My sun porch

My sun porch

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas! He Came...for You!

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but the save the world through him." -- John 3:16-17

Merry Christmas my friends!

Are you feeling overwhelmed this holiday season? Are you running from here to there? Are you worrying about getting the right presents? Are you worrying about paying for those right presents? Are you missing someone who is gone from your life? Are you fighting depression and fighting back tears? Are you feeling abandonded or discarded and alone? Are these feelings not limited to the busy holidays, but are creeping into your daily life?

If you answered yes to any of those statements, you are most definitely not alone. Instead of being the "holly jolly Christmas" we hear about in song, the holidays are a tough time of year for many.  All of the things that are wrong in our lives seem to get amplified over the holidays. We feel more alone, more worried, more afraid.

But I am here to tell you that God doesn't want you to feel that way! The Bible says he sent his Son Jesus into the world  to save the world!

Yesterday, I sang a song in our church's Christmas musical called "He came." I have been practicing and learning the words for weeks, but it wasn't until yesterday when I was singing it in front of the congregation that I really listened to the words coming out of my mouth. Those words can be of comfort to those who are hurting.

Through the years His love remains.
He blood has washed away my guilt and shame.
The lamb of God.
Holy one, Redeemer, Friend.
His faithfulness and mercy have no end.
Immanuel.

He came...to mend the broken hearted.
He came...to set the captive free.
He came...to heal the wounded spirit.
Savior of the world...He came.

Oh come to my heart
Lord Jesus.
There is room in my heart for you.

He came...to mend the broken hearted.
He came...to set the captive free.
He came...to heal the wounded spirit.
Savior of the world...He came.

Dear Loving Father God, I thank you for loving us, the people of the world, so much that you sent Jesus to us. The name Immanuel means "God with us." YOU sent Jesus so YOU could be with us! We are all hurting in some way today, Lord. Help us to remember that if we open our hearts to Jesus, he WILL come in and mend our broken hearts, heal our wounded spirits and set us free! I personally celebrate this Christmas that Jesus lives in my heart and allows me to let go of the hurt and show others how to feel this way too. Bless our world today, Lord, and open the eyes of the closed hearts out there so they can realize that He came for them too! Amen.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The end of the "too much and too many" world

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only." Matthew 24:36

Well, it's December 21,2012 and so far...the world is still here. So hey, Myans...I think you got this thing all wrong. But today, I'm calling for the end of the world...ar at least parts of our world.

There is too much and too many in this world...too much hate, too much greed, too much envy, too much pain, too many harsh words, too many acts of violence, too many wounded minds, bodies and spirits...too many and too much!

What if those of us that believe in and follow God listened to the advice and direction he gives us in the Bible? What if we fought against the too much and too many in this world, using the tools and weapons God gave us?

When you have God and Jesus Christ in your life, God says the Spirit comes to live in you. The Spirit works with you to produce "fruit" or make good and Godly things happen. In Galatians 5:22-23, we are told that the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. I have found in my life when I am intune with God's presence in my life, and as I have matured in my faith in Him, these "fruits" are produced more easily and more often in my life. It is easier to be patient and loving with difficult people. I find I have more self control over my emotions and my greedy feelings. I am able to live in peace with more people. I don't believe that is because I am a "good person..." I believe it is because God's Spirit is living within me, helping me.

There are have been more and more people posting things on Facebook and sending emails that we need to bring prayer back into schools and we don't want the word God taken out of our pledge or off our money. But I think God wants more from us than the image of him on our "stuff." He will not FORCE us to come to him...you can't FORCE kids or adults to pray and think that is going to bring the fruits of the spirit out in everyone. Instead, those of us who are followers of God just need to be bolder and braver and make those fruits more visable. The more love and kindness we show to people...the more patience  and gentleness we exhibit to the challenging people in our lives...the more we will fight off the too much and too many in the world. Those fruits can be used to draw others to God!

So, lets stop wasting time fighting about gun control and political issues. Let's stop fighting with other PERIOD! No, it won't be easy. It is just too easy to fall back into the too much and too many habits. Let's use the "end of the world" craze today to work on tearing down the old world and building up a new, kinder, gentler world! That doesn't have to sound like a a too good to be true statement...If each of us did what we could to allow God's Spirit to live in us and help us get rid of the too much and too little, we CAN create a new world that God can be proud of!



Friday, December 14, 2012

"Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket..."

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun." -- Psalm 19:1-4

This morning I am very thankful I listened to that little voice that kept whispering to me to go out and look at the stars. I am not a huge star gazer and I don't know a whole lot about astromomy...I can find the big and little dippers when looking at the stars at night, but that's about it.

It was very cold, but I wrapped up in my blanket and headed out into the early morning. I leaned back on my frosty car and stared up at the stars. I had no idea which direction to focus upon, so I just took in as much as I could. I did find the Big Dipper...then the Little Dipper. Then...there is was...a flash across the sky! A falling star! Well...actually it was part of the the Geminid Meteor Shower. As my eyes got accustomed to the darkness, I saw a couple more! I stayed out for about 35 minutes. I read later that to really have gotten a show, I should have stayed out for at least an hour...but, my shivering body had had enough!
 
By now, you know me well enough that I couldn't let this experience pass without writing about it! All I could think about was the expanse of the stars and heavens and how small I felt in comparison. I am but a speck in the vast universe that God created. But...even though I am but a speck, I know in my heart I am just as important in the eyes of God as any other piece of God's creation.

My problems, pain, fear and disappointments seem so large to me. They become all I can think about...they overwhlem me at times. But, when I stop and remember to give all those huge things to God, I feel a relief. God is SO huge and SO powerful...my issues are but a speck to him. I picture him taking my fears and flicking them away with his fingers. They are THAT insignificant to him. But, I even though I too am small, I am his child. He loves me and wants to flick away all my problems.

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? -- Romans 8:31

Looking at millions of stars, seeing the amazing beauty of the heavens, and being amazed by the blaze of a meteor falling across the sky was a good reminder to me of God's power and his love for little ol' me!

The skies do proclaim the work of His hands! The stars silently communicated to me this morning and revealed this knowledge to me.  Thank you Lord, for showing me just a bit of your glory today! Help me to keep that falling star feeling in my pocket all day long!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The joy of Christmas music...

"Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; and let us shout aloud to the Rock of our Salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song." -- Psalm 95:1-2

I love Christmas music. There is something about the old Christmas carols and standards that make me smile and have a warm feeling inside. When I am working around the house around the holidays, I seem to work harder when "White Christmas," "Frosty the Snowman," and "O, Little Town of Bethlehem" are blaring from the radio. When I work in my office at the library, I have the sound track from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" or even sacred music like Handel's Messiah playing on my computer. Holiday tunes just put me in a good mood!

But I know that there are those who do not agree with me. My husband and I were in the car together the other day when a Christmas song started playing on the radio. He automatically switched the channel and growled something about being tired of those songs already! I called him "Scrooge" as a popular holiday song played in the quiet of my head.

And I have talked to more than a few people lately who are really mentally and emotionally struggling this holiday season. Friends who have recently lost family members...friends who don't have enough money to buy the presents their children want...friends who are just sure that the world is going to end on December 21...

I have been in their shoes many times in my life...when the Christmas season is just a reminder of the things that I had lost. Why in the world would those friends have reason to sing for joy?

Well, while it is hard, I think that pushing through those lost feelings is what is best for us. How do we do that? The answer to that question is different for each person, and some never are able to push through. But, when I am depressed and blue, I make a list in my head of all the things that I DO have in my life. I talk to friends...I talk to family...I talk to God. Even when we have lost everything...God us still there with us and will never leave us! That fact is enough to get me through. I KNOW in my heart that one day I will be with God and that the pain and tears I have on this earth will be beind me. That is enough...

