Archives

DOES GOD STILL SPEAK?

DOESGODSTILLSPEAK

Her Christmas sweater was finished: a beautiful pink, with inlaid floral print. Rounding up my sewing items, I missed my needle. I looked everywhere, checked the sweater, checked the floor–and finally gave up. I was so happy with what I had made, and could hardly wait for her to open it, even though I wouldn’t be there. You see, she was so upset with me, not on her own account, but taking up the offense of someone else. I did everything I could to be sure I was kind, but she was so angry. This gift was my way of telling her I still loved her. As I lay down to sleep, I knew my mom and dad would be taking the gift home the next day; it was packed in the car, and waiting. As I slept, I dreamed of the sweater: I saw the sleeve, with the needle stuck in it. When I woke, I thought about the dream. I knew that if that had really happened, she would never believe that I had not left it there on purpose, in order to hurt her for being angry. All morning I thought of it. Finally, minutes before my folks left, I told my mom. We went out to the car, and I felt so stupid! I got the package out, unwrapped it, and carefully checked the sleeve. There, right as in my dream, the needle was stuck. I never doubted the Lord was keeping me from a worse relationship with my beautiful niece.

You’d have to know me, you see. I can be obsessively, compulsively, disordered! If I cross stitch, it is not enough to have the thread colors I need: I get them all–someday I might need them. I sell on eBay, big time. Seven a.m. comes, and I boot up the computer, and by 8 a.m. begin work. I shut it down at 8 p.m., and so it goes, 6 days a week. Sunday mornings before church I answer questions, and after lunch, begin work. OCD. ADHD. If I have to list twenty, I list fifty. OCD. I never meet my goals, all self-inflicted.

This year, as a study focus as I read my Bible, I began early looking for the answer to one question: WHY did the apostles ask Jesus to teach them to pray? Nehemiah prayed “HELP,” so why did the apostles feel insecure?

Genesis began my conflict, but not with prayer: as the Creation took place, God rested. It was before the fall, before anything bad had entered the garden, and He rested. I struggled with the why. He seemed to be saying, “Sandy, when do you rest?” At night, Lord. Not good enough. He rested at night as well. I tossed and turned, metaphorically speaking. Uncomfortable with the computer on Sunday. Not because of the computer, but because I knew I was addicted to working. Workaholic. So I asked my honest husband. “Are you concerned about the work you do on Sunday?” His answer shook me, for we had not discussed this. “Yes. The past two or three weeks, I’ve been trying to cut out my work and rest.” Ugh. Now I was really uncomfortable. I turned the radio on a couple of days later. Sure, the preacher I “happened” to turn to was preaching on resting one day a week. I called a minister’s wife, an older-than-I-am woman whom I know to be godly, and put it to her. Yes! She and her preacher husband take a day a week to rest–if they can’t get a whole day in, they take two half-days. My discomfort turned to churning. I was recognizing that God was choosing my path. The Bible Study began in September. Hebrews! Great, I love that book! Lesson 2: resting one day a week as God did. Are you seeing a pattern? Everywhere I turned, I was facing giving one day to God. Talk about sacrifice! For me, to not work, to not be productive, is a sacrifice! But I was hearing, and I was listening. Struggling big time, but knowing I was going to have to be obedient. My main concern? What am I going to do? How can I fill hours doing nothing? Daunting. To a couch potato it probably sounds like heaven, but to me it sounded terrifying.

A month ago, the call came. Would I take on a project for church, listening to the sermon, and then writing a discussion for people who want to use the sermon as a topic to teach their children, to discuss and grow as a family, or to have a group meet in their home. I can’t begin to say how honored I felt. How amazed I was. And how I saw that God had been preparing my heart to leave eBay alone on Sundays, and do this for His glory.

The first and second Sundays took all afternoon, until evening. Today was not quite as long, but the joy in knowing that He loves me so much that He “spoke” to my heart about the lack of resting from my work, and then filling the gap with His work was so awesome I was speechless as I ever get.

So for me, and for many others, yes! He does speak, He does love, and He is active in our lives, in our dreams (yes, there will be those who doubt that, but not me!), and He gets all the glory! His grace, as always, still amazes me.

 Holy Father, that You can take someone who is so taken up with meaningless things, and use us, is totally beyond our comprehension! Thank You for Your love, Lord. Thank You for using vessels of clay to hold Your marvelous works. Amen

picture compliments of © Dennis Sherman | Dreamstime Stock Photos

“IF…………….”

