Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Grace :: My Word for 2017

"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear," (Ephesians 4:29 NASB).

"Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person," (Colossians 4:6 NASB).

I don't think it's any coincidence that this same date last year I also wrote about grace.

My life is full of many challenges right now. My elderly mother is in the hospital struggling with a hip and shoulder replacement on her dominant right side; it's freezing in my home because the heat is off since our exterior doors are being replaced now instead of in autumn, as planned--just to name a few. As I wrote last year, I can't use my own strength or intelligence to get through the days ahead of me. I need grace, more than ever.

My mouth is the biggest problem I have. It runs in my head, trailing my thoughts all over the place, raising my blood pressure and making my stupid hot flashes worse than they already are, with results that don't edify anyone, even me. My fault, since I tend to feed my thoughts with "what if's?" instead of taking them captive, like I should. Then comes the complaining and grumbling and effects thereof.

So, in this trying time, at the beginning of a fresh new year, my one goal is to let my life be an example of grace; grace for everyone I encounter, and grace for myself.

The classic definition of grace is: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification (the unmerited favor of God). But grace also means: disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency; and  the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful.

 And being kind and considerate and thoughtful is a hard thing to do when someone is not being nice. But that is what true, godly grace is--giving someone what they don't deserve. We are being like Jesus when we do that.

So showing grace by loving, caring for, and blessing those who don't deserve it -- including ourselves! -- is a great way to start the new year.

"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word," (2 Thessalonians 2:16, NASB).

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Light

It's funny how easily we get used to things that aren't comfortable or good for us.

My home is over 30 years old, and the light fixtures were mostly fluorescent. The bulbs were long-lasting, but didn't produce much light. And they were annoying because they would blink for several seconds before coming on. I wear glasses, and I hate overhead light because it shines down behind my lenses and bothers my vision. So I just chose to use my laundry room in the dark.

We've been doing some remodeling and replacing of things around here, so we switched out the laundry room light for an incandescent fixture. Now the light comes on immediately and is oh-so bright.

But I still do laundry in the dark.

I got into the habit of flipping on the kitchen light, which shines into the laundry room; and I keep doing that because I forget that I can flood the laundry room with light, now that the fixture is changed.

I tend to be the same way in my walk with the Lord.

I keep forgetting that the light has come into my life and changed me; I don't have to walk in the dark again. I don't have to tolerate those negative, self-defeating thoughts that lurk in my mind, or the shame that comes from wrong choices. I don't have to compare myself to others, trying to manufacture self-worth by what I do and how well. 

The Christmas season can bring pain and sadness. Relationships are hard, and loss is painful. But nothing can put out the Light of Jesus! The work He has done—what was manifested at His birth and finished at His death and Resurrection—is complete. No amount of pain and suffering and loss can take that perfect gift from us. 

If we turn to the Light, we don't have to live in the dark anymore.

"What came into existence was Life,
    and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
    the darkness couldn’t put it out," (John 8:4-5 MSG).

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Five Minute Friday :: Now {link up}

“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, having done everything to stand firm,” (Ephesians 6:13 NASB).

Do you know what resist means? Merriam-Webster says it means: to exert force in opposition; to withstand the force or effect of.

Not a passive thing, it would seem.

And what does to stand firm mean? Again, the dictionary says it means: to maintain one’s position.  Maintain means to persevere; and persevere means to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counter influences, opposition or discouragement.

I don’t know about you, but in the midst of this joyful holiday season I’m feeling some of those things and I need God’s armor now more than ever.

 Linking with other Five Minute Friday writers where we write to a prompt just for the fun of it. Find out more at Kate Motaung's blog.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Five Minute Friday :: Surrender {Link up}

In Oswald Chambers', My Utmost for His Highest, he writes:

"Beware of 'the cares of this world,' because they are the things that produce a wrong temper of soul. It is extraordinary what an enormous power there is in simple things to distract our attention from God. Refuse to be swamped with the cares of this life."

And it's easy to shout a loud amen to that but so much harder to live it out. Especially when there are so many cares abounding. What are we supposed to do with death of loved ones, sickness and disease, financial and relational woes, piles of dishes and clutter, and cranky people all around us?

Wrong temper of soul. Indeed

Jesus said:

“Come to Me, all who are weary [who work to exhaustion] and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy [pleasant, comfortable] and My burden is light," (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB).

It all comes down to this—to whom, or what, do we surrender?  Flying the white flag and giving in, we either fall off the cliff and into a miserable abyss (if we choose the cares of this world); or we fall into the loving and capable arms of the God who knows us better than we know ourselves and has a good plan for our lives. 

The choice is easy to make but hard to walk out. Preach it to yourself. Put that scripture over your sink in your kitchen and bathrooms, so you read it every time you're there.

Linking up with others at Kate Motaung's  for a fun, five-minute free writing party. Click here to learn more.

Five Minute Friday :: Enjoy {link up}

It is so easy to focus on what we enjoy—or what brings us joy, or what we want in order to feel joy and  to enjoy our life—and so hard to yield to God. 

I had just written Psalm 25:4-5 and Matthew 26:41 in my journal this morning, and then read this quote:

“The change must go deeper than the surface … And if you want your life to yield, there has to be a yielding in the soul.”  —Ann Voskamp, “The Broken Way,” p 78.

