Learning Lessons

Sometimes I am a little hard headed and often I have to repeat the lessons God is trying to teach me. Finally I get tired of being in 1st grade and learn the lessons and moved to the next level.

Years ago I became aware of a need in a family’s life. It wasn’t life threatening but it was a concern they had. God spoke to me and said, “the money you have tucked away, I want you to give it to that family.” After arguing with God, (but Lord it took me a long time to save that much – I have plans for that money) I finally surrendered and folded the money in an envelope and gave it to the mother. I knew the pressing need they had and really expected them to apply that money to the need. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that they took “my private stash” and spent it on something frivolous. You can believe I let God know how upset I was. “God what were you thinking?” Don’t question God because He will answer and I was truly put in my place. His words to me were, “It is not about how they used the money it is about whether you are willing to do what I ask of you and leave the rest to me.” I never forgot that lesson. I bowed my head and asked forgiveness and promised not to question His requests.
I learned it was not about them and what they did it was about me and my obedience.

At other times I find it easy to do what He asks. It just seems natural to obey. When I surrender to His plan my life is much richer. Again, there are the other times when ruling and guiding my own life seems better. “Will I ever learn?” My Heavenly watches from heavens gates and in patience lets me have my way.

It never fails when I take control and place self on the throne of my heart things never go right. Oh, for a while things are good. Thinking to myself “see, I can do this, things are going just the way I wanted.” It never fails, sooner and sometimes later, smack dab in the middle of my “little world” a problem arises, an insurmountable obstacle I can’t handle. Like the prodigal son in scripture who returns to his father, I find myself running to my Heavenly Father and asking for help with my insurmountable obstacle.

Sometimes in my rush to Him I forget to say I am sorry Lord. You rule my life I tell him. In His love He folds me in His arms and draws me back into a right relationship with Him. As His grace and mercy surround me I find myself weeping for His acceptance and forgiveness.

Sin always has consequences and my own selfishness has caused me to bear those circumstances but there comes a realization in knowing God understands and He will make a way through the mess I have caused. I am learning to lean on Him and trust Him in all things.

I just keep learning lessons.

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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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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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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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I Said What!

The little girl stomped her feet and said, “No!  I won’t.”  Attitude, oh yes she had one.  Her mother looked at her in dismay.  She sighed and finally gave in – it was easier.

Watching this, I thought, “oh boy” you better not let this go.  If you don’t get this under control now down the road you will really have your hands full.

The little boy looked back at his dad and said, “No,” and there was not a thank you attached to that no.

The grade school child said, “I will do it by myself.”  That could be a good thing or it could also be something else.

The teenager said, “I will do what I want to.”  Hmmm, there is trouble brewing in that statement.

We have all heard the above statements.  Maybe they came from your kids; I know some of those same statements came out of the mouths of mine.

I wonder have those same words been said to our Heavenly Father.  I must admit that at times I have said no.  I didn’t want to do what He had asked of me.  More than the words it was the attitude in my heart.  I wanted my way, not His.  Every time I say no I find it would have been far better to say yes.  Maybe I would not have had to go through the difficult times that brought me running back to Him.  If only I had said yes instead of no. Sometimes when I said no I also added the words “I won’t.” Where did that come from?  Deep within I knew those words came from the heart that was not completely yielded to God.  Was this because I didn’t trust Him? I had to look deep inside to find the why there was no trust.

More often than I care to admit I find myself saying I will do what I want.  Usually, when I allowed that “mantra” to control I ended in a big mess.  In the mess of doing things my own way there was only one solution, humbleness and turning around and doing things the way God asked of me.

God is very patient with His children.  I am glad because I really needed His mercy and compassion.  In God’s gentle love He waited until His errant daughter’s no and the I won’t surrendered to the will of the Father for her life.

Though I tried to rule my own life I eventually came to the place where I had to admit I couldn’t do everything by myself. Things in my life went so much smoother when I accepted help from others and from God.  Were there times I could make it on my own, yes, but I found when others helped lift the burden life was easier. When I let God do the heavy lifting my burdens were bearable or they rolled away completely.

Infinite patience, grace beyond measure and forgiveness is what I receive when I come to Him and say, Father, I have really messed up this time.  No matter how often I find myself coming to Him it is there I am comforted in His presence as He gently corrects and teaches me.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells me “I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

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The Benefit Package

When looking for a job one of the considerations in the offer from a perspective employer is what is the benefit package they offer.  Sitting in my office,I began to think about coming to Christ and finding that He offers many benefits.

God’s offer to me for a life surrendered to Him amazed me.  The more I read and study His word the more I find concerning the “benefit package” purchased for me on Calvary.

Number one is my salvation and the forgiveness of my sins. The chains of the past are broken by the power of His shed blood.  He paid to ransom me from a life condemned to eternal punishment and a guarantee of everlasting life. If that is the only benefit it would be worth surrendering to Christ.

Scripture tells us “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.

I love Psalm 103: 1-5.  My title for this passage is God’s Benefit Package. The Psalm begins with telling us to, “Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name.  Bless the Lord Oh my soul and forget not all his benefits.”  What a wonderful way to come before the Lord.  When I come I need to bless Him with everything that is within me and my soul.  Bless Him by pouring out my praise, my adoration and my worship on the one who is worthy to be praised.  I should never allow myself to forget all that He has done for me.

The next few verses tell me exactly what God gives me.

