My sun porch

My sun porch

Monday, February 28, 2011

Greater things are yet to patient

This week's memory verse:

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9
I am here to tell you that prayer works! It is our way to communicate with God, telling him of our needs and desires, and if those needs and desires are in line with God's will, those prayers will be answered. Prayers and the prayers of others during a difficult time also helps us feel comforted and supported. We pray for our needs, the needs of our friends and family...but I think many times we get so concerned about those needs, we forget to pray for our cities, our country and the world. We might pray for peace on earth, but what if we began in our own cities?

A year or so ago, I sang in a community unity service. Many churches from all over Muskingum county gathered together, and one thing that touched me the most was how we prayed for our cities...Zanesville, New Concord, Dresden, Roseville, Duncan Falls and many others in our county.

Jeremiah 29:7 - "Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."

We sang a song with the following lyrics:
"You're the God of this City
You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You are
You're the Light in this darkness
You're the Hope to the hopeless
You're the Peace to the restless
You are

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City"

Prayer, and songs of prayer, give us hope that God is listening and will bring peace to our city. The problem is that we expect God to do something NOW! We want peace in our city, but we want it in our timeline. God has a different timeline, and has since the beginning of time. We need to be patient with God.

Patience means waiting. We are not good at waiting. Many times, we pray and pray for something to happen...for peace in our cities and communities, for example. When we don't see that peace right away, we think God's not listening and we try to take control of the situation ourselves.

My prayer for all of us: let every day be a new day in learning to have patience. Let us not grow weary in prayer and in doing God's will. If we take our concerns to God, whether they be about our personal lives or about our cities, let us have faith that God is listening and will answer those prayers. Give us peace as we wait on the greater things that are yet to come.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Finding Peace with yourself...

This week's memory verse:

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." -- Philippians 4:7

If you are like me, you are harder on yourself than you are on others. Even though I have accomplished much in my life, I still tend to focus on the things I haven't accomplished and my failures. There have been times in my life I have carried guilt around like a heavy backpack, weighing me down and keeping me from being able to climb out of the heavy pit of self-doubt and self-pity.

But, through God's grace, I have come to realize that because I laid my sins and failures at the feet of Christ...(I prayed and in my faith asked for forgiveness) I know that I have been forgiven. I believe and have faith that that is true. If God has forgiven me, then I had to learn to forgive myself as well.

I have a friend who sends me little reminder texts from time to time, saying that I am a child of the most high God. I belong in God's family, and because of this, my loving heavenly father loves me enough to forgive me for what I have done in the past.

I have to admit that used to sound very strange to me. I used to think that sounded so..."religious."...something you might hear some tele-evangelist say on late night tv. But...over time, I have come to BELIEVE it. I believe I AM a child of God and I believe he loves and forgives me. This fact comforts me and gives me strength. Ephesians 1:18-19 says "Oh the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him - endless energy and boundless strength." (The Message translation)

I have learned to forgive myself and take off that heavy pack of guilt I carried around. It is much easier to move forward when you aren't carrying around a lot of guilt and pain. I still sometimes go back to focusing on what I CAN'T do or what I HAVEN'T done...but now when I see myself sliding back into that old habit, I call out to God and ask my Father for help. I also ask him to send me something else to focus on.
There is a song that, although it is sometimes associated with mission work, inspires me to both call out to God and to be willing to go where he leads.
I, the Lord of sea and sky

I have heard my people cry
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save.
I who made the stars and night
I will make the darkness bright
Who will bear my light to them
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord
Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go Lord
If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart.

I the Lord of snow and rain
I have borne my people's pain
I have wept for love of them
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone
Fill their hearts with love alone
I will speak my word to them
Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord
Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go Lord
If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart.
I will hold your people in my heart...

Loving Father, thank you for reaching out to us and forgiving us and for helping us to learn to forgive ourselves. Thank you for holding us in your heart. I ask that everyone reading this will feel your love and find the peace that comes from letting go of the guilt and holding on to your love instead. Amen

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blessed are the peace makers...

This week's memory verse:

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." I have ALWAYS been the peacemaker. I hate to see people fighting and arguing...if at all possible, I try to help people around me see the other side. "Can't we all just get along????" That sounds like a trite old saying, but I truly wish it were true. Why CAN'T we just get along with each other?

It is normal and natural for us to have disagreements...we each think our ways and our thoughts are the RIGHT way, and we get upset when others don't agree. We WANT unity...we want harmony...well at least MOST of us do. LOL But we also are sometimes more willing to throw away friendships, family relationships, and working relationships just because someone else's thinking is different from our own. I have seen this too many times to mention.