THAT gives me hope enough to sing for joy and praise the God who will save me from my deepest and darkest hurts! I will pray for those friends who cannot sing for joy right now and hope that they find even a little joy this Christmas season.

So, I will join the Charlie Brown kids in the picture above..."Hark the Herald Angels Sing! Glory to the Newborn King!"



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

When a friend is hurting, we hurt too...

"Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge." Psalm 62:8

My tender heart aches this morning. When a friend calls in panic and fear and asks me to pray, I drop whatever I am doing and pray. But that phone call sticks with me. Her tears become my tears, my heart hurts for her.

But then I remember my words to her and say them to myself. Stay calm, know that God is with you and he will take care of you, no matter what. And he will take care of her and her problems as well.

It is so hard to remember that when you are in a place of fear and panic. I know, I have been there too.

Your mind can play tricks on you when you are under stress and have had no sleep for the worry that is in your heart. You forget the things that sustain you. You forget and are only left with the fear and uncertainty.

But, my friend was wise enough to know she needed someone to pray FOR her. God gave her a moment of clarity that allowed her to reach out to someone else. So many of us retreat into ourselves when we are afraid and hurting. We don't want the world to know how we are hurting. But, I believe THAT is exactly the time we need strong friends around us who can remain calm and pray.

So today, as my friend is worried, tired, afraid and sick...I remain strong and reach out to God on her behalf. He has shown me over and over how he is always with me...that when I pour my heart out to him, he hears and will comfort me and bring me a peace that allows me to get through whatever comes my way. That has allowed me to learn to TRUST God and HOPE in him in my own life. He placed friends in my path who have blessed me in so many ways. My way to give back is to lean on that trust and hope for them when they can't.

When a friend is hurting, we hurt too. Don't you think God put others in our lives for just that reason?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Believe and Know

"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us." -- John 4:16

Polls taken across our country show that many claim to believe in God. Although, in a recent Pew Survey (June 2012) people 30 years of age and younger have more doubts about the existence of God than in past generations.

In my heart, I know there is a great difference between believing in God and KNOWING and BELIEVING in the love that God has for us...for each and every one of us. I know this because I have experienced this difference myself.

I have "believed" in God my whole life. I went to church as a child, youth group as a teen, and even though I was not a consistent church-goer in college and in my 20's, that belief in God was always in my mind and heart. But, it wasn't until the last few years that I have been drawn to a deeper, stronger relationship with God. Something has happened inside my heart AND my head that makes me not only believe in God, but to know and understand how much he loves us...us being all human beings.

A relationship with God sounds like a strange notion, doesn't it? It seems a little one-sided. God doesn't "speak" to me or participate in a conversation with me the same way my friends or family members do. But I do believe God does communicate with me in ways that both creates and sustains HOPE in my heart.

I wish I could explain to you in words that describe this process in my heart. All words I seem to use seem lacking. Just please understand that I don't believe that this is something that only I am capable of. If you open your heart and your mind to God's love...If you reach out and ask him to make himself known to you...If you look in the Bible, God's word to us, for verses that explain God's love for you...you will find it. How do I KNOW this is true and will happen for you? Because it happened for me!

Why are young people doubting God's existence more today than in the past? Those of us that have come before have stopped believing and knowing. We have become lost and disappointed in our world. We have not passed on our faith...we have not encouraged our children enough to search and find that belief and knowledge for themselves. We have become apathetic and have allowed our children to go searching on their own...

I hate to think of people young or old not knowing and believing in God's love for us. But, our God is a God of second, third, fourth choices. I don't believe it is ever too late. It can start with you! Find ways to believe and know God's love for you!

Friday, December 7, 2012

What does God think of me?

"If you want to claim credit, claim it for God. What you say about yourself means nothing in God's work. It's what God says about you that makes the difference." 2 Corinthians 10:17-18 (The Message Translation)

The world around me sees the me I want them to see...God sees the me I AM. He sees when I scream like a banshee at my daughter. He sees when my gluttony leads me to eat ANOTHER piece of cake. He sees my poor financial decisions. He sees when pride takes over my brain. He hears the words I say under my breath when I am frustrated. He hears when my "venting" gets out of hand. He hears when gossip slips out of my lips. So, what DOES God say about me?

Several years ago, I read the book The Purpose Driven Life. Author Rick Warren talks about how we use our "SHAPE." That is, how we use our spritual gifts, our heart, our abilities, our personalities and our experiences. God gave us all those things...well, he didn't give us our experiences, we got those through our own choices. But, the other things didn't come from us, but from God. I want people to think the best of me...that I used my gifts to the best of my ability. But ultimately, it doesn't matter what PEOPLE think of me...only what GOD thinks of me. Rick Warren says, "The point of living your life to the fullest in every aspect is not to increase your reputation; it’s to make your life count for God."

If you Google "What does God think of me?" you will get THOUSANDS of results. If you look in the Bible, you will see around 100 verses that describe what God thinks of his human creation...of ME and YOU. Some of my favorite verses are about what God thinks of me.

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" -- John 1:12

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." -- Hebrews 13:5

So, as a child of God, I want to live my life in a way that will give HIM glory, and not myself glory. I want to please my Heavenly Father and make him proud of me. Does this mean I will never make mistakes? Absolutely not! But it does give me hope to keep going...to get back to good decisions after making bad ones. My Heavenly Father is loving and forgiving (more things you will find out when you go searching his word for what he thinks about you.) and wants the best for me.

My ultimate goal is to hear the following words from God when my time on earth is done:
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Matthew 25:23

God may not approve or like everything I do, but I know he loves me and wants me to use my SHAPE to the best of my ability. So, that's what I will continue to try to do. When I fail, I will get back up and try again. THAT is what God thinks of me...the Bible tells me so.

Monday, December 3, 2012

HOPE

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." -- Colossians 3:17

This is the beginning of the Advent season, where we celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is said that Christmas is the "season of hope." I believe that to be true. It's about new beginnings and finding hope in a God who deals in hope.

Yesterday at my church, hanging behind the pastor as he spoke about the hope of the season, was the word HOPE...big, white, sparkly letters that caught your eye as soon as you walked into the sanctuary. I've thought about that word a lot in the past several hours.

A lot of good things have been happening to me lately. In the last few weeks, things that I have been wanting for myself and my family have been coming true. After a year of frustration and disappointment, this is a welcome change. I am incredibly grateful for the blessings that have occurred both lately and through my whole life. But there is something in me that doesn't totally trust good things. Under the happiness and gratefulness in my face and heart right now is fear and doubt. I wonder and worry when something bad is going to happen to mess all this up. I HATE that those thoughts that fly through my head, but find that they are there nonetheless.

I even started wondering about those silly Myans and the end of the world that is supposedly going to happen in a few weeks. It would be my luck that I am finally getting all the things I have been wanting my whole life and I won't even have the chance to enjoy them because the world will end on December 21st!

But wait...if the world ends, I will be in heaven, so I REALLY WILL be getting what I have always wanted, right? No worries!

I find HOPE in Jesus. HOPE makes it possible to keep going. HOPE makes it possible to put those negative fears and thoughts out of my mind. HOPE makes it possible for me to do everything I do in the name of Jesus and give thanks and praise to a God who knew we needed HOPE and gave us his son to fill that need. HOPE brings me joy!

So, today, I will put on my sparkly JOY pin and live my life in the HOPE that Jesus brings! I hope the next 22 days bring you HOPE and JOY as well!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Getting know THE great master...