2GIRLWHATIF

Our family had just finished memorizing James 2:1-13, where James instructs us to pay attention how we treat those who have less than we do–or for some reason do not meet our standards. We were doing well at homeschooling but–“Sunday was a-comin’!” Morning service was special, as always, and suddenly it was time to go back for the evening message. As we sat down, our six year old daughter said “Ewww, Mommy, look over there: look how dirty those people are!” She was right. It was a young couple, girl and boyfriend, and they were dirty. I’m not sure what brought them in, but they had entered our little Baptist Church that normally had maybe 30 in attendance on Sunday night and sat in the back. Our daughter’s face was scrunched up in disgust as she observed the couple. I leaned over and gently reminded her of the verses we had just learned about how to treat people who have almost nothing, and God used His word to break her heart. She immediately was shocked to put the truth of the Bible up against her actions.

That next week she busily worked on projects. When Sunday rolled around again, Rachel took her gifts to church, hoping the couple would come. They did, that night. She went up to them and told them she had made them some gifts–I don’t even remember what they were. The couple was overwhelmed that a small child had thought of them all week, and prepared gifts she felt were a representation of what Christ would have done. It made such an impact on them that they made an appointment with the pastor, told him they were living together but after that night would sleep in separate areas (the bed and the couch), and set a wedding date. They had a time of cleansing their little place, throwing rock albums in the trash, and came to know the Lord. Rachel made them something for their wedding, and decorated the communion table where they would say their vows before the pastor and his wife.

“What if” our daughter had not been moved by her callousness at someone’s “dirty raiment”? A small phrase–what if– but one that changes the course of human thinking. A new sermon emphasis in our church is causing many of us to question our “what if’s!”

You may have lived a great life. I seriously know people who have: they have married high school sweethearts, their family came along, the job was secure, and life was good. I’ve often wondered what they did that made God give such grace in abundance to some, while others are born into a family where abuse prevails, vulgar language is the norm, learning in school is difficult, and by teen-age years everyone in the community has labeled him/her one to be avoided. Did either of them ever wonder, “What if..?”

For the majority of the rest of us, our life is filled with “what if….”! What if… I had had a mom who guided me; a dad who loved me; a mentor in my life who encouraged me to do my best. What if… I had used wise judgment throughout life; had made wise choices; had taken advantage of life’s offerings?

Or are you straddled with “If only’s”? …. you had not taken that job, your marriage wouldn’t have failed, your daughter wouldn’t have rebelled at a new school and gotten into the wrong crowd; if only … your extended family had tried to eat healthy so your husband didn’t have a heart attack; your friend didn’t drink so heavily that he killed someone with his car?

We can live with the “What if’s” and the “If only’s” and drive ourselves crazy. So we do what the apostle Paul told us, and “forget those things which are behind,” because they can become traps Satan uses to make us ineffective as we live our lives for Christ.

So “What If” turns from being a “sin that so easily besets us” and becomes a role model, if you will: “What if” we saw the person in front of us at WalMart counting their pennies to pay for some vienna sausage, and we reached in our wallet and told the clerk, “Here.” What if we carried tracts that were simple, beautiful, and designed to help any adult discover that Jesus loves them, and gave them to the person when we did an act of love like paying for their small amount of food? What if we really did become the person God had in mind when He hung on the Cross?

We may not be able to change the world, but we can impact our neighborhood, our community, or–to some extent–our town. What if the person who visited in the service or in Sunday School was invited over for Sunday dinner? What if they weren’t dressed well? Would we still have them? Would Christ have still died for them? Then prepare something extra and ask them if they can come share your meal. Scary, isn’t it? But what if you did? You may be entertaining angels unawares! More importantly, what if you asked your neighbor of ten years to share a meal? Or the new hire at work that is in a lowly job? Don’t do it for someone who can return the favor–do it for someone who will be shocked at your love.

What if our actions caused two people to come to know Christ this year?

Father, help me to be willing to be used. In Your Name, Amen.

Image:© Paul-andré Belle-isle | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Sunday’s a comin’, SM Lockridge

THE BLAME GAME!

