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It seems a good many microwave meals have directions like this:

Why make a slit? I’m no scientist, but I know when heat is applied to frozen things, pressure builds. If there is no slit, you’ll probably hear a loud pop and find your dinner splattered all over the inside of the microwave.

The God lesson? Our habits can freeze us. We become hardened and unable to receive God’s lessons. So He adds a bit of heat to our lives. They’re called trials.

Even the Apostle Paul felt it. He wrote in his second letter to the church in Corinth: We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. (1:8)

However, when the pressure begins to build, I often see Our Lord’s loving hand making a slight slit in the situation. A small reprieve. Perhaps it is a wonderfully painted sunset, or a little bird that lands on my fence. Maybe it is a hug from someone or a text telling me a friend felt lead to pray for me that day.

Did you notice what it says in the top of the picture? Ovens may vary. Isn’t it the same with us? I’ve heard it said God will never give us more than we can handle. These holy hiccups in the midst of all that is going on are precious signs that He is releasing some of the pressure in my life at just the right time. His hand is not always heavy on the potter’s wheel as He molds me into what He knows I can become.

Paul realized that as well. Two verses later he sates: “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us as you help us by your prayers. …” (1:10-11a)

Lord, thank you for those slits in my life.

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I learned a godly truth from a bunch of cilantro. Sitting in my fridge for a week or so, I noticed some of the leaves had rotted before I got to use them in my food. My first instinct was to chuck the whole thing.  But I love cilantro, and it isn’t cheap. So I decided in order to keep the lush green ones from being contaminated, I’d pluck them away and sealed them in a storage baggie. Much less icky that snapping away the  slimy, brown ones and getting the gunk on my fingers.  Blech.

As I pulled the fragrant, dark leaves, I realized there were a lot more “good ones” than I originally thought.  That made me sigh with relief because I hadn’t wasted all my money after all.  Yet immediately my eyes had detected the bad ones and thought the worse.

It took a while to pluck all the tasty leaves away,  and I had to be more methodical and careful about doing it, but I felt better about ditching the rotten remnant once I had finished the task. A bulging baggie proved to me how much good remained. And my kitchen smelled amazing!

Of course this became a God-lesson for me.

Thank goodness our Heavenly Father doesn’t see only the bad in us and decide we need to be trashed. Instead, He sees the good in us as His Son points out, “These abide in me and I have made them worthy to save for Your use, Father. Do not cast them out.”

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful  (John 15:2).

Our precious, loving Lord carefully and methodically plucks away the sin tendencies in our lives to keep them from contaminating us, and uses the good He has found in us to do His will.  Then He bags and seals us in His Spirit to protect us and keep us fresh until He can use us.

Instead of concentrating on the bad, rotten and yucky in me which needs to be thrown away, perhaps I need to see how much good God sees in me through His Son, Jesus. He is viewing each leaf in my life to determine if it is worth keeping and using. There may be more good for Him to use than I originally thought. It makes me more thankful of the process, no matter how long it takes.

Thank you Lord, for taking the time to save what is good in me and not chunking me in the garbage because of the sin which has tainted my life.  Seal me through Your Holy Spirit. It is through and by Your Son, who has made me worthy to save, that I pray: use me to draw others to You. Amen.

 

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If it hasn’t happened to you, it will.

Hackers are on the rampage. FaceBook posts, emails, tweets are compromised. Safe “share” posts have lewd images hidden in them, or links that illegally access your profile. Banks, hospitals, even government entities are not immuned. It seems there is no firewall strong enough.

Our souls are not immuned to being hacked, either.  Call him what you will…the devil, the evil one, satan, the father of lies. He leans in and whispers into our brains –interrupting our thoughts and warping around blessings.

You aren’t strong enough to resist.  

You’ll never achieve that goal.

You don’t serve God’s favor.

God has walked away because He’s mad at you.

You’ll never get back in His good graces after this.

Everyone does it, it’s not so bad. 

