My sun porch

My sun porch

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


"And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us." -- 1 John 3:23

This week I am writing about love. Don't you think we take that word for granted? I LOVE that movie! I LOVE the Buckeyes! I LOVE cheesecake! But real that Jesus commands us to give one a much deeper and intimate emotion. If we are to love one another...everyone we come in contact with, how are we to do that? WHY did Jesus command us to do this difficult thing?

These are tough questions!

First of all, what does REAL LOVE mean? Paul gave us an indepth definition of the word in 1 Corinthinians 13:1-13.

Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love does not want what belongs to others.
Love does not brag.
Love is not proud.
Love is not rude.
Love does not look out for selfish interests.
Love is slow to anger.
Love does not keep track of others' wrongs.
Love is not happy with evil.
Love is full of joy when truth is spoken.
Love always protects.
Love always trusts.
Love always hopes.
Love always endures.
Love never fails.

WOW! The word love does mean more than really liking cheesecake! Jesus knew that LOVING ONE ANOTHER is not easy. If we are to LOVE one another, which means everyone we come into contact with, we are to treat everyone with patience, kindness and not be jealous, proud, bragging, selfish, angry. We are to protect others, trust others, and forgive others.

Does this sound like the culture that we live in every day? Of course not! In our world, people are out for themselves. We are encouraged to look out for our own interests. Getting involved in the problems of others...showing others the love characteristics listed messy and inconvenient.

So, I ask again...WHY did Jesus ask us to do such a difficult thing as to love one another? For one thing, God knows it may be messy, but he also knows that REALLY LOVING others makes our lives better in so many ways. Love erases many sins by forgiving them. When we love and forgive others, our hearts are healthier and more ready for the life that God promises us. Also, when we are really able to love others, people will know that we are disciples of Jesus...Christians. "They will know we are Christians by our love."

Jesus' Great Commission was to make disciples of all spread the good news of the Gospel. How better to show people we are Christians and draw others to this life of peace and hope than to live like Jesus and show REAL LOVE to everyone we meet? It is not easy, and there will be times when we fail. But, if we reach out to God, ask him for help, and try to live the way Jesus taught, we will have success! We will be able to show REAL LOVE to others!

Dear Jesus, you were such a great teacher! You showed us and commanded us to love one another so we could live the lives God wants us to live. Help each one of us live out the REAL LOVE characteristics Paul taught us about so others will see we are Christians and be drawn to your peace and hope as well. Amen.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Love God - Love one another...

This week's memory verse:
"And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us." -- 1 John 3:23

This morning, I feel extra blessed because I am beginning another 12 week Bible study. When I am participating in regular study, I have somewhere to focus my thoughts, and I am directed to study God's word. It also gives me something to write about that is not coming right out of my own musings, but out of my thoughts on God's word. I love sharing that with you!

Today's lesson is all about obeying God's commands. While the old testament has MANY laws and rules to follow, 1 John 3:23 (our memory verse this week) makes it pretty simple. We are to believe in Jesus and love one another.

Jesus himself teaches the very same idea. When asked what was the greatest of God's commands, he replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:37-40)

Going back to the Old Testament for a moment, Deuteronomy 7:12 says that when we obey his commands, he will keep his promises, his covenant made long ago. And Leviticus 26:3-13 lists many specific ways God will bless those that keep his commands: He will make the ground plentiful and we will have plenty to eat; he will bring peace to our land; he will walk with us and will not turn away from us.

Jesus reinforces this in John 15:10 when he states: "If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love."

So, how will we know when we have fulfilled God's law of obedience? Romans 8:13 says, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law."

When we love our fellowman, we have fulfilled the law. This makes it sounds so easy. Love one that all it takes? But...we all know, loving one another is NOT that easy!

When I think of God's commands, I think of the 10 Commandments. If you look at what Jesus said about the greatest commandment, and then look at the 10 commandments, you will see they all go together! All 10 of those commands are about loving God and loving one another!

The first 4 are all about loving God: no other gods; no worshiping images; not misusing the name of God; keeping God's sabbath day holy.

The rest are all about loving one another: honoring your parents; not killing, stealing from; cheating on, lying about or being jealous of your neigbor.

That may be a simplified way of thinking, but I never thought about it that way! No wonder Jesus said we were to love God and love others! That's what God told us from the very beginning!

Dear Father God,
Today, in EVERYTHING I do, help me to keep your me to show my love for you, my love for Jesus and my love for others. In that way, you will see my obedience and I will feel you with me, keeping your promises to me. Please allow me to have and feel that reassurance today. Amen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hope in times of trouble...

