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Archive for the ‘Life Experiences’ Category

When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it. Job 29:24a

I met a friend for lunch. For the first time in a long time, it was actually an almost cool day in north Texas. Therefore, we sat on the front patio of the restaurant. It is a popular lunch spot, so if you love to people watch, this is the perfect place.

I imagine close to a hundred people passed by in the time we were there. Students from the university down the road wandered in, as did the medical staff from the hospitals and clinics up the road. So did business people in their suits, ties or heels. Sprinkled in between were retired couples, tourists, moms on a rare lunch out, and workers with their names on their uniform shirts or badges.

What surprised me the most was the countenance on most of their faces. On a cool day after a good rain that was so needed during our stretch of 100 plus temperatures, you’d think people would be uplifted, walk with a spring in their step, feel rejuvenated. But most wore a scowl or straight face.  Many seemed bent over with the weight of the world on their backs. A few, who had arranged to meet, nodded at each other, and then fell into mutual silence.  Some ignored everything around them as they stared into tiny screens as if it provided an invisible shield. Couples walked together in a marital patterned, robot-like pace without touching each other.

The only ones who broke the drudgery lunch time routine with laughter were three women taking out indulgent deserts in boxes, trying to convince each other they shouldn’t feel guilty.

I thought of how our Father in Heaven must see us. All His children running around like irritated ants whose mound has been kicked. How it must break His heart to have so many pass up His freely given love and choose the world view instead. It made me realize how far from God our daily lives have drifted here in America where we are supposed to be one nation under Him. I almost wanted to stand on the table and shout out, “Smile, people. Jesus loves you!”

But I didn’t. Instead, we linked hands and prayed. Will you pray with me, now?

Heavenly Lord, draw your creatures back to You. Let them realize they are not alone and to seek You each day. Help them to see You are right there, waiting. You came down in the form of Jesus, Your Son, to bring us back into Your merciful grace. Through His sacrifice, we can have direct access to You with each and every breath we take.  Help us, who believe, be more and more in touch with your Holy Spirit in us and to see evidence of Your presence in our daily walk so we can guide others to You. We pray this through Christ and in His name. Amen.

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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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Since 2012, I have been blogging on things that God has shown me. So, now it’s your turn.

 

Today I saw something rather interesting. A squirrel skittered across the tops of the planks on the privacy fence.  Three house finches chirped about four planks away, blocking his path. As the squirrel neared, the birds spooked and flew, but only a few feet ahead before landing back on the fence. The squirrel kept on it’s precarious path. Once he got close, the finches fluttered a few feet further down the fence.

This occurred three times before they finally flew off to a nearby tree. As soon as they did, the squirrel hopped down and dashed across the driveway. Guess the game was over?

What God message do you see in that, if any? I’d be curious to know.

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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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Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Psalm 25:4

I spoke with my insurance agent about renewing my policy. As she clicked away on the keyboard at her end I heard her frustrated sigh. “Sorry, this computer keeps wanting to take me where I don’t want to go.”

I’ve been there. Click and a screen appears that I didn’t expect, or a pop that tells me a new password is required (and I have to rack my brain to recall it), or requesting the answer to a security question. Or my favorite, READ ERROR 404. Argh.

After a few more huffs into my receiver, she acted surprised. “Oh, here we are. It got me to the screen I needed. I didn’t think about going this route.”

courtesy of Facebook posting – no artist noted.

It made me think though how often these digital incidences raise my blood pressure…

Then God whispered into my heart,”How often do you react the same way when I detour your plans?”

Lately, God has been yanking me out of several comfort zones, and I haven’t wanted to go!

But the truth is, rerouting is a part of life. Abram was called to leave his homeland. The Hebrews had to relocate to Egypt during a famine , as did Joseph with Mary and the baby Jesus. Jesus rerouted his followers through Samaria, a land where no good Jew would venture back then. God rerouted Paul in his ministry when he wanted to go to Asia.

