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Archive for the ‘Life Experiences’ Category

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A local Christian radio personality relayed how she was driving down the road when a cop flashed his lights and motioned her to pull over.  She admitted her blood pressure rose and her teeth clenched because she wasn’t speeding. How dare he?!

Then he told her that around the blind curve was a huge obstacle in the road and the road was very poorly lit. At highway speeds, she’d have careened into it. Other policemen were removing it now. Would she mind waiting about ten  minutes.

After she sputtered and nodded, the officer jumped in his car, and with lights flashing, swirled around to block the road for the oncoming vehicles behind her. She publicly thanked the policeman on the radio and apologized for her initial reaction.

It made me wonder how often God blocks my path and I MP900444553[1]grouse about it. How often does He detour me from danger and I complain because things are not happening “my way”? How often were those irritating moments that delayed me –like the cat hacking a furball in my shoe just before I went to slip it on, or a button snapping that I have to quickly repair, or the moving van blocking my exit from my apartment complex for a few minutes– actually work to my advantage without me knowing it?

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Lord, forgive me. Let me publicly say thank you to You for putting obstacles in my path and delays in my day. Thank you for the story on the radio today that stepped on my spiritual toes a bit. Next time, I will try to be more patient and praise You in all circumstances. Through Your Son and by Your Spirit I pray, Amen.

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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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wool-1142177_640You want to pull it, but you know you shouldn’t. That dangling thread on the seam of your clothes is bugging you. Does that describe your life?

I looked down and saw it. Arghh. Now would everyone see it? Would it snag on things through the day?  A broken strand of thread dangled out of the seam. And I was running late.

Do I pull it? Is it worth the risk unraveling the whole hem?

Tape it? Most likely it wouldn’t hold very long.

Snip it? A temporary fix, but that wouldn’t solve the issue of the broken thread unraveling again. I knew the integrity of the stitch had been compromised. But it might give me time to deal with it later…when I get the chance.

Things in our lives can feel as if they are starting to unravel. What we have carefully hemmed together is starting to tear. What do we do about it?  Do we yank at the problem to get rid of it quickly and take the chance of it all falling apart? If we tug, it might reveal more and more that has become untied.

Do we tape it and hide the issue from others, hoping it will stay beneath the surface. Then go one about our business as if it is fixed?

Or do we snip at it each time it appears, never really investing the time to dealing with it properly?

Do we rush to discard that piece of clothing, put on something else, and toss it in the to-be-meded pile?

Or do we actually stop, take time to tie it, stitch it back, and secure it so it doesn’t happen anymore?

I once heard that a day knotted with prayer at both ends won’t unravel. Paul says it this way:

The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope. I Colossians 1:5 (MSG)

When something snags in our lives, we need to deal with that equilibrist-1831016_640dangling thread lest it unravel us. Hope, bolstered by prayer, is the best way to re-anchor our faith.  We need to allow our Lord to be the needle which can guide the wayward thread and knot it so it doesn’t affect the rest of the hem that is our life.

That may mean stopping what we are doing in order to handle it. It may involve a few pricks of our conscience as His needle deals with the transgression, anger or guilt. Perhaps it will cause us to halt in our tracks and not go further until we are sure it is dealt with properly.

But unless it is resolved correctly, that dangling thread tickling our conscience will bother us over and over until we are forced to deal with it. And by that time, the things hemming our lives might be starting to unravel enough that it shows.

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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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A post-Christmas God-lesson: It looked so bare!

The Twelve Days of Christmas came to an end. So with a heavy sigh, I boxed up all the Christmas decorations. The tree, the wreaths, the garland and stockings on the mantle, the potted poinsettias (fake because the real ones are highly toxic to cats), and of course my two Creche scenes with the Holy family and my advent wreath and candles.

space-1715058_640I stacked the boxes in the back of my closet, stretched the kink from my lower spine, and walked back into the living room.

My heart sank. It appeared so bare.

