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courtesy of ken-treloar.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. I Peter 4:10

Recently I had to go for a CT scan and an MRI. Why do they make those tunnels so confining and loud? Even the open ones seem freaky. I’ve had these procedures three times before. I know they are  harmless (except to the eardrums) and I should not get anxious. I know this.

Even so, as I drove to the imaging center with my aroma-therapy drenched washcloth to put over my face and my ear plugs tucked inside a plastic pouch, I asked God to calm me and bring me physical evidence of His presence. I really need to find God in my day!

After the CT scan (no big deal. I got to go in feet first, and then only up to my chest so my head stuck out into the room) I was led to another waiting area and told my MRI would be performed in a half hour. No one else sat in the row of chairs. I was alone.

I sat, and wiggled my knee. OK, I can do this. I refuse to let the heebie-jebbies bubble up. Trust in God, be not anxious scriptures floated through my mind.

A kindly, older black man wandered in and nodded hello. Seeing his warm smile, I asked if he was here for an MRI, too. He explained he was there as a consultant to instruct the staff on some new procedures. This was his second career and he got to travel all over, which he enjoyed now that his kids were off on their own.

We chatted and found several things we had in common. His presence calmed me and the time zipped by. When they called my name, he gave me a wink and thumbs up.

I told him he was a true God-send, and even though my remark took him back a bit, I truly meant it.

God uses flawed and fumbling folk on earth to be His hands and feet. Sometimes we are the ones He encourages to get out there in a ministry, and at other times He graces us with others to minister to us.

That day, I found God in the calming presence of a stranger. Where will you find Him?

Rose-colored

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27:19

I have a turnstile on my bathroom dressing area where I keep my colognes, lotions and hair products. Easier to reach. As I spun it to locate my rose scented ones, I noticed the rose water, which is pink, now looked salmon-colored. How unique!

Then I noticed the reason. A bottle with amber liquid behind it shined through the rose water, appearing to change it’s color. As soon as I picked up the rose water, it returned to a soft carnation hue.

God whispered in my ear. This is you.

On my own, I am who I am. You get what you expect you would from a Christian widow my age, race and income level. I am not going to change from a rose to a bird of paradise or an exotic orchid. It’s not my nature.

But when Christ shines through me, I become unique. Oh, I am the same–yet different. I am transformed from the inside out. So are you.

Accepting Christ into our lives doesn’t change who we are. It doesn’t instantly make us skinnier or taller or have fuller wavy hair. We suddenly can’t sing like an angel when before we couldn’t carry a tune. I wish…

But how we appear to the world can change. Our attitudes of serving others before ourselves, or being kind, or forgiving in nature–all the things the world is not used to observing in human behavior is now reflected in our lives because Jesus shines through our hearts.

There is one major difference, however. I could remove the rose water from the amber cologne sitting next to it so it went back to its original color. We may think we can remove ourselves from Christ, but the truth is this: He never quite goes away.

Once we respond to His knocking on our heart’s door and let Him in, a part of Him always remains. We may shut Him out, but He is never far away.  We may assume we are not acting Christian enough and are not worthy to reflect His light but there is still something shining through. And it is beautiful, eye-catching and unique.

Others are not viewing us through rose-colored glasses. We are still “us.” However, they can clearly see Christ’s influence in our lives.

Oh, The Smell

I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. 1 John 2:12

Ever since I moved into my apartment, anything that has been sitting in my freezer for more than a day reeks of garlic. I scrubbed the walls and shelves with various organic cleansers, tried lemon juice…and even so not so organic ones. Chemicals can’t survive in frost, right? Don’t burst my bubble. I never took chemistry.

Finally I discovered the culprit. The ice maker tub. The plastic container the ice dispenser decides to chunk a dozen or so cubes into at odd hours, like two a.m. Loud enough to startle you from a nice dream. Why someone had something garlicky in there is beyond me.

So I scrubbed it. Still smelled. I ran really hot water over it and added a touch of baking soda in it to let it soak for several hours. Nope. Last resort, I sequestered it to my patio for the three hot, Texas summer days until the trash truck came. That way I didn’t have to whiff it.

Come trash day I retrieved it and guess what? No more odor. I guess the sunshine warmed it enough to release the smell and then the breeze whisked it away. How about that?

Back in the freezer it went and now my freshly made ice cubes hold no garlicky smell. Nor do my other frozen foods. Ahhhh.

Now before you all send me recipes for how to safely get odors out of plastic, let me tell you why I even mention this.

I occurred to me that we humans need airing out, too…sometimes. I am not talking about whether your antiperspirant works or not. I mean the inward things. Residual stuff in our past can linger on our soul. Occasionally a whiff of them surfaces and catches our attention, just enough to remind us of our failures, mistakes, past sins, or the time we didn’t have the gumption to say “I’m sorry.”

We can scrub ourselves clean by doing good deeds or promising to be a better person, but the offense still lingers. Remedies don’t work. Fragrant offerings like being super kind to strangers, and even you relatives, may cover it up for a while…. but it doesn’t eradicate the stench. It’s like a faint odor that never quite goes away no matter how hard we try to cover it up.

To really get rid of the stink in our lives we need to air it out in the presence of the Son. Let the breeze of mercy flow over us long enough to where we believe anew that He really can forgive us and still loves us, in spite of our messes.

Exposed to the rays of His grace, what was offensive no longer has a lingering aroma in our lives. We can be of full use again. A fresh start.

Are there unresolved issues that hover over you in the middle of the night? Time to air them out, folks. Take them to the Son and let Him shine on it. Allow Him the time to remove that hurt or resentment or guilt that you are sure everyone else can smell as well. Then thank Him for forgiving you and make sure you take the final step…forgive yourself.

No one need to wait for trash day, because as the ol’ bumper sticker saying goes “God Don’t Make Junk.” You are still of use.

 

 

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.

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