Even Paul in the Bible had disagreements with other people in the early church. He and Barnabus disagreed so badly that they parted company for a while. (Acts 15:37)

But, the Bible is also FULL of instruction on how and why to get along with people. Our Bible study book keeps using saying that we need to get along with other believers...I believe we need to get along, or at least make efforts to get along with EVERYONE, not just exclusively believers. Read the following verses:

Leviticus 19:18 - your neighbor as yourself

Galatians 5:13 - ...serve on another humbly in love

Ephesians 4:2 - completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love Colossians- binds everything together

James 1:19 - Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger (How many of us need THIS verse on a daily basis????)

1 Peter 2:17 - show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor (how many "Christians" don't show respect to our president because they don't like his politics? Shouldn't we honor and respect him, even though we don't agree with him BECAUSE he IS our leader? Sorry...a bit of soap boxing...I'll step down now)

1 Peter 3:8 - be like minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins.

Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

I don't think we need to let people walk all over us and be meek and like mice. We need to speak our minds and stand for our principles and beliefs...but there is a way to do that RESPECTFULLY!

If we want a more peaceful world...if we want more peace in our own lives...we need to use these verses as teaching guides and LISTEN AND HEED to their advice. God wants us to live in harmony with each other. God also knows there are bound to be conflicts and disagreements in our lives. But, if the Bible is an instruction manual, given to us by a loving God who wants to teach us...then we should listen to the advice given there.

While I also have conflicts and disagreements with people, I am also just naturally a peace maker...I want people around me to be happy and get along. This getting along stuff comes easier to me. But I know it doesn't come easier to all. Try seeing the other side of an argument...try to see someone else's point of view. Treat EVERYONE, even people you don't like, don't trust, don't even want around you...treat them with respect and love. That doesn't mean you have to hug them and sing "Kumbyah" with them. Just treat them as you want to be treated. Yes, that old "Golden Rule" works for adults too!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Peace Wreckers

This week's memory verse:

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."-- Philippians 4:7

Do you wreck your own peace? Do you let others wreck your peace? I know in my case, I can be my own worst enemy. In my need to make others happy, sometimes I forgo my own happiness. My mind also has a way of OVERthinking many situations, especially health issues or conflicts, making them so much worse in my mind then the real outcomes would ever be. The things I am afraid of seem so much bigger to me when in the middle of a tense situation. Guilt can also be a peace wrecker. When I eat the wrong things...don't get enough guilt and shame in not being able to stick with the program steals my joy as well.

With Tom's accident, many of my fears were looming in front of me. I had so many people praying for me and with me, it was easier to remember God was with me, and that I would be ok and so would Tom.

But what happens when it is just me and my fears and worries threaten to steal my joy and wreck my peace? It is natural to be afraid...But how can we let our faith and trust in a loving and protecting God provide peace in rough situations?

Last night, I was driving in freezing rain and ice on roads I wasn't sure of...I am always afraid when driving on bad roads, but last night all I could see in my mind was Tom's car spinning around and slamming into the trees. That fear was all I could think of... I had a mini-panic attack that all but paralyzed me. I HAD to get home...I just wanted to be safe at home wrapped in my warm blanket. I said many prayers while driving, but I was overcome with fear. (My daughter was the one reminding me God was protecting us and He would get us home)

When we did get home, I was a wreck, and Tom was very angry at me, for various reasons, but mostly because he was worried about us. He yelled at me and I became SO ANGRY! I went to my room and slammed the door and spent my whole night in tears...letting fear and anger steal the peace from my peaceful-night's sleep.

Today's Bible study was exactly what I needed to remind me that I let my emotions steal my peace. There are several verses that teach us how to deal with "peace wreckers."

Isaiah 26:3 - we need to be steadfast...keep your mind on God. Trust in God.

Isaiah 48:18 - if we obey God's commands He will give us peace

Psalm 3:8 - deliverance from our fears come from God

Psalm 23:4 - one of our biggest fears is death...God is with us always and will protect us, even when we are dealing with death

When peace wreckers come our way, remembering that Jesus is walking beside us...learning to trust God's promises of protection and peace will help us to overcome those peace wreckers.

Yes, peace wreckers have been slamming me lately...and yes, fear and worry have worked to overcome and overwhelm me. But...I have stayed in communication with God and read in his word about his promises. My peace wreckers are short-lived and even though I don't understand it...God's peace comes to me again and I can go on another day. It's all we can do.

