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HOW MANY CROSSES DO YOU SEE?

Yep, I said crosses, plural. Sure, there is the pottery one hanging on my patio wall. But do you see others? Look carefully.

Each window pane has a cross. If you look at the balconies, the rails form two crosses when viewed with the door jambs.  The roof of the carport to the left lines up with the edge of the building, making a cross-shaped image. Can you find anymore now that you have had a few clues?

The point is, we often are too focused on the obvious to see the serendipities God brings into our day.  Little things, which prove He is there and cares, go unseen.  It may take focus, imagination, or seeing things in a new way to spot these.

That is sort of what this blog is all about…detecting God-moments and messages in our lives.

The more you open your mind and eyes to seek Him, the more evidence you will find of His presence. Look out your window. How many things remind you of His presence? His all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect nature? His grace and mercy? Does that not make you smile and lift your spirits?

If we concentrated more on seeking God in our lives instead of finding fault in ourselves and others, wouldn’t it change not only our outlook but that of those we encounter?

My mother, who was a teacher, said that when we’re taught in school to find “what is wrong with this picture”  or to decide “which answer is not correct” it trains our minds to see things in a negative way. She never put questions that required a negative response as the correct one on her tests.

Retrain the brain. For one week, whenever a negative thought tries to surface, seek a positive reminder of God’s love instead. Then thank Him.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  Hebrews 12:1b-2a.

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I hung up a bird feeder to see if I could attract birds, now that I no longer have cats. I poured in easy pickings especially blended for songbirds.

However, I am not sure I will attract any birds because the AC units are right outside of my apartment patio. One, in particular, services my neighbor upstairs. It is rather noisy. And he likes his place to be kept cool, so it kicks on all day and night.

This situation made me think about how many times the noise in my life keeps me from hearing the still, small voice of my loving Father as relayed through the Holy Spirit. How often do I miss out on His blessings because I am not intuned to His holy whispers?  When have I been so distracted seeking what I need that I have not seen what is right in front of me?

Will I fly by as I search for something else, or will I stop and perch in His presence, tasting that the Lord is good?

I hope little sparrows, cardinals, and finches find my feeder chock full of seeds. I’d even enjoy seeing a bushy-tailed squirrel precariously dangling on it trying to get the corn and sunflower husks. I hope they will find the good things and decide to partake, and not be distracted by the rattletraps humming below.

I also hope the same for you and me. May the noise of our world never drown out the wonderful, loving messages from our Lord.

My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. Psalm 78:1

 

P.S. Four days later: Three sparrows and two finches have found my feeder!

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We read the Scripture passage of 1Peter 1:3-9 in our online service this week.  What hit my heart anew was verse seven: These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

I always took that to be somewhat apocalyptic. But today I see it in a new way.

They say hindsight is 20/20. I often do not see Jesus moving in my life until after the fact. Perhaps I am concentrating too much on the “now” to see the eternal. But suddenly the light dawns and I see He was there all along, steadily working out His plan in the background. I see how He purposes good from what seemed distressful and even evil, like the proverbial silver lining at the end of a storm. Then I  “give thanks in all circumstances”, as Paul reminds us to do in 1Thessalonains 5:18.

What we are living through now definitely fits the definition of a trial by fire.  Perhaps during this time, we are being purified by God’s holy furnace. The dross of our modern world, which once captured our attention, is melting away. We are hopefully drawing closer to God and, even though we can’t be physically together, we are more together because we realize how important our friends and family are and we miss them so dearly. Our values have been readjusted.

My prayer is that during this time, Jesus will be revealed in your heart, mind, and soul. I pray you will, by your testimony of the “great things He hath done”,  reveal Him to others who so desperately need to “see” Him revealed in their lives. Especially now.

May we all give Him the praise, glory, and honor.

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courtesy Alexiscorvus | Dreamstime.com –

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18

Many of you have heard the adage that FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. But right now, what’s going in isn’t false. It is very, very real. So I am offering another anacronym:

Facing Evil Alone Repeatedly

As we choose to hole up and isolate ourselves from other people in order to thwart the spread of COVID19, let us not retreat into our own fears. Yes, it might seem nice at first to have time to read, watch TV, or do hobbies. But retreating into yourself is fodder for trouble. There is an old saying that states the devil divides.

 

But God unites.

Even if we cannot attend church, we can still call each other, text each other, email each other, or Skype or Facetime with each other. Frequently check on your friends, families, and the elderly.  Today we have amazing technology that allows us to communicate. Let us use it to pray and fellowship together.

Do not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

Just because we cannot touch each other doesn’t mean we can’t stay in touch.

