Declutter

In my early years I dreamed of a home with sleek shiny black lacquer furniture, and a color scheme of teal and salmon colors. Only the bare essentials would be allowed to sit on tables or other surfaces. Somehow that never happened.

As years progressed and three children entered the picture I found more and more stuff added to the space we called home. As young pastors just out of seminary theology books became an obsession and soon books began taking over. At one time we had close to three to four hundred books and more, it seemed, were added daily.

My “love” was kitchen items. Since I loved to bake various sized and shaped cake pans were stuffed into the cupboards.

Sometime during our marriage I decided to declutter some of the areas and get rid of any duplicates or obsolete items around the house. This is not an easy task. I could tell you who gave the item, or when and what occasion the item was added to the collection. Some things given away seemed like I was parting with a family member.

Now, at this age, I have begun to purge things again and I do this is short spans of time, not all at once. It is easier that way. I still have things to give away. Empty nesters simply do not need 3 casserole dishes of every size. Cooking for large groups is very rare these days so extra-large serving bowls have been delete. Ok, I kept a few but not as many as I had before.

Every time I begin a decluttering task my mind begins to think of some of the intangible things in my life that need to go.

I ask myself, have I held on to prejudice or bitterness. I certainly don’t what this to be packed in my spiritual baggage.

What about disagreeableness. Do I allow this to keep popping up. When it does I want to discard it.

Anger is something else I don’t want hanging around. If allowed, it can control your life and you can become just an angry bitter person.

I don’t know about you but I have a list of things I don’t want cluttering up my life and soul. It is a constant vigil to keep these things out of my life and surrendered to God.

This decluttering task is never ending and if I am not vigilant I find myself adding back some of the things I have let go. When this happen I call out the powerful lines from a song written years ago “Search Me O God and know my heart today.” (James Edwin More)

He answers – “I will.”

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Silence

The silence in the room was so loud every other sound disappeared. The long fingers of quiet gripped her heart and soul. She could hear inner thoughts coursing through her mind. She didn’t want to think about the thoughts.

The beat of her heart vibrated in her ears in the vacuum that was in the room. She was conscious of everything inside her yet outside there was only silence.

She wanted to break the silence and talk, or scream or even sing but she was compelled to wait. Why? She didn’t know.

In the midst of her overwhelming confusion a still small voice echoed in her soul. She recognized that voice. It was the voice of the one that loved her so. He spoke and His words were like a sweet perfume that filled her being. They were words that bathed her turmoil and brought peace to her heart.

Her whole being rejoiced in praise as Jesus communicated with her. The voice was not auditable but she heard it. She heard deep within her soul. That voice flooded her mind with the promise that He would always be there. He would not leave or forsake her. Sitting in His presence, listening to Him speak, she knew that life was worth living.

He calmed her troubled mind as she asked Him to help her lean on Him and relax in His presence. Picking up the Bible from her lap she read His words of comfort. These words enveloped her like a warm blanket. The more she read the more she understood about this one that loved her so.

The quiet silence she once feared now became a joyous place. No longer afraid she left the silence to enter the world filled with noise and various voices that called to her.

Stillness and quiet became friends that allowed the still small voice of God’s son calling her. In this silent time spent with Jesus peace invaded her life. What was once frightening now was time longed for. The holy hush of silence allowed her to hear that still small voice of the one who loved her and gave his life for her and brought comfort.

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Getting Ready to Travel

When I know that I am going to travel there are several things I do.  Since I am getting older…, ok who am I kidding, now that I am old there are things I need to accomplish before I put the suitcase in the car.

As a young person I rarely planned ahead.  About two hours before I needed to leave I would pull out the suitcase and begin throwing things in.  Somehow everything I needed was always there.  Now, it takes a longer time to plan and even then there are things I forget.

