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Slit It

It seems a good many microwave meals have directions like this:

Why make a slit? I’m no scientist, but I know when heat is applied to frozen things, pressure builds. If there is no slit, you’ll probably hear a loud pop and find your dinner splattered all over the inside of the microwave.

The God lesson? Our habits can freeze us. We become hardened and unable to receive God’s lessons. So He adds a bit of heat to our lives. They’re called trials.

Even the Apostle Paul felt it. He wrote in his second letter to the church in Corinth: We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. (1:8)

However, when the pressure begins to build, I often see Our Lord’s loving hand making a slight slit in the situation. A small reprieve. Perhaps it is a wonderfully painted sunset, or a little bird that lands on my fence. Maybe it is a hug from someone or a text telling me a friend felt lead to pray for me that day.

Did you notice what it says in the top of the picture? Ovens may vary. Isn’t it the same with us? I’ve heard it said God will never give us more than we can handle. These holy hiccups in the midst of all that is going on are precious signs that He is releasing some of the pressure in my life at just the right time. His hand is not always heavy on the potter’s wheel as He molds me into what He knows I can become.

Paul realized that as well. Two verses later he sates: “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us as you help us by your prayers. …” (1:10-11a)

Lord, thank you for those slits in my life.

Just Add Water

Have you ever had celery go limp in the fridge? My mother told me years ago to place the stalks in water. If you have been reading this blog a while, you know I find God-messages in everyday life. Today is no exception.

Life can be like a stalk of celery. Cut off from the soil which nurtured us and allowed us to grow into who we are, circumstances can isolate us and can leave us a bit limp after a while. We don’t feel as useful. We aren’t as crisp and our posture bows with the pressures in our day, so we no longer stand upright.

Solution? Just add water- the Living Water.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:3

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, Psalm 23:2

“…but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14
We all need water to survive. Plants can even root in water. (See the true Corn Plant Saga posted a week ago).  Our bodies cannot go without water for more than three days or we will die. What makes us think our souls can go without spending time with God for several days?
Today, a few stalks of celery reminded me how much I depend on spending time in God’s Word and in prayerful listening for His Spirit to  respond in order to keep me upright, fresh and ready to be used.

 

 

I admit it. I have always hated Romans 12:1 – Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  (NASB)

courtesy answerfitness.com

Why do I hate this verse? Because most of my life I have hated my body. I have the metabolism of a sloth. I’m short and stocky, and have struggled with my weight since childhood. When I look in the mirror standing in the buff, all I see is buff –  Big, Ugly, Fat, Frumpy. I wobble between hating myself and being angry with God because He made me with this propensity to be overweight. Health issues prevent me from exercising, but even when I could, it didn’t seem to make any difference. The inches kept piling on, no matter what I ate or didn’t eat. Nor how many hours I sweated working out or not. I’ve had test after test and no doctor can figure out why.

I’ve blubbered to God so many times. Why is it so easy for me to put on pounds and so hard to take them off?  Why does it seem that no diet works? I’ve tried them all. Pounds melt off others while mine stay on. (and no – I don’t want to hear about your miracle diet and how well it works.)

How can I present Him my body when it is un-presentable to me? How can it be holy and pleasing when it is so unpleasing to look at in the mirror? Presents are supposed to be pretty so people ooh and aah over them, right? How can I be acceptable to God in my “present” state?

The other verse I hate? The one they want all women with poor body images to memorize – Psalm 139:14:  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Yes, the human body is wonderfully made in its mechanics, ability to heal itself, etc. But my body isn’t marvelous to behold. Sorry. Can’t go there. I have pictures to prove it.

The funny thing is I don’t mind presenting other ugliness in my life to my Lord. I have no qualms about confessing a nasty attitude about someone else. I often offer a problematic thought to Him to rebuke or reform and let Him expose my misconceptions that are blocking His blessings. So why is so hard for me to present my body? It’s not as if God doesn’t know what I look like.

Today, in a Bible study by Priscilla Shiver, I saw the verse with new eyes. Present means surrendering control — like kneeling before the king with arms stretched out and handing it to him. Here. Take it for your use.

This struggle is beyond my capabilities. Obviously- since I have battled and never won in sixty-plus years. However, I can choose to acknowledge this conflict cannot be totally mine anymore. It’s not up to me to win it, but to surrender it.

If I daily present my body to God, He will transform it–if He so desires. I’m not saying I will wake up a size 8 in a few weeks or even in a year. Whether that happens or not, I must trust that He will transform my attitude about it.  His Spirit will provide the power and tools I need. All I am required to do is present it, each and every day.

Whatever you are battling in your life–whether it is your weight, an addiction, an attitude like anger or unforgiveness, a grudge–daily present it to the Lord. First thing before your feet hit the floor.

