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Archive for the ‘Life Experiences’ Category

When my mother first became widowed, this was a card she received. She tore off this message on the front and framed it. When she passed on, I took it home. Even now, widowed for twelve years, I still keep it on my desk. My daily reminder.

It is a message for all of us humans who have a tendency to want to be in control.

We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust our sails.

I have never sailed in my life, so my knowledge is poor at best, but I have read books and watched movies about sailors and the seas. About steering into the wind so it billows the sails or away from it to change direction. Sailors are at the mercy of nature and the Creator of the winds. They know it is better to adjust than to try to fight against it. Which is futile and a waste of energy.

There is another saying, which I see daily. I have taped it to my computer monitor. It is from Psalm 25:5. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and in my hope is in you all day long.

Often times hope is depicted as an anchor, a stronghold. For me, it is also a sail. It helps me stay on course and not veer off. It helps me seek the direction the Creator wants me to head. The Holy Spirit can be described as the wind, or so scholars say, because both the Greek and Hebrew word for “spirit” can also be wind or breath. If so, then I should not fight the direction God’s Spirit wants me to go. I need to adjust my sails.

Ad-just. Ad is the preposition that means to go toward something. Just, as an adverb, means exactly, recently, simply. As an adjective, it means appropriate, well-founded, and morally right. Adjust – to go toward what is simply and exactly right and appropriate.

God is just. His ways are true. His motive is love. To ad-just is to move in the way of His character. It is to be exactly and no less, simply, now, appropriate and good.

Why would we not set our sails to that? Why would we choose not to adjust our emotions, thoughts, and actions to match? Why would we try to control something that is not in our power to control? Can anyone truly harness, tame, and manipulate the wind? Only God can.

Wind may come swiftly, causing us to act with all our strength and wits. It may be so still we barely feel it nearby. It can be pleasant and soft, even refreshing. It can be cold and cause us to shiver. But I believe if it is from God through His Spirit, it is always just what we need at the time. The wise will learn to adjust and “go with the flow”.

Lord guide me in the way you wish me to go, and teach me to trust in the direction you lead. Amen.

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When my son toddled around the house, he’d bring me an A-B-C- book of animals to read to him. It had phrases such as “Birds tweet. Tweet, Bird, tweet. Cows moo, Moo, Cow, moo.” You get the idea. But when it got to the letter “L” the author didn’t choose a lion to roar or a lamb to bleat. The author chose a lizard.

Now, lizards are not known for their sound, right? They are fairly quiet, timid, and skitter away when approached. But they also need to rest. This book said, “Bask, Lizard, bask.” Maybe because the word is not usually found in a pre-k book, or maybe because of the picture of the lizard sprawled on a branch … but we laughed each time. Lizards bask in the sun to get warm, then in the shade to cool off because their bodies cannot internally adjust to temperatures. Trouble is, the shade is illusive. It moves as the sun does. So their rest is interrupted. Over and over again. Constantly on the move seeking comfort, they really never truly bask.

The memory popped up in my grey cells when a friend of mine posted this photo of her dog on Facebook. Dogs love to bask in sunbeams. Let the warmth and the light penetrate their fur, skin, and bones. So peaceful… Now, agreed. the sunbeam will move. My guess is so will the dog, because he wants to continue to rest in the warmth. But unlike the lizard, the dog is secure in its surroundings and won’t likely skitter away. He will seek to stay in the light long as he needs it and his body will retain the warmth.

But notice the statue of the kitten crouching in the dark corner. Which are you? the dog or the cat? Do you bask in the Light of the Son in peace and absorb His Spirit in your life? As the rays of His love move, do you follow, seeking His peace? Or do you cower in the darkness of your situation like a cold, stone statue, afraid to move? Perhaps, like the lizard, you keep moving to find a place to bask on your own. Try new herbs, breathing exercises, and meditations to find a bit of peace.

