the same loop. We revisit the destructive thought, the let down feeling, the disappointment in ourselves or others and round and round it goes.

Pixabay

Pixabay

It is a well known fact that exercise has good effects on our brains. From increased oxygen flow and release of hormones to antidepressant effects that reduce stress hormones, exercise really is beneficial for the brain. Movement helps to get us out of the loop. It doesn’t have to be rigorous exercise. If you are sitting down, stand up. If you are standing still, move. If you are going north, turn around and go south. Every time those thoughts come creeping back in, move.

Pixabay

Pixabay

I find walking very cathartic, when I am stressed. As I walk I do deep breathing and I purposefully force myself to look at the world around me, the neighborhood, the people, the trees, the snow, the icicles hanging from the roof tops. These simple things get me out of my self-absorbed loop and help me to think about other things. It also reminds me that the world is not coming to an end, even if it may seem like it today. As Scarlet O’Hara said in Gone With the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”

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Pixabay

2 - Get help

You don’t necessarily need professional help, but if you do, or if others who care about you are recommending it, then do it. Otherwise, find a group of people to keep you accountable. Get an exercise and dieting buddy. Find someone who is going to accept you, but also encourage you to do better. Find an older person, who’s got life experience and ask them to mentor you and help you get out of your self-absorbed box. Or if you are an older person, who doesn’t have much human contact and your are still able to get around, volunteer at a dog shelter, a newborn unit at the hospital or a school. All of these things get us outside our own boxes.

3 - Seek and Speak Truth

You know all those side effects you think you have because you got on the internet and looked up the medication the doctor gave you?

“Stop it!”

In reality, the side effects that are put on medications are put there to keep pharmaceutical companies from getting sued. The reality is the statistics on people who die or have severe reactions to medication are rare. It is an exception, not the norm. The same is true for so many aspects of life. As the saying goes, “Sh-t happens.” This is true, but most of the bad things that we think are going to happen, don’t. In addition, many of the bad things that happen to us we bring upon ourselves. Start researching what is true.

In addition start speaking truth:

“I am not perfect, but I am beautiful.”

“I don’t have a college degree, but I am smart.”

“I haven’t published a book yet, but I am not a failure.”

“I got mad at my husband, but I am a good wife who has bad days.”

“I yelled at my kids, but I am a good mom, even when I my hormones have me off kilter.”

Keep it real.

Demanding Our Rights

Once again, having rights is not a bad thing and an ideal that our founding fathers believed was very important for communities and nations to survive and thrive. However, the thought that the world owes us something is not truthful or beneficial. The mentality of, get it all and get it now, is also not an accurate way to approach life. How do we cope with these entitlement feelings we all have struggled with and still act like a caring, giving individuals?

1 - Walk a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes

There is no greater preventative to a rights demanding mentality, than to put yourself in someone else’s place. Being in the service industry I have seen people at their best and at their worst. I don’t even think people realize how rude and obnoxious they are at times. I have had helicopter parents demand that their child’s book be given to them free because it wasn’t on the shelf when they came in to purchase it. I have had people accuse me of racism because when I explained the parameters of their rental book I told them they couldn’t spill their lunch on it. I tell this to every individual I rent a book to. At the end of the day, I am just another person trying to make my way in the world, just like everyone else.

When I feel like my rights are being infringed upon, or that I am being taken advantage of, I try to look at things with new glasses; someone else’s glasses. Thinking about where another person is coming from, not only enables us to view the world differently, but it may even move us to have compassion on another person. You never know what another person is dealing with in their life. They might be dealing with deep hurt or disappointment, or they may be experiencing grief, illness or pain. Having compassion and empathy gets us out of our rights loop and enables us to be better, more understanding individuals.

Pixabay

Pixabay

2 - Recognize Rights Mean Responsibility

Having a right, does not give us a free pass to do whatever we want. In fact, having rights, means having responsibility. People who are for the right to bear arms, understand that owning guns means they are responsible to handle those guns safely and teach others that gun ownership requires safe handling and being responsible to use them wisely.

Many people think that demanding rights is a way to guarantee their freedom to choose to do whatever they want. The opposite is, in fact, true. Having rights means we are enslaved to the responsibility of using those rights for good, not merely personal gain.

Pixabay - bread

So what does this have to do with our thought patterns and becoming better people. My daughter and I have both struggled with our weight. We both love food, especially things that are full of carbs. Bread, sweets, chips are all on our radar of things we love. At one point my daughter said she wanted to be able to eat whatever she wanted. You might think that being able to eat whatever you want is true freedom. However, true freedom lies in the ability to make the better choice. Even if we were able to eat whatever we wanted and never gain weight, does that make it right?