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." -- Matthew 6:34

Each day has troubles...that is no lie. Sometimes the troubles are so great that we think they will break us, certainly break our hearts. Unimaginable troubles...we never saw coming, hit us with such force, we are knocked down. We look up, searching for help, but we feel weighted down where we are. There seems to be no hope of relief from this heartbreaking trouble. We cast our eyes back down to where we are, unable to fix the pain in our hearts.

God knows we will have troubled times such as these. God sees us when we are knocked down and will bring relief. All we need do is cry out to him.

"Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." -- 1 Peter 5:7

So, I cry out to God, "Help me! Heal my broken heart." Is it that simple?

All it takes it trust and faith...even just a little bit of trust and faith. God will build upon it.

"Trust in your Redeemer's strength...exercise what faith you have, and by and by, He shall rise upon you with healing beneath His wings. Go from faith to faith and you shall receive blessing upon blessing." -- Charles H. Spurgeon

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding." -- Proverbs 3:5

We can make no sense of these troubles...when all we feel is the hurt and loss, it is hard to see the point or understand anything that is happening to us. God knows that and yearns for us just to trust him. We may never understand the trouble, or the pain, but he will bring us THROUGH it.

"Jesus Christ is no security against storms, but he is perfect security IN storms. He has never promised you an easy passage, only a safe landing." -- L. B. Cowman

Are you hurting today? Is there trouble in your life and in your heart that knocks you down, fills you with worry and steals your hope? Cry out to God. Lean on Jesus. Trust in your Redeemer to get your through the storm. You may have pain for a time, but trust that joy will come back!

Father God,
I know that troubles and storms are raging through the hearts of many today. I pray that everyone who is struggling today will find even a little bit of faith and latch on to it...allow that faith to grow into trust, trust in your forgiving and healing love that will get them through the storms. Bring them comfort, peace and hope of a better tomorrow. In your name I pray. Amen.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Praise the King!

"Attention all! See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. "Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your high God, above politics, above everything." -- Psalm 46:8-10 The Message Translation

Ok, for those who don't believe God speaks to his earthly children, in his way, I say YES HE DOES!

This morning as I was getting ready this morning, I was thinking and thinking what I was going to write about today. I wanted to continue on with my Faith/Church/Government conversation, but since only one person commented on it (Thanks Doug!) I thought maybe it is a topic that folks find it just too hard to talk about...or as my mom said...those are hard questions!

Taking my shower and then blow drying my hair, I kept hearing and humming a song that my choir has been practicing..."Praise the King."

"Praise him in the morning, for tall and lofty trees.
And Praise him in the evening for children on their knees...
Praise him for a peaceful porch and rocking chairs that sway.
And praise him for the rolling hills where children laugh and play...
O praise him all ye people, praise the King."

Then I opened the bible app on my phone and today's Bible verse is the one above: The Message Translation of the "Be still and know that I am God." verse that I am familiar with. Did you catch that last sentence of the verse? "Take a long, loving look at me, your high God, above POLITICS, above everything else."

WOW! THAT was my message today! I don't think there is anything wrong with thinking about and studying God's word for more understanding...but today...all I need to do is be still...give God my attention and remember that he IS in control of EVERYTHING, including the church AND our government!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Faith and Politics...a conversation

"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 to walk humbly with your God." -- Micah 6:8

I have a group of friends, my church small group, and we have been having a discussion about faith and politics. We were asked a few questions to ponder on between now and the next time we meet. I have been thinking about these questions and am trying to formulate my thoughts.

What is the purpose of the church in our society?

What is the purpose of government in our society?

How do we keep politics from shaping or faith?

These are tough questions, right? Requires a lot of least it does for me. I could just spout off what I have always been taught about church and government and be done with it. But, I don't want to just spout off. I want to really think about this, and get at the root of the questions. While I am thinking and studying and asking God to help me understand, I will try to keep the verse above first and foremost in my heart and mind...

God has shown us what is good. What does he want us to do? Act justly. In my mind that means we are to do what is right when no one is watching, even when it takes more time, even when it costs more money, purely because it is the right thing to do. Love mercy. God had mercy on us, we should show mercy to the people in our lives as well. Walk humbly with our God. Absolutely. Knowing that God is in control and I am not, and walking with him each step I take, each day, each moment, each breath. Those three things, act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God, should guide every thing I do and every thought I have. That being said, I am now ready to contemplate the questions above. If you are ready to contemplate them with me, please share your thoughts.

