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Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up. Micah 6:8

When my guinea pig wants my attention, he stands on his hind legs and peers over the rim of his cage so I will notice him. But when I get to the cage, he lowers himself and lays flat. It isn’t a “deer in the headlights” freeze of fear. When animals freeze, they are on their feet ready to dash. They’re wary of their surroundings as their hearts pound and the adrenaline builds.

No, this is different. It is his “Momma, come to me, I trust you” pose. It is easier for me to pick him up and lift him to cuddle on my shoulder when he is still.

Does your pet do that? My cats used to do that as well. And that is one reason animals are smart. They crouch in trust. They purposely stay still, waiting for the big old powerful human to pick them up and hold them close. No fight or flight mode. They know a bit of safe, secure loving is coming.

Why can’t we be more like that with God? Humble ourselves so we can be lifted to His shoulder. I don’t care how old you are, everyone needs a hug. Everyone needs to feel loved, secure, and safe. Is there any place you’d rather be than in the arms of your Savior? I don’t know of one.

If God has ever brought you to your knees perhaps it was to teach you to react like a small animal. To be humbled, contrite, and totally dependent. Perhaps that is why kneeling to pray feels so special. It aligns our hearts to His will. It is a position of vulnerability and trust. And also one of confidence and hope.

In fact, it may be the best position we can take no matter the situation. When we are frightened, and when we are a tad bit overconfident. When we are hurt, or when we feel on top of the world and invincible. When we are angry as all get out or so joyful we lose perspective.

Pray for God to draw near and He will. Go ahead. Crouch down and pray. Snuggle in and feel His merciful, wound-scarred hand wrap around you as He draws you to His chest. Lay your head like a sleeping child, peaceful and secure on Daddy’s shoulders. It’s the best place to be.

He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart...Isaiah 40:11

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A friend in my Bible study group said, “I keep having these negative thoughts crop up in my mind, and I have to yank them out. It’s like God is bringing them to the surface so I know they are there.”

It made me think about the “grow your own lavender” gift my son gave me. In it was a packet of seeds, which I planted in the provided soil and set out on my patio in a semi-sunny location. But evidently, some weedy seeds got mixed into the soil, probably from the bird feeder. Until they pushed to the surface and began to grow, I wouldn’t have known they had been buried there. Just like my friend’s thoughts.

Jesus told his dsiciples about weeds in a parable in Matthew 13:

2Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

Now in the parable, the man tells the workers to let the weeds grow with the wheat until harvest and at that time they could “weed things out”. Jesus was referring to Judgement Day. There will be good and evil side by side until then.

But the concept is the same. We are sponges. Our brains absorb images and actions in our surroundings, many subconsciously. Try as we may, it is hard to filter all the “bad” out. Through the mercy of the Holy Spirit, we can be guided to know what is good (of God) and what is bad (not of God). As these weeds, which are not of God, grow into our consciousness, we can plunk them out and refuse to let them take deep root. Bitterness, anger, envy, an unforgiving spirit…these are all things that, if left to grow, can choke out the fruit of the Spirit.

So the next time a negative thought floats to my attention like an answer in a Magic Eight Ball, instead of chastising myself, I will do as my friend suggests. Yank it out, give it to God and let Him deal with it. Gone. Then fill the “hole” with Scripture and let that grow instead.

How about you?

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Two years ago I wrote on hope seeing it as:

H – Holding

O – Onto

P – Promised

E – Eternity

Many people choose a word for the new year, and for the past several years ago I have as well. Last year it was grateful, and through this pandemic, being grateful for my blessings was something I leaned upon a great deal to stay faithful and positive.

This year God placed the word HOPE on my heart. I’ll be honest, that made me a bit nervous. Then I recalled my little formula.

Hope is more than wishing. The dictionary says it is to “expect with confidence.” When you and I hold onto the promises of the eternal, then it produces hope. God keeps His promises. He has in the past and He will continue to do so. As I often say, He is there and He cares.

Whatever happens in 2021, I know this to be true and I can cling to it. This is not my home, and this life is not all there is. There is an eternity waiting for me. An existence basking in the love of God, praising the Lamb for His sacrifice, and never experiencing pain, grief, illness, or rejection again.