Lists are made, both mental and actual, and checked off so I am sure I have everything.  About two days or maybe three before I leave the suitcase is put on the bed in the spare room.  It is a matter of accumulating the stuff I am taking and putting it on the bed.  The night before leaving, all the things are arranged just so in the suitcase ready for the trip.  The last minute items like tooth brush, deodorant and makeup are packed after use the morning I am leaving.

At my destination upon opening my suitcase and looking at what I have packed I know I have brought way too many clothes and shoes and something I need is always missing.  Hmmm so much for planning.

There is one trip I know I will make and I have been planning this for many years.  When I leave this earthly home headed to my heavenly home, I will need to take nothing of this earth’s tangible things.

Everything is already provided.  I have need of nothing.  Did I plan for this trip?  Yes. The planning for this trip takes a life time.

My ticket was purchased by Jesus on Calvary.  It is a free gift for me and you also.  For this trip here are the requirements:

Faith in Jesus Christ
A life surrendered to Him completely
Faithfulness to what He requires
Obedience to His commands
Love in great measure
Trust in knowing Jesus is in control and knows what is best for me.
A daily walking in His promises

There are so many things I could list here but you get the idea.  For more requirements read the Life Manual God gave to us.  – The Bible tells us what is required.

I don’t know when I am leaving for this trip but I know this, no suitcases needed, no packing required because I have spent my life getting ready.

I am ready, are you?

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What I Exchanged

Have you ever gone back to the store to exchange something?  At some time or another everyone probably has done this.  If you have the receipt you can exchange the product for something else, or get your money back.  Often it is a hassle to do this but some cases it is worth the wait.

When I came to Jesus Christ as my savior I did exactly this but the difference in this exchange was I received much more value that what I turned in.  I gave Him all the rags of my life and the empty hollowness of what I thought was important and He reached into His storehouse of love and abundantly supplied everything I needed and more.

For my guilt- He took it and gave me a clean conscience
For my pain and hurt – He provided me healing by the stripes He bore
For my grief – His comfort enfolded me
For my loneliness – His abiding presence is always there
For my fears – He let me know I was not alone
For my sadness – He brought laughter into my life
For my despair – there was hope
For my sin – My life became a clean slate cleansed by His blood
For my lost family –I became part of the family of God
For my sorrow – The oil of joy
For the ashes of my life – He gave me beauty
For my heavy heart – He gave me a garment of praise
For my weakness – His strength supported me
For the tears I shed – He wiped them away
For my spiritual blindness – My darkened eyes once blind now see

Each morning I find new mercies supplied by Father God.  In His presence, I am uplifted and hope springs up within my soul.  I have so much to be thankful for but God’s greatest gift to me was His son Jesus Christ who died for me.  His death allowed me to be redeemed from a life of misery and destruction.  “For God so loved the world..” John 3:16 – that’s not just the world that’s me.  He LOVES me and He LOVES you too.

In this exchange, He got all the useless junk of my life and I received the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.  I got the best of it all.

I am blessed.

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Words to God

Oh God, the oil of your love pours over my dry and parched soul
seeping into all the hurts and pains of this life

Your love causes peace in my turmoil; bathes the sadness away
until joy springs forth deep within my crushed spirit

It anoints the hurts until healing comes and your refreshing rain
softens the parched places within

Your love brings calmness to the hurting soul and soothes the
inflamed wounds that others have left.

It refreshes like no other balm and cures like no other salve

It is you oh God, all that you are is what supplies whatever this
human requires

I run into your arms and your embrace lifts me to satisfaction and
fulfillment

Only the look from your eyes of love can give the quiet confidence
I need to finish what I have begun

Sitting in your presence, I am made complete
I am valued and you stir the depths of my being to want to please you

There in your arms, caressed by your love,comes the reality that
I am yours and you are mine

You will never let me go and gently beckon me
to walk life’s road together with you

When I can no longer walk, and I keep stumbling, you lift me
in strong arms and carry me and shoulder my burdens

I walk into all my days knowing you are by my side

Amen

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Interrupted Prayer

I need to talk to my Heavenly Father
Hurry, hurry go your secret place
Sit, open Bible

I hadn’t been there long when the interrupter came to disturb my time
“God does not care about your trivial things” he said

Father, I breathed softly, “yes you do I know you do.”
I continued to talk with Him.
So many things were in my heart

Thank you Father for all you have done.
Thank you for answered prayers and your faithfulness

Once again the interrupter tried to remind me of things
I had asked for and prayers that were unanswered.
“See,” he said, “if God cared about you would have your answer.”