The Bible is outdated. That verse doesn’t matter anymore in today’s world.

 

And the worst of all.…I’m a good Christian. Nothing big can tempt me.

C.S. Lewis said in his book, Mere Christianity, “A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.”

….When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  John 8:44b

This hacker know the places where our “firewall” is the weakest.  He knows what words to say that will crack our will and get to us emotionally. Then He wiggles in with a negative suggestion and clouds our positive viewpoint. Soon, like a virus, it begins to affect all of our thoughts and actions, even our prayers or desire to pray. Step by step, we become more and more vulnerable to his wiles. Trust me, as soon as you begin to do God’s will, this hacker will show up. Big time!  You got it wrong. God didn’t mean for you to take this on. That’s why this is so hard. You misunderstood.

Where is your firewall the most vulnerable?  How can you make sure your soul is “unhack-able”? Paul shared the algorithm two millennia ago: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer  (Romans 12:12).   Jesus used Scripture to keep Satan from seeping into his thoughts while he was in the wilderness being tested. (Matthew 4:1-11) Remaining joyful and counting your blessings no matter your feelings at the moment keeps your attitude up and running. (Philippians 4:6)

Prayer is the best defense against becoming compromised. Scripture is the best method to detect hacked messages, and a joy-filled attitude that knows without a doubt that God is faithful, true and loves you is the best way to have uninterrupted power.

 

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Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Over my first month as an internet missionary, I have felt the weightiness of words. Words can build up hope or slash a person’s dreams. They can offend or bolster one’s beliefs. They can trigger interest or make someone click off and seek elsewhere on the web.

Such power! And that is just “human” words. Written words. What about the Word? How are we using that? Or are we?

At Power To Change’s The Life Project, we are careful to not offend because we want to draw people to Jesus – not push them away. However, we also have the responsibility to bear witness to the Truth. Over 20,000 people from all over the world daily click on our articles and devotionals. Our words reach places we cannot fathom.

Isn’t that the same with each of us in our social media conversations, whether texted, posted or tweeted? The internet is a powerful platform. Folks post for different reasons. Some seek answers. There are those who seek pity while others crave fame, even if it is negative or offensive. A few want to use their words as weapons.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

As Christians, we have been given the Word. We need to not only monitor what comes out of our mouths, but what is typed on our QWERTY boards and appearing on the screens of people we may never have direct contact with.

Review your past few weeks of tweets, posts and texts. What message are you sending? Are you using the internet to build up or tear down? To bolster your own ego or point to Jesus?  Whine about your life, your elected officials, the weather, your coworkers – or count your blessings? Console others or one-up them with your list of woes? Share the Good News or gossip?

Words – powerful things. The Word, is power personified. Which will we tap into the most this week to communicate?

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imag0562I was asked, what is the one thing in your closet you should probably throw out? If anyone else rummaged through my clothes, they’d most likely choose the ratty ol’ black sweater. It’s faded, a bit threadbare, and stretched out of shape. But it still hangs in my closet…for a reason.

When my mother passed away, my sister, niece and sister-in-law gathered with me in her bedroom to sort and pack up her things. What to give away and what to throw away? None of us felt we could handle the task alone. What began in solemn sorrow ended in tearful laughter. Morphed into little girls again, we tried on “mommy’s clothes.”  We shared memories of when she wore this or that.  We snickered over some of her choices in fashion. We paraded around the room in various items. In the end, we each took a few as mementos. I chose the black sweater, already worn with age.

Even now, years later, whenever I’m feeling a bit down, I slip my arms through that ratty old sweater. It is almost as if my mom is hugging me once again. I feel the secure warmth I felt as a child. When my husband passed away, I wore that thing a lot, even out in public. I didn’t care. Mom had become a widow far too early as well. I knew she’d understand.

