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Friday, July 25, 2014

A Lot to Learn from Abraham (Abram)

“So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left. And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere…(Genesis 13: 8-10).

When I was a young Christian I use to wonder why Abram allowed Lot to pick first and choose the fertile, well watered plain when he was the one who deserved it. After all he was called by God to journey to another land. Lot was Abram’s nephew, and he was invited along. Riding on Abram’s blessing, he too prospered to the point that their shepherds were fighting. So why let Lot get first choice?

As a more mature, but still a long way to go Christian, I now understand. Abram didn’t need to claim his rights. He had seen what God had done so far and completely trusted God to provide in this situation. Abram had already been mightily blessed,(even though he hadn’t completely trusted God and lied that Sari was his sister, not his wife, but that just goes to show you how forgiving God is) because Abram was “ very rich in livestock, silver and gold” (v. 2).

Not seeking his own will, he let Lot choose. Abram was assured that God would work it out. “And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; 15 for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants] forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you” Genesis 13: 14-17).

I have a bit to learn from Abraham. Unfortunately, I am a person who likes to claim her rights, especially when I perceive big companies and corporations have done me an injustice. Now there’s nothing wrong with trying to right a situation, but it’s the way in which I use to do it. I’m trying hard this summer not to be pushy and demanding, though it’s difficult.

Just the other day I was annoyed that I didn’t have phone access and had to use my cell phone minutes to contact the cable company. At first I was annoyed and short with the customer service, when I finally reached a live human being, instead of a million voice prompts. Beside the phone issue, I hadn’t had wi-fi access for four months. As time marched on trying to resolve the issue, I grew more impatient and irritated. Then I remembered what the Lord showed me about attitude and my speech in the beginning of the summer (See post below).

I quickly changed my voice and tried to be much sweeter and kinder. Things started to move along better, and I got connected to technical support Level 3. For over twenty minutes we tried to resolve the issue but couldn’t, but I had victory. I was no longer angry. We decided that the technician would call me back later because I had to leave to bring my husband to an appointment. Needles to say, he later fixed it and connected me to the billing department as I requested. Once again I got a little upset, but then remembered to calm down. After about fifteen minutes, and my compliments to the customer rep, I received a $150 credit, four times as much as I expected!! God did a work in me and my better attitude literally paid off!!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Grace and the First Day of Vacation

It’s the first day of summer vacation for me, and a beautiful one it is! The birds are twittering, delighting my heart, the sun warms my back, a gentle breeze refreshes my soul and the fountain from the pond soothes me. It is so wonderful to glory in God’s creation, and I feel glorious! But I know the day will have its frustrations, like working on this old computer. Feelings are fickle and we certainly can’t live by them, but we do need to both control and enjoy them. And there’s nothing like the Word of God to guide and temper them. Today my reading was from Ephesians 4:29 " Let no corrupt word proceed from your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification that it might impart grace to the hearer." Of course, this was the perfect Word for me to contemplate today as yesterday I get quite annoyed and didn't' apply grace to my words.

Out of frustration that my husband’s anxiety kept him from participating in my adult daughter’s birthday dinner, I spoke a little harshly. I felt I had a right to since this has been happening for years, and I want my husband to deal with the matter. He felt he is dealing with it by making an appointment with the doctor. I believe he needs to change his thought patterns and go to someone to help him do this. I let him know my feelings, perhaps a little too strong. So today I wondered if I what I said was okay, but wrong in in my attitude. There’s nothing like the Word of God to correct. “Let no corrupt word." Well the first three words already had my attention and then it goes on, "but what is good and necessary edification that it may impart grace to the hearer”. Good and necessary edification. Did my words edify? No, they hurt and depressed him.Did they impart "grace to the hearer?" Grace, no. Interesting, there’s that word again—grace. I don’t think my words were filled with grace.

So here comes the life lesson. I’ve been doing a study on grace and reading several books. I know that grace has a lot to do with forgiveness and God’s mercy. But what does Paul mean by it in this context? The apostle Paul makes it clear in the next few verses what grace is not: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger…evil speaking be put away (v 31). He understands human nature that when we don’t apply grace in our speech, then bitterness, anger, wrath etc. follows from either party, the speaker and/or the hearer. Then comes evil speaking: slandering each other, malice and hatred. Certainly not the way of grace, but how about just a little edge to our words? The next passage tosses that idea by the wayside.

So how was I to handle the situation with grace? Paul identifies three positive actions to take. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ did for you (v 31). Nothing like hitting the nail on the head and showing me exactly what kind of attitude I should have. Kindness tempers our thoughts, tenderness tempers our words and forgiveness tempers our heart. Certainly a tall order, but just in case we think he’s asking too much of humans, he reminds us of how much Christ forgave us and died on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

The next chapter contains the punch line, the total solution, just in case we missed it.”Therefore be imitators of God, and walk in love (Ephesians 5:1)” Okay, I get it. Jesus is my example and I need to walk as He walked-in love. Another tall order. But the great thing about it all is that I don’t need to muster up the love myself. Jesus is the source of both the love and grace. He has all the grace I need for “every good work’”(2 Corinthians 9). Now I understand why God has led me to do this study on grace. These verses in Ephesians show me the practical ways I can extend that grace. So while I can enjoy my glorious feelings, I don't have to give in to the frustrated, annoyed ones or negative attitude. I can show grace with my words and love with my actions because God poured both of them out in abundance though Christ, on me!