“God does answer,” I said. “It may not be the answer I want or in
the time frame I hoped for – but He hears and answers.”

Another interrupter
I hadn’t been in my quiet place long when I remembered I need to:
Make an appointment
The laundry needs doing
The kids need …..
I promised my friend that I ……
All of these things began to flood my mind and crowded out my
concentration on the one I came to meet with

Finally distractions ceased
The interrupter banished
Interrupting thoughts discarded
Quieted soul waiting to hear
Answers came
Fellowship sweet

Time well spent.

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The Bug

Not long ago the bug hit when I opened one of the kitchen drawers. You know; that organizational bug that keeps nagging until you do something about the mess.  I like things in order and neatly put away but somehow disorder over takes all my good intentions. My husband is mostly the problem or at least I am going to blame it on him.

I never know when this bug will bite, but on any given day, after I open a drawer or a cupboard, this organizing bug keeps buzzing around until I give in. I tell myself just clean one or two drawers and then the next day do some more. It just doesn’t happen that way. I am all in and won’t stop until done. Now the drawers have been washed, disinfected and wiped dry. The silverware and utensil holders are back in place and everything has a place. Everything is bright and shiny again and in the place it is supposed to be in. Things I haven’t managed to use in a year, broken things, and miscellaneous junk now reside in the waste basket. The prized pieces of old used wire ties, pieces of paper, broken rubber bands and outdated spices are no longer there.

The spice shelves were part of this “bug bite” also. I decided to do this because I kept buying spices I thought I was out of but in reality I just couldn’t find them in the disarray. The out dated spices have been evicted and now reside in the trash ready to go to wherever old spices go.

While doing this the Lord spoke in my heart and said have you checked your life lately. Are there things there that are outdated? Are there old habits that still reside just because they make you comfortable? What about your priorities, are they in align? What are the drawers and shelves of your life stacked with and do you really need those things?

Ouch! I wasn’t expecting that. I really didn’t want to go there. I also know I can’t ignore God’s voice or find an excuse to not do what He is asking of me. Going to my quiet place, pulling out my Bible, I ask for God’s help to identify those things I need to discard. Some were old habits I should have left behind long ago, while other things in my life needed a closer look. Quietly sitting there I surrender to the Father and asked for His help. Not everything was bad or sinful, some were just things that cluttered my life and took me away from the time I spent doing His will.

A fresh start-yeah me. Free from clutter in my house and also in my life. The bug will bite again and I will look in closets and drawers and begin pulling things out.

As for my life, I want the Lord to daily remind me through His word that He is in control and He will help declutter my life.

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Is It Just Me?

Sometimes I sit in silence in my quiet place and so many thoughts and questions flood into my conscious brain. Where are these questions coming from?

I pick up my Bible to read again only to have more questions to challenge me and what I have believed from childhood.

Closing my eyes, I lift my heart in silent prayer to my father. Once again I reaffirm my love and my belief. I thank Him for dying for me and that forgiveness is mine just because I have asked. I do believe.

Maybe you have never questioned but I have. Is God real? Yes I say, even when I can’t feel His presence I know by faith He is there. John tells me “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God.” Yes, yes, yes I say in my prayer to Him. God gently reminds me that the word became flesh and dwelt among us.

The enemy of my soul plants another question. Didn’t you ask God for….He didn’t answer. What about the starving children, what about all the suffering? If there was a God, a God of love would He allow this? Why do children die when people have prayed for healing?

Once again the evil one has tried to scatter his seeds of doubt in my soul and cause me to question.