Verse 3:  who forgives all my iniquity – my guilt worthy of punishment, my willful premeditated sins.

Verse 3b:  who heals all my diseases – the stripes He bore in His body were for the healing of my sickness and diseases, mind, emotions and body.

Verse 4:  who redeems my life from the pit – the pit of sin and willful pride, the pit that separates me from God and His holiness.  His ransom on Calvary restores my broken relationship with God my Heavenly Father.

Verse 4b:  who crowns me with steadfast love and mercy – His love knows no bounds, it is steady and sure and everlasting.  He extends his mercy – willingness to forgive – He is willing to forgive and extend mercy even though I am the one that chose to walk in the way of the world. When I come to Him and ask He grants mercy and pardon.

Verse 5: who satisfies me with good – I stand amazed at the goodness of God to me – one who certainly did not deserve it.

The more I read His word and pray and seek His face, the more I understand of His love and grace.  My heart and soul are overwhelmed at the benefits He daily pours into my life.

 

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The Ground

The icy wind blew across the land and with each blast the warm soil became colder.  Temperatures plummeted as the ground laid helpless and almost bare.  The bountiful crops once held by the soil were long gone and only the refuse of the vibrant plants it once sustained remained.  Even though the sun came out it could no longer reverse the coldness of the sod.  The cold fingers of frost penetrated the dirt and the ground became packed and hard.  The white blankets of snow would soon cover the field as the rich dirt waited for the renewal of springtime and the touch of the farmers hands to bring life to the soil again.

Often our lives resemble seasons and with many there seems to be more winter in our lives than springtime.  Adversity like icy winds blow against our souls and our lives lay helpless and bare as the enemy attacks come against us.  We succumb to the trials and temptations and soon the once rich fertile soil of our hearts are hardened and cold.  Where once we recognized the sweet urging of the Holy Spirit and felt the nearness of our savior we have allowed the enemy to steal our joy and rob us of our relationship with our Heavenly father.

Like the old hymn’s words, we need to cry out “Lord bring back the springtime once again to our hearts and lives.  Jeremiah 4:3(KJV)says “for thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground and sow not among the thorns.

Like the farmer, who in springtime breaks up the hardened earth and prepares it to receive the seeds that will bring a harvest, we need to work to break up our hearts ground and once again return and allow the Lord to work.  God’s word says, “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow (hardened) ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rains righteousness upon you. Hosea 10:12 (KJV)

The enemy of your soul will lie and say it is no use.  You are too hard, God does not care about you and you are not important to God.  He is so wrong. You are valuable to God.

Allow God to bring back the springtime.  Begin again.  Come with all you baggage and all your failures to the Father. Once again allow His word and His love to penetrate your heart and life.  Seek Him and ask His help as you acknowledge you can’t do it by yourself.

As the soil of your heart softens and your life is watered by the word of God, He will come and rain righteousness upon you.  Don’t give up.  Break up that fallow ground and allow His sweet presence to once again fill your life

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My Verse

Every year I ask God to give me a verse, a word, or phrase for the New Year.  Sometimes these are revealed early and sometimes it takes time.  For 2016, the phrase I couldn’t get out of my mind was “nothing between in 2016.”  These few words became my guiding light for this year.  I want nothing to come between me and Jesus in 2016.

Now after several weeks into the year, reading in Romans a verse in chapter 8 kept coming into focus for me.  Thinking about this verse, I decided to “tear” it apart and see the meaning and application for me.

Romans 8:38 For I am persuaded – (stop there) just what does persuaded mean and how it should apply to me.

The dictionary says: to induce to believe something; convince.  Persuade implies an influencing of a person to an action or belief.  Through studying God’s word and through prayer I believe, I am influenced to follow Christ –no turning back

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life:  interesting that death is first.  In reading this, I could not help but think about those that have been martyred just believing in Christ and would not recant.   I ask myself, am I persuaded enough to be killed for my beliefs?  The second part is “nor life.”  Hmmm.  Once you die, it’s over, the end.  You have no more options but living daily consistently for Christ takes a strong belief and reserve to follow His teaching. Again the question comes, am I persuaded, committed enough to let nothing come between me and God?

The list of what scriptures say goes on:  nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come.  Wow – breaking this down angels – a supernatural being either good or evil.  No matter who or what comes to tell me something or influence me, even if it is a supernatural being, if their words or advice do not line up with God’s word I will not be persuaded to follow.  That is pretty powerful.  I ask myself are you ready for this?

Continuing:  principalities –the territory ruled by a prince, I found this rare meaning –the state or quality of being –principal –hmm no government or leader can persuade me against following Christ.  What about powers?  Can any individual leader or those in power make me deny Christ and turn away from him?  Just how strong is your faith?  Could that happen here?  Will I be put to the test and what will my answer be?

The rest of the verse says: nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth nor any creature shall be able to separate us (me) from the Lord of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Can I handle the things that are present and the pressures that come?  It is easier to deal with the known but what about the future and the things that are coming in this world?  The rest of that verse just about covers anything else.

I know that on God’s side His love is never-failing and even if I sin He still loves me.  He loved me enough to send His Son to die in my place to take away my sin.

What about my side?  Reading about all the things listed in Romans 8:38, am I persuaded enough, strong enough to not allow absolute anything to separate me from God’s love?

I have chosen this verse for this year now I need to walk in the commitment to follow.

What about you?

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