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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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I listen to the weather forecast so I will know what to wear in the morning. I hang up the outfit I have chosen on the back of the door before I go to bed…after I make sure it has no stains, loose threads, or dangling buttons.  Yep, I like to be prepared.

Much of the time the weatherman’s predictions are close to what happens, though sometimes things do not turn out as forecasted.  Sunny days become rainy ones. Warm temperatures plummet into teeth-chattering temperatures and vice versa. Especially here in Texas. The old saying is, “If you don’t like the weather, wait an hour.”

But today, thanks to modern technology, the blue norther storms that used to barrel down on us and drop the temperatures 30 degrees in an hour are now foretold days in advance. Tornado watches alert us of threatening weather on the horizon.

If only that was true with life. It seems those storms come in a flash, without much warning.  It’s hard to prepare ourselves for the unexpected things that hit us. In this broken world there is going to be trouble. Disease will ravage a body, a house will be burglarized, a person killed by a crazed gunman or drive-by shooting. The person who vowed to love us forever might find another.

But wait, they were foretold. By Jesus.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Things will happen. But take heart.

As Jesus said, He has come to overcome the world. One day His eternal reign will be reestablished, and peace will be restored on earth. We will once again dwell in an Eden. Until then, as He promised before He ascended into Heaven, He will be with us in Spirit.

Paul understood that and so he knew how to dress for life’s uncertainties.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  Ephesians 6:10.

Don the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and the breastplate of righteousness. Lace-up our shoes of peace that comes from knowing the Good News – God is with us. Then we will be ready.

So, the next time you wonder what to wear, turn to the list in Ephesians 6 and be prepared, no matter what the forecast says.

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This is a devotional from a fellow Christian author, Penelope Marzec.

I took this photo one day after a rainstorm. The sky, as it reflected dramatically in the water of the lake, displayed God’s artistry in a breathtaking fashion. I was delighted to be able to capture the image. The photo has not been retouched. It’s real. I merely pasted the Scripture passage into the picture. It seemed an appropriate verse because it brought to my mind how every one of us can be reflections of God’s light, just as the placid lake reflected the glory of the sky that one day.

While none of us are perfect, if we try to do the right thing—if we strive to live the truth—others will see our work and understand its source. In being God’s hands in this world, we reflect His love and His goodness to all we meet.

It’s more than simply showing up at church on Sunday. It’s everything we do. It’s being patient with the harried waitress who has too many people to serve and leaving her a decent tip anyhow. It means refraining from vulgar language. It means taking the time to read Scripture and pray every day. After all, if we are to reflect God’s light, we must take the time to listen to Him.

Reflecting God’s love means using the talents God gives us to help others. For instance, my mother taught me to crochet at the age of seven. Several years ago, I learned about the prayer shawl ministry. Ever since that, I’ve been making prayer shawls to give to those who are grieving or ill. The shawl offers them comfort and warmth, but it is also a way of wrapping them in God’s love in a tangible way.

There are many other ways to be a reflection of God’s love. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. It can be as simple as offering to drive an elderly neighbor to the store or to a doctor’s appointment.

If we live the truth, others will see God’s reflection in our eyes. It is what we as Christians are called to do.

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I hope this won’t last.

I hope my situation changes soon.

I hope you’re right.

 

We hope for many things, but there is one thing we should hope for above all else.

That is hope itself.

 

 

H – Holding

O – Onto

P – Promised

E – Eternity

 

When we hold onto the hope that God is in control, that He is with us, and that His love is unfailing and unending, then everything else falls into perspective. Whatever happens in this broken world (and things will happen) pales in comparison to what lies ahead for those who believe in Christ’s sacrifice, death, and resurrection.

That may sound like a trite, pat answer but I can tell you from personal experience it has been my lifeline as I dangled over bubbling tar pits of poor health, financial insecurity, a broken marriage, a child not expected to survive several surgeries, and the deaths of loved ones.

As a close friend of mine once said, “The Bible says ‘this, too shall pass.’ Thank goodness it doesn’t say, ‘this, too shall stay.'” That is hope.

Good days and bad days all last the same amount of time–twenty-four hours. Trials never last, though at times they seem like they will never end. The love of God, for those who believe, outlasts anything else.

Paul stated in his letter to the Philippians that he had learned to be content no matter the circumstances (4:11-12). He wrote that while in a Roman prison not knowing how much longer he’d have before he was fed to the wild beasts or hung on a cross like his Savior. Even so, Paul had hope because he knew without a doubt what lay ahead for him beyond this life.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24

If you need to hang onto anything, dear friend, hang onto hope. Never let go.

 

 

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“…put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” I Timothy 6:17b

I knew it was there. I recalled downloading it in the past. It was exactly the picture I needed. But, even though I was confident it was somewhere in my folders, I had to search for it.

Sometimes I think it is the same with the things that God provides. At times, what I need appears in an instant. Bam. Thank you, Lord.

In a few incidences, God’s provision has been there even before I knew to ask for it. But more often than not, I have to search for it. A blessing may be hidden in a circumstance I didn’t expect. Maybe I was looking for something else, then realized, oh, wow. Ok. This works. A few times I have wondered, “What in the world God is thinking?”

But I have confidence that God has provided what I need in my life because He knows my needs. He has already given it to me and it is there somewhere. And so, in faith, I keep seeking, knocking, searching. Like the woman searching high and low for the lost coin in Luke 15, I won’t stop until I discover where it lies.

Why? Two reasons. First I’ve found it in the past. My experiences tell me God has provided. Secondly, Scripture tells me He will always do so because He loves me, and the Holy Spirit whispers that I can trust in that fact. So, even when things appear hopeless, the love that kept my Lord hanging on the cross reminds me that the situation is anything but hopeless.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” Matthew 7:7.

Whatever you are seeking has already been downloaded into your folder of life. It may appear in the form of a hymn stanza, a Scripture verse, a friend’s timely phone call, or a myriad of other ways.

Don’t give up. It’s there. Seek, and you will find.

 

 

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I was out of paper sacks, so I loaded my recyclables into a plastic trash bag and headed for the community recycling dumpster.  I had full intentions of opening the sack and dumping its contents into the receptacle. The bag was simply a means to carry the items to their destination.

As I walked along the drive, a man pulled over and rolled down his window. “Don’t dump it in there! They’ll fine us and we will lose the privilege of having a recycling dumpster here.”

He didn’t know my intentions, nor the contents of the trash bag. He assumed…and I was offended. How dare he presume to know my intentions! When I explained, he became red-faced and apologized. Even so, all the way back to my apartment I felt the heat in my cheeks. If he had taken the time to really look, he’d seen that the opaque sack was filled with plastic water bottles, flattened cardboard boxes and shredded paper.

The Holy Spirit convicted me. “You are judging by appearances,” Paul warned his readers in 2 Corinthians 10:7.  How often do I do that? To be honest, too often.

God sees the good intentions on the inside, in our hearts, minds, and souls. All we see is the opaque outside unless we take time to really peer into a person.  Our bodies are simply a means for carrying what are the most important things, the things God can recycle for His use.  Our thoughts, feelings, conscience, desires. He can take all of it and reuse it, remake it, reclaim it.

“God doesn’t make junk”, the bumper stickers proclaimed back in the day. Truth.

From now on, may I trash any preconceptions I have about other people and their intentions. Lord, help me do so.

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