Today, believers are often rerouted as well. We are constantly in the battle to die to self and live for others. To go against the grain of self-centered secularism and show hospitality,

sacrificial love and forgiveness.

Where has God rerouted you, perhaps dragged you against your will? How did it turn out? Probably pretty well, despite the doubts, hardships, and stumbles. Sometimes He  has to takes us where we never thought we’d go so He can teach us, comfort us, correct us, or grow us.

At times our faith walk can be a drag…in a good way.

 

 

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But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  Ephesians 5:13

At a women’s retreat about a year ago I won the door prize of an African violet. It bloomed for a while, then stopped. For months it kept putting out leaves but it never bloomed again. I figured maybe it was out of season. But this spring, though it still thrived, was pushing out new leaves…no blooms.

So I went on line and asked, “Why won’t my African Violet bloom?” The top three articles said the same thing– it needs more light. Oh. Okay.  I opened my blind slats a bit more. Within in a few weeks tiny buds appeared.

I realized, that’s me. I can read the Bible, I can pray, I can attend church. I will thrive and continue to grow, but will I blossom? No. Not unless I expose myself to His light regularly, daily.

Wait, you may say. Doesn’t all of that you said accomplish the purpose? Yes, if I don’t filter it out. If I don’t review my grocery list while I am reading about wheat in the Bible, or if my mind doesn’t wander when I pray, or if I concentrate less on the pew in front of me — the man with a cough, the wiggly child, or the woman whose clothes tag is dangling on the outside of her blouse– and more on worship.

We can be exposed to God and yet not bask in His light. We may think enough filters in, and yet we are not blooming the way we should. His power lies dormant inside of us, waiting to burst forth because something is in the way of the rays. Life-stress, anger, jealousy, an unforgiving attitude.

In order to reflect the Son, we need Him shining in our lives daily, unhindered by the blinds of world. If you are not blooming, maybe it is time you opened the blind slats a bit more. You may find what you really need is more exposure in order to bask more in His warm love and soak in His grace. Figure out what is blocking the light and how to adjust your focus. Soon, people will notice a difference in your face and attitude. You will be blossoming.

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But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.  2 Peter 3:18

This is hardly a new observation, but it is something I observed anew…perhaps because God wanted me to be reminded of this simple truth.

I bought a planter to grow “cat grass” because it was less expensive than purchasing the planted ones already growing in the pet store. My always-indoor beasties need grass every now and then to aid their digestion, but no access to it other than what I bring to them. To keep them from chomping on my house plants, I give them their own.

The kit arrived, containing a planter, four small mulch discs, and a packet of grass seeds – rye, barley, wheat, and oats. The instructions said to place a disc into one of the planting squares and add water. Wait ten minutes. Then make a well in each square, plant the seeds, and cover them with the damp soil. Place it in a diffused sunny place and keep the room temperature at 68 degrees or above. In 3-4 days, my cats would have grass. Easy enough.

Still I was skeptical. How long had those dry seeds been in the packet? No expiration date on them. They could be years old and I wouldn’t  know. Sure enough, by the end of day two, tiny shoots of grasses began to emerge from the mulch. It worked!

You see where this is going. Jesus told parables about seeds. We’ve read them, heard many a sermon on them. So, what did God remind me?

First, that seeds can lay dormant for a long time, but with the right elements (water, nutrient soil, and sun) they can suddenly sprout. Same thing goes for people. You may think you have had no influence, but given time and the right circumstances, what was lying dormant can begin to push through.

Second, follow instructions and leave the rest up to God. Put aside skepticism. I didn’t know if I could trust this manufacturer to produce a product that would do as it claimed. But I do know my God keeps His promises. If He says it will happen, it will.

Third, in order for me to grow, I need three things – the Son shining gently in my heart, the Word to be a nutrient for my mind, and the Living Water soaking my soul with faith and trust. Eventually what God has planted in me will begin to grow so I can be of service to others in need.

Speaking of instructions…The Lord told me to write this. So I am obeying. Maybe because you needed reminding as well? Seeds planted.

 

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