Lately, I have done all three when a setback and not-so-good news from a doctor gut-punched me. My immediate reaction was “Why, God?” I became depressed, couldn’t sleep (mostly due to the debilitating pain that would not ease up after the last “diagnostic procedure”), and pondered…no wallowed…in my worry. Froze in my fate. Cowered in my circumstance as my mind swirled of ways to cope with my possible new lifestyle. I mimicked Jesus in the garden…alone, weeping – take this cup. Well, I didn’t sweat blood and tears, but almost.

Then the “I can adjust” mode kicked in. Make do with what I have. This is my lot in life. So be it. Make whatever effort I can to adjust. But I still felt restless and didn’t find true peace.

Little by little, possibly because Easter loomed – Hallelujah – I edged into His light and let it soothe me. Let His peace penetrate me and soak into my soul.


But he said to me,My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

What a difference.

I don’t have to fix things or solve things on my own. I can’t physically pull myself up by my bootstraps anyway. Right now, I can bask, Julie. Bask. Relax, pray, and wait for His guidance to unfold. Feel the warmth of His hands cradling me, knowing He is there and He cares. Let His light guide me and keep choosing to rest in it.

We all have a choice. Be the cat, the lizard, or the dog. Cower in a frozen position, continually try to make things better on our own, or learn to bask in His warmth.

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But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

2 Corinthians 2:14

Manufacturers spend millions on finding just the right scent for their lotions, soaps, and perfumes. One laundry detergent company’s fragrance is so recognizable other products claim to have that aroma in them as well.

The scent of soap or shampoo not only fills our noses with a pleasant smell but lets others know we have just been cleaned as well. That fresh-out-of-the-shower is attractive. Ask any romance writer…

Flowering bushes let off pleasant smells in the breeze drawing people to stop and take a whiff. Air fresheners make our houses smell inviting and clean. They welcome people in. A pleasing aroma can turn a frown upside down.

When we have been cleansed of our sins, we emit a spiritual aroma that is attractive to others as well. People take notice that we are different. There is a glow about our faces. A peacefulness emits from our soul. Love and forgiveness shine in our eyes because we have just received them from our Lord.

Just like the fabric spray or a scented candle, the scent lingers. But on this side of eternity it never lasts, does it? Just as we need to shower often, we need to be cleansed of our sins often. Otherwise, the stench of the world will cling to us. Others won’t be as drawn to us. Our witness becomes stale.

We all need a good scrubbing now and then. Ask any mom of a teenage boy…

Take time daily to let the Lord wash away your sins from your soul, just as you take time to remove the grime and sweat from your body. That way, when you head out into the world, others will notice–IN A GOOD WAY.


Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! Psalm 51:2

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Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash

At one o’clock in the afternoon on the first Tuesday of the month, the tornado sirens go off…this is a test.

I listen to the radio and a song is interrupted by a whaaa, whaaa, whaaa. “This is a test of the emergency broadcast company…”

A digital sign on the highway tells me if there is a wreck up ahead. My GPS asks if I want an alternate route.

A sign in a commercial building tells me the floor is slippery when wet. My apartment complex puts out a sign saying we are going to have freezing temperatures and to drip our faucets. The weatherman interrupts a television program to tell us bad weather is barrelling down.

Everywhere we look, there are warning signs. Watch out, something unexpected, probably bad, is coming.

And we pay heed, if we are smart.

Except, sometimes in life the unpredictable happens. Without warning. The phone call we never wanted to get. The report from the doctor. The lay off from our boss.

For me, it has been the news that I need two surgeries, which will lay me up for another two, perhaps three months. I’ve had to quit my job, I don’t qualify for unemployment, and I have no short-term disability. I have a meager savings stored up, thank the Lord, that I have been relying upon to make ends meet for two months now. And will for three or so more months. I pray not longer than that.

I read in the Bible to trust in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5), that His ways or not ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), that He won’t forsake me (Psalm 9:10), and He will provide so not to be anxious (Mathew 6:25-33). He is my help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1), and not to be shaken because He is at my right hand (Psalm 16:8).