I pray that when peace wreckers come your way, you will also turn to God for comfort and reassurance. He is with you and will always be there to protect you. May peace shine through in your life, even in the most difficult times.

Monday, February 21, 2011


This week's memory verse:

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7

In the last few weeks, I have seen so many people SEARCHING for meaning and peace and joy in their lives...I'm not kidding...I have received an email from a friend asking me how I find joy, I read a friends's blog post who is struggling with being unhappy in his life and searching for meaning, and even my own husband is searching in his soul HOW and WHY he was saved from that awful car accident.

About 10 years ago, I began searching for more meaning in my life, and I turned back to my faith that I had been ignoring for several years. In the process of digging in the Bible for answers, peace found me! How can this be?

Whether we were raised in the church or not, our thinking, rational minds think that relying on "god" to guide us, fulfill us and give us peace seems too simple...too far-fetched...we should have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and find or make our own happiness. Life is what we make it, right?

Look again at our memory verse. "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7 ---- I looked at the Message translation, and I also looked at the verse before it.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

THAT'S WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME!!! In the past few years, I have taken my worries to God in prayer and learned to rely on HIS strength instead of my own and peace and joy have been more a part of my life more often!

To further prove my point, read these verses for yourself:

Psalm 29:11

Isaiah 26:3

John 16:33

Romans 15:13

You will find from these verses that peace and joy come from God. God WANTS us to find peace in this world. If we learn to trust him, study his word and stay close to him in prayer, he will give us a sense of peace, even in trying times.

Did you notice, I said even in trying times? Jesus tells us we will have trouble in this life:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

I do not claim to be a religious scholar...I don't claim to have all the answers...I don't even claim that my way is THE way to find peace. I only claim to tell MY I can find peace and joy in this world...what works for me. I was searching and I found answers. Maybe you are searching too and maybe what worked for me will work for you. What do you have to lose? This week I will be exploring more about how to find peace in this crazy world. Would you like to come along with me?

I pray that God will bless you and keep you and that He will shine his face upon you and give you peace that you don't understand.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Putting Joy to WORK...

This week's memory verse:

"Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is my strength." Nehemiah 8:10

Today's Bible study begins with a prayer that I would like to pray for us all...Dear God, let us take all the pieces of what we have learned about joy and put them into active practice in our lives. Amen

It is one thing to know what the Bible says about joy, and another thing to actually put that knowledge to work in our lives every day. It is not easy...I know! There is so much in our lives that bring us down. Just turning on the news can make take the joy of our day and send it down the drain! We have a CHOICE to be happy or not. Whatever our circumstances, we can choose to be joyful or choose to wallow in our sadness and our pain.

BUT, please know that there are situations where your body is working against you in this. Some of us have medical reasons for our sadness, or even depression. I have several friends who have suffered with clinical depression or other mental issues that need to be treated in order for them to find joy again. I do NOT want to put undue pressure on people to CHOOSE to be happy when their bodies are fighting them.

For many of us, though, we choose the attitude we have in most circumstances. When there are so many things to be sad and depressed about in our lives, how can we CHOOSE to see the bright side of things? If you believe that God is alive in our world today, and believe that He wants to guide us through this hard life, then you will believe he gave us tools to help us. The Bible refers to joy over 242 times. God loves us and wants us to find joy in our lives. Read the following verses for yourself and think about what each one is telling us about joy.

Psalm 5:11

Psalm 30:11-12

Psalm 50:23

Psalm 90: 14

I'm going to write this last one out because I think it says it all:"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is Christ's will for you in Christ Jesus." -- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

WOW! While it's not is that SIMPLE! God says we are to rejoice in everything (even the bad), pray continually (stay in constant communication with Him) and give thanks for all.Just take a moment and think about all the blessings God has placed in your life. Even if many bad things have happened in your life...there ARE things to be thankful for. Think about them, and give God praise and thanks for placing them in your life. How do these things bring joy into your life? How can you hang on to that joy in hard times?

Take these feelings of gratitude and joy and put them into practice in your everyday life. Make someone smile today! Do something nice for someone else...something unexpected! Sing a song that makes you feel good! Have lunch with a friend! Call a friend you haven't seen for a while! Share a funny story with a coworker! Say Hello and smile to a stranger on the street! Strike up a conversation with a clerk at Walmart and thank her for being so nice! There are SO MANY ways that you can CHOOSE to put joy in your life...and if your not feeling joyful...fake it (with feeling!)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What makes me so happy?