BLAMEGRAM3

“I didn’t do it!” my child exclaimed when I called his name! Good grief, all I did was ‘holler’ for him! Parental thought: he has a guilty conscience… so I call again (against all rules of good parenting), “Come here!” I needed to source the reason for the comment. He stood in front of me, obviously wishing for a hole to open up. “What did you do?” “Nothing. Rachel did it.”  Hmmm, interesting. A counselor could make the most of this situation, but contrary to a child’s opinion, mommy’s do not come with eyes in the back of their heads, nor the wisdom of Solomon. Ten minutes later I had my answer: he had broken a piece of Depression Glass, hidden it in a drawer, and added lying to the mix.

Having just kept a young, 7 year old grandson, there was no one for him to blame when things went off course. In fact, when I picked him up from school the first day of my testing period (I would have him the whole week… only grandmas can relate here), he hugged me, got in the car, and someone flipped the switch to “on.” I couldn’t find the “off” button the rest of the week. Women obviously are not the only ones who need to get 35,000 words spoken in one day: he managed in the first evening. I figured it was a result of being the next to youngest in a family of five children, and he was suffering from “undelivered speech.”  As I was saying, he began our interaction with, “Grammy, I accidentally made Yellow today.” (Purple is best, then Green, Yellow needs work, Orange is bordering on a big problem, and Red is “call parents.”). How do you accidentally make Yellow? By the fault being someone else’s, of course. (By the way, between sermons, illustrations and reinforcing good behavior, he made green the second day and purple the next. WooHoo! Grandma’s have become wiser with age.) When he spoke, my mind went back to the forty billion times I had heard, “It’s her (his) fault” from his mom and his uncle–his mom’s brother, the breaker of the Depression Glass. The Blame Game. The truth is, the fruit falls pretty much straight down to the bottom of the tree, doesn’t it? I seem to remember saying “I didn’t do it” to my mom, and I had no one else to blame.

Lying about our guilt is pretty easy, isn’t it? I would love to see in your mind the thought that went circling through as to what you last did that you had to make an excuse for? (“I would have fixed the sink, but you wanted me to mow the yard..,” “I would have mowed the yard, but you wanted me to run to WalMart.” Our ways are a lot more subtle than saying “If you hadn’t told me you wanted me to go to WalMart, I would have had time to mow,” knowing that will 1) push a button, 2) start a “discussion” we don’t want, or…3-10,000) other reasons.

It’s easy to see why: we don’t want to accept responsibility for our actions. What is sickening is that we play the same game with our Heavenly Father! (“I would have gone to church this morning, but God, You know I had to work late, and I was so exhausted I just couldn’t get out of bed in time.”) One of my sons works graveyard, comes home on Sunday morning at 7, and by 8:15 is ready to leave for the early service. I’m so thankful he doesn’t say, “I’ve just gotten off work, Lord–You wouldn’t expect me to go to church, would You?”

If it makes you feel better–which it shouldn’t–Adam was the first to play this game, and he had the impertinence to say it right to the face of the Lord God! Genesis 3 relates the story of Adam as God calls him after he had eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, then asks Adam if he ate of it. “The woman You gave me persuaded me to eat of it!” he excused himself. When Eve was asked, she answered, “The serpent deceived me, so I ate of it!” And so it started… The Blame Game.

When will we grow up enough to learn to admit our failures? Failure is going to happen–but admitting it to God and moving on is growth. Being upfront about our responsibility enables us to accept that we’re not perfect, we have times when we don’t do what we should, and we should not hesitate to admit it. (“Honey, I didn’t mow the yard because I took too long washing my car. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”) Life isn’t perfect, and we aren’t either! I love the verse that tells us that “God remembers our frame, that we are but dust!” I think there’s a whole person in my house if I could just get him/her all together…

Look for ways today that give you the opportunity to blame someone else and then see if you’re big enough to take responsibility! Adults have the Blame Game perfected–we’ve had time to practice since we were kids!

Father, please help us, even in our more mature years, to learn to take the responsibility we should when we have not acted in a responsible manner. Help us to acknowledge our guilt, and then put things behind us. Most of all, help us to love the one who has blamed us for having lost out on something in life they feel they deserved; and if we know someone has something against us, give us the courage to go to them and make it right. Amen

 

DROUGHT… A BIG DEAL!