I am not a theologian, I hold no advanced degrees in apologetics and I certainly hold no degrees in the study of Greek or Hebrew. Still I believe and I believe by faith. What is that, well my answer comes from God’s written word, the Bible in Hebrews 11:1, “ Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” I either choose to believe or I don’t.

It is my choice whether to allow the seeds of doubt to take root in the soil of my heart or to believe God’s promises. Oh there are times when I want to scream –really, you could have fixed this, or why God, I don’t understand. Yes I have prayed and asked for God to heal, or asked for Him to work in a certain circumstance and there were no answers. Am I tempted to just throw away all the belief and become…I have thought about it? I still choose to believe and to believe by faith. I don’t understand everything that happens and I may not have the answers to the whys but I put my trust in God.

This verse in 2 Timothy 2:12 says: “ I know in whom I have believed and He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him.”

In the end it comes down to I know, that I know, that I know. I can’t explain it and maybe you may think I am foolish but I have come this far by faith, trusting in Jesus God’s son and I am not turning back now.

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Was It Really Friday?

Was it really Friday

She sat off to the side of the room wrapped in her mourning clothes. Can’t remember what time it is. It must be late in the afternoon because the darkness invaded the room like the darkness of sorrow surrounded her very being. How could this happen?

There were others with her but they were processing their own grief as they searched through their memories of the events of this day.

In her mind, she could still hear the words of the angel who said she was highly favored and she had found favor with God and would conceive a child and call his name Jesus. She remembered everything. The birth, the shepherds and the wise men coming were indelibly stamped in her memory banks. She could picture Jesus as a little one running around the carpenter shop asking so many questions. Those big brown eyes and dark curly hair that framed that cute olive-skinned face were etched on her heart. Everything about this child of hers filled her mind as she sat and remembered. Tears slipped from her eyes as the sobs of grief washed over her. She had watched him grow into manhood.

He sat in the temple and listened as the Torah was read and the religious leaders of the day taught. She remembered Jesus being lost, at least she thought he was lost, and she and Joseph found him in the temple. He astounded those there with his knowledge. She remembered watching him become a man and take on responsibilities. He loved her deeply. She had a front row seat to his miracles and teachings. Miracles, yes but she especially remembered when he turned the water into wine at the wedding.

Why then did this have to happen? He son faced an unfair trial. People lied and accused him falsely. She remembered Peter. How could he. He denied him three times when asked if he were with her son and she remember how devastated Peter was after this took place.

The cries of her son as they beat and scourged him echoed in the chambers of her memory. The sound of the nails as they pierced her son’s bones and flesh raced through her thoughts. More tears slipped from her eyes.

She was remembering every detail of his life, his 12 followers, the miracles and his teachings. Every memory from before his birth till now flooded her senses and the heaviness in her heart was more than she could bear.

The mourning period, according to custom, was not even finished when she understood that the stone from the tomb where Jesus lay had been rolled away. How? Why? Then she remembered his words – could it be? Was he really alive?

Two days of unimaginable sorrow, two days of memories that only brought heartache but now, that third day. What a day. The stone was rolled away – he was not in the tomb. He is risen!

Because of this, these words have such meaning, “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth on me though he were dead, yet shall he live.” Easter gives us hope.

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Messy In The Middle

Have you ever noticed on a tombstone, at least very old ones, the year a person was born is chiseled in the stone, then comes a dash and finally the year the person died.  When I see this I am reminded that between the years, the dash represents a whole lot of living.

I love the verse in scripture that says:   I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. Psalms 37:25. This is true for me.  I have been young and today I am old but in between the young and the old there was a whole span of “messy in the middle.”

This quote says “ah, youth- it is a pity to waste it on the young.”  I don’t know who said this but I certainly can relate.  My childhood was dysfunctional but at the time I didn’t know it.  I just thought it was normal.  I loved making things, playing in the dirt and all the activities that accompany childhood.