Friday, May 23, 2014

Sing to the Lord!!!


The cold grey skies of the last few days and my husband's surgery that landed him in the ICU with an infection and breathing tube has caused me to search out other joys. Looking over my Work In Progress I found this entry, just as the song "Blessed Be Your Name" came on the radio. I sang my heart out. It's a gift God has given to all, even if you can't keep a tune for beans like me!

"Sing out the honor of His name. Make his praise glorious" (Psalm 66:2).

Song gladdens the heart. Praise lifts it to heavenly praises. Worship My holy name and your soul will be blessed. Walk out of worry and fear with worship. Let the shackles fall. Let the river of life cleanse you from all sin. Bath in the river of life through praise. Wash away your sickness and disease. Come down to the Jordan River with Me.
I know your illnesses, both mental and physical. I can wash away your anxieties. I can restore you to wholeness. Soak in My presence. Spend time listening to Me. Sing your heart out. Let your soul sing praises in the night watch. Make My praise glorious! You will have nothing to fear. Nothing will cause you to stumble when your heart is singing. Trust in Me. Light will shine upon your darkness.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Quiet Strength


I so wanted to go to the Art Symposium I had registered for on Saturday, but my husband is still feeling the after effects of his Lyme disease and didn't feel well enough to push me in a wheelchair. You see, I've been practically nailed to the couch since I had surgery on my foot, then hurt my left leg hopping all around the place. I was so looking forward to going, but it was going to be a stretch in a wheelchair.
Feeling disappointed, I turned to read My bible and the Lord gave me a gem "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength (Isaiah 30:15 ). Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to be busy doing a million things: teaching, painting, reading, writing, gardening, going to plays, museums etc. But the Lord tells me my strength comes from being confident in Him, trusting in Him, not complaining but being quiet.
In this crazy, busy world we all need quiet times of rest, not just physical rest but spiritual rest. We need to find that secret place under the shadow of the Almighty's wings. It is a place of peace and trust in Him. It is a place of knowing that God is El Shaddai , Almighty all sufficient. He is my provider, and gives me " all things that pertain to life and godliness"( 2 Peter 1:3 ), which is not always everything I want. I wanted to go to that Art Symposium, but God had different plans for me.
Having been strapped to this couch, I've had time to think and learn a few lessons. Numero uno (Number one) is that the spiritual work God does in me is far more important than what I do. I've had to learn that lesson a few times, being a type A personality. I need to spend more time in that special "secret place" so I can be filled with more of Him. His attributes of kindness, mercy, goodness, self-control and agape, unconditional love will then replace the not so lovely parts of my personality. Only then can rivers of living water flow out from me to a parched and weary land.
The second lesson I'm learning is don't let your job take up too much time away from family, friends and church. More and more employers want to own you and your time. Don't get me wrong, I really like my job and we should, but don't let it steal from you what's really important in life--godly relationships. Connect with people to pour out whatever it is God pours into your life to serve others. That's number three.
King Solomon tells us to find whatever your hands can to do that is before you and do it. Wise advice. Just don't overdo it. Give to others, serve in the capacity God is calling you, without any thought of getting in return. Give freely of yourself after you've spend time with God, in His Word and prayer. Most importantly find that secret place where you can abide with Him in the midst of the chaos of this world. Don't be content to let that be just your quiet time, but abide there, dwell, live. That's been my problem. I love my quiet time with Him, but I've got to learn to bring more of that godly peace and love into the everyday work a world. I need to quiet my mind, my heart and my soul to hear Him throughout the day. and listen to His still, small voice. In the place I will receive quiet strength to face any challenge thrown in my path. How about you?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Blood of the Lamb Marks Us

During this time before Easter,referred to as Lent, it is good to contemplate what God has done for us. Here is an excerpt form my WIP, Work in Progress:

"For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your sin, for it is the blood that makes the atonement for the soul" (Leviticus 17:11).

My Old Covenant was a foreshadowing of the new. Sin is detestable to Me, but I made a way for reconciliation--through the life blood. I was not as interested in the offering of the animal, but in the heart attitude that made the offering. The blood of rams and bulls pointed towards the power of My Son's blood. It would wipe away the need to perform animal sacrifices, and totally wash away your sin.
His blood covered and continues to cover all the sin that was, is and is to come. It is for this reason all true sons and daughters of Mine must be cleansed in the blood of the sacrificial lamb, Jesus Christ. This is not an outmoded ritual, but life itself. My ways are higher than yours, and My plans appear as foolish to man. It is for this very reason I have made it so. You cannot do anything for yourself but accept the provision I have made for you.
I allowed My Son to die on a cross for you because of my deep love for humanity, even though you are full of sin. I am love and the author of it. The world has perverted and misunderstood My love. They try to make believers appear superstitious and outdated, but they are the very ones who create their own gods. The blood of the cross separates the sheep from the goats and marks you as My own.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