Paul spoke of God’s comfort He give us to pass on to others. 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 13:3-4  

My mother was a deep believer even though she suffered many sorrows including the death of two children and my father becoming a POW in WWII.  She lived with his resulting PTSD that turned into depression and alcoholism. Through it all, she used her experiences to God’s glory and comforted many during her 80 plus years on earth, especially the last few decades. At her funeral I heard many stories that testified to that fact. When I wrap myself in that sweater, I feel her God-endowed wisdom and comfort.

Yes, I should probably toss it away, but I doubt I will. In a way it has become my prayer shawl. One day, after I am gone, maybe the women in my family will go through my clothes. Someone will snicker and wonder why I kept that old thing. Then she will feel the urge to slip her arms through its sleeves. I think when she does, she’ll realize why.

 

 

 

 

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I shake my head and wonder how is this going to turn out? I don’t see how it can…

Lately I have been watching old reruns of the late Bob Ross with his reddish-brown afro as he painted his wet canvas masterpieces. You may recall his Joy of Painting shows on public stations as he donned his brushes and made happy little trees and mountains in the 1980’s and 1990’s. He blotched on color with a regular painter’s brush and as the Van Dyke brown, Titanium white and Phtalo blue splotches appeared on the liquid white or black gesso coated canvas, many like me wondered what on earth he was doing.  I found myself thinking, I don’t see how this will turn into a tree or a mountain. But it did.

watercolor-1968058_640Lately my life has been a grouping of blotches. Things are muddled, not really in focus.  Reading a Bible lesson a few days ago, one verse suddenly appeared in bold and a larger font in my mind. “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7)

I sputtered the sip of hot tea. Tingles zipped over my chest and up into my neck. Tears welled in my eyes. It was one of those God-zapped-me-with-His-love moments.

Often times I think we are not meant to see how the canvas of our circumstances will turn out. Instead, we have to trust the Master painter. Let the brushstrokes form the image He has in mind and watch the process, trusting He is the expert and knows what He is doing. Eventually a picture will emerge as a testimony of His handiwork. paintbrush-315638_640

As things take shape, then we will begin to understand. Oh, now I see how…

Lord, may my life be your blank canvas so all can witness Your work in my life and marvel at the masterpiece you are creating in Your timing and for Your purpose. Prevent me from the desire to snatch the brush from Your expert hands and finish it the way I think it should be in my amateurish mind.

 

 

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Do you ever feel stretched to the limit? To the breaking point?

At our family property on the river is a limb that stretches out over the water.  I used to hear my mother say her father swore it would break  off in the next flood…over and over. Then she said it. All my life I have watched it survive flood after flood. But it keeps growing and stretching out over the water.

13895276_10153954462103759_8859009914868406550_nWhen my mother was a child, it came out to the second tuft of branches you see, the ones hanging down toward the water by the backdrop of the white cement of the “old dock”. When I was a child, it had grown to the length of the third tufts, right under where you see the blue raft perched on the dock.  When my son was a child, it had grown to the little notch before it bows up again. He is now in his thirties.

It seems floods give it even more gumption to grow! A tree expert once told us the branch’s strength is in the fact that it has kept stretching. It remains pliable and can bounce and dip with the waves when the flood waters rage.

It makes me think of our lives as believers. If we can keep stretching towards Christ (The Living Water) and still stay attached to Him (The Vine), even if our lives flood with stress and bad happenings, we can bounce back time and time again.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.  Psalm 1:3

Prosper as in grow.

Swimmers and canoers stop by our branch daily during the summer months and can’t help but grab onto it.  Fishermen dangle traut lines off of it hoping to catch dinner. Daring folk, young and old, try to tightrope walk it. Generations have grown up watching that limb, fascinated by it. Strangers point at it and marvel.

May my life be like that.

Lord, keep stretching me to reach out to You, knowing that You will be my strength despite the odds. Keep me pliable to Your will. Help me to stay anchored to You, the eternal vine- trunk, no matter what comes my way or what others say. In You alone can my hope be found. Let me branch out and draw others to you, fascinated by my growth. To You be the honor and glory. Amen.

 

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