I’d say we can do this together, but I know we can’t. Only God can, with His Spirit renewing our minds, souls…and perhaps bodies.

People have asked me to tell this true story. It’s long, but here goes….

Back in 1974, I bought a small corn plant at a local nursery because, well in the 70’s, everyone had a jungle in their apartment. But it didn’t thrive, so I put it in the bathroom to get more moisture. Every time my to-be-hubby came over, he’d been down, waggle his finger and tell the scrawny four-leafed heap, “You better grow, little guy, or I’ll make her pitch you out.” Yes, we talked to our plants back then. It was a 1970’s thing.

Fast forward through the years. We moved 22 times in 33 of them, and the corn plant was always last on the truck and first off. Then in 2005, we had to leave because of Katrina. All of our salvageable items were put in a storage pod and sent to San Antonio. Only some of our clothes, the “very breakables” and our prized possessions (well, and the cats) would travel with us. People from our church gathered to help us pack and bid us farewell. Corn plant by then was over seven feet tall…a scrawny-trunk thing we tied to the wall with string and thumb tacks.  No way would it survive months in a storage unit. Six men stood in our garage constructing a container to house the plant, which would travel in the bed of my husband’s truck. Using cardboard and plywood they encased it as if it was Michelangelo’s David.

As I followed in my car, I watched through the windshield wipers as the the wet winds whacked the carefully plotted-out tower. When we crossed the border into Texas, I gasped as it bent into a jack-knife. Tears welled. For three hundred more miles it bounced and bowed toward the bed of the truck. About 1 a.m. we arrived at my family cabin in the Texas Hill Country, which would be home until he found a new job. That’s when my husband analyzed the damage. I blubbered as he dismantled what remained of the tower and confirmed my worst fears. All the angst over the past few days following the hurricane poured down my cheeks. I took the top of the plant and jammed it into a gallon jug, filled it with  water, and set it by the window. My husband, instinctively knowing not to question my futility, carried in the pot with the bare trunk and plopped it next to the same window. Somehow, we just couldn’t toss it down into the ravine gully.

The snippet grew roots inside the plastic jug. Hubby found a job in Florida, so we moved – this time with plant-jug steadied on the floor board of my car. We left the scraggly trunk behind. Later my cousin opened the cabin for the spring and found it had sprouted! She kept watering it and the next summer we snipped it off the trunk, jugged it, and took it back to Florida. Now we had two corn plants, side by side in the same pot.

In 2008 we moved back to Texas. For reasons I will not go into, my husband developed medical problems and grew more and more ill. During this time, one of the corn plants wouldn’t thrive. It’s leaves were lighter in color, the other was lush and green. As he diminished, so did the plant. One by one the leaves yellowed and withered. I planted it in it’s own pot but no amount of soil, food or horticultural care would stop it’s decline. Eventually, two years later, the scraggly one died. The last leaf dropped off. It left me with an eerie feeling, to be realized forty-eight hours later when my husband died in the shower getting ready for work.

I moved with the healthy one to an apartment, and my son later moved in with me to ease my widowhood. Lo and behold, a “shoot” began to grow off the surviving corn plant. An offspring. Here is the plant today, June 2017.

My son no longer lives with me, but often when he comes over, he bends down, looks at the corn plant and says, “Well, I guess God wants us both to live a bit longer. Lookin’ good, plant.”

On the “bad days” when my chronic pain gets to me, I see the lush green plant and it helps me put things in perspective. It is as if God is telling me He still wants me to “bloom where I am planted.”

I learned a godly truth from a bunch of cilantro. Sitting in my fridge for a week or so, I noticed some of the leaves had rotted before I got to use them in my food. My first instinct was to chuck the whole thing.  But I love cilantro, and it isn’t cheap. So I decided in order to keep the lush green ones from being contaminated, I’d pluck them away and sealed them in a storage baggie. Much less icky that snapping away the  slimy, brown ones and getting the gunk on my fingers.  Blech.

As I pulled the fragrant, dark leaves, I realized there were a lot more “good ones” than I originally thought.  That made me sigh with relief because I hadn’t wasted all my money after all.  Yet immediately my eyes had detected the bad ones and thought the worse.

It took a while to pluck all the tasty leaves away,  and I had to be more methodical and careful about doing it, but I felt better about ditching the rotten remnant once I had finished the task. A bulging baggie proved to me how much good remained. And my kitchen smelled amazing!

Of course this became a God-lesson for me.

Thank goodness our Heavenly Father doesn’t see only the bad in us and decide we need to be trashed. Instead, He sees the good in us as His Son points out, “These abide in me and I have made them worthy to save for Your use, Father. Do not cast them out.”

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful  (John 15:2).

Our precious, loving Lord carefully and methodically plucks away the sin tendencies in our lives to keep them from contaminating us, and uses the good He has found in us to do His will.  Then He bags and seals us in His Spirit to protect us and keep us fresh until He can use us.