A social media post asks if it bothers you that this year is saying “2020-won”? No, because God wins. Each and every time. That is a hope we can cling to.

David wrote , Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24. That is my prayer for you, no matter what this year brings.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews stressed: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we possess, for He who promised is faithful. (10:23).

Join me in holding onto the promises of God in hope – unswerving, steady, expectant confidence that He has got this. As Paul said, nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39). Nothing can snatch us from His hands. Nothing. Not a virus, a secular angry society, an unexpected illness, a job loss, an unfaithful spouse, or the heartbreak of a wayward child.

Amen and amen.

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This time of year many of our minds are on gifts. What are we going to give Uncle George who is so hard to shop for? What about our grown kids? Our coworkers? Our pastors or ministry teams? How much should we spend? Should we bake cookies and treats to give neighbors or is that against the new social distancing rules?

And when someone asks us what gift we want this Christmas, what should we tell them?

This year, I want to ask you what I have been asking myself. What will I give Jesus this year?

After all, it is His birthday.

The magi brought Him gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh.  According to the song. the little drummer boy brought him his talent by playing Jesus a song on his drum. And the baby Jesus smiled when he did. If anyone has heard a child play an instrument, they can relate. It may not have been the most amazingly executed tune they’ve heard, but the heart, the enthusiasm, and the intent on pleasing are there in every note. Who could but smile?

According to Romans 12:6, We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  

God has gifted us with amazing things – forgiveness, eternal life in His presence, and a love that brings peace beyond understanding. These are all wrapped up in the birth and sacrifice of His Son, who was born to die so we may live.

And through His Holy Spirit Jesus gifted us with gifts of the Spirit so we can live in this world without despairing, draw others to Him, and give Him the glory.  And He has graced you with a talent that can be used to His glory. Be it the ability to write, to calculate, to invent, to make money, to speak and inspire, to sing, or perhaps to play the drum.

Everything you have is a gift from God in one way or another.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

So what can we give the One who has everything?

Ourselves is the obvious answer. But what part of ourselves will we particularly give Him in 2020? Our best? He has that already. 

Why not pledge to give God something He can use? 

  • Our tendency to be anxious instead of trusting?
  • Our quick-to-judge character that dams up our ability to love and empathize?
  • The temper that blocks us from opening our hearts?
  • The doubts and fears that stop up our ability to give thanks in all circumstances?

Strange gifts perhaps. But if we give God our shortcomings, He can turn them into blessings for us and others. When we give of ourselves, it is the gift that keeps on giving once it is in Jesus’s nail-scarred hands. Because once we give our doubts, fears, anger, and prejudices to Him they are no longer in our possession. He can then do amazing things with them while He gives us comfort, joy, peace, and a loving heart instead. That will attract us, believers, to people and people to us.

Let us lay at His feet one of the things we need to work on in our character that keep us from being Christ-like and watch what He can do with it in 2021.

Christmas blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth… Psalm 74:17

Guinea pigs are smart…most of the time. They are cave dwellers in the wild so they have developed a natural fear of edges. They learn quickly to live within their boundaries.

Mine has set boundaries outside of his cage. Every evening, I lay down an old beach towel and let him romp on my couch for an hour or so as I watch a mystery on TV. He hops, skips, waddles, and chortles…but when he comes near the edge, he halts. Usually.

One night, I got up to get a drink of water and told him to stay put. Instead, he “followed me”– right off the edge. I heard a thump and then saw a black and white streak dashing under the nearest piece of furniture (a cave) to cower. I rushed to gather him, but he became so frightened he hesitated to come to me. Finally, I was able to scoop him up and hold him until his tiny heartbeat settled. Then I placed him back in his cage and he skittered into his house. Safe and sound.

He learned his lesson, though. The next night, when he got within an inch of the edge of the sofa and ottoman, he squeaked and ran to crawl up in my lap. My heart melted as I cuddled and calmed him.

You see where this is headed, right? 2020 has been a year of setting new boundaries for most of us, forced by a nasty contagious virus that has spread globally. Many do not like the restrictions and rules. I don’t blame them, I don’t care for them either.

