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Smile, people!

When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it. Job 29:24a

I met a friend for lunch. For the first time in a long time, it was actually an almost cool day in north Texas. Therefore, we sat on the front patio of the restaurant. It is a popular lunch spot, so if you love to people watch, this is the perfect place.

I imagine close to a hundred people passed by in the time we were there. Students from the university down the road wandered in, as did the medical staff from the hospitals and clinics up the road. So did business people in their suits, ties or heels. Sprinkled in between were retired couples, tourists, moms on a rare lunch out, and workers with their names on their uniform shirts or badges.

What surprised me the most was the countenance on most of their faces. On a cool day after a good rain that was so needed during our stretch of 100 plus temperatures, you’d think people would be uplifted, walk with a spring in their step, feel rejuvenated. But most wore a scowl or straight face.  Many seemed bent over with the weight of the world on their backs. A few, who had arranged to meet, nodded at each other, and then fell into mutual silence.  Some ignored everything around them as they stared into tiny screens as if it provided an invisible shield. Couples walked together in a marital patterned, robot-like pace without touching each other.

The only ones who broke the drudgery lunch time routine with laughter were three women taking out indulgent deserts in boxes, trying to convince each other they shouldn’t feel guilty.

I thought of how our Father in Heaven must see us. All His children running around like irritated ants whose mound has been kicked. How it must break His heart to have so many pass up His freely given love and choose the world view instead. It made me realize how far from God our daily lives have drifted here in America where we are supposed to be one nation under Him. I almost wanted to stand on the table and shout out, “Smile, people. Jesus loves you!”

But I didn’t. Instead, we linked hands and prayed. Will you pray with me, now?

Heavenly Lord, draw your creatures back to You. Let them realize they are not alone and to seek You each day. Help them to see You are right there, waiting. You came down in the form of Jesus, Your Son, to bring us back into Your merciful grace. Through His sacrifice, we can have direct access to You with each and every breath we take.  Help us, who believe, be more and more in touch with your Holy Spirit in us and to see evidence of Your presence in our daily walk so we can guide others to You. We pray this through Christ and in His name. Amen.

I’m Bushed

Outside my living room window is a thick, lush evergreen bush. It gives me a bit of privacy, protection, and is pleasing to the eye. About arm pit high, I can see out if I am sitting on the couch, but actually–my son tested it when I moved in–people cannot readily see me inside.

Each week, the apartment complex’s landscaping staff come by and clip any leaves that shoot up or out from it. By doing so they ensure the bush keeps it shape, continues to grow thicker, and looks pleasing. Curb appeal.

Gazing at this hedge, I thought of the ways God often hedges me.

Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? Job 3:23

This green growing bush has taught me the reasons why.

  1. The Lord hedges me in to protect me against the evil intents of men.
  2. He hedges me in to provide shelter and privacy from the outside world and it’s potentially sinful influences.
  3. The bush God plants in front of me keeps Satan from peering headlong into my life.
  4. God’s bush provides curb appeal. By curbing my tendencies to not follow His plan, others see the appealing results of Him working in my life.

God trims and cultivates this hedge of mercy around me to keep it thick, growing and strong. If anything shoots up on it’s own that is not in His plan, He trims it off. By keeping it at a certain level, it provides me limited insight and vision as to what that plan is. I can view a little bit of what lies before me, enough to let me know if there might be any danger.

God hedges us in by His Word, law and Holy Spirit. Not so much as to confine us, but to hem us in and keep us protected from growing wild and shooting off in our own direction.

Thank you, Lord for keeping me bushed!

 

Blind Turn

I talented photographer friend of mine, Debbie Hainey, took this photo:

Gorgeous, right? But also meaningful. Take another look.

Let’s say the sunrise represents the Light of Christ.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. John 1:4

We are the window blinds. We have a choice. We can turn toward Him or away. Let Him in or block Him out.

Notice the blind turned closest to the sunrise reflects the most while the ones further away reflect less and less? It is the same with us. The more we turn toward Him, the stronger we reflect Him.

 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

Which blind are you right now? The good new is this: each of us can reflect Christ no matter where we are in our faith-walk. You don’t have to be a perfect Christian. Frankly, there is no such thing this side of Heaven. Even if you think you are only shining a little bit, that can be an effective lure.

When one is used to the dark, it takes a while for his or her eyes to become accustomed to the light. Often, people cannot handle the brightness of the Truth. They need to adjust, just as we adjust the blinds from the full blast of the sun’s rays.

We call these window slats “blinds” for a reason. Perhaps they should be dubbed anti-blinds instead. Just a side-thought. Back to the point.

Even if you feel far away from Him you are reflecting more than you think and can draw others to His Truth a bit at a time. Eventually they will be able to face Him full on, and so will you.

Does His light ever blind you? Is your reaction to turn away or to face Him and absorb it knowing it will expose any darkness inside you? We serve a patient God who lets us adjust to His will. One day, in eternity, we will all reflect Him equally.

But in the meantime, let us strive to turn more toward Him than we are. It will reflect in how we act.

On the Fence

Since 2012, I have been blogging on things that God has shown me. So, now it’s your turn.

