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Archive for the ‘Life Experiences’ Category

“Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”  Luke 11:36

 

The morning sun peeked through the slats in my window blinds and landed on one of my potted plants. The leaves became almost transparent. I could see the veins as if they were being x-rayed. Each vein not only provides nourishment and strength to the leaf but helps to define its shape.

Are we not the same when Christ, the Light of the World, lives inside us? His mercy and goodness shape us. His Word flows through us to strengthen us and nourish us. When Jesus’ light shines through our words, thoughts, and deeds, people see him. We almost become transparent. Or so it should be.

One thing else I’ve noticed. If I let any dust settle on the plant leaves, the sunlight does not filter through as well. That hurts the plant and can prevent its leaves from growing strong and green. It may droop, or wither.

If we let the dust and dirt of the world settle on us, it can dim Christ’s influence. We can droop under the weight and not receive the light we daily need. It can accumulate on us over time to where very little of Christ is shining through us.

It is important that we are regularly cleansed of our sins so we can shine brightly and attract others to his love. Then, what he is doing inside of us will not be in vain, but his veins of mercy, grace, and love will be easily seen by others.

 

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A friend of mine is an avid urban gardener. She and her family plant beautiful flowers and raise their own vegetables in the backyard. I noticed tall cylinder-shaped cages in the middle. She explained that was for training the flowering vines and tomato vines. The cages also protect them from critters who may wander into the yard looking for a juicy snack.

It made me think of how God’s Holy Spirit surrounds us. Psalm 5:12 says, Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Boundaries are a good thing. We all need them in our lives. They protect us and steer us just as my niece’s tomato seedlings need their cages to grow and produce large, ripe succulent fruit. (I remember in my biology class that tomatoes are actually classified as fruit though we call them vegetables.)

Sometimes we resist these boundaries. Our independent spirit wants us to break out so we can be free. Teenagers especially. But we adults are not immune to fudging the rules now and then. We go 68 in a 65-speed zone. We make excuses for not doing our household chores and laugh about it on social media. We have that tempting brownie when we have been placed on a medically recommended diet. Who will know?

Then there are those little white lies…

However, because we are way too human in nature, we need to be caged in just like tomatoes or flowering vines. Otherwise, we may grow in a willy-nilly direction. The Lord, once we let Him establish Himself in our hearts and our lives, provides the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) to guide us in how we are to treat others. His laws and commandments structure our behavior. We know we are the branches, attached to His vine for survival (John 15). All of these things, for our own good, and for the benefit of others, cage us in. We should be thankful for these boundaries, not resist them.

My friend also puts benevolent crawly things in her garden to ward off the ones who might chomp on her vegetables before her family gets a chance to do so. These creepy-crawlies as much as the so-called destructive ones so, the good ones also make my skin crawl. Blechh. However, she is thankful for them because she knows they have a beneficial purpose.

This extra measure of care reminds me that sometimes God brings things into our lives we do not normally consider as good, but in His wisdom, they are exactly that. For example, I couldn’t understand why my two elderly cats, the stability in my widowhood, had to die a few months apart. It was devastating. My mourning ran deep.

Then I underwent testing for allergies at the suggestion of my doctor because I’d kept having sinus issues for the past several years. Sure enough. I had developed a whopping allergy to cats!  Plus, my apartment complex underwent new management and they wanted another 200 dollars for an animal damage deposit per pet upon renewal of the lease. I had no idea both of these events were in my near future at the time the second one passed away, but God did.

Who knew my loving Lord would use tomatoes and cats to teach me a valuable lesson about his care, protection, and boundary setting reasons? Well, He did. What an awesome act of love!

cropped-storm-clouds-2-134981298598261vgu1.jpgOftentimes, tragedy can have a silver lining. God will purpose good from the devil’s evil schemes, proving once again He is in control and has a use for us right up until the end.  Even in the midst of sorrow, there can be joy, like a single sun ray bursting through the storm clouds.

This blog, Where Did You Find God Today, explores the multitude of ways God reaches, teaches, and sometimes preaches to us in our everyday lives. I hope the examples in this short article encourages you to open your faith-eyes to His wondrous ways. His lessons are all around us.

I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw (Proverbs 24:32).

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But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Psalm 22:19

Rabbi David Wolpe tells the story of a father and son walking along a path. They come across a huge rock in the road. The son flexes his muscle and asks if his father thinks he can move it. The father answers, “Of course, if you use all of your strength.” The son tries and tries, but it barely budges. He gives up, exhausted. “You said I could move it if I used all my strength. You were wrong.” The father crouches down to his eye level. “But you didn’t use all of your strength. You didn’t ask me for help.”