DROUGHT

When is the last time you took a drive through some of the states, and began to notice how many areas have succumbed to the lack of rain? In Florida, it was not unusual to see docks standing at the back of someone’s yard, with the canal or lake many feet away from the bottoms of the pilings, no longer able to be used by their owners. The water used to be almost to the top of the dock. This isn’t a recent occurrence, but has been gradually happening over a period of many years.

When is the last time you had a drought in your life? A time when you didn’t feel as though you were connecting with God, and no matter what you did, you couldn’t feel His presence? Feeling as though your “prayers hit the ceiling”?

Have you taken time to really let His word wash over you, and made the choice to stand on His promises? He tells you that He will never forsake you, nor leave you! So–if you feel like He has, which one of you is wrong? The bottom line becomes, can you believe Him or not? If you can’t, you probably need some serious time of reflection, of self-examination, to see what is wrong. The Bible says that your iniquity can separate you from God–not that He withdraws from you, but you have erected a barrier between you and Him, a barrier of sin, and its consequences are that you will no longer “feel” Him there.

If you can believe Him, then make that choice to do so. It’s been an arid week for me–you can always tell, because there may be days when I will write even twice–and then a gap comes! Is it a drought of God’s work in my life? Not usually, but sometimes the busy-ness of daily activities leaves one’s mind so wrapped up in mundane priorities that the day can go by and nothing has been done for His kingdom. Time to shift priorities, wouldn’t you say? Isaiah 58:11 tells us “The Lord will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” That’s a promise!

Are you aware that the Bible tells us that in the last days–and by the way, the last days of America can be very different from the last days when Christ returns!–there will be a drought of the Word of God? Amos 8:11 says, ““Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” That drought will be so severe that God’s word will be hard to find. It better be in our memories now!

That is the other drought we can see as we go across America. A drought of moral values (have you see the television shows that have come out? God forbid that Christians should watch tv porn), of filled churches, or caring Christians–but everywhere a lack of standing up for what is right. We are losing our country due to a drought of holy living.

Like the movie “Courageous,” let us stand up and be counted, not fearing to be different from the world, not fearing rejection, not ashamed of God, but putting ourselves on the front line–standing in the gap for the souls of those going to hell because no one asked God to save them. And while we’re praying, let’s ask God for blessings to rain down, and relieve the drought in our lives!

Father, we can see drought even as we watch the faces of those who are entering the church doors on Sunday: their faces do not reflect peace, but inner struggles, and their lives are full of conflict. Please let us feel Your comfort as we draw near to You by choice! Amen

BURDENS TOO HEAVY TO CARRY

depressionhurt

Her wedding day! What joy, what wonder! She has kept herself pure and now the fulfillment of her dreams from a child through her youth and young adulthood is about to be a new reality. Can one do anything except be gloriously glad for her? Ahh, but there’s a thorn with every rose, isn’t there? Notwithstanding today’s horticulture, that was a truth that endured for centuries. Her thorn is that her precious momma, always there, always loving, never anything except the epitome of a great wife, a great mom, and a loving, generous person, contracted ALS two years ago, and can’t walk up the aisle tonight. She will be in a wheelchair, and has held on to life for this beautiful day. The day of wonder, but great sorrow–sorrow almost as great as death, for there has been nothing except a downhill spiral in health for her mom for two years. A disease worse than dementia, for the victim understands the pain being inflicted on their loved ones.

Have you noticed there is a growing desperation on all sides? It seems there is depression inherent in daily life like never before for most of this generation. Yes, there are a few left who can remember the “Great Depression,” but most of those are gone now. It seems we’re going through a new one–one for this generation.

And so we turn to God’s Holy Word for some reassurance, for comfort, and for hope. And here we find it! David, the great king of Israel, in spite of his sins, himself suffered depression as heavy as any we bear. In Psalm 77 we see immediately that he, in his life, was no different than we are in ours! He tells us that he was having troubles so great that no one could help, so he cried out to God, and God listened. How is that different from what we do? We may not pray a lot when things are going well, but oh, let trouble come, especially things too heavy to bear, and things we cannot control, and we turn to God! David said he would lay awake at night, complaining, and his spirit was so overwhelmed he could hardly stand it. In verse 4 he tells us that he couldn’t sleep, and was so troubled he couldn’t speak. Have you been there? Someone asks how you’re doing, and you don’t even feel like answering their question for fear of breaking completely down! Who wants to say “Fine!” when you’re on the bottom?