My brain goes there, and my tongue expresses those verses in reassurance. But my heart hasn’t quite absorbed it yet. So, I keep speaking into it.

Yes, this is a test…

There is a newer song by CAIN that pierces my soul. “Yes, He did so Yes, He can.” My local radio station, KJRN 88.3FM plays it often at the moment (thank you, The Journey!) so when it comes on I ask my smart speaker to crank up the volume. It lifts me back into the attitude my faith calls me to embrace.

God has always been faithful in the past. He will be now, such is His gracious nature. He knows all, and He’s got this. My part in all this?

T-R-U-S-TTotal Reliance Under Stressful Times.

No matter what is tumbling down the road toward you, trust. Despite the odds, trust. When you can’t see the road for the fog, trust.

Someone’s eyes are better than yours. He sees the future. He looks into your heart. The Lord knows how and when to show you through tiny serendipities that HE IS THERE AND HE CARES.

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you (Psalm 9:10).

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I have often heard, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” But, once I learned I’ve got to battle some pretty tough times ahead, I grabbed onto my social media friend, Jo Ann Ruth Prevatt’s idea:

She wrote that God’s grace keeps pace with what we face. I like that. God gives us what we need to handle life. In other words, He provides just what we need when we need it.

I recall the monkey bars on my elementary school playground. I had to dangle several feet off the ground and grab the handle in front of me. Once I became sure I had a good grasp, I’d let go of the one behind and swing to grasp the next one. The goal was to make it all the way across to the ladder on the other side.

co wayfair

In life, I don’t always see the ladder at the other end, but I can see the next handle. God doesn’t ask me to “let go” before I grasp the next one. There is security each step of the way, and my faith tells me there will be an end to whatever I am to handle. And if I slip, my LORD is there to grab me, then hoist me up to the next handle. And can almost hear his encouraging whisper, “It’s okay. You’re doing great. Keep going.”

His grace keeps pace…

What do you need to grasp onto today to keep from giving up and falling hard? Whatever you need to handle, know that there is Someone who doesn’t want to leave you dangling in midair. He will give you the strength you need to move forward, and handle one “handle” at a time. Keep going. There is an end. You will be victorious.

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory (Psalm 73:24).

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Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

I remember it all too well. Dad, grumbling, down on his hands and knees, moving along the wires of Christmas tree lights strewn across the floor. He had to test each one to see which one had burned out, causing the rest to not shine. Rarely did the culprit appear in the first ten or so bulbs. And once he found the burnt-out one, replacing it presented its own challenge. No two red ones next to each other. Heaven forbid! Mom had a strict pattern — red, blue, yellow, green, white. We used to hide the replacements in a small box behind the garland on the mantle just in case …

However, in a way, I think it describes the individualistic attitude that has become so prevalent in our society. We claim to not need each other. We want to do our own thing and if we don’t follow the norm, it’s okay. It is the way we are wired.

Today, the tree lights are individually wired so if one, or two, or ten go out, it doesn’t affect the rest of the strand. Modern technology at work. I am sure many folks appreciate the invention. I have to admit it is a time saver!

There is an old saying that states, “Christ unites, Satan divides.” From the Garden of Eden on down to today, it has been proven to be true. There is a reason believers are called the Body of Christ. We are not supposed to exist independently but are united in His love. It binds us together and flows through us so we can shine brightly into a dark and cold world.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ ... Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it (I Corinthians 12:12 & 27, ESV).

When life happens to one of us that makes our light dim, we need the energy of the others to help us shine again. We need that connection of the Holy Spirit flowing through us. Not everyone can be strong and positive all the time. We are not wired that way. We humans need each other, rely upon each other and naturally band together in groups. John Donne had it correct when he wrote over 400 years ago that no one is an island.

Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash

 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world … (Philippians 2:14-15, ESV)

As long as we live on this broken planet, darkness will linger on the edges, slowly seeping in. This season, be the light of love that points to Jesus the same way the star over the manager pointed people to Him 2000 years ago. May this darkest time of the year (Winter solstice) be the brightest one in your heart and gleam into those around you, be it the widow next door, the frenzied store clerk, the moody teen, or the grouchiest person in the office.