When I heard that my heart crunched. How often have I relied on my own strength thinking God prepares me for whatever comes along so I can handle it myself? True to my Anglo heritage, I put on a stiff upper lip and soldier on. Then alone in my room, exhausted and frustrated, I admit my weakness and cry out as tears flow.

When did I forget that I can only do all things through Christ who gives me strength, not because Christ has given me the strength to do it on my own? (Philippians 4:13). He prepares me by teaching me to trust Him. He comes alongside and adds His power to my powerlessness. In my weakness, I am made strong because I lean on Him through faith in Him, not in my abilities.

Paul knew this. He told the Corinthians in his second letter- But he [Christ] 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (12:9).

Life has a habit of dropping boulders in our path. Illness, job loss, divorce, death, betrayal. Instead of asking for God to give us the strength to endure, let us ask our Father to use His strength to help us. He will help us find a way around it, under it, over it, or to move it away.  We were never meant to battle this world on our own. Our faith is not weak if we cry out for help. Our strength is multiplied when we apply faith to our situation and ask Dad for help.

Lord, teach me to lean on You more and less on myself. As I get older, there are more and more things I can’t do on my own. I need Your strength. In my weakness I am becoming stronger because You are right there with me, helping me. Thank you, Dad, for coming each time I call on You. May I return the favor and come each time You call on me to be Your example of love to the world.  Amen.

 

 

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HOW MANY CROSSES DO YOU SEE?

Yep, I said crosses, plural. Sure, there is the pottery one hanging on my patio wall. But do you see others? Look carefully.

Each window pane has a cross. If you look at the balconies, the rails form two crosses when viewed with the door jambs.  The roof of the carport to the left lines up with the edge of the building, making a cross-shaped image. Can you find anymore now that you have had a few clues?

The point is, we often are too focused on the obvious to see the serendipities God brings into our day.  Little things, which prove He is there and cares, go unseen.  It may take focus, imagination, or seeing things in a new way to spot these.

That is sort of what this blog is all about…detecting God-moments and messages in our lives.

The more you open your mind and eyes to seek Him, the more evidence you will find of His presence. Look out your window. How many things remind you of His presence? His all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect nature? His grace and mercy? Does that not make you smile and lift your spirits?

If we concentrated more on seeking God in our lives instead of finding fault in ourselves and others, wouldn’t it change not only our outlook but that of those we encounter?

My mother, who was a teacher, said that when we’re taught in school to find “what is wrong with this picture”  or to decide “which answer is not correct” it trains our minds to see things in a negative way. She never put questions that required a negative response as the correct one on her tests.

Retrain the brain. For one week, whenever a negative thought tries to surface, seek a positive reminder of God’s love instead. Then thank Him.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  Hebrews 12:1b-2a.

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I hung up a bird feeder to see if I could attract birds, now that I no longer have cats. I poured in easy pickings especially blended for songbirds.

However, I am not sure I will attract any birds because the AC units are right outside of my apartment patio. One, in particular, services my neighbor upstairs. It is rather noisy. And he likes his place to be kept cool, so it kicks on all day and night.

This situation made me think about how many times the noise in my life keeps me from hearing the still, small voice of my loving Father as relayed through the Holy Spirit. How often do I miss out on His blessings because I am not intuned to His holy whispers?  When have I been so distracted seeking what I need that I have not seen what is right in front of me?

Will I fly by as I search for something else, or will I stop and perch in His presence, tasting that the Lord is good?

I hope little sparrows, cardinals, and finches find my feeder chock full of seeds. I’d even enjoy seeing a bushy-tailed squirrel precariously dangling on it trying to get the corn and sunflower husks. I hope they will find the good things and decide to partake, and not be distracted by the rattletraps humming below.

I also hope the same for you and me. May the noise of our world never drown out the wonderful, loving messages from our Lord.

My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. Psalm 78:1

 

P.S. Four days later: Three sparrows and two finches have found my feeder!

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So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  Colossians 2:6-7

Three years ago I posted the saga of my now 45-year-old corn plant. Back then, at about 3 1/2 feet tall, it had pretty much stagnated in growth. Today it has grown to 5 feet high.

Why am I telling you this?  First, in my new space, it has a more constant, diffused light. Southern exposure provides it a soft, strong source of continuous sunrays. And it has taken off.

I recently did something else to it. My son and I transplanted it into a much larger pot. It had become root-bound. Poor thing. One bag of enriched soil later, it was safely settled into its new surroundings and place back by in the southern exposure window it loves. NOw it has stretched its leaves to a full, luscious green canopy.