This week's memory verse:

"Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10

Have you ever really thought about why you are the way you are? I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Why am I so positive all the time? Why am I able to find good in the bad and joy in the pain? People have been asking me the same questions lately.The number one reason I can come up with...that's the way God made me. I do believe that to some extent. I told someone yesterday that I think it might stem from being a "people pleaser" and wanting to make others around me happy. I just hate seeing others sad and unhappy, so I go out of my way to cheer people up. Sometimes it backfires...some don't want to be cheered up and find my personality annoying. That used to bother me, but now, I don't care! Makes me even cheerier around them!

But I don't think it can all be traced back to my personality. Enough bad things have happened to me in my life...and life in general is depressing enough to bring even this "Miss Suzy Sunshine"'down. It takes effort and faith to stay joyful in an UNjoyful world!

Look again at Paul, who while he was in jail and in chains, was able to rejoice and find joy!

"...Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God's provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance." Philippians 1:18-19

Paul knew that God was with him and that through his problems, the message of Christ was reaching ears it wouldn't have reached other wise. People around him, even the prison guards saw his strength and his joy and he told them where it came from...he shared with them his faith in Christ...people wondered how a man could be in a rotten jail cell and still find joy and realized it HAD to be God that was giving him his strength. Paul was the ultimate example of joy in suffering! He was in chains BECAUSE of preaching the gospel and he kept doing just that, even in that dark, dank cell.

It makes me a little uncomfortable when people praise me for being so strong and joyful in hard times. With all that has happened in the last week with my husband's accident, many people have complimented me and acted in awe that I stayed so strong through it all. There is nothing special about me, except that I know where my strength comes from...from God. My faith has kept me going. Without my prayers and cries to God this last week, I would have been a spineless jellyfish laying under a table quivering with fear. I remained strong BECAUSE I know that ultimately I will be safe with the Lord forever. Call me naive, foolish, brainless, silly...whatever you like. But I KNOW that's where my strength comes from, and that's all that matters!

So, if you want to be strong in the hard times...if you want to be joyful more often...if you struggle with depression ( don't we all from time to time??? I DO get sad sometimes too!)...I challenge you to LOOK for the good in the bad...WORK at making someone else smile...find reasons to laugh even when you feel like crying...surround yourself with people...people who make you smile...but most of all have FAITH that ultimately God will take care of you.I don't have a magic pill or special words to give you to make you joyful. I just share what works for me. While wondering why I am the way I am, I end up finding more reasons to thank God! Thank you God for making me the way I am, and thank you for encouraging me to share and encourage others to be joyful in you too!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Finding Joy in how I spend my time...

This week's memory verse:

"Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."

I find it fascinating when what I'm reading in my Bible study goes together perfectly with what my small group discussed last night, which plays into exactly what is going on in my life right now! Who said God doesn't communicate with us??

In the last several years, when people ask me how I am, one of my automatic answers is "Busy!" and, if you take a look at my calendar, you would agree. Practically everything I have on my calendar are "good", church activities, my daughter's activities, the occasional date with my husband, lunches with friends...not a whole lot of "free" or "extra" time. I tend to overbook myself...causing stress and worry. I am always worried I'm going to forget to do something, and many times I do!

What if I gave up control of my calendar and my time? What if I asked God to prioritize my activities? Would God guide me to find more balance in my life, while finding joy in every day? It sounds very sounds so easy...but would it really work? HOW do I do this?

Paul gives us instructions on how to do this in Philippians 4:6-7:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." what does this mean? Let me show you how I plan to put this to work in my life. This morning, I got up...a lot earlier than I planned on (recuperating husband needed me) and I spent some time reading my Bible study book, and then I said a little prayer about how I was going to put what I learned into today's blog message.To take this a bit farther...I want to spend just a few moments asking God to take control over my calendar today.

Lord, thank you for helping me learn how to go to you in every situation, even the everyday stuff. I have a lot on my plate today...things to do here at home to care for Tom, and lots of money-related paper work...then I am going back to work after being gone over a week. I ask for your guidance Lord. May I work diligently, but on things YOU need me to do. Help me to prioritize my tasks, jobs and calendar today so I am not stressed out, but do the good work you need me to do. Amen

I have to admit, even though I have gone to church my whole life, praying prayers like that used to seem silly to me. Prayer is good for BIG things, (like car accidents!) but it is silly and "religious" to pray about things like daily activities, right?

Well, I'm learning, through experience, that when I pray over everything...I surrender control over my life, and there is a peace that comes with that. I am ok to say no to something, even if that is a good something. I am able to see what's important and what is not. I'm not saying I am an expert at this...I still see myself making unwise choices about how I spend my time...I am still finding it hard to find time to exercise...I still don't think I spend enough time with my family. BUT, I am a work in progress... God is working in me and on my time. This knowledge is helping me to find joy in my every day life.