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The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

courtesy of ENR news report-

courtesy of ENR news report

All of Dallas, Texas, and the millions in the surrounding Metroplex towns and cities, have watched it for over two weeks. It was to be imploded. But when the dust cleared, the core shaft still stood, though it looked a tad bit like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The engineers scratched their corporate heads. Time for the old fashioned wrecking ball. 56 hundred tons of metal, the weight of your average Soccer Mom’s SUV, dangling from a crane and banging over and over against the sides of this building.

One day, two days, three days…after another week, the structure still stood, though it now resembled a stack of Swiss cheese and crackers. People have been taking bets. When will it tumble? It is the most heard conversation at the watercooler. It is as if some invisible force keeps it from crumbling.

An older Contemporary Christian song by Kutless talks of God as being our strong tower and a fortress when we are weak. I see this tower as a symbol of our faith in the One Source that is our inner strength.

It makes me think of those Christians in hostile countries who are being so horrendously persecuted. Yet they will not renounce Jesus as Lord. Nothing will topple their tower of faith. Not torture, the burning of their possessions, the kidnapping, and the selling of their children in Muslim sex trades, or even death threats.

As I sit in my comfy apartment with central air and heat, clicking away on my keyboard and listening to my local Christian station, 88.3 The Journey, streaming from my Google nest, I feel a tad guilty. Is my faith that strong? If under attack, would I stand tall for Jesus? I’d like to positively respond in a split-second, “Of course!” But if put to the test…?

I recall the speech by one of the missionaries who minister to these persecuted and endangered underworld Christians. He told us not to feel guilty. God puts each of us where He can use us and gives us the wherewithal to do His will. These faithful brothers and sisters can stand strong, bolstered by the invisible force of our faithful prayers.

That stubborn rubble of metal and concrete that keeps showing up on the local news’ tweets reminds me that with Christ inside me, I can lean on His strength and still stand tall no matter what in life rams and batters at my sides.

The “Leaning Tower of Dallas” may have tumbled by the time this is published. But in a way, I hope it hasn’t. Maybe they will give up trying to get it to fall and erect a fence around it as an example of resilience. Doubtful. The developers will eventually win this battle.

But, for me, it will always be a reminder of the faith that is mine if I, in my weakness, keep my Savior and Redeemer as the core of my faith. May I never crumble no matter what in life whacks into me. Instead, may I cling to the invisible Force who clung to a cross in order to be my strength (Philippians 4:13).

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I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Ephesians 3:16-18

Today in Bible study, my priest referred to unbelievers as cut flowers. They look like they are alive, but they have been cut off from the roots, so they can no longer grow. They are, in essence, dead and soon will show it. Christ brings life, but those cut off from God by sin will die, just as Adam and Eve did.

My mind wandered to the ivy cuttings I’ve had immersed in a vase of water in my windowsill for months. That water has kept them alive. I noticed a few days ago they were finally producing roots.

Jesus said He is the Living Water (John 7:38). Because of original sin, we have all been cut off from the root of Life, i.e. God.  In order to grow, we must produce new roots, and the best way to do that is to immerse ourselves in the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the water who provides the Truth and the Life.

So all those “cut flowers” out there need exposure to the love of Christ. We need to help them see they want to be saturated with the Living Water through baptism in the Holy Spirit so they, too, can begin to grow roots and thrive.

I realized that, like my ivy, I need to have more patience with those believers who are not yet leading fruitful lives. We all grow at our own pace, and I need to do what I can to help make sure they stay doused in the Living Water. I, too, need to grow, so I also must stay in the Living Water…daily immersed in His Word, His Truth, and His love. We all do.

Don’t ever let the devil yank you out! But if he does, my friend, trust me. There will be people praying you back into the Living Water where you can grow again. If you ever asked Jesus into your heart, you are rooted in Christ.

 

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Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

Automatic car washes freak me out, especially the ones that make me steer onto a conveyer belt, put the car in neutral, and take my hands off the wheel. In other words, I must agree to lose total control. That is what makes me shiver. I like to be in control.

But washing my car by myself is less than effective. I’m very short and getting on in years. Stooping, stretching, bending? Ouch. I need assistance in getting the car clean. So I agree to enter this surreal world of metal, rubber, soap, and water.

Then it gets worse. Soon a rainbow of foam covers the windshield, leaving me blind to what is happening. I have no bearings. I know there is a car on the belt in front of me and one behind me (usually a minivan or SUV and I drive a subcompact). As we jerk along the belt, I pray we are all moving in sync and none of our cars get shoved into the other. I simply do not trust the mechanics of these automated things.