Okay-maybe not as bare as in this photo, but in my mind it looked about the same.  Perhaps you have had that experience.

It made me wonder how that manger over 2,000 years ago looked after the Holy family vacated it. Did the innkeeper scratch his head in confused wonder and whisper to the livestock, “Funny, it never looked this barren before.”

As I pouted, God tapped my soul’s shoulder. Julie-I’m still here.

“I know, God. You are always there. It’s just at Christmas it seems we can see You more easily. Joy and good cheer, charity and giving make the season bright. It is as if we finally take being Your light in the world seriously.”

I heard His celestial chuckle. Christmas is the incarnation of me coming into the world, dwelling in flesh. Now, I dwell in you, and every Christ believer. You carry on my incarnation, guided by my Holy Spirit. Right before I ascended into heaven I said, “Lo I am with you always.” I meant that. You don’t need to see a figurine of me as a baby lying a manger to remind you of that fact, do you? You don’t need a candle flame or a star topping a tree to know I am the Light, correct?

I cast my gaze downward and dug my toe into the carpet. “No, Lord.” Then my mood brightened. I glanced around my living room, and then to the ceiling.

“Lord, may my life, as it begins 2017, be a bare room. May You, as the months go by, fill it to Your glory so everyone I meet knows You are here, even it is is not the Christmas season. Decorate it as You please.”

I think He smiled.

After all that is the theme of this blog, which He inspired, and ID-100141400it has been for the past four years. May this blog be filled to His glory this year with ways I’ve found God in my daily journey so you can be encouraged to seek Him in your day as well.

 

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The following is written by Penelope Marquez, an author I know. It is taken from her novella, Hoping for Joy, part of the Love Is series based on 1 Corinthians 13, releasing today.  http://www.prismbookgroup.com/love-is-series.

Soon after Logan’s sister dies, her preschool aged daughter, Joy, who is now his responsibility, disappears.  His father has had a debilitating stroke and his fiance is severely injured in a car accident, possibly intentionally caused by the drug lord who killed his sister.

Now he is stuck in a mega traffic jam and can’t get to her. His anger at God increases. Prayer seems futile. He ponders if God really cares, or is even real.

 

ladybug-169943_1280When he opened the bag, a ladybug flew out. It landed on his hand.

His sister had loved ladybugs. He glared at it. “Fine. I give up. This is a message. Give it to me straight.”

The ladybug crawled along, struggling over each hair in its path. Every hair was an obstacle to its goal. Logan pondered over his own plight. His life was littered with obstacles, too, but unlike the ladybug, his problems involved people. He could not protect them, or fix them, or find  them when they were lost.

The ladybug stopped when it reached the cuff of his sweater, which undoubtedly looked like  a mountain to the little insect. It turned around briefly and stared at where it had been before it swung back to attempt to conquer the woolen peak. He frowned at the insect, but held still so he wouldn’t disturb it. The ladybug believed itself capable of scaling a vertical wall of yarn. It fell backward and landed upside down. All six of its tiny legs swirled in the air. He gently touched it with the fingernail on his pinky and set it upright. It held still for a moment and then flew out the window.

He was sad he had lost his small friend, but hoped it would find a safe place to rest. He wondered if he was like a god to the ladybug. How many of those small insects fell over with no one to help them?  How many people simply crushed ladybugs?

A chill slid up his back. Though Logan had struggled to do what he could, he had no control over life’s circumstances. He was powerless. He was alone. His burdens would crush him if he didn’t share the load with someone. Who could help him?

For a long time, he had denied God’s existence. What if he was wrong? What if there was something bigger than everyone? He was a giant to the ladybug. Could the tiny bug see him, or only his hand and sleeve? Maybe he couldn’t see God because God was too big for him to see all at once.

But perhaps he could see parts of Him if he tried.

 

God finally got to the microbiologist  Logan, mourning for his deceased sister, by sending a ladybug. He touches each of us in unique ways. Where will you find God in your life today? What message does He have just for you?

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