A memory verse for today:
"I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope." -- Psalm 130:5

As I have mentioned before, I am reading a book with my church called God Space by Doug Pollock. I was touched by something I read this morning, and I want to share it with you. This is Mr. Pollock's idea, not mine.

Have you ever gone to a museum and while looking at and admiring all the sculptures and paintings, you come across a painting that you just don't get? You look and look, but you either don't know what it is, or don't understand what the artist was trying to convey. At those moments, I would love to have the artist right beside me, explaining what he meant to say throught his art.

We are like that painting that is hard to understand. We sometimes don't understand ourselves...we are not satisfied with our lives. We know there is more out there for our lives, but we just don't know what it is. Some us even go as far as to get away from the world we live in to "find ourselves."

If we open our minds to the possibilitity that we have a creator God who created the world, including us. we might have a way to "find ourselves." So, when we can't figure out who we are, where we are going, what we are here for...maybe we need to connect with our creator, the being that crafted us and put us together exactly the way he wanted us.

I believe God wants us to come to him and ask questions about his masterpieces...especially about ourselves. When you ask, God will answer in one way or another. How do I know this? How can I know what GOD is thinking or what he wants from us? Well....I don't REALLY know in any way except in my heart and from my experiences. I have searched...I have asked...I have struggled. When I turn my mind and heart to God, read the Bible for guidance, and pray and surrender my life over to my creator God, he brings a sense of peace to my heart and more importantly, I get a new infusion of HOPE in my heart that allows me to move forward. That didn't just happen! That feeling of hope didn't come from me and my flawed brain! It had to come from my loving and creative and master artist God!

Art is a way that creative people express themselves. When thinking of God as THE great master, it makes me want to learn from him and what he expresses through his human masterpiece. It makes it easier to understand myself and also makes it easier to look at his other masterpieces with tolerance and love.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I wonder as I wander....or as I write...


"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you: Seek and you will find: knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." -- Luke 11:9-10

I do a lot of talking on the pages of this blog. Each morning I sit down with my laptop in front of me and start writing. I am never sure what I am going to write...the words just come. This morning, I am wondering what you are thinking.

I write a lot about God. Some say I get too "Jesus-y" sometimes. Before I go any further, I want you to know that I write what comes to my heart. When I sit down in my comfy chair each morning, or in warmer weather sitting out in my sun porch, I don't really know what I am going to write about. I don't know where the words come from...they just come. I choose to believe that they come from God, or that God puts inspiration in my mind and heart and moves me to write about what He wants me to write about. The only reason I say that is that I am not smart enough or deep enough for these thoughts to come just from me. Even my family says that my blog doesn't sound like I wrote it...

That being said, today I am more interested in what YOU have to say...about God. I want to pose a few questions and I would love to start a dialog with the people who read my blog posts. Have you ever had anyone approach you and try to talk to you about God? What kind of feelings did you have about the conversation? I talk about God here on my blog because it's safe...there is no one sitting in front of me asking me questions. I may not be quite as brave in what I say in front of someone. Are you comfortable talking about your faith or lack of faith?

 I realize it is rather hard to reply on Blogger...I have tried to reply to another friend's blog, and it never seems to make to to the blog. So, for those of you who can reply here, please do. For those of you that read my blog on Facebook, feel free to post a reply to my blog link.

A one-sided conversation is sometimes not satisfying. I do wonder what you think about God, and would love to hear your comments...



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

WONDER at life of Pi...

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." -- Matthew 7:7
"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you: Seek and you will find: knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." -- Luke 11:9-10

My daughter and I went to see the movie "The Life of Pi" last night. I listened to the audio book version several years and ago and my daughter listened to part of it with me. We both loved the book so much that we were excited to see the movie. Let me first say that the 3-D and special effects were amazing! Flying fish that felt like they were jumping right into your lap! I am told that the tiger on the boat with Pi was computer generated. Well, that computer tiger was so real looking and sounding, it made us jump with fear several times! And the underwater scenes were extraordinary!

But what has stuck with me since watching the movie was the young Pi of the story. In 1970's India, Pi is searching...he is looking for God everywhere. He finds peace in Hinduism; he finds Christ on a dare as he runs into a church to drink the holy water and meets a priest tells him about the sacrificial life of Christ. He then finds God through Allah in the Muslim faith and finds comfort in the prayer rituals. This is a lot of searching for a young boy. His father, who believes in science instead of any god, wants Pi to choose a religion instead of going from one religion to the next. But, Pi is full of wonder. He is full of awe, admiration, fascination, suprise, astonishment, amazement and curiosity...all of those wonders of childhood.

As I sat there watching the movie, I kept thinking that some of my church friends would not like this movie because of how Pi isn't satisfied with just Christianity...he looks for more, and finds peace in other religions as well. Doesn't the Bible tell us we shouldn't look for other gods..."You will have no other gods before me." -- Exodus 20:3

Yes, that's true. But, Pi didn't have Christian parents who took him to Sunday school to learn the 10 Commandments. He wondered, and searched for this all on his own. He was seeking...he was knocking on doors. God was answering.

On that boat, in the middle of the ocean with only a dangerous tiger named Richard Parker for company, an older Pi thanks God for the fish that kept him and the tiger alive. Pi questions God as to why he has left him there alone...he surrenders his life to God out there in the middle of no where. God spares his life and allows him to tell his story many years later, and his story touches the heart of the who heard it. and makes HIM question and wonder about God.

Yes, Linda, this was just a story...it did not really happen. Why are you spending so much time contemplating the life of a fictional character??? I just think our world needs to have a little more "wonder" in it. I don't understand why there are so many religions in the world if we all came from one God, but I do wonder about those other religions. I respect them and the people who believe in them enough to wonder aloud to them and listen to their answers about why they believe what they believe. It isn't going to change my deep-set beliefs to listen and respect others. But, so many times, I think we "write people off" because we don't believe what they believe. We storm right ahead, ready to tell them why they are wrong, instead of listening to why they believe what they believe.

And...then some of us don't believe anything. Some of us have left wonder back in childhood. They just live their lives, day by day, not seeking, not looking, not knocking. The world can seem pretty grey when we are looking for meaning. Like a boring movie screen with no action, no color and nothing popping off the screen.

So, you see that this movie did stick with me. I hope to have a little of Pi in me each day...keeping my faith in my mind and heart, but continuing to search for meaning as well. It makes life more interesting and I find that God does answer when I knock. He sends me messages in books, stories, songs, movies, a note from a friend...When I seek with an open mind, I find. Then, I share what I find with others. I don't have flying fish or ferocious tigers, but I think God helps me get my point across! ;-) Be blessed today, and open your mind and start knocking!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A security guard for our hearts...

Memory verse:
"Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God." -- 1 Chronicles 22:19

I want you to picture a museum filled with hundreds, maybe even thousands of pieces of priceless art. Paintings and sculptures by the great masters on display so the world can come in a observe, appreciate and study them. In this museum are men in uniform standing guard, quietly watching over the art to make sure it is not harmed. Their main function is to keep the art in and unharmed and to keep art thieves and art destroyers out. In our world, it is necessary to have these guards to watch over the art. Hundreds of people come in and out of this museum every day, and we need to protect the things we value highly.

Now, picture your heart, not just the blood pumping organ in your body, but the heart of your soul that keeps you going through your life. Proverbs 4:23 says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Your heart is like the priceless art in the museum...it needs protected. It needs someone to stand gaurd and keep the good in and the bad out. If your heart is filled with bad and distracting things, everything you do will be tainted by it. But who is going to stand guard by our hearts?

