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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

A Reason – A Season or Forever

 




I saw a movie a few months ago that had a line in it that set me into reflection mode for a while. In the movie, a grandmother was advising her granddaughter on whether she should pursue a relationship she was uncertain about. The grandmother, in her wisdom, encouraged the young woman by saying that some people come into our lives for a reason, some come into our lives for a season, and some are in it for the long haul. Every relationship we enter, has purpose. Although, we may have relationships that are bad or hurtful, they still serve a purpose in our life. They are opportunities for growth and teach us much about ourselves and how we choose to respond to those we have relationship with – or how not to respond.  The grandmother wanted her to know that no matter what happened in the relationship, it would have purpose and she would always have people in her life she could count on - those that were there for the long haul.

No friendship or acquaintance in life is wasted. Even if they end, there was purpose. We learn valuable lessons, we share laughs, we love and feel loved.

There may be individuals who are in our lives solely for a reason. Our paths cross for a short time with a goal in mind. I think of past teachers I had that taught me important lessons, but there was nothing more beyond that. I’ve had encounters with people in the grocery store that I know were placed in my life, for that moment, for a reason. This is why I know how to pick out a cantaloupe or make guacamole! There was a woman who went to my church for a very short time, when I was young. She taught a youth VBS class that impacted me forever. Can’t even remember her name now, but what she taught me stuck with me. There was a reason she was in my life. Who has been in your life for a reason?

Then there are those people that are in your life for a season. Those people in my life have been those I learned alongside in a classroom, never to see again once the final exams were over – but I adored my time working with them. They are those people I sat with on bleachers and cheered our children on together for a few months a year. Friends who lived in the community for a while that we knew well and attended church together until they moved away. We didn’t part on difficult or indifferent terms; they were just here for a season and we both moved on with good memories of time spent together. Can you think of those who have been in your life for a season?

Then there is the long-haul group. Those forever people that are your mainstay. The ones you’re stuck with, like your parents. Or maybe your spouse, sibling, or a childhood friend whose hand you’ve never let go of. Those you know you can turn to when you have a need or who will celebrate your victories with you. These are the ones that love us through the thick and thin of life. Those individuals with grit and grace who we can always come back to when we’ve lost our way. The first ones we call upon when we need prayer. The ones we can’t get rid of, even if we try, because their love is so deeply rooted in our hearts. Who’s in it for the long haul with you?

Where are you in the lives of other people? Do you have those whom you’ve met along the way where you served a specific purpose – there was a reason you were in their life. Who have you shared a valuable season of life with?

And who are you fully committed to? No matter what – you will always love them?

God created us all uniquely. He wanted us to be in relationship with each other. To help each other out along the way. When he saw that Adam was lonely, he created another human being. In Galatians 6:2 we are instructed to carry one another’s burdens. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says we are to encourage one another and build each other up.

All of this can happen in big and small ways. Opening a door and giving a smile to walking alongside someone facing a crisis – there is purpose in each encounter we make along the way.

Romans 13:8 tells us this:  Owe no one anything except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

And what law is that you might ask?

In Matthew 22:37-40, when asked what the greatest commandment of the law is, Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the law and the prophet’s hang on these two commandments.

And there it is…the answer is always love. Whether you are in someone’s life for a reason, a season or forever you owe them nothing but love. Easy to say and do if the reason, season or long haul is in good standing. More difficult if there is bitterness, hard feelings, differences of opinion (repeat that one) or you met under difficult circumstances. But, even then, there is room for love. It’s a lot like jello – there is always room for it! In time and through lots of prayer, we can have and show love in any relationship – but it must be sincere love according to Romans 12.

This passage says that we are to hate what is evil and cling to what is good. We are to be devoted to one another in love and to honor one another above ourselves. It gives a long list of what sincere love looks like. This list applies no matter how you fit into someone’s life – it’s a one size fits all kind of love!

Here is what sincere love looks like:

It is selfless, zealous, fervent and has the heart of a servant. It is joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. It is hospitable, compassionate and giving. It blesses and doesn’t’ curse. It rejoices with the joyful and mourns with the grieving. It is harmonious, not proud, humble and never conceited. Sincere love does not seek revenge but makes peace with everyone. It overcomes evil with good!