I am interested in your thoughts, my friends. If you would like to respond, you can do so through the blog, or on the Facebook posting of the blog. (I believe you have to have a google account to post to the blog.) I am just interested in an open, friendly discussion. I know I have many friends from various faiths and backgrounds that read my blog and I am interested in your thoughts. Please remember to keep your comments friendly!

Father God, I believe you have given us free will and keen minds for a reason. It is ok for us to ponder and study and look to you for ways to understand the world around us, including our churches and the government that protects us. I ask that today, you will help me and my friends have an open discussion that will lead to postive and bridge building conversations that will help us all better understand what your will for us might be. I thank you, God, for allowing me to be able to express my faith and love for you in a public manner. Amen.

Monday, January 14, 2013


"It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out - in no time at all you will be annihilating each other and where will your precious freedom be then?" -- Galatians 5:13-15 The Message Translation

I was talking to someone yesterday who said that he knows people who don't want to go to church or even think about God or a relationship with Jesus because of all the things or habits of their life that they would have to give up. Everyone knows you can't go to church and go out drinking on the weekends, right?  Going to church for many means rules, regulations and changing a person from the outside in. Clean up your act and you will be saved.This man went on to say that when he came to Christ, there were several things that he gave up...but he WANTED to give them up. That is the most important idea right there...when you seek out a relationship with God, he finds you and and brings you to him...God is powerful enough to change you from the inside out.

I have heard some talk of this change happening instantly, like they FELT God moving inside them and they had a deep, moving experience that changed them...a revival if you will. But for me, and for most, I am guessing...this change happens gradually over time. I have believed in God since I was a child, but it has only been in the last several years of my life that I have developed a relationship with God...talking and praying with God led me to a relationship with Jesus and I feel I was changed from the inside out. I was free.

I think, in my mind, there is a difference between free will and freedom in Christ. God gives each of us free will - we can choose to believe and follow him, or we can choose to go our own way. I often wonder why God gives us that free will. It would be such a better world if EVERYONE believed and followed God. But, it wouldn't be real. When we freely and honestly find our way to God and believe his word and his promises, it becomes real devotion. We find the amazing love in Christ and then we experience true freedom...freedom from rules, and regulations. Yes, we still have free will to live any way we want, but when we receive the Spirit of Christ in our hearts, we don't WANT to live any way we want. We want to live in God's ways and give up destructive behavior. We are drawn to love...drawn to the simplicity of loving others as yourself.

Freedom in Christ is not a magic is not always easy to live the life we WANT to live. Our old, selfish ways slip back...we are drawn back to the rules...we are drawn back to behaviors that we were comfortable with before. That's why it's important to keep in constant contact with God...keep learning and growing in Christ. God is always there...but so is our free will. He will never hold us against our will. He wants us to WANT him...he wants us to find that freedom in Christ again and again.

Dear Father God, I pray that the people reading this today will search you out and reclaim their freedom in Christ. Help us all to learn from you and have the strength to love others as we love ourselves and demonstrate that freedom today. Amen

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Selah - Stop and listen

"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have recieved it, and it will be yours." Mark 11:24

As I sit quietly this morning and contemplate another new beginning for my life, I look back at this past year...a year of struggle, doubt, tears, fears, break-throughs, rebuilding faith and unabounding hope. Several years ago, I wrote a poem for a friend who was struggling. I may have printed it in this blog before, but it seemed appropriate today. The word "selah" is used in the Bible 74 times. The dictionary says it is probably a musical or liturgical term and it means stop and listen. I have had to stop the tears and fears and doubt and just listen for God's guidance in the past year. It is hard to is hard to let go. But when you are blessed. May you take a "selah moment" and stop and listen for God's guidance today in your own life.

~ Selah ~

The noise inside me overpowers me

My self has been lost to the self I’ve become

I want the journey, but I don’t know where to turn.

I know not how to fix me.

Softly begin

Escape the noise

Loosen the chains

Ask for help

Hang on to life.

The turmoil surrounds me, I can’t breathe

Mind dancing a million dances at once

Jumping through the hoops that appear before me

I know not how to heal me.






I don’t know how, I can’t begin

I can’t let go, the pain is too great,

Is it possible for my mistakes to fall away?

I know not how to ask.

                                                                                                Self searching


                                                                        Lifting up a prayer

                                                                        A time of waiting


My heart is breathing, my mind slowing the pace

I paused for a moment and listened

Really listened for the spirit within

I am learning how to get better.