True freedom is the ability to not be bound by our appetites, whether it be food, sex, money, popularity, alcohol, Netflix or any other thing that can become an obsession.

To enjoy freedom we have to control ourselves.
— Virginia Wolf

Not Caring

It is easy to get into the mindset of not caring. When life gets busy, or overwhelming, sometimes it is easier to just give up. Who cares if I eat that whole bag of Twizzlers? I don’t care if my coworkers like me? I’m failing that class, so what?

Pixabay

Pixabay

Take a look at a few of these quotes:

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.
— Margaret Mead
Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.
— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.
— Anthony J. D'Angelo

It is important to care. Often, we just need to revisit the why behind the what. In other words, ask yourself why you should care.

Why should you care about your health? Because you are a valuable person who probably has others depending on you and who care about you.

Why should you care what your coworkers think? Because you are part of a team. You can have a positive impact on the people you work with if you care.

Why should you care about your grades at school? Because every choice you make now, will affect the choices you make in the future.

Start thinking about why you should care and maybe that will reignite your ability to care.

Next week will be the final installment in this series on New Year, New Mind. I’ll be looking at setting goals and how to realistically keep them. I will also have some spiritual insights as well. I hope you like this look at renewing our minds. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Have a fantastic weekend and to all my northern and midwest friends, stay warm!

Just Stop It!

The past two weeks I started looking at how our thoughts have an affect on what we do or don’t do. I wanted to specifically examine this connection since the beginning of a new year is typically when we are trying to get back into shape, form new habits and reset ourselves to do and be better people. I have always felt that it is easy to start something new, but to keep at it is where the difficulty lies. To me it seems that our minds need rebooting as well as our bodies, so that we think differently about the habits and changes we are trying to adapt to.

Last week I looked specifically at three mentalities that most often prevent us from continuing a good thing. I call them Train Wreck Mentalities due to the fact that these mindsets often derail us from embracing a total life change. Being self absorbed, demanding our rights and not caring go a long way in causing us to crash and burn, rather than continue and thrive.

This week I want to give you two little words, but before I do, please watch the following video.

You heard the man. Stop it!

I hope that brought a smile to your face. Let me just say, this is not meant as an insult to people who struggle with mental illness. We know those things are a reality. Anxiety, multiple personality disorder, bipolar disorder, are all very real and most often have to be managed with counseling and medication. There are many of us however, who simply don’t think right and that is where our problems lie.

For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you.
— Proverbs 23:7 (NASB)

This verse actually has to do with a ruler having you to dinner, but then begrudging every bite of food and every drink you take. He is a selfish person, only thinking about the cost of the soiree he is throwing and completely unable to enjoy it. The ruler says to eat and drink, but he doesn’t really mean it.

We are often the same way. We make grand proclamations.

“I’m going to lose 50 pounds.”

“I’m going to exercise 5 days a week.”

“I’m going to work on cleaning out clutter every day.”

“I’m going to become a millionaire by the time I’m 30.”

“i’m going to floss my teeth every night before bed.”

“I’m going to eat healthier.”

Pixabay

Pixabay

We make these proclamations, never really considering how much work and effort it will take to succeed. In reality, we can not succeed if our hearts, like that ruler’s, is not really into it. Here in lies the problem. Our minds can create all sorts of ways to succeed. We can make lists and draw up diagrams of how we are going to get it done, but if our hearts do not agree with our minds, success is going to be long in coming. In fact, if you are anything like me, you will just give up on certain things all together.

So, how exactly do we get our hearts to agree with our heads? The first step is to combat the train wreck mentality. In other words, just stop it!

Let’s first look at train wreck #1 - being self absorbed.

Stop it!

Wow. Wasn’t that simple?

Train wreck #2 - demanding our rights.

Stop it!

Whoo, hoo! See how easy it is.

Train wreck #3 - don’t care.

Stop it! Start caring.

Obviously, if things were really that easy we would all be doing much better and I wouldn’t be writing this post. The struggle is real folks and I am in there with you.

Next week I am going to delve into ways to stop the train wreck mentality, but for now, I want you to burn those two words on your brain…STOP IT.

When you want to give up the good habit your are trying to start; when you want to eat that second bowl of ice cream; when you want to yell at your kids or husband; when you want to bring home another hand bag, pair of shoes or sweater that you don’t need or you don’t really love, then think about those two little words.