Can you check off this list in your relationships? Have you or are you exhibiting sincere love with all the people in your life? Jesus gives this command in John 15 – My command is this; love each other as I have loved you. Really think about that for a minute. His love was so big for you that he gave his life. That’s sincere love folks! Love - like Jesus does - whether it’s for a reason, a season or for the long haul.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Spacious places

 

It’s good to pick up the word of God and read! There is always wisdom or some little nugget of truth to cling to. When I’m fully engaged and not distracted by the grocery list rolling around in my mind or what’s on the agenda once I check daily bible reading off the top; the Father always catches my attention.

Recently, when reading Psalm 118, He directed me to this little nugget.

Vs. 5 – When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place.

Two phrases stuck out to me: hard pressed and spacious place. I resonate with both. I can’t even express how many times this past year I have felt hard pressed, in a tight space, backed up against a wall. Many times, my racing thoughts made me feel almost claustrophobic … trapped …confined. Whether I was able to see it in the moment or not, God always provided a spacious place. Sometimes he provided subtly, other times notably and many times abundantly.

When I think of something being spacious, I think of it being big, abundant and roomy. He always provides in abundance. His timing is never mine. His will won’t always line up with my way of thinking (thank goodness). But he always provides a spacious place to run to when I am hard pressed.

I began my day hard pressed. Another battle waged and rattled my cage first thing. But my spacious place came when I was, at last, able to plunge my hands into the deep rich soil of my garden and tuck in the plants that had been so patiently waiting.

Father God introduced me to Mother Earth, on this day, and led us into a spacious and sacred place. I will return to it over and over this summer, patiently watching for seed to sprout. Weeding, pruning and eagerly awaiting the harvest.

And I will also return to the spacious place of his word where patience grows, faith blooms and hope emerges into a harvest of abundant blessing that he has waiting for me.

Both places are holy ground, reminding me that great things come to those who patiently wait and do the necessary work it takes to grow according to his great plan. The waiting is hard but with each little sprout that emerges from the soil there is hope of what is to come. This is true in the garden and in life.

Where are you hard pressed? Cry out to God – he will bring you into a spacious place where you can stretch out, walk with head held high and hands raised to give him the glory for the harvest of blessing that is to come!

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

What's your legacy?

 

I’m committed to reading my bible through this year. I marvel at the little details God is showing me in the stories that are already familiar. One thing I’ve been noticing are the “post-titles. The writers of this magnificent book often put titles after the name as a reference point of whom they are speaking.

Some of these titles are so that you can place their descendants or where they are from like Joseph of Arimathea. Clearly, we understand that Joe is from Arimathea. It’s similar to what we say up here in Dutch country – Henry Yoder’s Betty. This would mean she is the “Betty” who is married to Henry Yoder – for reference. You get the picture?

Post titles are important when reading the scriptures. When every other gal is named Mary – it’s good to know which one we’re talking about. Is it the one who was from Magdala or the mother of Jesus?

The thing that has impressed me, however, are the post-titles that are given according to your response to Jesus. Mary – the mother of Jesus. John – the one whom Jesus loved. Thomas – the doubter and Judas – the one who betrayed him.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Early morning inspiration

 

Psalm 119:147

I rise before dawn and cry out for help. I have put my hope in your word.

 

3:58 a.m. – WIDE AWAKE! My mind going crazy about many things. Fear, worry, unanswered questions, just to name a few. A montage of “what ifs” or “should I haves” traipsing through my mind. Traipsing like a stampede of wild horses, causing me to flee from my bed and into the comfort of God’s word.

My bible barely fits on my lap because my sweet little bible study buddy “AKA Buzzy” needs to sit right on my lap, my bible resting on his furry back. I’m taken by the irony of it all. I needed the embrace of God’s word this morning. Buzzy is literally covered in the word. He refuses to budge from underneath the weight of the book; the spine pressing into his back side – he’s comfortably resting there.

Is this sweet little scenario I’m balancing upon my lap your way of comforting me this morning, Lord? Are you saying, Come, I will cover you with my feathers and under my wings you will find refuge? (Ps. 91:4) There is peace and rest, in your embrace, Father.

I look up from my study and see pictures in the room of days gone by – sweet memories of happy moments in time. Cherished, treasured, and not only kept in frames, but also etched in my mind forever. Visual reminders of blessing in my life. And yet, this “faithfulness on display,” isn’t enough to settle the pounding herd of wild thoughts stampeding through my weary soul.

My eyes fall back to His word and my fingers frantically search the thin worn pages for a glimmer of hope. What word can you give me God? I’m searching – Speak!

I divinely land on Psalm 112. Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands. Their children will be mighty in the land, the generation of the upright will be blessed.