Uphold those who believe, and encourage those who do not. Shine the love of Christ into others’ lives and you might find yourself shining a tad brighter as well.

Now everyone, join hands and sing, “This little light of mine…”

Have a bright, shiny, beautiful Christmas season.

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I the Lord do not change. Malachi 3:6

The register rang up $19.98. I handed the cashier a $20 bill. She asked, “Do you want change?”

I smiled. “Not really, but nothing stays the same does it?”

We both laughed.

Oh, how we hate change…

Isn’t it strange that we so greatly resist, even dislike, change when life on earth is always changing?

Babies grow into toddlers, then to kids, then to teens, and hopefully into competent adults. Even then, our bodies continue to change. Our metabolism slows, our skin wrinkles, our bellies widen. Our joints ache, and our stamina lessens.

The seasons change, right? Temperatures dip, leaves turn colors, and rains pound, then maybe snow falls. Temps rise and the squiggly miraging heat on the pavement make us wilt and dream of cool streams and sandy beaches.

The moon waxes and wanes, tides ebb and flow, and rivers slowly carve out a new course. Flowers bloom, then wilt. Seeds push through the gorund and grow into plants. Catepillars turn into butterflies.

Political opinions change. Social standards change. Fashions change. So do relationships, friendships, and the desire to keep vows.

And still we resist…

If change bothers you, look to the One who never changes. Only things that are eternal remain the same:

God’s love

God’s grace

God’s mercy

Christ’s death that eradicates confessed sins.

The Holy Spirit’s guidance.

CAUTION: when you seek the things eternal and set your mind on the things that are above instead of earthly things, as Paul states in Colossians 3:2 , you are going to change. Sorry, but it’s true. And that’s okay.

You will be less stressed. Less anxious. Less swayed by emotional ups and downs. Calmer, more at peace, and joyful. Things will have a positive reflection instead of a negative influence. Your posture will be more upright and your step lighter. Your burden will seem less heavy. People may even react to you differently.

Do you want change?

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I sat on my sofa and stared at my room fan. It softly whirred as it oscillated back and forth. The steady white noise lulled me into a peaceful state. It didn’t complain. It kept doing it’s thing. Backadn forth, back and forth, spreading welcomed coolness.

My apartment faces west and in Texas summers the bank of off-cenered bay windows in my living room can make things a tad toasty. Thus the fan. I could train it to blow directly on me. But by letting it shift the airflow around the room in a steady pattern it ends up cooling four times as much space. Just takes a bit longer.

What type of fan am I? How about you? Do we focus on one thing and blast at it? Do a agreat job but perhaps could do better if we fanned out our efforts?

Or are we an oscillating fan which spreads our talents evenly over several areas, providing relief and service to many others?

Do we stay super focused on one point in our lives, or do we easily shift from one to another?

As I look at the life of Jesus on earth, His mission was focused on one thing, but the acting out of His mission spanned many lives from outcasts to Pharisees, from tax collectors to zealots, from women to men and small children. Each one He touched. Each one he blew the breath of love upon evenly. Each one He shed His blood for. No exceptions.

What about our evangelsitic efforts? Do we concentrate on the people we are more comfortable speaking with? Aim our efforts at someone who dresses and smells like us? Or do we span out, equally treating all with the same grace, love, and respect? Tough question.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14

Paul told his followers he tried to be everything to everyone so he would not be a stumbling block to anyone. (See 1Corinthians 9:19-23. He wasn’t being fake. Just the opposite. He was being real. He saw what the other peson needed and offered it in a way they could relate to. He found common ground. How?

One One Way – The Way- through the love of God in Christ Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit.

What a difference we could make if we fanned out and, by living our lives day in and day out, emilating the fruit of the Spirit, we blew peace and love on all we see? We were more kind, gentle, patient, fore-bearing, loving…

A worthy goal. Sure, we will mess up if we try. Humans do. But the more we oscillate instead of standing still, the wider our reach will become. The more we use God’s eyes to see others, the better we can spread His goodness.

