FROM It!

So yesterday the car acted up and did something really weird.  Those of you who know what I’ve been through with cars know what I was going through (and rightfully so I might add)! Because of my past experiences with vehicles I was absolutely terrified to drive this morning. Screaming on the inside, I forced myself to take my son to work.  So far everything’s good. Anyway praying every mile & being grateful for every mile, it started to rain.  The sky turned the most unusual color as the sun was coming out and I found myself grateful for such a beautiful distraction from my impending anxiety attack! I looked up and there was a huge big cloud which didn’t dissipate and remained unchanged. I looked up to the cloud again and all of a sudden there was a rainbow coming straight out of the middle of it!

Several things crossed my mind, the first of which was to remember all the promises in the Bible, especially the ones pertaining to God‘s presence, how much He loves us and how faithful He is. He’s trustworthy. We can trust him. He will never leave us. He will never scold us because of our fear because he knows our humanness and all that encompasses. He doesn’t make fun, He doesn’t roll His eyes and He doesn’t withdraw like most people do when we’re needy or too much for them to handle; actually if we cry out to Him, our humanness draws Him even closer!

The other thing that so touched my heart was the fact that this was the biggest cloud in the sky. FROM the biggest cloud came the most beautiful thing – the rainbow.  God reminded me once again in the tests and trials in our lives, even the biggest ones, the things that cause us the most pain can produce something absolutely beautiful. I’m so grateful to God He showed me that this morning. I needed to be reminded. I need to stay thankful. I need to stay dependent on Him, His strength and His provision in my weakest, most frightening moments.  Most importantly I need to keep looking to Him and for Him in every situation this life brings.

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Where You Are

You’ve seen the countless pictures I post of our morning walks in Borden Park.  That’s Sampson’s favorite place as we go there every day.  It’s full of blessings for him: lots of squirrels to chase, sometimes other dogs, scraps of food (which I don’t like) and smells to sniff for him.  Often in the mornings no one is there but us so I let him off his leash and let him run while I walk.

Across the street from the park there’s an empty field and a softball field.  No trees, no nothing, a literal empty field.  Sampson goes to the edge of the park and stares at the field.  He wants – every day – to go over there. I can’t figure out why.  I mean EVERY DAY he wants to go where he’s not.  He wants to leave all the things he loves about the park and where he can walk and run freely, all the trees that provide shade, all the squirrels he loves to chase, everything he enjoys to go to an empty and barren field. So today I hooked him up to the leash and we crossed the street. He walked to the middle of the field and stood there, staring at the park!

Isn’t that just like us?  We’re in a place where we have everything we need and where without a doubt God has blessed us beyond what we deserve and yet, we’re always longing for more.  We look “across the street” and think there may be something over there that will satisfy us or make us happy that we can’t find in the middle of where we are right now.  We look at it every day; think about it every day (amongst all the blessings we’re privy to right now, not appreciating any of it) and when we walk over we find ourselves longing to be back where we just came from!

Before you “cross the street”, look around you.  Consider where you are, what you have and if not satisfied, ask yourself why. Look for – really look for – the goodness of your place, the blessings in your place and make the decision to appreciate what you have and where you are.  If you find you’re always in want of more than what you have while not appreciating what’s around you, you’re missing out on a wonderful blessing that seems to be getting lost in this world we live in: CONTENTMENT.  Society compels us to never be content, to always want more and not be satisfied until we’ve nearly killed ourselves to get it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a better life and other things; just be sure you have a healthy grip on those things and don’t let those things have you.

Want what you have.  The abundant life starts right there. If you find yourself across the street into that thing or place you thought you wanted more than where you were and what you had the remedy is simple.  Walk back to your blessed place and look there.  Be grateful you could and appreciate where you are.  Sampson did.  As soon as we crossed back over and I let him loose, he found two squirrels to chase.  He was perfectly content.  We can be too, if we appreciate where we are right this moment.

1st Timothy 6:6  “…but godliness with contentment is great gain.”

He’s Portable!

My favorite time of the day is the beginning when it’s quiet.  That’s prime time with God’s word and prayer.  I’m facilitating a Bible study and read through the day’s scripture (2nd Peter 1:3-11) which is all about already being equipped to be “partakers of the divine nature…*” (v4).  Verse 5: “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence…*” (emphasis mine).  To me this scripture says we already have in us (through Jesus) His nature and best qualities but it’s up to us to APPLY them, which indicates choosing to exhibit the things in verses 5-8. After studying these verses I could feel God prompting me to stay longer taking His word in so I did, even reading them out loud, then praying.  I felt like a mighty warrior woman, ready for the day and went on with my plan.