Stop it.

Run them over and over in your mind and see if it helps you to make a better choice.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me your experiences and wisdom in the comments. I appreciate it.






Seasons Come and Seasons Go

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

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Pixabay

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

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Pixabay

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

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

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Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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Pixabay

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

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

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

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

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Pixabay

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

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

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

3. Look for beauty in each season.

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

Pixabay

Pixabay

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

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

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

4. Have patience.

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

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

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

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

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.

Mulling it Over - Part 4

After taking a month off, I thought it was time to get back to my Mulling it Over series. I have been scrutinizing the passage in Ephesians 6 on the armor of God. You can read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, by clicking on the links. Thus far we have looked at verses 10-13. We have learned that we need to be strong in the Lord, and take up the full armor of God so that we are able to stand firm against the evil one. Today we finally start looking at the pieces of armor that Paul writes about in this passage. It is important to remember that Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to pen these words. Thus, these are the pieces that God deemed most important to put on.

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
— Ephesians 6:14 (NASB)

Piece #1 - Truth

When we look at the verse it says to have our loins girded with truth. When I started thinking about this I had to look up the word loin. I mean we all have probably seen some version of Tarzan and know what a loin cloth is, but what exactly is Paul talking about in this verse. 

From a purely physical standpoint our loins are the area of our bodies from the lowest ribs to the hip bone. There are many important internal goings on in this area of the body. The most obvious is our sexual organs, but that is also the area our digestive tract resides. Think about a time when you've had cramps and diarrhea, or a time when you've endured the pain of a bladder infection or a yeast infection. We can feel pretty miserable when our loins are inflamed and not feeling well. The loins contain the organs that reproduce. Think how important this was in a day and age when having children was a sign of your wealth and blessing.

So, why did God include this piece in the armor and why the connection to truth? Keep in mind, these are just my ideas. There are many excellent Bible studies on the armor of God, by great authors and speakers like Priscilla Shirer - The Armor of God; Chip Ingram - The Invisible War and Joyce Meyer - Battlefield of the Mind. I would recommend all of these books for an in depth study on the whole concept of spiritual warfare. 

1. The vitals are vital. We cannot live without our internal organs. We have to be able to eat, digest, go to the bathroom and so on. It is also important to humanity that we be able to reproduce. It is important to our marriages that we have a healthy attitude towards sex and meeting our partners needs and desires. When any of these areas are off we are usually miserable. In the same way, there are areas of our spiritual lives that are vital to our well being. Prayer, reading God's word, fellowship, study, worship, and thanksgiving are all important to our continued growth and spiritual health. 

When any one of these areas is neglected we begin to suffer. What happens when you don't eat well? What is your marriage like when you have not had sex for a while? How do you feel when you have a lower GI bug? The same thing is true of our spiritual lives. If we aren't worshipping, studying God's word or praying we are going to feel it. 

2. Truth is our covering. Over the years I have heard this particular piece of armor referred to as the belt of truth. The picture Paul had in mind was that of a Roman soldier in full gear. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

In the picture above you can see the belt that went around the waist. Attached to it were leather loin pieces, these particular ones are studded, that hung down and provided a little extra covering in that precious area. For us as Christ followers, truth is like that leather loin covering. Truth keeps us from getting hit in the vitals. 

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

If we believe what Jesus said, then we know that it is in having a relationship with Him that we can know truth. Some truths are evident to all. Mathematical equations like 2 + 2 = 4, or 3 x 6 = 18 are true facts. They can be observed. Truth can be found in the scientific realm. Scientists have observed that the earth is round and rotates around the sun. They can also observed chemical reactions that produce gases and color changes. But what about all those things that cannot be observed? Scientists derive theories, from things they observe, but that is what they are, theories. Physicist make conclusions from lengthy formulas about what's inside a black hole or how the big bang could have happened, but just as we have faith that God created the world, so too they have faith in their theories. 

Without truth, we are subject to the whims of the world....anyway the wind blows....truth gives us a standard of measure against which to compare our lives, our actions and our thoughts. Even if you do not believe in the claims of Jesus that He is the truth, you probably have some standard of measure by which you live your life. Many of you probably base it on what you call truth. For a good synopsis on truth see the following article Absolute Truth.

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’
— John 8:31-32 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

3. Truth is our Defense. Having truth available to us will enable us to fight the spiritual battles with more confidence. Knowing what God's word says and claiming those promises as we go through life, give us a tactical advantage over our enemy. When he comes us against us with lies, as you know he so often does, knowing the truth will protect you from doubt and place your feet on firm ground. I don't know about you, but if I am going into battle, I don't want my feet standing on a slippery slope of doubt and lies. I will place my feet on the solid rock of Jesus. 