                                                                        Letting go

                                                                        A quiet


~ Selah ~

Friday, January 11, 2013

Serving my country by loving and praying for my enemies...

"You have heard that is was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persucute you, that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." - Matthew 5:43-45 (Words of Jesus)

I have had this blog post bubbling and fermenting in me for days now. As often has happened in my life, many events and occurances have converged in my mind at the same time and have caused me to want to write about my thoughts...if for no other reason than to get them out of my head for a while.

In the past two weeks, I have seen Les Miserables twice, started watching The West Wing (AGAIN!) on Netflix and listened to the first of several sermons at church about God and Country. Needless to say, there are some thoughts about patriotism going around in my head. I am not in public office and don't plan to be...While I respect the military whole-heartedly, I am not a soldier going off to war. How do I serve my country? How do I have the opportunity to serve and show my patriotism? How do I show my faith in God and country and my hope in the future of our great nation?

As those questions were stirring around in my brain, I came across the Bible verse for today. Those red word written above are the words of Jesus. This morning, I felt Jesus was speaking right to me. Loving my enemies and those who persecute me is my way of serving and being patriotic!

There are no persons persecuting me. I am lucky to live in a country where I am free to speak my mind and free to believe what I want. Who are my enemies? Who do I get angry with? (Besides my teenage daughter who I am supposed to be angry at most of the time, right?) I get angry with people who don't agree with me...people that who think differently than me...people who I feel aren't doing the "right" things...people who are mistreating others. I was REALLY angry about the shootings in Connecticut and in the mall in Oregon and in the theater in Colorado. I got angry about how people on Facebook and in the news politicized those shootings for their own political benefits. I get angry when Christians judge others and say hateful things...I guess there are plenty of things that make me angry. Although I wouldn't call those people my enemies, I think this might have been what Jesus was talking about in my case. Some of those things, like the shootings, happened because there is evil in this world. Evil exists, and there is nothing in THIS life that can stop it.

But did you see Jesus' words above...Our Father in Heaven makes the sun rise and the rain fall on the evil and the good, the right and the wrong in the same way. He loves the good people AND the evil people. He doesn't love the evil behavior, but he loves the people. Jesus is telling us that we should love the evil people too...not the evil acts, but the people. It doesn't seem doesn't seem logical...but those are our instructions from the Son of God. Love your enemies as God loves them.

So, it is my duty to God, and then in turn, my patriotic duty to my country, to love my enemies. It is my duty to not just speak of these things but to take the following action steps. It is my duty to NOT say hateful, angry things about people who have different political and religious views than me. It is my duty to love and pray for those who anger me. I do not have to agree with everyone or like the behavior of those who anger me. But speaking out and acting out in hate and anger is counter to what Jesus instructs us to do. I will vote the way I believe. If I see fit, I will campaign for those candidates that I feel will do the best for our country. I will give my support to our military who protects us, even if I don't agree with the wars we are fighting. I will pray for our leaders, those I agree with and even more so for the ones I don't. When I disagree with someone I am working with, I will do my best to work things out in an amicable way, not arguing and saying hateful and disrespectful things behind their backs. If there are people mistreating me or making fun of me, I will pray for them and treat them with the respect they may not deserve.

Those are pretty demanding action steps...I will probably fail to keep up those duties at times. There will probably be times when you will find me not living up to them. But, I will earnestly try. What if each of us TRIED hard to see these action steps as part of our patriotic duty to serve our country? What if we stopped the negative, hateful posts on Facebook and in our emails? Stop bashing liberals...stop bashing conservatives...Stop bashing ANYONE! What if we all tried to follow the instructions of the words written in red above? Love and pray for your enemies. THAT is your patriotic duty as well. Serving your country in this way will bring our country together again!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Discovering fullness...through study

"For in Christ all the fullness of God lives in bodily form and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority." Colossians 2:9-10

This morning I grabbed a book I have been reading and written on the inside cover I saw "Colossians 2:9" written in my own handwriting. I sometimes do this...write down a verse that I want to refer to at a later date. Most of the time, I never go back to that verse. I guess I forget, or don't have time, or like today, forget why I wrote it down in the first place.