So, why am I telling you this??? Are we not the same? We all love our comfort zones, but we don’t grow well in familiarity. Life is about change. If change doesn’t occur, how will we grow? How will we expand our thoughts, stretch our imaginations, and flourish in our faith?

Sometimes I think God puts us in new situations for our own good. We have become root-bound, wound up in our own little world. We need to have fresh fertile soil and new boundaries to reach out.

One thing I know from experience is that God always makes good out of difficult situations. I see a lot of good coming out of this pandemic. People have reevaluated what is important. Many have turned back to God for answers, support, and comfort. Neighbors who barely knew each other are pitching in to help each other, even if it is at six feet distances. Folks are more “other conscious” and friendly. There is a bond that grows from shared experiences that strengthens cities, communities, and people. It is like the mortar joining bricks in a wall.

Maybe we’ve just been transplanted into a larger situation right now. It may feel uncomfortable to unwind from our tightly-balled comforts, but as we extend out, we will grow…stronger, better, and more beautiful as long as we dig our roots into the One who gave us life, and by His merciful grace extends it into eternity for those who believe.

And the more we bask in continuous soft and nourishing Light of The Word, we will grow in the right direction.  Standing tall in our faith, rooted in Christ.

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You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. Jonah 2:3

It was an unpleasant experience, to say the least.  The room spun so fast I lost all sense of balance, like a bug on a ceiling fan at high speed. I couldn’t walk. I had no bearings. I had to clamp my eyes closed, deciding that the swirling darkness was not as nauseating as seeing the room whirl backward.

After about an hour, it was not calming down. I crawled to my cell phone and called 911. The EMTs got there quickly but I had to trust these strangers to lead me to the gurney, into the ambulance, and head off to the ER. Then wheel me out, push me backward down the hall, and into an exam room. I also had to trust the nurses, CT tech and ER doctors to figure out what was wrong and how to treat it.

For the next three hours, I spun in darkness until the meds kicked in. All due to an inner ear infection. Tiny crystals in one of our smallest organs got out of whack and sent my world into turmoil without warning. How amazing!

Life can do something similar to us. We can lose our bearings. We grope for answers. Illness, economics, tragedies, and pandemics whirl us around to where we don’t know what is up or down.

But in the midst of all of this is one fact. God is there. My prayers were my anchor that day. I held on tight, trying to keep calm until His peace waved over me instead of panic. Jonah, swallowed into the belly of the whale, was saved from drowning.  I, strapped to a gurney, was saved from falling. We both learned a vital lesson anew. God has a purpose for everything. Even in the direst of circumstances.

I realized that I can depend on Him, and those He sends to assist me. I am not alone, even though I live alone. This too will pass. He continues to be my stronghold. I won’t spin out of control. Help is available.

I hope you have discovered the same thing during all the chaos of social distancing and isolation. I hope you have drawn closer to God and realized that the things that matter in life are not the material ones. We all need each other, and we need Him.

I pray you stay safe and hang onto the Rock. He is our sure foundation. That is a promise we can stand upon, no matter how wobbly we feel.

 

 

 

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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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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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I hope this won’t last.

I hope my situation changes soon.

I hope you’re right.

 

We hope for many things, but there is one thing we should hope for above all else.

That is hope itself.

 

 

H – Holding

O – Onto

P – Promised

E – Eternity

 

When we hold onto the hope that God is in control, that He is with us, and that His love is unfailing and unending, then everything else falls into perspective. Whatever happens in this broken world (and things will happen) pales in comparison to what lies ahead for those who believe in Christ’s sacrifice, death, and resurrection.

That may sound like a trite, pat answer but I can tell you from personal experience it has been my lifeline as I dangled over bubbling tar pits of poor health, financial insecurity, a broken marriage, a child not expected to survive several surgeries, and the deaths of loved ones.

As a close friend of mine once said, “The Bible says ‘this, too shall pass.’ Thank goodness it doesn’t say, ‘this, too shall stay.'” That is hope.

Good days and bad days all last the same amount of time–twenty-four hours. Trials never last, though at times they seem like they will never end. The love of God, for those who believe, outlasts anything else.

Paul stated in his letter to the Philippians that he had learned to be content no matter the circumstances (4:11-12). He wrote that while in a Roman prison not knowing how much longer he’d have before he was fed to the wild beasts or hung on a cross like his Savior. Even so, Paul had hope because he knew without a doubt what lay ahead for him beyond this life.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24

If you need to hang onto anything, dear friend, hang onto hope. Never let go.

 

 

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