 

Today I saw something rather interesting. A squirrel skittered across the tops of the planks on the privacy fence.  Three house finches chirped about four planks away, blocking his path. As the squirrel neared, the birds spooked and flew, but only a few feet ahead before landing back on the fence. The squirrel kept on it’s precarious path. Once he got close, the finches fluttered a few feet further down the fence.

This occurred three times before they finally flew off to a nearby tree. As soon as they did, the squirrel hopped down and dashed across the driveway. Guess the game was over?

What God message do you see in that, if any? I’d be curious to know.

Yes, I love playing Bunco with friends. We share great recipes, chat, pray, and encourage each other. In case you are not familiar with this parlor game,  groups of four each take turns rolling three dice. In the first round, you can keep rolling as long as there is a “one dot” on one of the dice. Each “one” is one point. If not, you pass them to the person on your left so they can try to roll as many ones as they can.  If you roll three ones, it is a Bunco. If you roll three of anything else but ones, it is a Baby Bunco. Then it is on to round two, in which each person tries to roll as many twos as they can. Then threes, fours, fives and sixes. Whoever rolls three sixes ends the game. Everyone tallies up their scores. The pot (if there is one) is split between the one with the most Buncos and Baby Buncos, and the one with the most points.

Some may consider this gambling. Yes, it is a game of chance, but isn’t life that way? There is a chance I’ll get cancer. There is a chance I’ll be killed by a drunk driver. There is a chance of rain, according to the weatherman. (Though I wouldn’t bet on it!)

In Bunco, you can get discouraged when you can’t seem to roll any of the number for that round, and have to pass the dice again and again without scoring any points. Or you can cheer on those who are having good rolls, and then get excited if you finally do, too. It is all a matter of perspective. There are only so many calculable rolls. The truth is, no one is going to sneak seven or eight dots onto one of the die, or erase the side with one dot on it.

Life is the same as well. You can pout because someone is more fortunate than you, or you can choose to not let “the devil steal your joy.” You can turn inward, or outward.

For me, it is God’s grace that He only gives us so many variables. Our free will dictates the choices we make, but He isn’t going to sneak in an unfair advantage at the last second, or load the dice to trick us. He knows our hearts, our minds, and our tendencies. He knew us before we were born, according to the psalms.

He knows when we will roll three sixes and end the game of life. We don’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that eventually we will. He also knows we will have other Buncos and Baby Buncos (successes) along the way, and a few dry spells when we can’t seem to make the roll no matter how hard we try. He will be there to cheer us on when we bunco and encourage us when we don’t.

When I play Bunco with my friends, I go for the fun of being with them (and eating good food.) I rejoice when someone is having a great night. And I enjoy catching up on what is happening in their lives. I try not to set my heart on winning so I can genuinely cheer on those who are rolling all the right numbers. It makes the evening, and the game, much more enjoyable.

In life, it is a bit different, however. All who believe that Christ assured victory on the cross are winners in God’s eyes. At the end of the game we all get the prize. So why not relax and enjoy it? It’s your roll, by the way.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. I Corinthians 9:25

 


By the way, if you haven’t read my clean cozy mysteries, The Bunco Biddies Mysteries, I’d love for you to give them a try. Dumpster Dicing won Best Cozy Mystery 2017 by a Texas Author, and the fourth one, Til Dice Do Us Part is now on pre-order! It releases June 15th.


 

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Reach for It

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you probably know the saga of my 43 year old corn plant. Today it taught me a lesson from God.

In my new apartment, I have the plant sitting in a south-facing window. As I drank my morning coffee, I noticed something unusual. One leaf had bent its way through the slats. It wanted more light. Evidently it wasn’t content like the other leaves to just get a smidgen that filtered through the window covering.

Can you see the lone leaf weaving it’s way through the wooden blinds? It is the brighter green one toward the middle of the plant.

Anyway…as I stared, God whispered into my spiritual ear, “Daughter, are you that tenacious?”

I wanted to answer, “Yes, of course, Lord.”

Instead I paused to reflect. Am I content to only get small doses of God, slatted and deflected by the world I live in, by my environment, and where I have been placed? Or do I stretch and reach out to grasp the full mercy and grace He offers so I can grow even more in His light?

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” Isaiah 60:1

As I gazed at my old corn plant, I wondered if the other leaves will eventually get the idea? Even more, I wonder if those around me will if they observe me constantly, consistently stretching to be closer to Him who is The Light of the World? To be totally exposed so I can soak in His goodness no matter what is going on around me or what obstacle blocks my path to growing in Him. To let nothing stand in the way of receiving my Savior into my life each day.

I nodded and closed my eyes in prayer. “Yes, Lord. Show me your presence more each day so I can be like that leaf and reach beyond my circumstances to You.”

 


One way God has stretched me is to become a digital missionary with The Life Project. However, to continue to grow in this ministry, I need to become fully funded by partners who will pray and financially support me. I am seeking 40 people who will pledge to provide  between $10-$25 a month.  You can learn more here.  Comment and I can send you more material to peruse so you know this cause is legitimate, why I am so passionate about it, and be assured your money will go to reach people around the world with the message of Hope in Jesus, one click at a time. Thank you for seriously praying about it.
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