God Promises to Answer Prayer

Every once in a while I'll post an excerpt from one of my books. This one is from When God speaks:

Some people think of God as the divine Santa Claus granting their wishes. They come to Him with a long list of their wants—a nice car, a big house, a new job, a better salary and so on. Others don’t believe God is interested in their lives and they shouldn’t bother to ask Him for anything except when they’re in trouble or when someone dies. Both extremes miss the idea of what prayer is about. God wants us to pray in this manner:

Ask—according to His will, not ours. “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”(1 John 5:14). But how can we, in our limited understanding know the will of God? As we spend time with Him in prayer and read His word, we will come to know the heart of God and His will. How do we ask? Jesus tells us, “Ask in my name” John 16:23. What do we ask for? We can ask for God’s protection, His provision, guidance, strength and wisdom. But asking is only the first step. Next we are directed to:

Seek—to discover. Be actively involved in searching the topic of prayer. In the New Testament, Jesus gave us guidelines when He prayed the “Our Father.” Each phrase represents a certain topic. The prayer begins with praise to the Father, then moves to petition for our daily needs, to confession of sins, to forgiveness of others, and affirmation of God’s position on the throne. If we use this as our guideline when we pray, we will receive a fuller understanding of the role of prayer as communication. We also need to search the scriptures for the many verses about prayer and use them during our quiet time with God. Another way to gain insights is to read books about prayer that broaden your understanding. However, seeking is not enough, we also need to:

Knock—on God’s door. When a person goes to a friend’s home, they first need the right address. When they get there, they knock (beginning of change) on the door, believing their friend will answer if she is home. The same goes for prayer. Knocking gets God’s attention. When He hears it, He draws near to heaven’s gate. Now, we need to knock in such a way that God will answer. Have faith. He is always home, so keep on knocking. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Sometimes God asks us to persist in prayer and not give up. I’ve prayed for many years about my marriage and my career, and it has paid off.

The first year my husband and I moved to Vermont, I had a good job teaching art. Then I got pregnant and gave up my position to stay home with my precious son. For years I wanted to get back into teaching art, but we moved to an area where there were many artists looking for jobs. I decided to work in a Christian school as a resource room teacher and taught art on the side. I then worked at a college and several public schools, but I continued to pray for a job teaching art. One day I got a call from a director asking me to interview for an art teacher position with special needs children. I went and was hired. God opened the door after many years of my knocking.

But in order to know the right door to knock on, we need to listen to God. Prayer is communication between God and man, so we need to be willing to listen. God speaks to us in His still small voice, through His Word and in the circumstances of our lives. It’s important to listen after we pray and read the Word. Then we will be able to hear God’s answer.
Answer—God always answers our prayers, but we don’t always recognize it. Sometimes He says, “yes,” other times “no,” and more often “wait, it’s not time yet” as in the example above. Now and then His answers come wrapped in a different package than we expected. For years I thought God wanted my husband and I to have a ministry helping people with troubled marriages. While living in Vermont, we thought we would start a retreat center, but that never happened. Instead, we learned a lot about overcoming problems in our own marriage through experience! I hadn’t bargained on that. Now I am able to minister to women in difficult marriages in a different way than I originally thought. God is creative in the way He answers our prayers.
Whether you’ve had a thousand prayers answered or not, I encourage you to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Timothy 5:17). Keep your heart and mind lifted heavenward in all you do. Your answer is awaiting you on the other side of the door or just beyond the gate. Just remember, it might look a little more unusual than you originally thought.

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 ask receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Matthew7:7

Thursday, February 13, 2014

For years I loved to write poetry, but lately only a blizzard brings it out of me. I'm thinking of submitting this to a literary magazine looking for poetry. Tell me what you think. Suggestions invited.

The Cardinal



Snow falling, falling from on high
Downward spiraling
Layering over layers of soiled snow.

Blanketing the memory of paths well trodden,
cloaked beneath their myriad of
grace filled snowflakes.

The grey world turns white out.
Winter escapes no one
this year, yet...

A blood red cardinal perches
on a snow covered limb,
while flocks of small birds scurry and flit about
engaged in an eating frenzy.

But the cardinal does not descend,
having done so, once is enough.
He is no longer driven by hunger or want.

The little ones remind me of self.
Feeding at the trough of life.
Hoarding all they can eat.
Never ceasing from activity,
but never fully satisfied.
They return.

All under the watchful eye of the
blood splashed cardinal, hung in the tree.
Singing in spite of the storm.

I look up and ...

His blood drips on me,frozen in time and place.
Like snow falling on cedars
It turns my body as white as a newborn.

I am embraced in His snow white folds,
covering a multitude of muddied tracks,
now buried beneath the snowflakes falling endlessly.

Into eternity I will fly away with you--
My bright red cardinal,
but for now I will take shelter under your wings and
let your pure white snow blanket me in love and forgiveness.