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Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you as though something strange were happening to you.  I Peter 4:12

piron-guillaume4 – unsplash.com

In a few days I will undergo a surgical procedure that entails burning seven nerve endings in order to relieve the chronic pain I have suffered with the past two years. The nerves will grow back in a few months but if this brings me any relief, it will be indicative to the insurance carrier that I am a candidate for the major surgery three specialists agree I need to permanently resolve the situation.

The idea of them burning things inside my body doesn’t sound very pleasant. Talk about a fiery ordeal! But I know that, even though I will be uncomfortable for a few days, it is for my welfare.

It makes me ponder about the fiery tests God sometimes puts us through for our own good.

Sometimes parents must show their love by allowing their children to suffer. I recall my mom saying, “This will hurt me worse than it hurts you” while tugging on a band-aid or digging out a splinter, or the few times she had to paddle my behind. When I became a mother, I finally understood what she meant.

It’s not that parents like to see their children suffer, and I don’t think God, our Father, does either. However, anyone who has been a parent realizes pain has to happen, at times, for their child’s betterment. Such as slapping their hand to keep them from touching a hot stove, or allowing them to wobble, fall and skin their knee as they learn to balance on a two-wheeler. Or living with the consequences of a bad decision.

Sometimes we have to experience hurt for our own good. God allows that pain in order to squelch a worse one, or to correct something that has gone awry, potentially causing us harm. Despite what our “pain-free” society tries to persuade us, pain can be a good indicator that something is not right. And often, we must endure a bit of suffering in order to experience the blessings of healing.

If we truly believe God can purpose all things for good (Romans 8:28) then we must suffer embarrassment and heartache to come before the throne on our knees to be cleansed of our sins, the way the sting of hydrogen peroxide must bubble up on a cut to disinfect it. Or the twinges of pain as a stitched incision heals. Enduring the uncomfortable feeling for a while is worth it in the end.

I will try to remember to be thankful as they wheel me into the operating room. After all, this procedure is to help me. Praise God it exists.

And the next time God decides what I am going through is worth the pain, let me be thankful that I am in His loving and competent hands. All will be good.


What is a digital ministry? My passion. My mission field is my keyboard, which reaches hundreds of thousands over the internet every month through Power to Change. We truly are fulfilling the Great Commission to go into all nations. Want to journey with us? You can volunteer as an online mentor to those searching (don’t panic we will train you and you set your own hours) , or you can pray, or you can support the effort with a donation. 

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A friend drove me to do my weekly shopping, but by the time we got there all  the handicapped spots were occupied. (Many of you know I have to use a walker, so even grocery shopping is a chore.) As we pondered whether she should circle around to drop me at the door then go find a place to park, a car began to back out across the way, right near the entrance. I immediately lifted my hands. “Thank you, Lord.” My driver agreed.

 

I recalled someone asking me if I truly thought God did little things like provide parking spots. My reply? “Why not give God the glory?”

Then, in my Bible reading I ran across Psalm 34. It starts out with a phenomenal faith statement: I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. (vs.1)

At all times? Not just when I think He has shown me favor? Would I say “thank you, Lord” if the only parking spot had been 100 yards away and my friend had not been able to take me? Would I have blessed Him when the pain shot down my leg and my foot scraped the ground as I tried to hobble back to my car after a half hour of walking through grocery aisles because all the scooters were being used? Would I thank Him if I’d gotten to the register and discovered some hacker had drained my account when my refrigerator had an echo in it and my cupboards were bare?

Paul put it a different way in his letter to the Philippians. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (4:4).  Always. In every circumstance. Good or bad.

I don’t think it means we shouldn’t get angry in response to injustice. Yes, we may feel frustration.  Our heart may jolt at a strange sound or coil at a perceived danger. It is in our nature to react. But we shouldn’t let it gnaw the edges of our faith.

A singer in an older Christian contemporary song states that whatever happens in life has already passed through God’s hands.  Very true. He knows long before we can. And He is always there, ready to make it a lesson for us. Ready to send helpers to comfort us, and His Spirit to guide us. Even in bad times, “God is good all the time”, as the chant states.

Today, I found a lesson from God in a parking slot and a psalm.

Dearest Lord, I will try harder to live out Psalm 34:1 and Philippians 4:4. If King David, who had to run for his life and hole up in caves, or Paul who suffered whippings and Roman prisons, could, why can’t I? Forgive me when I do not acknowledge You moving in my life. Amen.

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To the Letter

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17

 

You probably know by now that I love words. Yesterday I looked at two of them:

WORD                   WORLD

The difference? An “L“.  For me it stands for “Law”.

The world is run by law, because it needs order. Otherwise there would be chaos. There is the law of nature, the law of the land, even the law of the jungle.  Paul explains in Hebrews, Chapters 7-9,  that God gave us laws for a reason — because humans, by nature, are lawless.  But he goes on to state that “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.” (Hebrews 10:1)

Jesus is the Word made flesh, according to John 1. When Christ came into the world of law, His job was to remove the L, leaving only His Word. The Word which lives eternally. Actually, in doing so, He replaced the “letter of the law” with another “L” – love.

By inserting Christ’s love into His Word, our worLd can become a very different place. That Love can then lead to Light and Life.

Don’t take my “word” for it. Seek out the Word:

While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5).

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

So…let me ask you this. What “L” do you want in the middle of your world?

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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?

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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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