Finally, at long last, the foam slides down the windshield. For a split-second, I see the license plate ahead of me. Then, swoosh. The rubber tentacles roll down to envelop the car. Peering desperately through the flops of rubber, I, at last, see the “rainwater” rinse sprays. Ah- ha. There is still an arm’s length between me and the rear bumper of the one in front. The drying torrents gear up. The water droplets separate and dance on the glass. I can see the exit and, thankfully, the car ahead has made it through.

Right now, that is how my life feels. I know God has a plan, I just can’t see it. And that is where the trust factor comes in. I keep moving along at a snail’s pace, feeling out of control, in neutral. I guess I am moving toward the plan because I sense things are happening around me even if I cannot see them at the moment. But I still fight the urge to take the wheel, slam on the brakes, or put my “car” in drive and move things along at my preferred pace. Yes, to do so would not end well in my life any more than it would in the car wash. I know that. Even so…

Faith sometimes means stepping onto the conveyer belt and shoving our lives into neutral. After all, the results will be great in the end, and we admit we need assistance in getting the task done well, which is why we’ve agreed to hop on in the first place.

Maybe the next time I get my car washed I will grimace less and trust more. Same with my life.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this… Psalm 37:5

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He blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased, and he did not let their herds diminish. Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled by oppression, calamity and sorrow…Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the LordPsalm 107:38,39,43

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

It’s that time of year again. Taxes. Ugh.

But on a positive note, it encourages me to look at my financial life over the past year. Where and how much I spent on what. How much did I save? Did my freelance writing business grow or make a profit? More importantly, what can I do differently this year to have a better outcome?

Now that we are in a new year, we can take a tally of our spiritual lives as well.

In my spiritual tallying, I found that the verses I’ve quoted of Pslam 107 hold a deep truth. Now, please understand. I am not advocating the prosperity gospel that states God blesses those who are “good” and put the disobedient in the poor house like a celestial Santa Claus with a naughty and nice list. Yes, we, as good stewards, should be responsible for how we handle what God provides. But we also must realize we live in a broken, unfair world where sometimes the bad seems to win out despite our best efforts.

Despite what happens, in prosperity or calamity, there are two things that occur:

First, a lesson is learned.

Secondly, God is still there and He loves His kids.

As I crunch the spiritual numbers, I find I need to be a bit humbler. I also need to be a bit more grateful. Most of all, I need to recall the number of times I realized God was right there beside me. One time, I had a dead car battery. I prayed instead of panicking. I found out my auto insurance offered free roadside assistance, and that after getting the car jumpstarted, there was a discount store a few minutes away from where I had broken down. When I arrived, I had hardly any wait time. And when I returned home and opened my mail, I found three unexpected checks inside which totaled up to almost the same amount I’d just spent on getting a new battery installed. Thank you, Lord.

Benjamin Franklin said, “There are only two things certain in life: death and taxes.” I suggest he was incorrect, as intelligent as he was.

The only two sure things in life are that, no matter what, God is there and He cares enough to teach us valuable life lessons. When you crunch the numbers, that about sums things up.

 

 

 

 

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Christmas Blessings

All walks of life, ages and races honored the babe in the manager.  Angels, shepherds, wise men bowed to Him. How many others in Bethlehem went about their lives and never took notice? 

This year, take ample time out to remember what this season is all about – it’s not about our gift-giving but the Gift that has been given to us.

 

 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

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He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, like showers that water the earth.  Psalm 72:6

Dad would always rush to mow the grass when he heard a rainstorm was headed our way. He said that the newly-cut grass would better absorb the water. It would grow more lush and thick. The mowing scattered the bugs that like to gnaw on the blades of grass, too. (It’s also easier to clean the lawnmower blades, but that’s not the point.) So he prepared the lawn for the blessing on the horizon.

I recall opening my bedroom window and smelling the freshly cut grass mixed with the rain in the air as it began dampening the soil. Now if Glade could capture that aroma in an air freshening spray…

So, when we read Psalm 72 in church, that verse made me smile as warmth spread over my heart. The psalmist also knew that aroma. He understood the importance of rain on a freshly mowed field.

I think God mows us down a bit in order to prepare us for the blessings on the horizon, too. He trims us so we can better receive His mercy and grace. We become more aware of His presence as He cuts a bit into our lives. And it scatters the negativity gnawing at our hearts. We grow better in His ways when we are trimmed back and are then more apt to soak in His blessings when they pour down upon us.

So during the next dry spell in your life,  when you are not sure where God is in it all, listen for the sound of the heavenly lawnmower getting ready to prepare you for the blessings to follow. We all need a good trim now and then.  Can you smell the sweetness of His mercy?

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