David goes on to say that he thinks back over better days, and remembers when he was happy. Now he feels deserted by God, completely cast off, and wonders if God is so angry with him that He has withdrawn His grace and mercy. Is that us? You?

But as David reflected, he began to make a choice to praise, rather than despair! He decided to consciously recall the great and mighty things God had done in his past, and in eternity past, as well. He retreated from the depression and began to list the goodness of God, and the great things He has done!

That is not easy when your soul feels as though you would rather cease living. It takes inner strength to make the choice to praise. God will give you that strength if you begin to reflect on His character, His attributes, His longsuffering, and His love!

The choice is never easy. Pilgrim, in Pilgrim’s Progress, fell into a Slough of Despond. He wallowed, but he got out. We may have a broken heart for some reason, but let’s make the choice to give it to God, the healer of broken hearts. Don’t try on your own–He’s as near as you will let Him come!

Father, thank You for Your wondrous love. Thank You for Your promise that You will never leave us, nor forsake us. You tell us to draw near to You–THEN You will draw near to us. Help us make that a conscious choice! Amen

FEAR NOT!

STORMCLOUDS_crop

Smoke billowed out around the edges of the bedroom door as we looked down the hallway, frantic! About the same time we realized the second bedroom had smoke coming out as well. My husband was yelling, “Dial 911!!” I looked at the brand new phone in my hand and the black screen facing me. Had it been my old phone, there would have been no problem, but the shock of knowing our house was on fire was short-circuiting my brain, and I could not remember how to get it off screen saver. Between the smoke, the fire, my husband yelling, and the new phone, I was rendered incapable of doing what should have been easy! And because my hair is strawberry blonde, it became a joke in our family over the past two years that “Mom’s so blonde she couldn’t dial 911!” All the peripherals were not mentioned!

Paralyzing fear in a situation can cause even a very cool-headed person to shut down on normal reactions! Fear or its climax can render anyone unable to react, and often does.

Have you ever considered the number of people in the Bible who were told not to fear? Joshua had to be told over and over in the first chapter–four times he was told not to be discouraged, that the Lord would be with him; Mary, when met by Gabriel as he foretold her coming pregnancy, told her to not be afraid as he came to her. Abraham, Hagar, Gideon, Elijah–and so many more, our “cloud of witnesses,” all were told in various ways not to fear. Why? Because fear renders one incapable of doing what should be easy! God’s will is thwarted and Satan wins.

How so? Well, why have you not told someone in the family that they are on the road to hell? Because you fear a severance in the relationship! The same could be said of your co-workers, your neighbors, or someone close to you in relationship. What is always the response? “Well, only God knows their heart, and we are not to judge.” Well, half-right  is better than all wrong, I guess, and the truth is, we can’t judge their heart, but we are to be “fruit inspectors.” “Every tree is known by its own fruit” Matthew writes the words of Jesus. A saved person may be in sin for a season, but if so, he will be miserable, enduring discipline from the Lord, and eventually back on the right path.

Does fear cripple you when you think of telling someone about the wondrous things God has done for you? It should have no power over you. Discipling someone, counseling someone, praying with someone, do those possibilities make you tremble? God is with you, my friend! Or how about an example closer to home: do you hold your tongue because you are in an abusive relationship and don’t want to set someone off? That person then has complete control over you. Get help. You can’t? Why? Oh, you’re afraid you will lose the kids, lose….. Are you a parent who sees your spouse belittling one of the children, but you don’t interfere? You will let someone destroy a child, why?

For just one day, write down the times you hold your tongue because you fear the consequence. It may surprise you that victory is so close and yet so far. Memorize the verse “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of a sound mind,” and then–as fear comes into a moment–start praising God for His goodness at all times.

Father, please help us remember that You have not sent a spirit of fear into our lives, even today with all of the atrocities going on around the world. We know that You are still on the throne, guiding all the nations as we watch and marvel of Bible prophecies being fulfilled. Help us to not fear to tell those in our family who are facing hell, that You alone are truth! Amen

SO LITTLE TIME, SO MUCH TO DO…

SOWREAPPLANT_cropAh, the feeling of crawling into bed, lights out, getting comfy between the covers, and realizing the day is over–you can really relax now. The nicest moment of the day!

Then comes the thoughts hitting the brain like little b-b’s: “It was a wasted day.” “I didn’t get anything important done.” “What did I do today that meant anything to anyone?” “Oh, shucks, I forgot to…” and so on. Myriads of things that could have been done, should have been done, but would you have fit them in?