God will guard our hearts...but we have to invite him in. And, when he is in our hearts, we can keep him there by reading his word. Proverbs 4:20-22 says, "My son, pay attention to what I say: turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find then and health to one's whole body." God is telling us how to place him on guard in our hearts...by keeping his word in our minds and hearts. This will lead to a healthy heart.

Every day there are things competing for our hearts...things that want to get in and either steal or destroy our hearts. God knows this and warns us of them in his word. Galatians 5:16-26 lists some of those things...everything from sexual immorality to jealousy and beyond. All of the things on the list to guard your heart against will not cause you to "go to hell" if you do them...BUT they do distract your heart and mind and pull you away from God. After so much time being distracted from God's love and peace in your heart, that love and peace is replaced by fear, doubt, conflict and...heartache.

In those Galatians verses, it also says what we are to keep IN our hearts: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control...the list goes on. Those things are wonderful, but how do we keep those things in and the other things out? With prayer. Paul, sitting in a dark, dank prison cell prayed and thanked God for all things. He rejoiced in every situation...he knew how weak he was and went to God in prayer at all times, looking for strength and protection for his heart. (Philippians 4:4-7)

When we let him, God can be like the museum security guard...guarding and protecting our hearts. He can help us keep the good stuff in and keep the bad stuff out. I feel a sense of peace knowing that my heart is being guarded like that, don't you? Why wouldn't "The Great Master" want to protect his own creation and masterpiece?


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks...

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever." -- 1 Chronicles 22:19

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

It was two years ago today, on Thanksgiving, that I began writing "Blessings from the Sunporch." What started out as a just a social media way to share Bible study lessons with some teenagers has turned into something that is part of almost every day of my life. On this Thanksgiving day, I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity to share God's love with you, my readers.

There have been a couple of times in the last two years that I didn't write. Sometimes I was just too busy...sometimes I just didn't know what to write...and sometimes my heart just hurt too much to write about it. But, during those times, I felt something was missing. Writing has become a way for me work through the many thoughts that race around in my head. Writing has become a way for me to praise God.Writing has become a way for me to communicate what is in my heart. Now when I don't do it, there's a hole in my day. My brother has read my blog and told me he didn't think it sounded like me. Well...he may be right. Where DO all of these thoughts and words come from? I think it is me writing, but I think it's God who puts the ideas and the words in my head. That right there is something to be thankful for!!!

I am thankful that there are people out there, some are friends who know me and some are strangers, who read the MANY words I write. Without you, I would have not reason to write each day. I am thankful for those of you who share your thoughts about what I write with me. I am thankful for how God has stretched me and strengthened me through this blog in the last two years. I am thankful for possibilities of the future...maybe a book???? Who knows!

Please take a few minutes to thank God for the blessings in your own life today. We should live each day giving thanks to God, but this is a day set aside for just that purpose. It really does make one feel better to thank our creator!

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Yield

How about two memory verses for today?
"Now devote your heart and soul to seeking your God." -- 1 Chronicles 22:19
AND
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever." -- Psalm 107:1

My Bible study lesson this morning led me to read Joshua 24:22-27. It always seems to go back to those silly Israelites who have seen the miracles of the Lord, have been saved by the Lord countless times, but they STILL refuse to rely solely on Him and create their own gods to worship. I get so frustrated at those Israelites! Don't they see God in everything???? But, maybe their stories are the mirror I need to hold up against my own life. Maybe there are many stories about them forgetting the power and love of God in order to remind me of the many times I have forgotten God's power and love in my life.

Joshua tells the people to "throw away their foreign gods and yield your hearts to the Lord." (Joshua 24:23)

The word yield has many meanings. It can be used to talk about a harvest: to be fruitful and productive. Or it can mean to give up, or give way to influence or pressure. In my estimation, the way it is used in Joshua COULD mean both! If we give our hearts TO God and give up our own selfish desires and needs...give in to God's influence in our lives, then God will see to it that we bear fruit...that our hearts are warmed to others and others will see God through us and be drawn to him, producing more people who then yield their hearts to God as well.

Even Jesus yielded to God's plan. In the garden before his long trial and painful death, Jesus cries out to God. He knows what is coming. He knows what he will suffer. He asked that God take it away. The story could have stopped right there. God COULD have called Jesus back to heaven in that instant. But, Jesus didn't stop by asking God to take it away. He immediately went on to say, "yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)

Dear Lord, this morning, I yield my heart to you. Help me to make again and keep the commitment I have made to you.  Remind me of the times you have done wonders in my life and saved me again and again. Help me to see the times in my life when I have turned away from you and created my own "gods" to take your place. Help me today to devote my heart and soul to seeking you. I thank you for being a good and forgiving and saving God who does endure forever! Amen

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Be like David...after God's heart

This week's memory verse:
"Now devote your heart and soul to seeking your God." -- 1 Chronicles 22:19

I love when my Bible study lesson is about David because I can always seem to identify with him. "The man after God's own heart"...he was a very HUMAN God lover...and God seeker. He was very passionate about things and yet he made some very BIG mistakes in his life. Even at his lowest though, he never gave up on God. He never lost his faith in the God of his heart.

David WANTED to be the one to build a temple to God...honoring and housing the God who had kept his promises to David and to Israel. He was excited by the prospect of building this elaborate and ornate temple! But, God had other plans. He told David that it would be his son who would build the temple, not him. When he found this out, David went to the Lord and prayed...he thanked God and praised him and asked that He continue to do as he had promised. Then, as his son grew and matured, David helped in the process by gathering supplies and people to help his son in the building. He also talked with his son, Solomon, and and encouraged him. He prayed over his son and asked that God bless him with discretion and understanding and reminded Solomon that it was GOD who was behind these plans, so he shouldn't be afraid or discouraged in the process. (1 Chronicles 22)

I'm sure that David was disappointed that it was not he who would build the temple. He wanted to honor the God who saved him over and over again in the biggest way he could imagine! It was pride...pride in what God had done for him, and pride in what he had become in his life through God. But, David knew that he had to follow the Lord's leading. So, he did the best next thing, and helped and prepared his son for this task instead. David was ALWAYS seeking the Lord with all his heart! He didn't ALWAYS follow the right path, but he never lost sight of God. If we read the Psalms, we can see where his heart was. When he was happy about something, he praised (and sometimes danced!) and thanked the Lord. When he was angry, he prayed and asked God questions. When he was afraid, he went to God for comfort and protection. When he made a mistake, he humbled himself and asked for forgiveness.

2 Chronicles 7:14-15 says, "If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and  I will forgive their sin and heal their land."

What if we followed David's leadings? What if we went to God about every problem, every emotion and every situation that occurred in our lives? What if we were to seek God with all of our hearts? If we did this, we would let go so some of the pride that we hang on to...we would HUMBLE ourselves and realize that our ways are not God's ways.

If you believe in God, if you search for him, then you are called by him. You are his people. You can help prepare the land for God's promises in the future. You can do as David did for Solomon, even if you don't have a son. There are many in our land who have not heard their calling...they don't know or believe in God. We can't really even blame them for their wicked ways, because they don't know the right way in their hearts. What we can do is pray. We can humble ourselves, turn from our  own mistakes, and pray for our forgiveness. We can pray for the people who haven't heard the call from God yet. God promises that if we seek his face, then he will hear our prayers and he will forgive our sin and heal our land.

Don't you think our land and our world need a little healing right now? Instead of blaming each other for how bad our country is, or how bad the world is...let's try praying. Pray that God will keep his promises and that he will forgive and heal our land and our world. That might sound like a lame way of trying to save the world...but it worked for David! I want to be a woman after God's own heart!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Flexiblilty and Strength...Believe it or not!