Then it happened.  A text upset my apple cart and I watched my very well-organized day go right out the window.  I felt my blood pressure going up and my attitude going down.  Then I remembered the scriptures I had read, studied and prayed over just a little while earlier.  I saw a very distinct crossroad recognizing immediately this was a rubber meets the road moment.  I could APPLY what I’d just read or I could allow frustration to dictate the rest of my day.

That sweet time with God doesn’t have to end when we close our Bibles..and it shouldn’t! All that love, provision, grace, mercy, knowledge and wisdom we glean from spending time with him is portable.  HE goes with us.  Here’s the rub: It’s up to US what we do with Him as we live out the rest of the hours of the day.

Just because we spend a little time in the Word doesn’t mean much if we’re not willing to APPLY it to our lives and choose to live it out.  Everything we need to be a blessing and live this day being pleasing to and loving on God has been already endowed to us as Christ followers. Don’t leave Him where you left your Bible.  He and all of His attributes are in us and with us, no matter what the day brings.  Let’s access Him, choose to live and act to be pleasing to Him.  The Bible goes on to say in verse 10 as long as we PRACTICE these things we will NEVER STUMBLE*!  That sealed the deal for me, and I pray it does for you too.

*2nd Peter 1:3-11/Taken from NASB Translation.

The Monster in the Mirror

There she is again.  Every time something goes wrong, even with something goes right, this wicked monster is the first to cast stones.  She’s quick to remind me of everything I’ve ever done wrong.  Every day, I must contend with her.

Every day, she reminds me of how weak and beaten up I am and all I’ve been through.

Minute by minute if I listen to her, I’m reminded of why I shouldn’t try, why I shouldn’t believe for better and should quit while I’m ahead.  With every new day, the old stares me in the face – if I focus on her long enough, her voice overpowers the God in me.

Perhaps the most important choice is at the beginning of the day, deciding who you’re going to listen to.  The monster doesn’t lie, she tells the truth…her version of it, anyway.

She wants to keep my focus on the past and all the pain affiliated with it.  She needs an excuse to make no effort.  Not because she doesn’t believe (she does – she knows God) but because she does and she knows if I choose not to listen to her (myself) and heed His word and His truth instead, efforts must be made, exercises in faith and trust must ensue.  She’s tired.  She’s weary and she’s discouraged.  She finds very little reason to believe a single word she says or trust even a fleeting thought of hope.  It’s all justified.  Just like a victim seeking revenge on her assailant, her actions would be righteously justified.

Here’s the thing, though.  She’s submitted to God so her right to herself has been relinquished to His right to her.  Her own actions to justify herself are null and void…She’s put her trust and heart into the hands of a Mighty Savior who has already won the battle with the monster.  All she has to do is believe it.  She knows she’s no match for fighting the monster but she’s sure her Jesus is more than capable for the battle of the day.  It’s not her strength against who she sees (and remembers) in that mirror that will have victory this day; it’s His.

Every single day, the choice is ours.  Who will lead us?  Who will we listen to?  Who will we believe?  Ourselves or our King?  The battle is won or lost with that one decision.  The truth is, we may have to make that decision on a minute by minute basis. It won’t be easy (the past will attempt to discourage); it won’t be fun (fighting ourselves is ugly and messy) but we will be victorious against our giants if we choose to fight with all of our armor on – trusting Him with everything they throw at us.  Are you in?

“…even if our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.”  1st John 3:20 NLT

Ellis

He was a friendly little kitten and at first glance, he looked like a normal, orange tabby.  He was meowing in the parking lot.  A big tomcat was approaching him so me…being me…got out of the car and picked the kitten up.  The first thing I noticed was the huge scar on his neck and upon closer inspection I fought back tears as it wasn’t an animal marking, it was a knife wound.  Still, he purred and cuddled like nothing had happened. He was unaffected by his past trauma, seemingly.  As I got to know him better, the visible signs of abuse were evident.  His eye looked abnormal, whiskers had been burned and cut, and two more deep gashes on his sides were prominent.  This kitty had been through some stuff, yet he was still loving and affectionate.  How in the world could this baby critter (vet said he was no more than 4 months old) still be trusting to any human hands? I was amazed.

Ellis reminds me of us.  Some have wounds that are visible and when we see them we find them repulsive and sad while their owners, because they’ve become a reminder of their survival, think nothing of them. I’ve met so many courageous people who’ve been through unspeakable things who bear their marks as evidence of our God who freed them and flipped their horror into absolute healing.

Oh God, that we would believe to be an Ellis. God can do it.

He can turn our ugly scars into most beautiful reminders of what He’s done for us. More importantly through the healing He renders, we can cultivate a deeper relationship with Him discovering who He truly is.  You can trust Him.  Will you?