For me, the wasted day theme hits me almost every night! As I lay there, I know I have worked–and worked hard for many hours. I have tidied the house (but there’s so much left to do!), … did I do anything else? .. ad nauseum.  And then I realize, Paul himself said, it is only the things I do for Christ that counts (loose translation, Philippians 3), and I understand that my spirit is depressed because I felt there was no fruit in any of my labor. Do you ever feel like that?

If you desire above all things to hunger and thirst after righteousness, to be more Christ-like each day, then thinking that we have accomplished only the busy things that make up our lives leaves us as an open target for Satan to tell us we’ve wasted our day.

Do a self examination! I get (you’ll think I exaggerate) between 200-400 emails each day; the ones I respond to have the verse from Romans 1:20 after my signature: For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” I take that for granted (that it is there), but what if it directs one person toward Christ? Did I sow or water? My blog address is also under my name on my emails: does that ever cause anyone to click on the blog and possibly wonder why I write? Does anyone ever wonder why I’m so amazed at His grace, at His goodness toward me, the chief of sinners (I was worse than Paul)? Was I kind in the many telephone calls that came in, and did I take the opportunity to tell the person at the other end, “I’ll pray for you to have a safe weekend”? Does God look upon my day as wasted, if just one person looks to Him? No, and my focus is wrong!

I need to be praying that my tiny little seeds will fall in a piece of fertile soil, so that someone else may come along and perhaps put a little water on them, and someone else may fertilize. I need to get my focus off myself and my “half a glass of water,” and realize Christ can make that water “living!”

I tend to forget that His POWER is what drives the universe, holds it together, but I still worry?? Then I am limiting Him to my own world. I pray He helps me remember that the same power that resurrected Him is in me, and I just need to put fears aside and keep on keeping on.

God, thank You for the power You have given to Your children to change the world. Grant the seeds that we plant turn into a crop that is a hundredfold! Thank You for the cross, Lord! Amen

One last thing, on an aside: I am getting many comments, and they are like reading the Amplified version of the Bible: for every word there are forty parentheses, etc., that leave me out in left field. If you ask a question and really desire an answer, know I’m trying to figure them out! I do remember to check Facebook about once every month or so (I’m telling you, time is not on my side!), so leave me a message there, and eventually I will get it! Either under “Love Notes” or Sandy Day. If you have negative comments, just keep them to yourself and remember your Grandma telling you, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything!” :~>

 

 

 

 

PUT IT ON? YES! PUT IT ON!!

madisongrace

“Grace! Go put your dress on so we can leave for church! We’re going in five minutes!” She laid her book down, and headed for the stairs. This ritual was quite ordinary–almost every day was a trial as distractions come into her life at inappropriate times. At almost nine years old, looking six, she knew that to obey is important but her attention span needs upgrading.

Four minutes went by. Heading for the stairs, I wondered what I would find. There, having noticed a stuffed animal who was “lonely” she had sat to cuddle him a moment. Quietly thinking for a moment on how my mother would have handled the situation, I swiftly put her dress into my purse, hanging on my arm. “Come on, let’s go. We’re leaving.” I reached for her hand, and watched the horror in her face. “But I’m not dressed!” “I realize that. But you were told to put your dress on. We go through this every Sunday, and every school day. Today, you’re going in your pajamas. Let’s go.” Hopefully the shock going through her system at this point would be the valuable lesson I was striving for, as modesty and daintiness meant a lot to her. She still could not grasp that I would allow her to go to church in her pajamas. Had I gone crazy?

We walked to the car, piled in, buckled up and eventually pulled into the parking lot. The entire trip had been made with quiet tears running down her cheeks. Yes, it broke my heart, but I had to keep in mind the amount of time she had cost us over the years, waiting for her to get ready. Everyone got out of the car, except the two of us. I pulled her dress from my purse, and said, “Can you put it on now?” Her tears dried, the dress was on in thirty seconds, and a hard lesson had been learned. Maybe; only time would tell.

God was preparing my own heart to receive a lesson He had for me. I should have known. Not having been raised in an affectionate family, I have found it hard all my life to show physical love. I’m definitely a work in progress. I have struggled constantly with my lack of concern (love–see? I’m rationalizing) for my neighbors, those in my family with whom I have chasms, Christians at church who ignore me, and more. I thought I should feel love for them, no matter what. I know it’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit, so it should just BE there! Automatically, since the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in me! But I have fallen back on the excuse “I wasn’t raised like that” too many times for God to put up with it any longer.