Wow, what assurance God. I do find delight in your commands. I am thankful for the promise of blessing on my children.

Then, verse 7 leaps off the page at me– They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

And there it is – that cover – the blanket of love that I pull tightly up around my neck and sink deep into its warmth. I have no reason to succumb to those fears that traipse
through my mind in the wee hours.

In you, God, my heart is steadfast – I trust in you.

Thanks for the reminder…you never fail. I delight in your commands. Your words cover me.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Put that tongue on hold, please!

 


When I was 8 years old, I overheard my Aunt Delores describing my sister and I to a friend. Speaking of my sister, she said, “Janie’s sweet and quiet and you hardly hear a peep out of her.” And then she pointed in my direction and said, “But that one right there; she can talk a mile a minute!” 

Looking back on that I probably should have been offended. I wasn’t. Instead, I was wildly impressed. Seriously? A mile a minute? For a kid who didn’t have an athletic bone in her body, the fact that I could go a mile in a minute, in anything, was the best news ever! And so, my track record began. 

In Jr. High, my teacher changed the seating order twice, in hopes that moving me by kids I didn’t know as well, would quiet me. It didn’t take long for those kids to become my best buds! Some call it talkative. I call it as just being friendly!

As I grew into adulthood and learned that sideways glances and eye rolling aren’t a good thing, I started to tame the motor mouth, patiently waiting my turn to speak. And speak I did…but were my words always measured and meaningful or was I just spewing them out to get in my word quota for the day? Ask my husband…he has this answer...I assure you!

In my ripened age now, I’ve been contemplative on my words and their impact on others. Proverbs tells us that “the overflow of the heart comes off the tongue.” I’ve observed this in many ways in my life. We all have. Just turn on the T.V. Can you think of anyone who lost a position or a relationship because of words that came too quickly? Lying words. Angry words. Bitter words. Manipulative words. Insert hand raised emoji here. And then insert a big arrow pointing to me. 

My mama used to say two things to me, growing up, that went hand in hand. 1.) If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. 2.) You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Good advice. I remember it, and on rare occasions, I apply it. 

Today, I saw a meme that said: Knowledge is knowing what to say. Wisdom is knowing whether to say it or not. This quote goes along with scripture that pretty much knocked the socks off me this week, in my study of 1 Peter.  

1 Peter 2:23 – (speaking of Jesus) When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

And to drive this point home just a little (or twist the knife a little deeper into my convicted heart) here’s verse 24:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

No one suffered more unjustly than Jesus. He took my sin to the cross that day. (he took yours too…FYI). If anyone was worthy of retaliation, it was Him. He was in every essence God – he was perfectly capable of saving himself. He chose not to. He could have lashed out at those that were saying such wrong and hateful things. He chose not to. He could have retaliated. He chose not to. He could have come up with some amazing threats – after all – he was God and held their eternity in his hands. He chose not to. Instead, he entrusted himself to a loving Father who judges fairly. 

Jesus set the ultimate example of holding your tongue.

My husband recently shared a devotion with me. He claimed it meant a lot to him, but I think it was actually one of those moments where you show someone something under the guise that it was good for me, but the ulterior motive is…you really need this lady! You know what I mean? Well, it was good for me. He’s always right, that husband of mine.

The devotion talked about “Witnessing your thoughts”. In other words, taking the time to step aside of your thoughts and think about what they will sound like once they exit your brain and come off your tongue. Will they be helpful or harmful? Am I wanting to say this out of anger, retaliation, defense? Be a witness, first, to how those things you want to say will be received? Take the situation, the person you're speaking to and your emotions into account. Are these thoughts honey or vinegar? I know you’re thinking, “Well geez, by the time I do all that, the person is gone, or I’ve missed my opportunity to let them know what I’m thinking.” Well, then, point taken. Sometimes, things are better left unsaid. Silence often speaks louder than any words we can conjure up in the moment. However, taking the time to process doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t speak them. But, taking the time to witness our thoughts gives us the time to speak them in the way that they are intended, which should always be; to build each other up.

Jesus held his tongue at a time when, by any human standard, it would have been acceptable to speak.  He did not have to speak into his circumstances. He left his case in the hands of God who always judges fairly. And that, should be our goal, in any situation. How does God judge this? And then, allow him to handle it. If he wants you to speak into it, trust him to give you the wisdom of when and how to do so. How he judges me, in any situation, should be all I really care about. Jesus left it up to God to be the judge…and so should I. It’s easier said than done, I know. I’ll most likely stumble along the way…but I want to witness my thoughts and allow God to handle my situation fairly. 