But we have always had boundaries. Our laws give us the freedom to move within the realms of society. God’s commandments give us hedges of protection and guidance for behavior. Not obeying the rules has some unpleasant consequences.

But, sometimes we like to live on the edge. Perhaps we are tempted to ignore the rules and follow someone or something, even if it goes against our grain. Always a dangerous thing lest we fall into trouble.

But here is the good news. God is there to pick us up and place us back in the comfort of His realm of safety. His lap is always available for one more person to crawl into for comfort. He is our security, our strength, and shelter. Always.

Praise God for the boundaries He sets, and for his boundless love.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

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Allergies. Annoying. Postnasal drip, persistent cough, pressure around the teary eyes. I have been under immunotherapy for 6 months where the allergist injects into my body the things that irritate my body, slowing increase the amount, so I will build up an immunity to them. So far, it has only made my symptoms worse and my body wants to reject them even more. The allergist says it is part of the process and eventually my body will accept these irritants.

It seems this world wants us to undergo spiritual immunotherapy. Slowly our minds are injected with a viewpoint that initially the Holy Spirit in us would scream, “Reject!” Little by little, we are exposed over and over again to the things that prick our conscience. They get under our skin. Everywhere we look, acceptance is promoted.

Eventually, we can begin to get used to it as semi-normal. Seeing or hearing about these activities and opinions does not cause the adverse reaction they once did. We look the other way. After all, we are not to judge, right? It is a lifestyle, and if they have found love and happiness, is that so bad? There is too much hate in the world as it is.

A wise minister once said that Jesus loves us where we are, but too much to leave us there. God is there. And He cares.

We have all fallen short. We all sin. But, that means we all must be drawn to repentance of the sin, not acceptance. While we can love the sinner, and we should in order to help them, let us not become immune to the sin no matter what it is.

They say that sin always has “I” in the middle. The “I” doesn’t mean immunotherapy. It means looking inwardly at oneself. If that does not spur a need for repentance then that “I” is the issue. I am just born this way. It is who I am, accept me anyway. I don’t want to change.

The only cure is to replace the “I” with an “O” – let the sin be changed by the Son. He alone can encourage each of us to omit sin from our lives. But each of us can help open hearts to His ways by refusing to become immune to sin and yet still loving the person anyway. That takes strength from the Holy Spirit. And it takes time.

Maybe if we worked more to eliminate sin in our society rather than build up an immunity to it we could all breathe a bit easier. 

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-3

 

 

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“Let them come to me for refuge; let them make peace with me… ” Isaiah 27:5

Training pets takes patience, time, and tenacity. I’ve had my little guinea pig for about five months now. At first, he was so afraid of this giant outside of his cage but slowly he has come to trust me as the person who opens his bag of food to scoop some into his bowl or reaches in the refrigerator to bring him veggies. But, I am also the one who disturbs him when I have to clean out his cage. Sometimes I turn on this loud box with flashing pictures and weird sounds in the evening. And I use this noisy machine with a light in front of it and run it back and forth across the carpet.

Several times a week I lay an old beach towel down on the sofa and let him wander around on it as I sit at one end. Usually, I lay down a snack for him as well. He has slowly started to come to me on his own, cuddling next to my hip and giving off soft guinea pig chortles. But only for a few seconds, then he’d skitter away. After a few minutes, he’d return, but the cautious pattern continued.

Last night an amazing thing happened. He stopped, crawled into my lap, up my torso, and licked my face. That is guinea pig for “I love you and want to be near you.” Then he nestled in my neck.

My heart melted.

I thought how similar our sweet Lord must feel when we finally come to Him on our own accord. How many of us cower, afraid to near His throne, even though through Christ we can have that privilege. He seems so big, so mighty, and His ways are not ours. He does things we do not understand. But slowly, as we realize He provides out of love and cares for us, we begin to trust Him more and more. We learn to draw near and rest in His presence for comfort and safety.

Unlike my domesticated guinea pig, we humans can forge out a living on our own. We can get our own food, build our own houses, choose our environment. We don’t need God…or so we think. What a day of rejoicing in Heaven it must be when one of us finally decides to trust our Master enough to crawl up from our situation and reach out to Him then whisper, “I love you and want to be near you.” Let us not then skitter away.