Instead of concentrating on the bad, rotten and yucky in me which needs to be thrown away, perhaps I need to see how much good God sees in me through His Son, Jesus. He is viewing each leaf in my life to determine if it is worth keeping and using. There may be more good for Him to use than I originally thought. It makes me more thankful of the process, no matter how long it takes.

Thank you Lord, for taking the time to save what is good in me and not chunking me in the garbage because of the sin which has tainted my life.  Seal me through Your Holy Spirit. It is through and by Your Son, who has made me worthy to save, that I pray: use me to draw others to You. Amen.

 

Hacked!

If it hasn’t happened to you, it will.

Hackers are on the rampage. FaceBook posts, emails, tweets are compromised. Safe “share” posts have lewd images hidden in them, or links that illegally access your profile. Banks, hospitals, even government entities are not immuned. It seems there is no firewall strong enough.

Our souls are not immuned to being hacked, either.  Call him what you will…the devil, the evil one, satan, the father of lies. He leans in and whispers into our brains –interrupting our thoughts and warping around blessings.

You aren’t strong enough to resist.  

You’ll never achieve that goal.

You don’t serve God’s favor.

God has walked away because He’s mad at you.

You’ll never get back in His good graces after this.

Everyone does it, it’s not so bad. 

The Bible is outdated. That verse doesn’t matter anymore in today’s world.

 

And the worst of all.…I’m a good Christian. Nothing big can tempt me.

C.S. Lewis said in his book, Mere Christianity, “A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.”

….When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  John 8:44b

This hacker know the places where our “firewall” is the weakest.  He knows what words to say that will crack our will and get to us emotionally. Then He wiggles in with a negative suggestion and clouds our positive viewpoint. Soon, like a virus, it begins to affect all of our thoughts and actions, even our prayers or desire to pray. Step by step, we become more and more vulnerable to his wiles. Trust me, as soon as you begin to do God’s will, this hacker will show up. Big time!  You got it wrong. God didn’t mean for you to take this on. That’s why this is so hard. You misunderstood.

Where is your firewall the most vulnerable?  How can you make sure your soul is “unhack-able”? Paul shared the algorithm two millennia ago: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer  (Romans 12:12).   Jesus used Scripture to keep Satan from seeping into his thoughts while he was in the wilderness being tested. (Matthew 4:1-11) Remaining joyful and counting your blessings no matter your feelings at the moment keeps your attitude up and running. (Philippians 4:6)

Prayer is the best defense against becoming compromised. Scripture is the best method to detect hacked messages, and a joy-filled attitude that knows without a doubt that God is faithful, true and loves you is the best way to have uninterrupted power.

 

Held Up

…though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37:24

God upholds us in many ways – sometimes through other people.

Due to an acute attack of sciatica, I’ve been relying on a cane for the past month as I await referrals, test results and treatment. I have also become reliant on others, something that is not easy for me to do.

Last night at Bible study we were told to all stand, hold hands and pray. Then sing.  Holding hands meant not leaning on a cane, but I wanted to be part of the experience.

After a minute or so I began to wobble. My leg gave way and immediately the two women on either side, whose hands I held, gripped tighter and kept me from toppling as they eased me into the chair. I didn’t have to ask, they automatically reacted.

It made me realize how much we believers need each other in times of weakness. It also showed me how ready people are to help, even without us asking.  That’s the love of God flowing through,spreading from one hand to another, muscle to muscle and bone to bone in the Body of Christ.

What made my eyes pool was the fact that, though I was securely seated, the ladies continued to hold my hands through the prayer and song. A warmth surged through me. Even though I sat securely in my chair, I became aware of how much I needed these sweet women, and not just physically.

Convicted, I became aware of how many times I may have missed opportunities to uphold someone else because my day filled with other obligations or I felt too tired to run one more errand. Or the times I have held on in the crisis, but let go too soon, assuming I’d done my part.

Buddy systems are not just for kids. We all need to hold tight to each other for safety in this hostile world. The adage there is safety in numbers is very true. None of us are meant to “go it alone.”

Plain and simple – we need to be in need and we need to be needed.  It’s a two way street. Part of the commandment from our Lord is to love one another. That means getting into each other’s messy lives by helping and being of help. The love of Christ flows from one human to another. To not receive help from others is to block that flow.

Lord, help me to realize I need help, even when I feel strong, and that I need to be open to the times you spur me to help others. May Your Spirit flow through me, and not be blocked by my pride or independent streak. I pray this through my Savior and ultimate Helper, who stretched out His hands on the cross for me. Amen.

To all who have helped me with rides, running errands, lifting me in prayer, texting me, and bringing me meals during this trial, thank you doesn’t even  begin to cover it.  You have been Christ to me. May I, in turn, uphold you.

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