This week's memory verse:
"Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes." -- Isaiah 54:2

All week I've been talking about flexibility and how God stretches us every day. We may not even realize we are being stretched, but every day as we first put our feet on the floor out of our beds, God stretches and stengthens us. When we are close to God, when we learn to rely on him each day, we become AWARE of that strengthening that is happening. It is those aware moments that I thank God for! I love to see Him at work in me and in people around me! It gives me hope that God DOES hold us together, even when we feel like we are AND verything around us is falling apart.

Yesterday, a friend of mine posted a video on Facebook. It is Louie Giglio talking about a protein molecule. I wrote about another Louie Giglio video earlier in the year where he displayed God's wonder and power in pictures and sounds of the stars and the whales. So, I watched the video. I have to admit that even though it touched me while I watched it, I was skeptical at the same time. Louie states that a molecular scientist showed him this very basic protein molecule that is in the human body. It is called laminin and is like rebar in a concrete wall...it is what the rest of the molecules and cells build upon...it is what holds the body together. And then he showed a picture of it....it looks like a cross. I thought...WOW! That is amazing! But, then, I thought, yeah right! The human body was formed THOUSANDS of years before Christ died on the cross. This is just a rigged up picture.

So, being the librarian that I am, I looked up some information about laminin. I read some interesting (not!) articles and found microscopic pictures that showed and explained about laminin. While it can be bent so the cross shape is harder to see, the basic shape of laminin IS that of a cross. Laminin is one of 3 other building block molecules in the human body, and it IS very important to strong cell structure.

So, then I thought about it...is it just a coincidence that one of the basic building blocks of the human body is shaped like the cross of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? My mind and my heart are playing tug-a-war with this one. My heart REALLY wants to believe it. I mean, if you read scripture, you know that "In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1) So, Jesus was WITH God when he formed the world, AND the human body!

"For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." Colossian 16:1

Ok, but in the beginning of time, how did God know that his son would die on a cross? THAT is a tough one that my brain pulls hard on. But, If God is all knowing, all powerful and is everywhere at all times, and I believe that he is, he WOULD have known from the very beginning that his beloved humans that he created would fall short and fall. He had a plan for our saving grace from the VERY beginning of time! Why wouldn't he "mark" us with Christ's cross from the beginning?

Believe it or not! Sometimes it's our minds that need to be flexible. When I believe that in my heart, WITH all my heart, my heart wins tug-a-war with my mind. Does that mean I am stupid and believe non-scientific things? Well...you be the judge of that. BUT, if being flexible enough to believe something so AMAZING makes me stronger, makes my faith in God stronger, makes me love Christ even more...what difference does it make if you think I am stupid? :-)

Watch the video for yourself. Make up your own mind. If you believe in a loving and saving creator, even a little bit...it will touch your heart too. It may make your mind and your heart play a game of tug-a-war, but I think God invites us to THINK and doubt sometimes. Stretch and strengthen your mind! How great is our God!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0-NPPIeeRk

Friday, November 16, 2012

Stretch...and follow Him

This week's memory verse:
"Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes." -- Isaiah 54:2

...And, speaking of rubberbands...Do you know what else I like about them? They are flexible! The can bend this way and that. They can go around round objects, square objects...they can hold a little or a lot. A rubberband goes with the flow and is NOT afraid of change...to a point. But, they can't do anything on their own, they have to have someone moving them and telling them which way to go. Someone has to stretch them in order for them to be useful.

You know, I AM a lot like a rubberband! In my years on this earth, I have discovered that flexibility is a skill and strength that not every one has...or perhaps most people HAVE the skill, they just choose not to use it. Being flexible to change, being flexible to adding the input of others, being flexible to THINKING about how your plans affect other people...it takes being like that rubberband.

One thing that I have learned, especially in the last year, is that my plans are not perfect, but God's plans are. I have made plans...thought for sure that my life was headed in one direction and kept barrelling through in that that one direction. Yes, I prayed...yes, I thought my plans were God's plans too. But, when things didn't work out the way I planned...I got mad...at God. I mean, come on! I live a good life...I read and study the Bible...I am nice...I do all the things I am supposed to do. Why did MY plans not work out the way I wanted to? THAT was the beginning of just another of God's lessons to Linda about being flexible and following Him wherever he leads me.

When I got over my anger and hurt feelings over not getting what I wanted, and I gradually worked my way back to trusting God as my leader, I learned to change MY plans.

Psalm 33:10-11 - The Lord blocks the sinful plans of the nations. He keeps them from doing what they want. But the plans of the Lord last forever. (I don't think my plans were sinful...but they WERE more about me than they were about God.)

Proverbs 19:21 - A man may have many plans in his heart. But the Lord's purpose wins out in the end.

Ok, Lord...you win! I will bend and move and change and follow you wherever you lead me. I am just beginning to see that your plan might just lead me to better things for me than I could even imagine for myself! Hmmm....imagine that!

A rubberband is made of rubber...it was MADE to be flexible. We are human...God made us up of flexible stuff too. But I think instead of just BEING flexible, we have to trust God and LEARN to be flexible.

All this "I will follow him" stuff makes me think of Sister Act...here is another goody for your Friday! Enjoy and learn to experience joy in even a fun song!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPpd-6X3tEo

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Stretch...like a rubberband!

This week's memory verse:
"Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthenyour stakes." -- Isaiah 54:2

This morning, as we continue to talk about stretching, I keep picturing a rubber band. A rubber band is only good for something when it is being stretched. Laying in a drawer, or on a countertop, not being stretched, it is not living up to it's potential...it is just a circular piece of rubber.

My Bible study lesson this morning began by talking about times when we feel "stuck." Times when we KNOW where we want to go, what progress we want to make, what goals we have in front of us, but we just can't seem to get there. We are STUCK in a place we really don't want to stay. We are like that rubber band laying on the counter...we are not very productive.

God wants to heal us and "unstick" us when we feel that way, but we have to be active participants in the process. Read Matthew 12:9-14. A man with a shriveled hand is in the synagogue. After a discussion with the Pharisees about whether is was lawful to heal someone on the sabbath, Jesus tells the man to stretch out his hand. He follows Jesus instruction, and as he stretches out his hand, it is as good as new! That man probably didn't start out the day thinking his hand was going to be made new...I'm sure he was rather "stuck" in his life, not being able to do as much as he would like with a shriveled hand. As he listened to the conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees, he must have developed a faith in Jesus because he trusted him enough to do as he instructed and that faith allowed Jesus to heal him. What if we trusted Jesus enough to really follow his instructions...to live our lives in the ways he taught? Would we too be healed of our weaknesses enough to get us "unstuck?"

Or...what about the rubber band that has been stretched too far? We have probably all had the experience of a rubber band breaking as we were trying to use it and it snaps our hand and goes flying across the room. It has gone far beyond it's potential, and now is not useful for binding things together...or is it? In the right hands, a broken rubber band can be tied together again, making it strong enough to hold things together again. Or, perhaps, instead of being used to bind things together, it could be used in a different way...to allow something to stretch a little farther than it normally would.

I sometimes think of myself as a rubber band in that almost-ready-to-snap mode. I do have faith in Jesus, and have been "unstuck" by that faith many times. I stretch out my hand and accept the healing he offers. I then go out and find ways to stretch my faith over and over again...I take on more responsibility, help others, get busy doing good things...until I feel like I am going to snap!

But, I need to remember those times Jesus healed me when I was stuck. In his right hands, my broken rubber band self can be tied back together, making me strong again, and allowing me to live up to the potential he gave me!