It’s a hot, hellacious world out there. Let’s be a fan, quietly influencing others wherever God turns us and cooling their anxiousness with His refreshing grace so freqently bestowed upon us.

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Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him. Psalm 128:1

Years ago, I accepted a challenge to become a devotional editor for an international missionary society. Trouble was, I had to raise my own salary, as most missionaries do. But the fact I worked remotely at home meant my mission field was only as wide as my keyboard, though in truth it spanned worldwide. People couldn’t grasp the concept that I was not headed to Africa or Cambodia even though amore read our devotionals daily tahn most missonary with boots on the ground would come in contact with in a lifetime.

I tried every way I knew to glean financial support. I never became fully funded and couldn’t make even a decent poverty-level living. It tied my guts in knots. I’d cry in my sleep. I whimpered on my knees. I so wanted to serve in this way. My heart ached to keep doing this.

Finally, after five years of stressful existence and waning joy, I caved. I accepted a job offer from a Christian boss who appreciates my efforts and now I am able to support myself comfortably enough to help support other missionaries and my church. My faith-based novels are taking off as well, and I am under contract for 6 more of them.

But I felt as if I had let God down. I had failed…

But did I?

“No,” God whispered into my soul. While readership didn’t skyrocket, it increased and remained steady. I mentored over 35 writers, many who went on to write books. Even more have graciously volunteered their works each month for years, God bless them. And though I lived in low income housing, I never starved.

He used me where He needed me at the time. He is still using me, just differently.

I felt my Lord smiling and saying as He did to Isaiah, “I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called her. I will bring her, and she will succeed in her mission” (Isaiah 48:17- gender changed.) I learned a great lesson. Never compare myself to others using human standards of measurement. Success to God is simply obedience and persistance.

Wherever you are in life, God can use you. Stay obedient, even if that is picking up trash in your elderly neighbor’s yard or singing in the choir and never being asked to solo. Be it speaking to thousands at a religious rally or changing the diapers on two babies in the church nursery every week.

We all have a mission field but we need to let God define it and then rejoice that we are doing His will His way.

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It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth… Psalm 74:17

Guinea pigs are smart…most of the time. They are cave dwellers in the wild so they have developed a natural fear of edges. They learn quickly to live within their boundaries.

Mine has set boundaries outside of his cage. Every evening, I lay down an old beach towel and let him romp on my couch for an hour or so as I watch a mystery on TV. He hops, skips, waddles, and chortles…but when he comes near the edge, he halts. Usually.

One night, I got up to get a drink of water and told him to stay put. Instead, he “followed me”– right off the edge. I heard a thump and then saw a black and white streak dashing under the nearest piece of furniture (a cave) to cower. I rushed to gather him, but he became so frightened he hesitated to come to me. Finally, I was able to scoop him up and hold him until his tiny heartbeat settled. Then I placed him back in his cage and he skittered into his house. Safe and sound.

He learned his lesson, though. The next night, when he got within an inch of the edge of the sofa and ottoman, he squeaked and ran to crawl up in my lap. My heart melted as I cuddled and calmed him.

You see where this is headed, right? 2020 has been a year of setting new boundaries for most of us, forced by a nasty contagious virus that has spread globally. Many do not like the restrictions and rules. I don’t blame them, I don’t care for them either.

But we have always had boundaries. Our laws give us the freedom to move within the realms of society. God’s commandments give us hedges of protection and guidance for behavior. Not obeying the rules has some unpleasant consequences.

But, sometimes we like to live on the edge. Perhaps we are tempted to ignore the rules and follow someone or something, even if it goes against our grain. Always a dangerous thing lest we fall into trouble.

But here is the good news. God is there to pick us up and place us back in the comfort of His realm of safety. His lap is always available for one more person to crawl into for comfort. He is our security, our strength, and shelter. Always.

Praise God for the boundaries He sets, and for his boundless love.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

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