Proverbs 3:5-6

Hebrews 10:23

He Can Handle It

Their eyes meet from across the room.  She tries to talk herself out of being attracted to him; he thinks she’s beautiful.  It seems like every place she goes, he’s there. Finally he catches her in a moment with no one around and he hones in to speak to her, one on one. He’s totally enchanted with her and she, him.  They arrange a meeting and then another.  After being with her for a while, although he’s sure he loves her, he starts to notice the deep wounds she carries.  The more he’s with her, the more prominent the wounds become.

She doesn’t show them to everyone, but she thought she could trust him.  Why else would there be such chemistry and attraction between them if she wasn’t safe to show him who she really is, what has happened to her? Surely she’s safe with him. She wasn’t. She was wrong. Eventually she finds that he, too, once her man of promise, has abandoned her.

Nothing is more beautiful than being loved by someone not because of all you’ve been through and who you really are…but in spite of it.  They come to know even the ugliest you and to your surprise, love you any way. That’s what real love does.  Too often though for one reason or another – good reasons and bad – we find we’re too heavy a package that people drop too easily. We find people can’t handle our reality – the real us.  They like us, they love us, they hate us.  No matter how hard we try to “be good”, be what the other one wants and needs, it’s never enough.

All of us carry wounds others have no idea about until we let them close enough to see.  When we’re exposed, they may decide they can’t handle it and they sometimes become distant.  Love is an overused and abused word used often with good intentions but few results.  Some have heard that word so many times (chimed in with other well-intended promises of faithfulness and love) we don’t want to take the chance on hearing it again.

We can totally expose ourselves to Jesus.  We may as well, he knows it’s all there anyway.  He can handle it.  He’ll never walk away no matter what has to be done to heal the wounds…ALL of them.  He’s perfect love, and human love can only be successful through Him (I believe).  He’ll never be intimidated and reject us because of anything we’ve been through, done or are going through.  We’ll never be too much, too wounded, too lost or too far gone for Him.  He can handle it.  As a matter of fact, what’s hurt us the most and left the ugliest scar on us, He died for.  He came specifically so we could be one with Him, expose ourselves completely to Him and let Him heal us.  He can even make the scars more beautiful.  He changes them from something we seek to cover to things of beauty we long to expose to glorify Him.

Whatever’s going on with you, He can handle it.  Whatever you’ve done, He can handle it.  He died so He could make you whole.  You, beloved, can trust Him.  Will you?

Matthew 11:28:  “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  (NASB)

Long Haul, Short Faith?

Most of the United States has had to endure a snap of cold weather that seems to have gone on all winter when, in reality, it’s just been around for a couple of weeks.  It’s really unusually cold with temperatures down into the teens a lot of those days.  Even here in the mountains it’s unusual for us to have consecutive days of temperatures that cold. Even those of us who usually don’t mind (and actually prefer) winter find ourselves longing for above freezing temperatures.  So does that mean the truth is out, we really aren’t winter people?  You be the judge.

A day or so of inclement weather isn’t a problem for anyone but when it goes on for days with no quick end in sight I think our true colors (including our bright red noses and discolored toes) begin to show.  We humans can endure for a minute, a day perhaps but after that comes negativity, whining and complaining. Our endurance with unfavorable things seems to be very weak.

The same observation can be applied in the spiritual realm.  We believe God when things are easy and good.  A little problem pops up and what’s our first normal reaction (be honest!). Maybe the issue is resolved in a day or two and we’re back to our happy selves.  What if the trial lasts longer?  A month?  A year?  Five years?  Longer?  How’s our faith then?  Is it still visible?  Do we still believe God; is our faith intact when we’re in a long test like it is in a short one?

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28).  Is that true with cancer that a person fights for years, losses of jobs from which it takes years to recover, natural disasters from which someone loses everything, an illness of a child that’s lifelong, abuse by a family member that lasts for many years?  ALL means all. God is just as good, working things for our good at the beginning of a trial, regardless of the kind it is, as He is and will be at the end of it.

Like an athletic trainer, God uses (not causes) all these things…everything…to condition us, test our faith and grow us into the steadfast and strong believers He’s wanting us to be.  How can our faith grow if it’s never tested?  How can we believe Him to be a healer if we’ve never been sick?  A provider if we’ve never had a need?  A Savior if we’ve never realized we’re lost?  All the things we go through are “opportunities” for us to get to know Him more personally and once we’ve been acquainted with that side of God, nothing can convince us otherwise!

At the onset of whatever comes our way, let’s shift our mindset. Let’s decide to trust in Him, believe He has good intentions for us through whatever it is, no matter how long it lasts and trust Him all the way through.  Let’s understand that it’s an opportunity to get closer to Him, grow our faith and strengthen our resolve as people of faith. We’re going to be going through things, including cold weather, all our lives so why not make the most of it as we do?

Things are going to happen that will test our faith, strength and endurance; how we choose to handle them is where the blessing (or the curse) is.  Right?