Studying 2 Corinthians 13–the love chapter–in our Life Group at church (the new word for Sunday School), has been a struggle because I have been brought face to face with my lack of love in so many areas of my life. As we have studied, the act of giving our resources, going on mission trips, feeding the poor, ministering to the saints, even being a martyr, is counted as nothing in God’s eyes if we are not doing it with a heart of love–which I realize with all consciousness that I sadly lack in most cases. It has been a heartbreaking series for me.

God’s mercy is so amazing. Having read the Bible more times than I know, I’m familiar with putting on the armor of God, so that we can withstand Satan; put on “mercy”, even put on “Christ,” which is to take Him as Savior. But as I read Colossians a couple of days ago, it is not that He suddenly gave me a “shot” full of love, but what He did was direct my reading to chapter Three. As I read, verse 14 seemed to pop out at me: “PUT ON love!” It started taking root: “Put on.. clothes.. makeup…lipstick…armor…”  it is an act of the will! It is a CHOICE. WooHoo!! He gave me my answer! My “lack” of love was not that I could not feel it because I had not been raised being loving, it was because I had not chosen it when a situation arose! Mind boggling! A stranger approaches: I have the option to smile with genuine love because that person was made by God, or I can choose to ignore them and go about my business! Perhaps this is elementary and redundant to you, but for me, it was the opening of a door, seeing into God’s presence. It was definitely a “Love Note!” It was more–it was as if I could see Him saying, “Good for you! You got it this time!” How long will it be before my “choice” is tested? Probably within a few hours!

Life has a way of testing to make sure the lesson took. Hopefully, I’ll never choose pajamas.

Oh Lord God–You are so unfailing in Your patience with me! Thank You for the lessons in everyday life, and for Your love. Thank You for Your nail-pierced hands, Lord. Help me never forget what You did for me. Amen

FINDING A TREASURE MAP!

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Oh, no!! The door handle where I generally hang my special bag of rings was empty! But I had just seen it there, hadn’t I? Not having organizational skills as a character trait, if I don’t keep an item in the same place, it’s lost. Now it was time to take the rings to the jeweler and have them all checked, yet they were not in their “normal” place. They were very valuable, and some were irreplaceable! Like the woman in Luke 15:8, 9, I searched every room over and over for many days. Finally, in desperation, I looked outside at the “Farm Use” truck. We often threw garbage bags there, until one of us got so tired of looking at it–or it got so full–that we would take it to the dump. It was very full, which meant bags of foul-smelling garbage. Yet it was the only place left that might hold a bag full of rings.

Pushed to the limit, I took out the first bag, shifting everything to a new bag as I opened and checked each and every smelly hoard of trash. Bag after bag, hour after hour. By the end of several hours I was down to the last two bags, and I could clearly see the bottom of the truck bed, itself messy, dirty, and littered. Now one bag. I was too discouraged to speak, but what’s one bag after a truck full? What’s ten minutes after days, and hours? And yes, there inside the last bag, (Murphy’s Law), I saw the large zip-lock bag full of rings, unharmed, waiting to be carried to the dump! Whether they fell in accidentally, or some little fingers helped them, I’ll never know, but again, like the woman above, I could have held a party!

Do you realize that we are to be as diligent about seeking God’s righteousness as we are treasures that we own that are physical? Legends about Treasure Maps, buried treasure, or hidden treasure intrigue us, and we probably all know people who have dug for days, months or years because it was always told how “grandpa kept his money in a jar under the apple tree!” Yet the Bible tells us in Colossians 2:1-3 that God Himself is the essence of ALL treasure of wisdom and knowledge! Do we search for Him with that in mind, or go about our daily lives, busy with mundane situations that will have no impact on eternity?

When was the last time you were hungry or thirsty? In this summer heat, you mow, trim, use the weed eater, pick garden vegetables, and sweat! Do you go into the house, straight to the frig, and grab a bottle of something cold to drink? You bet! Yet we are to be so hungry and thirsty to be righteous before our wonderful God that He is our first thought when we wake, when we rise, when we go to bed (Deut. 11:15), and we are to teach our children this concept. If we wake in the night, we should turn to prayer during the period of wakefulness (Satan will soon stop waking us!) It is a discipline that we make consciously, just as forcing ourselves into a routine of exercise or eating healthy foods! How easy it is to “fall off the wagon!” We miss a day of Bible study because there is a letter we must write, or a job that has to be done asap! We will get to it this evening; but do we? Not usually, because we get distracted, busy, and then tired.