That old saying..."everything in moderation," is so true. I can still eat my favorite foods if I eat smaller amounts of them...I can still be involved in things I like to do if I do them occasionally instead of all the time...I can still give my all at work, as long as it is only work and not my life...I can still spend time with my friends, as long as I am speeding time with my family as well. How do I spend all my time and energy in moderation? By giving my time back to God and asking Him to help me manage it. He gave it to me in the first place!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The joy of the Lord is your strength!

This week's memory verse:

"Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." - Nehemiah. 8:10

Boy, did I need that verse this past week! I apologize that I didn't do messages last week. For those of you that don't know, my husband was in a car accident last Monday night. He was in Grant hospital for several days and had a procedure to repair a slight tear in his aorta. I have spent a lot of time in prayer. Yes, I was scared, stressed out, worried and exhausted during this time, but the whole time, I knew...I felt God was with me AND with my husband, even though he didn't realize it. After seeing pictures if his car, I KNOW God was with him!

This week's lesson in our Bible study book is about growing in joy. Joy is one of my favorite topics. But this week, I found out about finding joy in pain and hardship.

The Psalms have many verses about pain and lament, but they are filled with verses of praise and joy, and also reminds us of where we can go for help:

"In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress." -- Psalm 71:1-3

The rest of Psalm 71 is full of praise. All day long we should praise God for his great and saving acts. Since I love music so much, one way I show my praise to God is through song. Verses 22-24 speaks of playing instruments and singing to praise God.

But how do we sing praises to God when we are dealing with pain, frustration and worry? How do we find joy in our struggles?

David, who was called "a man after God's own heart" and one of the cornerstones of our faith...he messed up and suffered harsh consequences for his actions. He knew he messed up and relied on his relationship with God to comfort and save him from his sins. In Psalm 51:10-11, David speaks one of my FAVORITE verses:

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me."

When I am struggling, I say this verse (and sing it too) and it reassures me that God IS LISTENING, knows that I am aware of my mess ups and that I am longing for his forgiveness. To some this may sound strange, but to me, it brings me hope and joy! When I lose my joy because of my situation, I go to God's word, and get connected to others who can support me, and then with time...I do feel better, and I begin finding my joy again.

So, this week, when I almost lost my husband and my world was turned upside down for a while...I prayed a lot, and was SO supported by friends and family. Many prayers were lifted up. No matter the result...I knew God was there! I was and am tired and exhausted right now, but I can still find joy in the situation!! Thank you God!

That is my prayer for you, my friends. No matter what situation you are in...find God in it and find the joy in your good times AND in your struggles too!

Monday, February 7, 2011

My journey is just beginning!

This week's memory verse:

"But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23

I have been thinking a lot lately...many will say THAT is my problem! LOL I have been wondering how I can explain what is different in my life right now that drives me...makes me want to share what is going on in my life and in my heart. Many people I know just won't "get it" and say things like "Oh, that Linda has gone all religious." Really, if you want to know, religion has very LITTLE to do with what's going on with me right now.

I used to think that religion IS what it's all about...what I do on Sundays...getting religion. Going to church is where you go to find out what you should and shouldn't do in order to go to heaven, right? All the songs and stories we learned as's all about learning the rules. I can sing a song about the Ten Commandments by memory. That's the whole idea behind church, right? WRONG!

One of the fruits of the spirit (the characteristics you have in you when you allow God's spirit into your life) is goodness. Webster's Dictionary defines goodness as the quality or state of being good. I have basically always been a "good" person, caring about people, trying to do the right things, helping others, not getting in too much trouble along the way. I can do most of that without the help of God, right? I mean, it's just the way I am. I can just keep trying to be a good person every day and I will earn a spot in heaven...

The reality is, I can't go to church to find out how to be a "good-er" person. Church, or the people in the church, can help me find tools, like the Bible, to help me ACT like a better person, but only GOD can change the inside of me and make me a better person. Ok, so THAT'S the reason to go to church then, so God can make me a better person?

Just going to church and sitting there listening to the preacher's sermons is not going to make you a better, (good-er) person. Just reading the Bible is not going to make you a better person either. As I said, the me I am, "good girl Linda" has been reading the Bible for years, but THAT alone is not making me a better person.