So, look at yourself today. Are you a rubber band laying on the counter doing nothing productive? Are you stuck? Or, are you a rubber band stretched to the limits? Or are you a broken rubber band ready to be thrown in the trash because you are no longer useful? Follow Jesus' instructions! Stretch out your hand! Accept the healing he freely gives and become ready to live up to your full potential!

You can become "The Rubber Band Man!" Here's an oldie but a goodie to make you smile today!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKbADFJOCkU








Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Stretch and enlarge my territory!

This week's memory verse:
"Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes." -- Isaiah 54:2

Many times, it is helpful when trying to understand a Bible verse better, to read the verses before and after the chosen verse. It gives you more context and lets you see what the author is really talking about.  At the beginning of this chapter, God is comparing Israel to a woman who has never had children. He says he will give her more children than she can imagine...That he will grow the nation far and wide. God goes on to say that he will bring the people of Israel back to him. He was angry for a time, and turned away from them. But, he loved them and wanted to them back...so he blessed them and told then he would expand their numbers.

I have a friend who has never had children. That fact has troubled her for MANY years. She would cry out to God, asking him why, when she wanted so badly to be a mother, was she left childless? She told me onced that one night, she sat right up in bed and Isaiah 54:1 came to her. "Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband," says the LORD." Now, this meant a LOT to her...and not just because a Bible verse came to her in the middle of the night! She also was a singer...who had lost her voice! God brought back her voice soon after that, AND he blessed her with MANY "spiritual children"...which means she became a mentor and friend to many younger people in her life. I am one of those "spiritual children" of her hers, and her story has touched me over the years. She continues to teach me, challenge me, and care for me, as if I were her real daughter. God not only gave her back the gift of music, he gave her "children" to care for!

Several years ago, I read the book The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. This book was very popular and reached "best seller" status, but it got a lot of criticism as well. Whether I liked the book or not is not the point. The prayer that the book is based on comes from 1 Chronicles 4:10 and says, "And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, 'Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.' So God granted him what he requested."

Some read this book and prayed the prayer, hoping for financial growth and stability. After reading that book, I too prayed that prayer, but it was not financial growth that I longed for. First, I liked the "May I not cause pain." part. I am one who does NOT like to hurt people's feelings and I never want anything I do or say to cause pain in any way. I also liked the "enlarge my territory" part. I thought the more people I know and come in contact with, the more people I can show God's love to, right? Well...God has blessed me over and over from those words! I have come in contact with HUNDREDS of people since reading that book, and have expanded my "sphere of influence" greatly through new friendships and through this blog! I don't claim to be a Bible scholar, but I do understand God's love and the saving grace of Jesus...and I try to share that love and grace with everyone I meet!

So, however you ask God for it....be prepared! Your territory may enlarge...your tents may be stretched...your number of spiritual children may grow... but God wants to bless you greatly so you can show his love to others!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stretching...no pain, no gain...

This week's memory verse:
"Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes." -- Isaiah 54:2

As Superstorm Sandy taught us, strong winds will blow, and they will bring floods and trouble, whether we are ready for it, or not. In our lives, there are many "storms" that blow in. We don't want the damage that storms bring us, but since storms are inevitable, we need to be as prepared as we can for them. When the storm passes and we look at the damage left behind...we cry, we yell, we cry some more and we feel devestated, vunerable and hurt. It is easy to blame God...to cry out and say "It's not fair!" and to become angry and bitter about the trouble and suffering the storm caused us.

But, I believe that God wants us to look at the storm damage and the trouble and suffering in our lives in a different way. There are several places in the Bible that talk directly about suffering in our lives. God's word gives us direction on how to handle the storm damage. We need to STRETCH, and be open to God's direction, even when it seems counter to how we naturally feel.

The Aspostle Paul suffered a LOT of storm damage in his life! He also shared with his friends and fellow church members how God was directing him to deal with that damage. In Romans 5:3-5 it says that suffering gives us strength to go on. Strength produces character and character produces hope. Hope in Christ will never fail us. Many times, we would never develop the ability to hope in Christ had we not had the suffering and pain caused by the storm damage.

It is not natural for us to be thankful and grateful for pain and suffering we must endure. We want to rant and rave and scream and ask for it to be taken away. But, God leads us to stretch and go beyond what comes natural to us.

Paul says in Philippians 3:7-14 that the thing he wants most is to know Christ. He longed to know the power that raised Christ from the dead, which means he really wants to know God better and better understand God's power. Paul also said he wanted to be like Christ and share in his suffering and in his death. Wait...why would ANYONE want to suffer like Christ and die as he did? That is crazy talk! But Paul goes on to say that if he is like Christ and experiences that pain and death, then by God's grace, he will be risen from the dead and spend eternity in heaven WITH Jesus.

So, when the storms come in our lives, we can go to God, looking for his power...we can look to Jesus and how he lived as a guide on how we should live and respond to the storm and the damage it brings. This is why this week's strange memory verse really does make sense...we need to strengthen our tent stakes...batten down the hatches, if you will...and be as prepared as we can for the storms that WILL happen in our lives. We do this by studying God's word and looking for his guidance. Then, when we look at the storm damage, look at it with joy and thanksgiving, because we made it through...we survived and are now stronger in both body and spirit and are even more prepared for the next storm.

Doesn't sound easy or like fun does it? But stretching our way of thinking about the storms in our lives WILL make us stronger. No pain...no gain.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Stretching...

This week's memory verse:

"Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lenthen your cords, strengthen your stakes."

As I read the memory verse for this week, I thought "Huh???" What the heck does enlarging a tent have to do with me and my walk with the Lord?

As I read a little deeper into the Bible study lesson, I see it's more about stretching. Learning that you can do more, or be more than you thought possible, but...only by relying on God and not yourself.

I think about Paul and Silas in prison. (Acts 16:16-34) They both were placed in chains and thrown in prison for very questionable reasons, and could have been angry, upset, and inconsolable. They could have cried, "Oh why, why, why have we been forsaken? We have great things to be doing for the Lord!" But...instead of doing this, they gathered together and prayed and sang hymns of PRAISE to the Lord! All the prisoners and jailers must have thought they were crazy...but they all heard and I'm sure they listened as well. (Read on in the Bible to see how that turns out!)

I am excited to study this week how I can stretch my spiritual wings...to stretch my curtains wide and see where the Lord takes me. Would you join me? The possibilities are endless!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Quit blaming and move forward in love!

This week's memory verse:
"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord." -- Psalm 31:24

Another good one for today:
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction; faithful in prayer." -- Romans 12:12

Ok, dear friends, I became very sad yesterday as I read all the negative Facebook posting and heard all the "O woe is me!" attitudes about our country going to hell. Obama is the anti-Christ, the Devil, like Hitler...the American people are dupes and too stupid to make the right choices...I can be Miss Mary Sunshine all I want and try to help people rely on God's strength and hope in his promises, and spout Bible verses about God being in control...but when people get something in their mind, it is hard to knock it out! Christians are convinced that this country is doomed.

Well, I say stop complaining about this country being doomed and do something about it! LOVE PEOPLE and SHOW them God's love!

A lot of people in this country have been kicked down so many times by the economy, by sickness, by drugs and alcohol, by their lack of education, by bullies...life is HARD! And, many of those kicked down people either don't know God in the first place, or lost faith and have run away from God. When we fall or are beaten down and we don't have faith and hope in God to lift us up, we are most likely going to stay down. They need a kind hand to lift them up...to show them the way back to God and a way to believe in themselves again. They need love.