But today, I looked up the verse and thought about what it might mean or why it was important. Needing more clarity, I looked up the verse in The Message Translation. Still needing more clarity, I went to the internet and looked up "understanding Colossians 2." In full study mode, I read several different interpretations. Some confused me...some were written using very academic vocabulary that needed a dictionary just to understand the first paragraph. Some interpretations were so closed minded, it angered me. As I have said before, anyone can make the Bible say anything they want. So what is the eager and open-minded searcher to do? How does one find true understanding of what God wants us to learn from his word?

I prayed about it.

Dear Lord, open my mind and my heart to the lesson and the understanding you want me to gain from these verses. Show me the message you want me to take away from these random verses that appeared to me this morning. Allow me to discern what it right from the different interpretations that my study brought to light today.

I know God heard my prayer...

I think I have some clarity...but as usual, when I start thinking about something and think I am moving toward understanding, more questions arise in my head that cause me to go another direction, which leads to more get the picture. I think too much!

Paul writes at the end of Colossians 1 that he is preaching to them (the Colossians) and teaching them so they will have wisdom and become fully mature in Christ. He wants them (and now us) to believe and understand what the life of Christ really meant for us, and then therefore, we better understand God. Colossians 2:9 opened that door for me. When you are in Christ, that is when you believe and have asked Christ to come into your heart and soul, he willingly comes to you and then you have the fulness of God in you as have fullness.

The rest of Colossians 2 goes on to discuss much about how the old laws and false teachings, and judgement of others clouds the water of that fullness. Before you were full in Christ and full in God, you lived by the tried to follow rules and regulations to find salvation. Paul says in Colossians 2:14 that Jesus canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  We are forgiven and are not tied to the law or written code any more! Does that mean we can now act any way we want? No, it means that when you are full in Christ, you don't WANT to act any way you want! You WANT to live as Christ did, in love.

Wow...this is heavy duty stuff. All this study has given me a headache this morning! It also made me think, does it really take all this study to TRULY understand God's plan through Jesus? No...the real beauty of his plan is...all we have to do is believe and search for him with all our heart. How else would children and the simple-minded have a place in the kingdom of God? I don't have to be a Bible scholar and understand the thousands of interpretations of the Bible...I just have to believe and have faith that God hears and answers my prayers.

Thank God for that!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Bloom where I'm planted...

Pinned Image

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." -- Romans 12:2

I absolutely love this picture! It reminds me of the end of one of my favorite vacations. I was visiting family in Seattle and my aunt and uncle took me to the tulip fields. It was spring, and a very unusually clear and sunny day in Seattle. Standing at the edge of the tulip fields, I could see miles of tulips of every color...with the Cascade Mountains on one side and the Olympic Mountains on the other. It was a stunningly beautiful site, and a lovely experience with two of my favorite people beside me.

This picture also reminds me of how I feel sometimes. A lone red flower in a sea of yellow ones...a "volunteer" stalk of corn in a field of soybeans...a lone peanut in a bag of walnuts...

While I don't always live up to my own high standards...and they are high standards because I want to be like Jesus, I WANT to live in the ways Jesus lived. In a world where religion is either revered by some and looked down on by others, why would I WANT to look toward a religious icon as a way to measure my high standards? Because living like Jesus is NOT a IS a way of life.

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1-2

Jesus Christ was our example...he was fully God AND fully human. He lived on this earth and before he gave himself up for us, he talked with those around him about our heavenly father and God's  plans for us. He taught us, he SHOWED us how God wants us to live.

Jesus was:

Living every day with these characteristics is not easy. There are days that I don't live up to these high standards. But...I keep trying. I have to admit though, there are days I would rather give in to the very human, selfish feelings that would lead me to be hateful, vindictive, pessimistic, argumentative, and just unpleasant. But, it's just not in me to give up like that.

And that's why I sometimes feel like the one lone red flower is a sea of yellow ones. Too many people give in to those human feelings much too easily. There are days when all I seem to come in contact with are grumpy, negative people. And what is frustrating to me is that many times, some of the grumpiest and most unpleasant people call themselves Christians. I guess it easier to believe in Jesus Christ than it is to act like him.

But, I also know that I am NOT alone. There are many good people in the world, living good lives and with good characteristics. The WORLD may intice and tempt all of us to give in to our human selfish tendancies, but I have faith that you are leading many more of your children reach out to you for help to live the lives the WANT to live.

Father God, you made me the way that I am. You made me WANT to be a good person. I am grateful that you led me to see Jesus as my role model. Thank you for reminders of your love. Help me to be patient with others in the world, but not to give in and conform to the negative ways of the world. Help me to stand proudly in whatever field you plant me in... Amen.