In that famous 23rd Psalm, David talks about GOD'S GOODNESS...He will take care of us, provide for us, give us beautiful and quiet places to rest, and will guide us on the right path. In this world where it seems there are SO MANY people on the wrong can we believe there is such a loving and caring God out there for us? YOU have to go look for Him and allow Him to come into your life!

In the past few years, I have been learning to communicate with have a RELATIONSHIP with open myself up to ALLOW Him to work inside me. Now, it's more than just reading the Bible, going to church and doing "the right things." I haven't become some holier than thou Christian who looks down at all the others who are not as GOOD in the eyes of God as I AM! No, way! I just want to share with everyone I know how I REALLY FEEL God working in my life and in the lives of others I see who have also come to realize how having a relationship with God REALLY DOES make a difference in your life! I can't explain it any better than saying that I can't manufacture a "good person" persona...I am allowing Christ to work THROUGH me! I am seeing myself say and do things that I, myself, could never do!!! I can't, but God can! (I am stealing lines from Pastor Brian's sermon yesterday, but I can really SEE it!)

Pastor Brian talked about living life in 5 life can be SO MUCH MORE than how we are living it...just going through the motions. I am so excited to be on this new journey...I have such a long way to go, but it is good to know I have friends who are on this journey with "church family"...people who are also excited about what God is doing in their lives...people who are learning what living relationally with God can mean for them. Do you want to go on the journey too? If so, come along!

Friday, February 4, 2011

A camel through the eye of a needle??

This week's memory verse:

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." -- Hebrews 11:6

Being's something that many of us claim we wish we could be, or at least some of us wish we had more money than we do right now. We are fascinated by the "lifestyles of the rich and famous" and spend hours watching how the "real" housewives live. Why? I think it's only natural to want MORE... what if the MORE that will really satisfies us has NOTHING to do with money???

Have you heard the saying "it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven." Hmmmm...what a curious thought. It was Jesus who said this in Matthew 19:24. He said it because he had just had an encounter with a wealthy man who wanted to know how to obtain everlasting life. Jesus told him he had to sell what he owned and give it to the poor...the man sadly walked away because he couldn't do it. Why couldn't he do it?Don't you think when you have wealth, or at least comfort in your finances, you just don't want to think about what life would be like without it? It's scary to think of living life without the comforts that wealth brings you.

I have friends who go to Haiti. One comment I hear often from them is how HAPPY the Haitian people seem. They have NOTHING!!!! Not even the things that we so greatly take for granted, like food, water, a sturdy shelter. But they are happy! I have never witnessed this for myself (maybe I will someday) but don't you think they can be happy because they never had wealth to begin with...they don't have tv to make them see what others have and want it? When you don't have it and don't know any better, it's easier to be content with what you have.But, when you have it, or SEE others have it, it is harder to think about life without. It's harder because we are relying on our own human-ness at that point. Jesus story goes on...the disciples saw the whole thing with the rich man walking away and Jesus explaining it. Their human-ness shows through as they started worrying about what this means...for them. They said...if a rich man can't get to heaven, what hope is there for us? Again, they were putting more measure on being rich.

Jesus replied to them that on your own, getting to heaven is impossible...for or poor. But WITH GOD, all things are possible! If you trust and believe in God, riches make no difference!

Peter and the disciples then did another very human thing, they compared themselves to the rich man...well, WE'VE given up every thing to follow you...what does that mean for us?While Jesus didn't concentrate on the comparison, he did give the disciples (and us!) a promise and a glimpse of heaven. He said that those who follow him will rule along side of him in heaven and be rewarded 100 times over!

It doesn't matter the riches we have here on earth, or the things we lose here on earth. We will be rewarded and have great JOY in heaven IF we follow Christ and do as he taught us.

I don't know about you, but finances are always an issue for me. I never seem to have enough...I live pay check to pay check most of the time. BUT, I need to remember that I am still pretty comfortable. And, if I continue following the lead of Jesus and be helpful to others, showing kindness, believing in God and leaning on the hope that comes from that faith...I will be rewarded in heaven... There it won't matter how much money I had on earth!

Sometimes the stuff we read and study and learn from God's word seems too good to be true...but, Dear Lord, remind us to remember that with you, EVERYTHING is possible! Thank you for reminders of this from time to time. Help us to cling to your eternal glory and the the hope that faith in you brings us! Amen.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My does it look?

This week's memory verse:

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" -- Hebrews 11:6

Recently, a friend told me he read my blog. He didn't realize how "Christian" I was...and that I was "too deep" in my faith for him. I really care about this friend and appreciate his comments because it really made me think about several things.