I am not a huge "Rocky" fan, but I have recently found a clip on Youtube that features a moving speech from Rocky to his 20 year old son about the toughness of life. Watch it for yourself...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkJLTGweKl0

The people of this country have been beaten down by a lot of things. We all have taken hits. Let's stop BLAMING each other for how bad it is! Let's start working together...across party lines...across income levels...across belief system lines. Let's treat each other with love instead of hate and disgust. We have to start believing in ourselves again...we have to start relying on God to help us do that. Those of us that know the power of relying on God can share that power with those who don't know or understand God's laws or God's love. Share God's love in practical ways with others who are far from God and don't hold the moral compass that you do. It takes stepping out of your comfort zone and dealing with people who have been beaten down hard by life's circumstances.

Rocky's son had a father who loved him unconditionally and who was willing to teach him about how to take the hits of life and get back up. Each one of us have a Heavenly Father who can do the same for us...if we let him.

Pray about how you can stop with the conspiracy theories...on how you can stop worrying about Obama being the devil and make a difference RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE! If you know the Lord, you can take heart, be patient, be joyful in hope and know that everything is going to be alright because GOD IS IN CONTROL. Let that sink into your mind and your heart and let it comfot you...and then go out and find ways to share that comfort with others who may be far from God.

Our country is not doomed! Let's stop blaming others...stop hating others and move forward by LOVING others!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vote! Then take heart, be strong and hope in the Lord!

This week's memory verse:
"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord." -- Psalm 31:24

And another good one for today:
"Be strong and courageous; do not be terrified, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." -- Joshua 1:9

As I was driving my daughter to school this morning...and driving myself to the polls...I couldn't help but think of some of the Facebook posts I have seen in the past several weeks, this last week, especially. Some were rude, some were unkind, some were downright ugly, and some were filled with fear. There are some out there...(and a good number of Christians) who are really AFRAID of the results of this election.

When I came back home after casting my votes, I sat down with my Bible study and noticed it was all about how we should not be afraid. Joshua 1:9 is one of my favorite verses ever, because it contains God's words to a man who believes in God, trusts in God and is about to take over for Moses! How would you like to fill THOSE shoes? If anyone has ever had the right to be afraid and nervous, it is Joshua! But God reassures him and tells him not to be afraid.

I don't care what your politics are, who you are voting for, or how adamant you are that your candidate is the best and ONLY canidate that is best for our country...what is more important is that you TRUST IN YOUR GOD!

No matter what the results are in the morning, God is still God and he is in control! Have you not read the end of God's story? God wins! If the world ends tomorrow, if you have given your life to Christ, you know where you are going! Why be afraid?

Wouldn't it just make God smile if instead of spouting hateful, rude and degrating things at people who don't believe as you do, we reassured people that God is in control? Yes, we have the responsibility and right to vote and cast our ballot for the candidates we believe will do the best job for our country. But just because we have the 1st Amendment RIGHT in this country to say what we think and believe, saying everything that is in our heads is not always the RIGHT thing to do!

Don't be afraid of these election results, no matter who you are for! Don't be afraid of this country going down hill if the "wrong" person gets into office. Don't be afraid of anything! If tomorrow you lost everything you owned in a fire or a "super storm," God would still be with you. Yes, your life might be hard and terrible for a time, but God will never leave you! Why be afraid?

Most of the time, I am a worrier and a "scaredy cat" about most everything. It comes to me naturally...I want everyone I know to be happy and healthy and prosperous. But...I am learning that God doesn't give us a spirit of fear...THAT doesn't come from God!!!! Put your trust in God and don't be afraid!

Go vote! Make your voice heard! Do your patriotic duty to vote your conscience and vote for the candidates you think will be best. Then...whoever wins, pray for them! Reassure and SHOW others who do not know God that you do know God and trust him with your life, your country and your world!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Strength and hope in unanswered prayers...

 
This week's memory verse:
"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord." -- Psalm 31:24

There have been times that I have struggled to come up with words to write in this blog...staring at the blank screen, wondering what possibly could be interesting enough in my head to share with my friends. That is not the case today! Today, I have the opposite problem...I have SO MUCH to say that I don't even know where to start! But...because I know you all don't have a lot of time to read my LONG messages, and some of my close friends know what word to say to let me know to "wrap it up" ;-) I will try to keep it brief today.

This past week has been such a blessing to me for MANY MANY reasons! I got to share my love of reading and my passion about literacy with some moms...I got to hear about some of my dear friends at work pulling together to help a fellow co-worker...I got to hear a group of strong, young women share their stories with each other that bonded them and strengthened them even more...I got to feel the overwhelming peace that came over me when I realized that God has blessed me greatly by his unanswered prayers.

Over the past year, I have written a lot about my disappointment...my longing for something...my worries and my fears. Whether anyone read my postings or not, I have appreciated the chance to write about it because it helped me deal with it...to "suck it up, Cupcake" and move on.

Today, I am reflecting on how grateful I am for unanswered prayers. If I had got what I wanted...what I prayed for...what I thought God meant for me...then I wouldn't have been blessed by what I got instead! I wouldn't have been blessed to see, hear and know the rest of the story. And, had I gotten what I wanted, someone else wouldn't have gotten what she REALLY needed...

Today's Bible study lesson was about how those silly Israelites didn't trust God's promises. Caleb and Joshua and others came back from their scouting exhibition in the promised land telling how great it was...but also saying that the people living in the land were huge, powerful and overwhelming. The Israelites were afraid and didn't even want to try to move in to the land THAT GOD PROMISED them. But Caleb remembered all the times God had saved them before, and knew that God would take care of them. (Numbers 13:17-14:10)

I have no idea what will happen in my future, but I do know that this experience of seeing how God sees the big picture and knows better than my prayers, will help me have more faith in God's promises. When I don't see answers to prayers right away, or even over time, I hope to remember this blessed moment when I felt God's strength through the blessing he gave me instead of getting what I wanted.

Today, I want to reach out to all those who feel God isn't listening...to all those who feel abandoned by God. There is so much strength in hoping and relying on God! So take heart, and continue to pray and hope in God. God sees the big picture of your life and knows what is ahead of you. You may not get what you pray for, but when you are faithful to God and do not give up on him, he will be faithful to you and give you what you NEED and bless you more than you can imagine! I don't say these things out of blind faith in a God I can't see...I say these things from experience and out of faith in a God I feel in my heart!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Like brown, dying branches...

A memory verse for today:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." -- John 15:5-6

I am a very visual person. Many times before I write something, I see a picture inside my head that inspires the thoughts behind what words come out in this blog. This morning, as I read the familiar and comforting "I am the vine" verses, I see a branch that is slowly withering away. It was damaged for whatever reason, and got pinched off ALMOST totally from the life blood of the vine. Not many nutrients are flowing through its veins and the leaves and fruit attached to it are turning brown and falling off.

I am not very good with plants, (my family jokes that plants come to my house to die!) mainly because I forget to water and feed them. I get so wrapped up in my addiction to busyness that I forget to care for the green plant that resides in my home. I forget to water...so, I see branches of my plants turn brown and fall apart before the whole plant dies.

I remember one big healthy geranium I had in my kitchen at one time. It was an offshoot (or a baby geranium cutting) from an old, old plant my grandmother kept in her bedroom window. My mom gave me a cutting and I vowed to take care of it, and I did. I watered and fertilized it and it grew big and strong. I had to repot it. The leaves were large and dark green and when it bloomed, the stems of the bright red flowers were tall and strong. I enjoy watching it flourish and thought of my grandma's geraniums and how she cared for them.