 

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Do you know why they put erasers on pencils? Because humans use them.

In other words, none of us are perfect. We make mistakes. In fact, we learn more from our mistakes than we do our successes. Why? Because we have already corrected errors and moved on when we succeed. The lesson has been learned.

A friend gave me the ultimate “human pencil”. It has two erasers. I hope she wasn’t trying to tell me something.

But after I laughed, I saw great meaning in it. This is the type of eraser Christ uses in our lives when we confess our wrongdoings. One that will never run out. No matter how many times our sins are confessed, His three hours on the cross has already eradicated them.

Not to say there are no consequences for our actions. After all, we must learn from our mistakes, and sometimes that lesson is harsh. It may even seem unfair when we see others “getting away with it”. But it is part of the process to erase sin from our lives. Over and over.

A devotional writer once wrote about her father’s comment that there are two types of people in this world – saved sinners and unsaved sinners. We all need erasers in this life.

But here is the good news. There is no need for erasers in Heaven. We will be perfected and purified in Christ to stand before the throne of God. And as it says in Revelation 3:5,  I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will declare his name before my Father and before his angels.

Hallelujah.

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

diego rosa- unsplashThe closer you get to a mirror, the sharper the image becomes. You may begin to see wrinkles, blemishes, small details previously unnoticed. But you also can see beauty, clearer characteristics, and sparkling eyes…if you look the right way.

As believers, we are to reflect Christ. So it makes sense that we will reflect Him and His beauty more the closer we get to Him. People will see Him reflected in our lives, our actions, and our speech. In fact, the image may become so sharp that it will be harder and harder to tell us from Him until one day, in eternity we will all stand together with total clarity and purity.

Paul stated it beautifully. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. I Corinthians 13:12.

A few people have achieved that in this lifetime. Mother Teresa maybe. St. Francis of Assisi, perhaps Paul.

However, if we move away from His image’s effect in our lives and let our problems get between us and Christ, His image in us will dim. It will become smudged by the worldliness we portray.  And as we blend in with everyone else who do not rely on His love and promises to find peace, others will be less likely to see Him reflected in the crowd. Sins will cloud the view like steam on a bathroom mirror or breaths on eyeglasses after wearing a nonsurgical mask.

A cleanser is needed to get rid of the smudges and grime. The Holy Spirit acts like a window washer’s squeegee. It may make us cringe at first, but oh, the view will be worth it. And if we daily go through the cleansing process of confessing our shortcomings, reading Scripture, and praying then the more the image of Christ will come into view, for us and for others. Our human tendency for self, stress, and success will fade, and Christ’s brightness will emerge as He perfects our individual uniqueness into the beauty of a godly purpose.

Just something to reflect upon…

 

 

 

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The online dictionary defines the word plight as “a dangerous, difficult, or otherwise unfortunate situation.” Many people may think that describes 2020.

I disagree. For me, I choose to define plight as:

Purpose Lies In God’s Holy Timing.

Call me unrealistic, but I prefer to think that God purposes our plights.  Paul did as well. He told the Roman Christians,  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (8:28).  If anyone experienced plight over and over it was Paul. Prison, beatings, hunger, poverty, loss of pride, being misunderstood by his peers, rejected by his mentors, stonings, shipwrecks, and being temporarily blinded. Finally executed by the government he had once been so proud to be a part of.

Finding purpose in my plight gives me encouragement. It turns me from inwardly negative thoughts to outwardly positive ones. Instead of seeing things as senseless, it helps me make sense of them. Pollyanna-like optimism? Perhaps.  But over and over it is what I choose because to do otherwise would be to sink into the pit of despair. Only when I hold it inside does it control me. When I give it to God to use, it frees me.

I believe God knows all, sees all, and loves us all.  Whatever I go through, I am confident it will either

  • strengthen me
  • help me rely more on God
  • teach me how to handle
  • correct a flaw in my character
  • bring me a reason to look for my blessings, which I may have been ignoring
  • give others hope

Is there a purpose in my plight? If there isn’t, then my faith is shallow, my God is harsh, and my life is meaningless. NO. I refuse to accept that.

Above all else, I know that God is there and He cares. The proof is in the ways He has purposed my plight in the past…and in yours.

Can I get an

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