First of all, I thought about his comment of how "Christian" I was. At first, I scolded myself because shouldn't people SEE from my actions that I am a devoted Christian? "They will know we are Christians by our love" right? Perhaps I am loving enough in my daily life...maybe things come out of my mouth that shouldn't. Do I look hypocritical? That is something that always bugged me about "other" Christians...they say one thing but act another. Do I do that? I really hope not! But it did make me stop and take a look at my daily behavior.

As I have said...I STRIVE to walk the talk and not just talk about it. This made me more aware if my actions, and that is a good thing. There is no such thing as a PERFECT CHRISTIAN....I know that. "We all sin and fall short of the glory of God'" Romans 3:23. I just want to make sure I am making good choices in the words I choose and the things I do so I can SHOW God's love.

And then, on the flip side, I wondered if the comment of how Christian I was could be considered a bad I put people off with my "goody goody" "sun porch" attitude? Do my actions make it hard for people who don't believe the things I do to relate to me? "Those kind of Christians" turn me off know the ones...acting so righteous and holy all the time..."holier than thou." I don't want to be like that either!

This blog is a way for me to share my faith...what keeps me going every day. A way for me to communicate and share what's going on in my own spiritual life. Believe me, I KNOW I don't have NEAR to all the answers! There are spiritual questions I struggle with every day! I know I mess up on a daily basis! I want to better understand the basics of what I believe and be able to explain it to others.

Romans 6:23 states that death is what we EARN from the sins we commit. This means that according to God's justice...because of the wrongs we do, when we die, we SHOULD just die and have no eternal life with God. BUT...God didn't want want that for the humans that he created so he created a way out for us.

I have heard John 3:16 my whole life...we even see that written on signs in crowds at ball games. But do we really understand what it means? God loves us (the people he created) so much that he didn't want us to just die after our years here on earth. He came up with a plan to give us the opportunity to save ourselves from that death. To do this, he asked his son to leave heaven and come to earth. While here on earth, he taught us about WHO God is and how He works. He taught us about God's plan to save us. And then he suffered a humiliating, painful and sorrowful death here on earth to take the place of OUR death. When he rose from the dead, he taught us even more about God because he PROVED who he was and gave us HOPE that we don't have to suffer an eternal death any more! He taught us that if we have faith in God's plan...then we can live with him forever!

THAT is what I believe! I would rather believe in something amazing that may sound far-fetched to some, than to live my life without the peace and HOPE that this faith gives me!!! I want to share that faith with others...I want people I know and people I don't know to see my faith and maybe want it for themselves.

Revelations 3:20 says that God is knocking on our door. All we have to do is hear it and answer it and invite him in. He says he will stick around and have supper with us! That means he wants to come in and get personal with us!

Is God using me to knock on someone's door???? I don't know. But, just in case he is, I want to be willing to sound and look like a Christian (the best version of me possible) and to relate to people on their level. I want to be careful not to sound too deep or too "religious" and turn people off.

I am GLAD my friend said the things he did about me sounding so "Christian!" That statement woke me up a little bit and made me want to be more than a "Sunday morning Christian" and made me want to keep sharing how God is working in me!

Is God knocking on your door? If so, open the door and invite him in! He would love to sit down with you and get to know you as you get to know Him!

Is God using you to knock on someone else's door? If so, be open to the charge and be excited about being an instrument for God!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What faith can do

This week's memory verse:

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

I'm struggling with what to write today...not because I have nothing to write about, but because I have SO MUCH to write about! I have been so blessed to have several experiences lately that have rocked my world...experiences that have shown me a glimpse of what faith can do in the my world. I want to share the feelings that are inside me with everyone I meet, but I know that many people aren't ready to hear it from me.

My faith in God, a living, loving, caring God...who is present even though we can't see him...has led me to step out and study the Bible every day because I want to know God better. I know I am not meant to understand everything, but I no longer want to use that as an excuse to do my own thing. Today I am reminded of many people in the Old Testament who stepped out in faith. A friend of mine said last night that it's important to read the Old Testament so we learn more of who God is...and more about the people who God built this world for and around and how God related to those people. They lived many years before Jesus, and thousands of years before us, but they built the foundation of our faith. God placed them there FIRST so we could learn from their mistakes AND from their faith.

Read Hebrews 11 for yourself to understand how faith in God can do BIG things...the author of Hebrews reminds us of Old Testament people (many of whom we have learned about since we were children) who out of faith did what they needed to do.Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses' parents, and even a prostitute named Rahab.