Then, as my life tends to do, I got busy and tired and weak myself, and kept forgetting to care for my lovely geranium. I didn't even stop to "dead head" the old blooms. One day I stopped for a moment and took a look...it was dying. Many branches had withered away and the leaves were curled and brown. I began snipping the dead away...the main part of the geranium was still green and alive, and there was ONE branch that was clinging to life! I was ashamed of myself for forgetting my beloved plant...I began taking care of it again, giving it water and nutrients and sat it in the window with the brightest sunlight. Pretty soon, I saw a green leaf sprouting out of the one lonely, brown branch. As you can imagine, with care, the plant began to flourish again. That one branch grabbed all the life it could out of the main trunk and produced other branches and after awhile, it bloomed again.

That was a long story, but it illustrates our lives, doesn't it? We go through cycles, and when we stop relying on our Father God and the nourishment he provides through our Savior, Jesus Christ, we begin to wither away. This story from my memory is a reminder that nothing is impossible for God! He can bring life into something that seems almost dead!

Are you far from the nourishment and life blood of Jesus? Have you been damaged and pinched off from the vine? Do you know someone who has left the church and needs some gentle care and feeding? Don't forget to water! Don't sit back and let the branch wither and die...go to God for some food and water. It is there, you just need to get it flowing again! Be blessed today, my friends!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Addicted to busyness...

This week's memory verse:
"'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."'" -- Luke 10:41-42

Do you remember the info-mercial from several years ago where Susan Powter would yell "STOP THE INSANITY!"? Well...that's what I am about to yell about my own life, but instead of insanity, I want to yell "STOP THE BUSYNESS!"

Busyness is something that I have been TRYING to work on for several years now. There are so many things on my calendar...the problem is they are all good, worthwhile, meaningful things! How do you cut them out! I have made strides in the last year, downsizing my schedule, giving up a few of the tasks that I was responsible for. Whew! That made me feel better! But then, you know what happened? Yes, you know it! I found several more things to fill those spots. It's not that I just don't know how to say no...it's that I feel good when I am doing things for others...I love being involved in worthwhile ventures...I love doing things for myself too, (like singing in the Messiah this year!) But...I am beginning to wonder if I don't have a problem with busyness.

My friend sent me an email yesterday and instead of saying "Martha, Martha," from the Bible verse above, she said, "Linda, Linda, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed." Another friend emailed me this morning and said, "...take a rest. You don't have to do it all!" WAKEUP CALL!

Hi, my name is Linda and I am...addicted to busyness!

I have worked the 12 steps before, but maybe I need to go to Busyness Addicts Annoymous, if there is such a thing. I know, I could start a group! I know there are others like me out there struggling with busyness too! Let me open my calendar and look for a date to hold the first meeting...Wait a minute, I DO have a problem, don't I!

Seriously, the one thing I have going for me is that I am connected to God. I make sure that there is quiet time each day for me and God. "Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat - for he grants sleep to those he loves." -- Psalm 127:1-2 Yep, I may be busy, but I don't feel like I work in vain. When I sleep, I sleep well. There may not be enough hours in my sleep, but I do rest.

Perhaps I just need to rely on my Heavenly Father's guidance just a little more. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along right paths for his name's sake." -- Psalm 23:1-3

He refreshes my soul...maybe it's not the issue of the many things on my calendar, but what I do with the blank spots on my calendar. First, I have to make sure there ARE some blank spots. But, when there are moments of nothing to do, if I rest and go to God for his refreshing, maybe then he helps me be ready for the busyness and prepares my mind, body and soul to handle it all.

Don't get me wrong, there are probably things on my calendar that I can and should get rid of. But, if I am rested and relying on God's strength instead of my own, perhaps I can withstand the busyness of my life.

That may just be the busyness addict in me rationalizing, but it does make sense. Perhaps instead of trying to figure it out myself, I should pray about it.

Dear Lord, my shepherd, I know you lead me where I need to go and your gifts of stillness and rest will restore me. Help me to keep my addiction to busyness in check. Thank you for being with me and watching over me. Thank you for reminding me that all things come from you. Amen.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

BE the church and plant the seeds...

A memory verse for today:
"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God." -- Micah 6:8

Rest...another important topic that I have written about many times. It is something that I do not do enough. God gave us the example of resting after 6 days of creating the world. He blessed the seventh day and made it holy. (Genesis 2:1-3)  In the Ten Commandments, He instructed us to "Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11) In that commandment, he instructs us not to work on that day...EVERYONE in our households (including the animals) should not work on the seventh day. I believe in my heart that God gave us the Ten Commandments not as a laundry list of  "thou shall nots" but as a loving guide for us on how to take care of ourselves and live a happier, God-honoring life. God knows our bodies well (he SHOULD...he created us!) and knows that we NEED rest!

In Isaiah 56:1-8 God says he will bless those who do not desecrate the Sabbath. The dictionary states that desecrate means to violate the sancity of; treat disrespectfully, irreverently or outrageously. So, keeping the Sabbath means respecting it, treating it reverently and keeping it holy. If we do this, then God will bless us. If you read those Isaiah verses carefully, Isaiah mentions foreigners, outsiders and Eunichs (men who were excluded from the Assembly of God). The Lord would also bless THEM if they kept the Sabbath holy. I looked in my study Bible for what foreigners and outsiders meant, and found it was referring to people outside Israel (God's holy people)...people outside the church. How do people outside the church know God's laws and understand to keep the Sabbath holy????

Hmmm...this fits right in with what we've been talking about in my Sunday school class as we read Doug Pollock's book God Space. We Christians get upset when we see people in our culture not living God-honoring lives...how do they know how to live God-honoring lives if they are OUTSIDE the church? How do they learn God's word and God's loving way of guiding them?

Take honoring the Sabbath, for example. In our current culture, our kids now have scheduled ball games on Sunday mornings. In our current culture, because a vast majority of people are NOT growing up in church and learning about God's teachings, Sunday is just another day. Time is short these days...why not schedule on ball games Sunday mornings? Yes, those of us that make church on Sundays a priority have a problem with that. But, how can we expect people to keep God's laws and following his teachings when they don't KNOW them? They are "outside" the church.

Because Jesus instructed us to "go and make disciples of all nations," we know that it is our job as Christians to show people God's love and spread the good news of the gospel. We need to be concerned about those "church outsiders." If they are not coming to church, we need to BE the church in their lives. Now, this doesn't mean handing out tracts, spouting Bible verses and inviting people to church all the time. This means showing up with our Jesus glasses on and noticing the needs of people around us. When we start meeting those needs...with no strings attached, others around us will notice and start experiencing the kingdom of God in very tangible and attractive ways. They will want to know more...they will begin to be curious about this "God thing" and start asking questions.

In those Isaiah verses, why do you think God talks about honoring the outsiders and foreigners who learn to follow God's laws and keep the Sabbath holy? Why mention those people? I think God mentions them because when THEY learn to follow God, it is a big deal! People IN the church already know and understand. God will bless those "outsiders" greatly because they went from being outsiders to being INSIDERS!

If we want Sundays to be more about God than about football, we might have to play along with their game for a while. Instead of griping and complaining about how we can't go to church because our child has a tournament game on Sunday, and how terrible that is...let's take church TO the football game! Be kind...be a good example and not yell at the refs...TALK to other parents in the stands and NOTICE needs that you see and try to find ways to meet those needs...allow your child to put things they have learned in Sunday school or KidsPraise into practice on the ball field. Maybe...someday...those outsiders who scheduled games on God's holy day will have learned that God instructs us to rest on Sundays for a reason. Maybe they will someday learn God's teachings and follow them and then be greatly blessed by God!

If they don't go to church...how do they know? BE THE CHURCH around them so they can see!