More than likely, that’s why the Psalmist said “My voice you shall hear in the morning, O Lord!” (Psalm 5:3). We are fresh, we are ready to think, and the world has not yet intruded. Let us discipline ourselves to seek God before we seek the computer, the laundry, the breakfast for the kids–whoa! That might mean getting up earlier!

That’s what you do when you’re hungering and thirsting.

Father, teach us how to love You the way You want to be loved! Please–give us the strength while it is still today to seek You with all (ALL) our heart, mind, soul, and spirit, as if we understand that You are our greatest Treasure! Amen.

WHO? ME?? MAKE A BAD CHOICE? YOU’RE KIDDING, RIGHT?

BUBBLES

It happened to another person, many, many years ago. Someone so naive that sensual innuendos went straight over their head. Whatever someone told her, she would believe, even if they were evil. She had been taught to believe in people.

When the breaking point came, and she left her home, within days her life started crumbling. For the next few years she learned lessons each and every day about the trials in life, the liars in the world, the deception Satan has on people’s lives. But she had done what one must be so cautious in doing… she had burned her bridge and there was no going back.

The God she knew could have stopped the break; why didn’t He? So she blamed her parents for not stepping in, and keeping her from making wrong choices when just a young person. Finally she realized, they did what they had been taught–so it was the fault of her naive grandparents. Realizing they, too, probably were doing the best they knew how, she eventually worked her way back to God. It was His fault. He could have stopped her from ruining her life. He could have given her different parents, a more worldly mind, have made her less trusting. The anger against herself for her choices built. And built. Like a volcano, it was going to erupt. You hate yourself so much for making a choice that there is no way to fix.

Better to die than live with this much hate. Easy to do. Take two bottles of pills and it’s done. Only it wasn’t done. There’s one step lower than the bottom: when you have to look up to see the bottom. When someone finds you, and you live. You can’t even die.

In telling this to a person a year later, they had one remark. “You really hate God,” they said. “NO! I hate myself!” Their words were darts on a shield, deflected. A month later the radio was on, and the speaker was talking of hate. “No man hates himself,” he quoted, from Ephesians 5:29. “Wrong! You don’t know what you’re talking about!” It was 1978. The book lying nearby was a workbook from the Institute in Basic Life Principles, by Bill Gothard. The page fell open. There, in black and white, was written: “If you say you hate yourself, you don’t. You hate God.” God had to say it three times before she got it: her anger and hate was not against herself, it was against God. It broke her. She could not stand to think that the God who created such a beautiful world for us to enjoy was Someone she hated. Her repentance for her hatred was genuine. The amazing part? Suddenly a “bubble” surrounded her. You’ve read of children living in bubbles because of diseases? God put a “bubble” that was–had to be!–the unbelievable Holy Spirit, and love crushed her. For three weeks, she walked in a bubble of love, and could feel nothing, sense nothing, except the overwhelming power of God in her life. I was a changed person, for God loved me. I was no longer full of hate.

What did He teach me in all this? So many things: one, that He will NOT keep us from making choices that are far-reaching, life-changing, 100% bad, when we are determined to go against His will; two, His forgiveness is beyond anything we can imagine, but the consequences are there for life. We have to “forget those things that are behind [since we cannot change them], and press on toward” life; thirdly, there is always forgiveness for shutting Him out, for being angry, even for hating Him because you feel He’s destroyed your life–but you have to ask for it. Again, if you killed someone, they won’t be raised again in this lifetime, the ex-husband remarries, the judge’s sentence may have to be carried out in a jail, but that will all pass: His love and forgiveness will remain.

If you look closely at the picture, you will see the bubbles in the hands. We have to live in this world, but its standards, its influences, its definition, as our Life Group leader at church said yesterday, is not to stain us. Is that possible? Yes! But only through being plugged into the outlet of His power source, not our own. Through the power that He gave us when we became His child, we can do all things. But not without it. By accepting His gift of salvation, His power can change you!

Have a blessed week!