Verse 13 makes a very important statement that we really need to understand. All of these people were living by faith...(that means relying on their faith in God, trusting Him, and following His instructions)...when they died. They were "walking the talk." BUT...the verse goes on to say they didn't RECEIVE what was promised BEFORE they died. They lived like they should, but didn't live to see the fruits of their faith and labors. Abraham didn't live to see his ancestors number like stars and be a great nation. Moses didn't live in the promised land he led the Israelites to.

Verse 13 concludes by saying that these Old Testament "heroes" realized they were foreigners in this land...looking for their true home.Carrie Underwood has a new song out, "My Temporary Home".

"This is my temporary home

It's not where I belong

Windows and rooms I'm just passing through

This is was just a stop on the way to where I'm goin'

I'm not afraid because I know

This was just my temporary home."

When we realize, believe and have faith in what God promised...that Jesus made a place for us and we will be rewarded in heaven for our faith and what that faith helps us to do in this life...we can let go of our fears and our worries, our disappointments and discouragements...this life is just temporary. We are foreigners in a strange land. Soon we will be in heaven and be filled with joy and love...the reward for our faith in this life.

My only sorrow right now is the fact that many that I love and care about in this life aren't ready to hear...are not ready to share in this joy that is filling my heart right now BECAUSE of this faith that is bubbling up inside me.

Where is your faith today? Can you rely on it during the cold, icy, blizzardy places in your life? What BIG things will your faith help you to do? What little things can you do that might be a BIG thing to someone else? I pray that you learn from the examples in the Bible of those who stepped out in faith...that you gain your own confidence in your faith to step out and go boldly wherever God leads you!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Leaning on Faith to work through discouragement

This week's memory verse:

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him". Hebrews 11:6

Have you ever been disappointed in yourself? Have you TRIED to be good and do good, and then go RIGHT BACK to bad habits and do what you DON'T want to do? This is happening to me once again with my eating and I don't understand myself! It's like I don't have enough faith in God or not enough faith in myself...I don't know...but it's discouraging!

I do these messages every day, and yes, I do believe that staying in close contact with God during daily Bible study makes me a more positive, hopeful and loving person. I am thankful that this morning habit has stayed a part of my life. I look forward to it each day and I love sharing what I learn and how it makes me feel with you through these messages.

BUT..I feel like a hypocrite because there are certain things in my life that I JUST CAN'T seem to stay consistent on...mainly eating healthy and getting exercise time in. This hour or so I spend in quiet time now is easy for me...why can't I find 30 minutes every day to exercise??? Why do I not PLAN what I am doing for lunch and then at lunch time end up going out (to get OUT of the library for a bit) and making the WRONG food choices?? I have said this MANY times before...I KNOW what to do...why can't I do it?

I can make a lot of excuses...I am a busy working mother with a lot of responsibilities...I am basically a good person with few vices...BLAH BLAH BLAH! It comes down to not enough faith in what I am trying to do and holding on to control. I need to get encouraged...I need to connect with God and renew my faith in him in this area. There are many examples in the Bible about people who by faith allowed God to do miracles, especially through Jesus. Read Luke 8:40-48 for two such people. Also, there are several verses that talks about faith and how it can help you. Below are some that our Bible study book lists today. I usually use the NIV translation. Today I looked these verses up in NIV, but then looked them up in The Message translation too. The Message sometimes says it in a way that I understand and that makes sense to me. I will write the verses as I found them in The Message today.

1 Corinthians 16:13 - keep your eyes open, hold on to your convictions, give it all you've got, be resolute. (Hmmmmm...I have't been giving it all I've got....)

Galatians 3:9 - those who live by faith are blessed like Abraham.

Galatians 5:5 - we expectantly await for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit
Ephesians 3:12 - when we trust in him (Christ) we're free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go.

Since I am finding my faith in myself lacking, I need to look to these reassuring verses...I can go to God with my doubts about myself and be bold to do what needs to be done and KNOW that the Spirit is living in me. We have talked about using the "Just for today" phrase before. I think I need to go back to that today. Just for today, I am going to rely on that healthy breakfast I had to get me through the morning. Just for today I am going to PLAN my lunch AND supper and NOT eat fast food ( I don't want to go out in the ice anyway!) Just for today I will spend 15 minutes 2 times today walking in the library going up and down steps getting some needed exercise! I am thanking to God for this time of rejuvenation this morning and I ask that He gives me the strength to DO these things today!

I pray that when your faith is lacking, you can turn to God and the reassurance from the Bible to regain the power that lies in your faith in a God who loves you and wants to see you be strong!