 

 

Get Out the Gardening Tools!

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

gardening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Personal Story of Growth

Between my freshman and sophomore years at college, I had an internship with my church's youth pastor. He took three of us college age adults and offered a summer of intensive training as co-leaders of our youth group. I knew I wanted to serve God, but I was not sure what that was going to look like, so I was excited about the opportunity to learn and grow under Pastor Dave. Our tasks involved working directly with the youth, planning and implementing activities, as well as speaking and leading our church's midweek prayer services. Not only that, but Dave met with us weekly as a mentor leading us in prayer and memorization of scripture. This was a time of phenomenal growth and excitement as a young person.

church

However, God has His own way of causing growth in our lives and His ways are not always pleasant. About mid way into this summer adventure I began having pain under my left armpit. After a few days large red lumps developed. Not being one to hurry to the doctor, my mother had a two volume set of medical diseases put out by Reader's Digest. In another day or two, when the red lumps painfully erupted, I knew I had a case of boils. An armpit in the heat of summer is not a pleasant place anyway, but throw in some oozing, festering lumps and you can be sure I wasn't a happy camper.

If you have never experienced boils, I can only say, I hope you never do. They are extremely painful. For the most part they can be treated with warm compresses, topical antibiotic ointment and frequent cleaning. If a fever develops see the doctor. For me, there was no fever, just three or four very painful lumps that had to be cleaned and tended several times a day.

In the midst of this difficulty, on one particularly painful day, I cried out to God as I was attempting to clean my wounds.

I asked Him, "Why is this happening? What is it that I need to learn?" 

As if He spoke audibly He said, "Your attitudes are like these boils. You try to pretend things don't bother you, but your spirit is a festering sore waiting to burst. You have a sickness inside of you that you need to let me heal."

Wow! He was right! I had found myself over the course of those weeks becoming increasingly jealous of my co-workers at the church. I was not the dominant, funny, cute personality. I was the work horse. I also found myself frustrated with the youth. They were self absorbed and only ever concerned over having fun, rather than desiring Jesus. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. There I was acting just as immature as some of the 13 year olds and being a hindrance, rather than a help to my fellow ministers. 

Right there in my bathroom at home I fell to my knees and wept. I was letting God down and I was selfish. I confessed my jealousy, my impatience and my lack of love and asked God to help me to grow.

I kid you not, when I say, within a couple days my boils were almost fully healed; the pain, redness and lumps all disappearing as if they had never been there. I realize a skeptic could say, that the boils had run their course and with proper care were at the point healing could happen. I disagree! God knows me so well. He knows my need for pictures. I am a writer. He knows that pictures will stick with me forever and indeed they have. He knew the only way I was going to "get it" was to make me "feel it."

God does not always smack us up side the head to teach us something, but He does what is needed to implement growth in our lives. I grew in three ways that summer. 

First, I grew in a very personal way. It is not easy to be brought low and told that you are really messing up, but God did that to me. It allowed me, not only to see the depth of my sin, but the heights of His love. My mind grew as it realized that God does speak outside of His word. He speaks in very real "words" to our hearts. My emotions grew as I had to let God take the dross that had floated to the surface of my spirit and skim it off. 

Photo Credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit Rebecca Trumbull

I also grew in the area of my relationships. I shared my trial not only with my mom, but went to those I was working with, including Pastor Dave, and apologized for having a bad attitude. The use of "analogy" has become a way God allows me to help and understand others. Through other trials in life, God has brought me to a place where I try to think before I act and where I can have a genuine hurt for others who are in pain, physical or emotional.

And finally, God grew me in the area of ministry and community. I realized this wasn't a "one trick pony" show. We are all part of the body and we are all necessary to the body. It is always hard to watch others getting the praise and credit for their work and good deeds, but I have learned to be content (or at least I try) where God has placed me. Not everyone can be a brain or an eye. Some of us are toes and shins! Ha, ha.

God teaches us in very different ways, but He does it for our growth and benefit and for the growth and benefit of others around us. Don't be afraid of growth, even if it is unpleasant. It is just another way, an Almighty God demonstrates His great love toward us. 

Waking Up from Our Black Sleep

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

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

Photo Credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit Rebecca Trumbull

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

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

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

Photo Credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit Rebecca Trumbull

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

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