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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

We all have our comforts. I love soft things and warm things. Curling up in a fleece throw with a cuppa warms my body…and my soul. And right now, we could all use some comfort.

But, the cup of hot tea or coffee soon disappears or grows cold. The throw needs washing. Neither is lasting.

Paul talks of another comfort. God is comfort. He never promised His children would be comfortable, but that He would provide comfort. Jesus warned his disciples (and us) that in this world there would be trouble. “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  And wow. Is there ever trouble in the world!

Jesus tells us that even in the midst of trouble we can have peace. We can take heart. He’s got this. He not only knows what is happening but He knows what tomorrow will bring and is already preparing our hearts for it if we let Him. We can find comfort in that fact.

Paul agrees, but he doesn’t stop there. He tells the Corinthian Church, and us, to take that comfort and go comfort others. In this time of isolation, you’d think this modern “me society” would retreat even further into the world of “I”. But more and more we hear stories of people stepping out to help others, to be considerate and keep a safe distance from others, and to wear protective gear. To check on elderly neighbors, and to thank those who have essential jobs and risk exposure.  We are discovering creative ways to connect without touching. People are rediscovering that we need each other, and more than that, we need God.

Each day, as we become more and more isolated, let us not forget to receive comfort from God and then pass it on to others. Perhaps they will pass it on to another person and that person will feel encouraged to do the same. Soon, instead of anxiety and fear, there will be a blanket of peace cloaking our neighborhoods. A warmed cup of camaraderie to ooze the souls in our cities.

A comforting thought, isn’t it?

 

 

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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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I poured out a cheesy snack into a bowl. You know? The kind that turn your fingers and tongue orange?

What amazed me was how differently they were shaped. Yet, if one took an individual piece and held it in their hand, anyone else, at least in the U.S., would immediately know what it was. They may even snatch it and pop it in their mouths.

All unique and distinct. However, each came from the same bag, the identical batch of dough. From the same recipe, the same processing plant.

As we start into the Lenten season when we traditionally reexamine our faith-walk, the passage from Ecclesiastes is read in our church service. “Remember, o’ man, that you are dust and to dust, you shall return” (3:20).  Are we truly so very different, or much the same?

Image by Elias Sch. from Pixabay A recent TV program stated that 98.5% of our DNA profiles are identical. Astounding, right?

It is that tiny 1.5% that makes up the things we tend to notice as far as looks, personalities, and propensity for diseases. That itsy-bitsy percentage determines our hair color, skin color, eye color, metabolism, capacity to absorb math, and ability to be creative in the arts…or not. And scientists are learning more and more about the things that 1.5% can actually determine.

Why is it we concentrate on all the minute things that make us different? God made us the same and loves us the same. He died for each and every one of us, though many do not realize that fact. They don’t understand the bag they come from, the bowl they belong in.

Maybe if we, who have God’s love flickering inside of us, would concentrate on seeing the similarities, then we could help those who do not know Jesus see the difference He can make in their lives.

As I crunch down on those equally delicious, individually shaped, cheesy squiggles…I wonder.

 

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How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalm 119:103

I only have to cook for one – me. So more often than not, I really don’t cook. I add ingredients to spice up the flavor of store-bought things like frozen vegetables, eggs, pimento cheese, milk, etc. I put a few drops of extract in my water or coffee. And when I do follow a recipe, I tend to add a bit of this and a tad of that on my own. I keep a turnstile of spices and extracts near the stove so I can easily spin it to decide what to sprinkle, dribble or shake to make it taste fresher and more original. Maybe a bit unexpected.

God spices up my life. In fact, without my faith, I think it would be pretty bland. If I didn’t believe He had a purpose for my life, I might be more tempted to pull the covers up over my eyes and stay in bed. But like the aroma of coffee and bacon whiffing from a kitchen in the morning, He entices me.

Six years ago I started this blog, Where Did You Find God Today? When I did, I felt it was an act of obedience, but I still challenged God. I said, “Okay. If you want me to do this, you need to be really obvious about showing me the ways you are in my life so I can tell others and encourage them.”

He has been faithful to do so. Sometimes He’s enhanced my life with sugar, sometimes salt, a few times with hot sauce (I can barely swallow it down). There have been times life has tasted bitter and it made me shudder. But He always comes through and makes my day unexpected, fresh, and original.

For me, I am thankful my life gets spiced up a bit now and then. It makes me realize the Master Creator is at work.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

I wonder what He is cooking up next.

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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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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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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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