Those two scriptures talk of being taught God’s Truth and being led in His ways, and of keeping our focus and praying because even though our spirit is willing it is hard to do what is right and good (which is why we need Jesus so desperately).

Enjoy is a verb. When we enjoy something, we are taking action.  It means “to take delight or pleasure in [something].”

I don’t say this to trivialize the trials in life. Life is hard. Doing life well is harder. Even knowing what “well” or “good” means and how to do that is hard.

Enjoy can also mean “to possess and benefit from” something. No matter what your life is like, you can enjoy it and grow.  

No matter what is going on, there is always going to be something unpleasant, something that needs refining. To enjoy it in the midst is all a matter of focus.

Joining others for a fun, 5-minute free-writing time, writing for the enjoyment of it. Sound fun? Check out Kate Motaung's site here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Some Election Day Thoughts

“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” (2 Chronicles 17:13-14 NASB).

My house is a mess right now because of some remodeling projects we have going on, which have displaced the normal order of things.

Our world is a mess right now because some things are going on—things that have displaced the normal order—and it requires more than just a good President to lead us out of the darkness. 

We need God. We need Jesus. Without the guidance of our heavenly Father, without the rescue of Jesus Christ, we are lost. Period

When I got up this morning, it was hard to face the mess. Added to the chaos is the leftover nonperishable groceries that I left out on the table and counters in the kitchen, waiting to put them away today because my back was hurting.

Running a country is a task that most of us can’t begin to comprehend. Even those who are vying for the job can’t comprehend the enormity of what lies before them, left for them to "put away" and fix.

How can we do anything without Jesus? Without holding tightly to the One who knows the future? The One who is outside of all time and its events?

On a much grander scale than mine, the new President – whomever it may be – will start their first day looking at a big mess. Our Country needs help. We need God to show us how to go forward. We are made for relationship, and we need each other. We thrive when we cooperate. We grow when we put each other first and go the extra mile.

Regardless of your political leanings and strongly held opinions about both candidates, one thing is true:  God knows the outcome of today’s election. He’s already there at the end of today, and at the end of all days. Nothing surprises Him.

And regardless of your opinion about the outcome of our election, as Christians – those who believe in and follow the Christ – we are required to respect, and to pray, for our President, and all of our leaders.

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God,” (Romans 13:1 NASB).

 “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,  for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time ... Therefore I want [you] to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension,” (1 Timothy 2:1-8, NASB).

 May God give you wisdom as you cast your vote. And may God have mercy on the United States of America. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Mess in the Midst

I am sick with a cold. So is my son. He brought it home to me from school and we shared it. Only I am sicker than he, which I won't say I'm upset about (since it is possible for me to crash and psuedo-nap if I can't go on, but he has to tough it out all day and through football practice).

Nonetheless, I hate being sick. I sort-of slept on the loveseat last night, after I unscrewed the cover on the fan that I use for white noise and took out the thing wrapped around the motor that was making an annoying slapping noise. Actually, it was a few hours after that. Around two this morning.


So, I'm sick, and I still miss my son terribly when he goes away in the mornings (especially knowing he's not well), and my house is a certified mess because everything from my school library is now...

strewn about my home...

See. I wasn't kidding. What a load of stuff...

It's spread out because my husband didn't want the whole load in one room, to make it easier on the floor joists. The library room is at the back of the house and two walls are supported with the foundation block, so no worries there.

Now the room is gutted and the former shelving and counters are in a pile in our garage.

And the room has a new sub-floor and walls painted with Dove Gray.

The boxes on the floor are 3/4" hand-scraped oak hardwood flooring that we are going to put down when my husband has vacation again at the end of the month. The flooring has to sit in its environment for at least a week, but preferably two or more, to acclimate to the temperature and humidity of the room, before it's installed. It's a pecan stain, which matches our trim almost exactly.

God is definitely teaching me during this season.

Teaching me all sorts of things, like trust -- in Him, and in my husband's love for me and our family.

And patience. Ugh. I like for things to be the way I want them to be. And I hate change. I try to embrace it, but it seems like, lately, God sees me hanging on to something for comfort in the midst of the mess, something other than Him,  and He nudges me just a bit more until I have nothing left to grab hold of.

It hasn't been pretty. But God promises to bring beauty from ashes.

He is teaching me to trust His Word, to know that it is true. And to realize that believing His Word takes more than just a head acknowledgement that I believe it. I have to apply it to my life.

I have to cry out to Him instead of a sympathetic ear. Because all venting to someone does is relieve the pressure that God allowed to build so it would drive me to my knees to seek His face. I rant, I cry, and I go about my business. No wonder I, like the Israelites, go around the same dumb mountain so many times!

It's the reason that I can encourage others with passages from the Bible, but I don't automatically reach for them when I'm hurting. (Or if I do, it's been with a rabbit's-foot mentality.) It's the reason I try, for the umpteenth time, to tackle something from my own perspective, rather than seeking His wisdom to know what to do. And it's why I feel powerless when I pray, because I'm mostly telling God what I'd like to see happen and asking Him to bless my requests.

I feel laid bare. Gutted, like my library. I know that our library will look great when it is finished and all is made new and fresh. And God has a vision for how He wants to fill me up. I just need to let Him have His way with my mess in the midst of His fix.


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