Somewhere in between the beginning of my teen years and the age I am today there was a whole lot of messy.  My parents worked and we would have probably been considered poor but what we were was normal to me.  Mom was a nurse and dad was a panel electrician.  Church was a given at least for my mother, sister and me.  My father was- well my father, depending on circumstances attended church or didn’t attend.  Life at home could be calm and in an instant it seemed everything was turned upside down.  Messy fits concerning my life.

I left home at 17 to attend Bible College and Seminary.  My father drove me to the campus that was 1500 miles from my home. He pulled up, dumped my stuff on the sidewalk, got in the car and said have a nice life and promptly drove off.  I so wanted to cry but refused.  I had no idea where to go or what to do next.  I didn’t even have answers for the finance office until I called my mom at home.  In the 4 year period there were peaks and valleys.  I sang in the band vocal chorus and then for 3 years traveled with the college choir.  How I managed to pay for all the extra is a testimony to God’s provision.

I fell in love got engaged – oops broken engagement.  The next year I met someone and the courtship was combination of hills and valleys but we finally married and set out to pastor our first church.  It would take pages and pages to tell about the happenings.  We went on to pastor 8 churches in 7 states.  During this time I learned that not all Christians were –well I will leave that to your imagination.  I can tell you there were many nights I cried myself to sleep.  There were times of no food in the cupboards and no money in the bank.  When you are hungry you really learn how to pray.

As young married couple we survived a head on crash in a VW Bug and lived to tell about it. After the crash, I checked myself out of the hospital because we had no health insurance.  We had been driving to a church to candidate for the position of pastor.  My husband was going to call and tell them He couldn’t come but I told him to go.  He placed a roll away bed by the phone (that was when phones were mounted on the wall) and I sent my husband off 200 miles away.  I said I would call if I needed him. If I needed help I had the phone nearby.  My husband took off in a rented car (ours could not be driven) to candidate for the church, I survived, and by the way we got the church.

The doctors said I probably should not have kids and they would be surprised if I would be able to conceive.  Surprise, even though they thought I could not become pregnant I did. I lost the baby but in a short time I found I was expecting again.  We had 3 children and they arrived one right after the other.  The family now consisted of mommy, daddy, 2 girls and one son.

During the early years of marriage we managed to survive croup, chicken pox, measles and mumps.  Their teen years saw me on my knees often.  It is a wonder the kids survived.  Messy, oh yes –pastor’s kids are supposed to be perfect – mine were not.

Middle age brought about other messes.  I found myself in the unusual situation of having a marriage that was in trouble.  It was over I thought, where was God?  Again I am amazed that God can pick up the pieces of a broken life a broken marriage and put it all back together again and restore what the devil tried to destroy.

Messy – oh yes the middle of my life was certainly anything but calm or normal.  Each of my middle years brought new challenges and more opportunities to trust my Heavenly Father.  Was I the picture of faith and belief?  I wish I could say yes to that but often I found myself praying or maybe screaming at God.  He is ever patient and I am glad he did not call down thunder and hail upon me.  Ever patient, ever caring, He listed as I cried and saw each tear shed.

Now I am old, and I can tell you the scripture I quoted in the beginning is true.  I learned to stand on the promises of God and though at times I wondered and it seemed like hope was gone God was faithful.  He did not forsake me and I have learned that every promise in the Bible is mine.  I learned to live by faith even when I could not see the results.  I am still doing this every day.

I don’t know how I got to this age. (Lol) I am not claiming old, maybe seasoned but not old. Things have settled down a little and the major messes of the middle years have passed.  Do I still have problems; do I still have to daily stand on His word and trust Him?  Yes! Yes!!!

My future is as bright as God’s promises.  The older I get the more I look forward to that day when I shall see Him face to face.  Don’t get me wrong I want to live every day to the fullest.  I will take every day that God allows me but now heading into the sunset years I know He is always near.

I know in whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him.  One day all the messy parts of life will end and I will be home at last

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