 Jesus set the example on the cross for me – by his wounds I am set free!


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Caught up in the air

 


2020 has wreaked havoc – worldwide, continent-wide, state-wide, county-wide and for me somedays, home-wide. I’m guessing many of you can relate.  About six weeks into the pandemic I found myself sitting on my front porch, just waiting for a trumpet to blow.  “Surely, Jesus is on his way to come get me,” I’d think, as I sat there in my weary state.

Seriously, I’ve never anticipated His return more than now. What a sweet reward, after all this suffering, to hear the melodious sound and be caught up in the air with him.  The pandemic, hate, violence, child trafficking and…. the list of evils that fill our headlines could go on for days. I may or may not have suggested to Jesus that this would be a good time for his return. What would he do without my suggestions?

I had the privilege lately to have a conversation with a young man who was feeling fear about worldwide issues. He told me that as a child, when things were scary in the world, his mom would quote Revelation to him. He was young then and the things she spoke of were scary to him. Now, as a grown man, seeing all the signs of the times around him, his mama’s voice and the scriptures of Revelation are replaying in his mind. From our conversation, I sensed that he was not a believer and had real fear. I had the opportunity to offer him some resources to help him understand these scriptures better and to deliver the good news that, Christians are promised a quick trip to paradise before all those scary things in Revelation take place. I hope he ponders this more and makes that very important decision to get aboard the glory train with me one day.

My conversation with him, put the “longing,” that was already in motion in my heart, into high gear. Talk of the End Times doesn’t scare me. I say simply…  “BRING IT”!  For the Christian (that’s me and please oh please, I hope it is you too) this rapture is our big moment. It’s the thing we’ve been standing in line for. You know that line, right? The one in the hot blazing sun, with a full bladder, dressed in a parka, for hours on end all while clutching a one-way ticket to paradise! The big show – the glorious moment we have waited and longed for.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 says: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel… (now let’s just stop right there. The voice of an archangel? Surely, this must be the best sound in the world. Better than a baby’s giggle, the ping of a sealed canning jar or the whispered “I love you” from your soulmate. This must be a voice that will perk our ears like no other.) …and with the trumpet call of God. (first the melodious voice of the archangel and then a trumpet call – you just can’t make this stuff up) …. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together, with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up on the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.

Those that have died before us will have resurrected bodies – just as Jesus did when he rose on the third day. They will meet their soul in the sky alongside those believers who are still alive, who will be caught up, body and soul to meet the Lord! 

What an exciting moment that will be. To read this, you would think this would take a long time. I often wonder if we will be somewhat like balloons drifting slowly up to heaven, waving to each other as we go and marveling at how good so and so looks to have been dead for so long. But on the contrary, we won’t even have time to revel in the magnificence of the moment. We won’t have time to be frightened or excited or any other kind of an emotion. I know this because 1 Corinthians 15:52 says – It will happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Try to measure that. I double dog dare ya! You just can’t measure the twinkle of an eye. That is how quick our Savior will come back and rescue us from this corrupt world.

But the best part of that Thessalonians verse is…Then we will be with the Lord forever. Like an epic movie with no ending – we just keep on living in paradise. Never more to suffer. No evil. No pain. No disappointment. No tears. Bring it – I say – Bring it!

It’s easy to look at our world today and think that surely this must be the end of time. However, I’m sure those Christians who struggled through the Bubonic plague, World War 1, the Holocaust and so many other scary times in history, must have thought the same thing.

Jesus tells us himself in Matthew 24:42 – “So you, too, must keep watch. For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.”

So, I remove myself from the porch and I keep watch. Like the old adage says; good things come to those who wait. I can’t think of a greater reward for our waiting. In the meantime, while we keep our ear attuned for the trumpet sound, we must keep our nose to the grindstone. There are a couple of things we must do and they both pertain to a four-letter word – L O V E.

First, we mustn’t fear. I must admit – the thought of losing the familiar and not experiencing the joys of this future life (like grandkids and witnessing the successes of my children) can get me a bit weepy and second guessing my suggestion to Jesus that he come back soon. But then…heaven. Paradise. Seriously, can it get any better than that? Surely heaven will be even better than grandkids. So, I need not be afraid. 1 John 4:18 says: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. Perfect love is the love that happened on that day at Calvary, when he took my sins to the cross. The blood shed for me and you that day by our Savior is the perfect form of love taking the punishment for our sins. This kind of love drives out fear. When you feel fearful, remember that this perfect love – this gift given to us – protects us from fear.  What a relief. We are made complete because of this love. 1 John 4:4 says: Greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world.  If he is in us – who or what can be against us?  (Hint: no one/nothing/nadda/zilch/zero)

Secondly, walk in obedience. 2 John 6 says: This is love that we walk in obedience to His commands. He sets guidelines for us to live our best lives. Optimum living is his goal for us. The verse goes on to say; As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. What a world it would be if we just followed this simple command – to walk in love. We wouldn’t long for a trumpet blast – that’s for sure. There wouldn’t be a need. Heaven would be here on earth. Unfortunately, we live in a world full of disobedience. So, as Christians, it’s our duty to show His love to others by walking in obedience to his command to love. He’s given us stuff to do, for his kingdom, while we wait for his return. That’s so “dad-ish” of him isn’t it?

His perfect love is for us all. If we respond to the wait by acting in love, we assist him in gathering his sheep for that glorious day ahead. In my Father’s house there are many rooms (I stole that line from Jesus –it’s true). He wants us all to be caught up with him on that day of rapture. There is much work to do while we wait. We walk in love, keep our ear attuned for the trumpet and our eyes ever watching; we remain busy!

Forgive my “punniness,” but I think it’s fair to say that if you get “caught up in his love” for you – you will one day get “caught up with his love” when he calls you home.  Have no fear friends. Keep watch and walk in his love!  See you after the twinkle!

 

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Zacchaeus & Raccoons - they have a lot in common!


Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he…. Can you finish the rest of this old Bible school song? A song sang by children for years, based on the Luke 19 story of a short tax-collector named Zacchaeus who climbed up in a tree to see the Jesus.



Now that you’re humming that little tune in your head, let me divert your attention to another little story. I knew of a couple once who looked at a house that had been abandoned for a few years. From outside, the house seemed to be in good condition except for one minor thing; a tree in the front landscaping had grown up and over the deck with its branches stretching clear to the roof.  Once inside the home, they found everything to be in good condition. They were pleased with what they saw until they got to the basement, where there were clear signs that a creature of some sort had
inhabited the basement. Upon investigation, it was discovered that the overgrown tree had created a wonderful racoon bridge to the chimney. I suppose the raccoons innocently wandered upon the tree at some point. Inquisitive, as they are, they shimmied up the tree and found the roof and began to explore their new territory. Alas, their curiosity led them to a hole (chimney) and they dove in head first; free falling to the fireplace below. I wonder what a sight this must have been. Once they shook off the soot and shock of the fall, they found themselves in basement paradise! They settled in and started a family in their cozy little discovery. How clever they must have felt.



Now back to Zacchaeus. He had questionable character, was most likely hated because of his job and great wealth and was probably ridiculed for his short stature. I don’t mean to add insult to injury by comparing poor Zac to a raccoon, but they do have something in common here. They both climbed a tree and discovered security that they didn’t even know was available to them.



I can identify with Zac and Rac! I can’t tell you how many times I have walked blindly into unchartered territory, fearful and uncertain – seeking security and rest. In case you’re unfamiliar with Zacchaeus’ story or you just need a refresher – once in the tree Jesus called up to him from the crowd. He looked him in the eye and told him to come down because he was going to his house. Zac shimmied down the tree, eager to host this Master that so many had talked about. This man had piqued his curiosity so much that he climbed a tree just to get a gander at him. The crowd murmured about Jesus spending the day with the likes of a sinner. Zacchaeus, so taken by the Lord’s affection repented that day and promised to repay, in excess, to those he had cheated. His heart had been softened to right all his wrongs. Jesus said to him “Today, salvation has come to this house.” Now that is security at its finest. Salvation – eternal security!


Friend, I don’t know why the Lord gave me this word this morning. Perhaps, because like the short man and the forest friend, I need to climb into the unknown with faith – so I can see the hope of the future.


Do you need to find security? Are there unknowns where you need to step out into faith and trust God for the paradise that waits on the other side? I don’t recommend the tree method but there is something you can “leaf” through to find what you’re looking for. Dive head long into His word and see what promise awaits you. You won’t be disappointed. Verse 10 of Luke 19 says “For the Son of Man, came to seek and to save the lost.” Be lost no more – find your security in the promises of the one who rescues you EVERY TIME!