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Archive for the ‘Life Experiences’ Category

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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Allergies. Annoying. Postnasal drip, persistent cough, pressure around the teary eyes. I have been under immunotherapy for 6 months where the allergist injects into my body the things that irritate my body, slowing increase the amount, so I will build up an immunity to them. So far, it has only made my symptoms worse and my body wants to reject them even more. The allergist says it is part of the process and eventually my body will accept these irritants.

It seems this world wants us to undergo spiritual immunotherapy. Slowly our minds are injected with a viewpoint that initially the Holy Spirit in us would scream, “Reject!” Little by little, we are exposed over and over again to the things that prick our conscience. They get under our skin. Everywhere we look, acceptance is promoted.

Eventually, we can begin to get used to it as semi-normal. Seeing or hearing about these activities and opinions does not cause the adverse reaction they once did. We look the other way. After all, we are not to judge, right? It is a lifestyle, and if they have found love and happiness, is that so bad? There is too much hate in the world as it is.

A wise minister once said that Jesus loves us where we are, but too much to leave us there. God is there. And He cares.

We have all fallen short. We all sin. But, that means we all must be drawn to repentance of the sin, not acceptance. While we can love the sinner, and we should in order to help them, let us not become immune to the sin no matter what it is.

They say that sin always has “I” in the middle. The “I” doesn’t mean immunotherapy. It means looking inwardly at oneself. If that does not spur a need for repentance then that “I” is the issue. I am just born this way. It is who I am, accept me anyway. I don’t want to change.

The only cure is to replace the “I” with an “O” – let the sin be changed by the Son. He alone can encourage each of us to omit sin from our lives. But each of us can help open hearts to His ways by refusing to become immune to sin and yet still loving the person anyway. That takes strength from the Holy Spirit. And it takes time.

Maybe if we worked more to eliminate sin in our society rather than build up an immunity to it we could all breathe a bit easier. 

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-3

 

 

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“Let them come to me for refuge; let them make peace with me… ” Isaiah 27:5

Training pets takes patience, time, and tenacity. I’ve had my little guinea pig for about five months now. At first, he was so afraid of this giant outside of his cage but slowly he has come to trust me as the person who opens his bag of food to scoop some into his bowl or reaches in the refrigerator to bring him veggies. But, I am also the one who disturbs him when I have to clean out his cage. Sometimes I turn on this loud box with flashing pictures and weird sounds in the evening. And I use this noisy machine with a light in front of it and run it back and forth across the carpet.

Several times a week I lay an old beach towel down on the sofa and let him wander around on it as I sit at one end. Usually, I lay down a snack for him as well. He has slowly started to come to me on his own, cuddling next to my hip and giving off soft guinea pig chortles. But only for a few seconds, then he’d skitter away. After a few minutes, he’d return, but the cautious pattern continued.

Last night an amazing thing happened. He stopped, crawled into my lap, up my torso, and licked my face. That is guinea pig for “I love you and want to be near you.” Then he nestled in my neck.

My heart melted.

I thought how similar our sweet Lord must feel when we finally come to Him on our own accord. How many of us cower, afraid to near His throne, even though through Christ we can have that privilege. He seems so big, so mighty, and His ways are not ours. He does things we do not understand. But slowly, as we realize He provides out of love and cares for us, we begin to trust Him more and more. We learn to draw near and rest in His presence for comfort and safety.

Unlike my domesticated guinea pig, we humans can forge out a living on our own. We can get our own food, build our own houses, choose our environment. We don’t need God…or so we think. What a day of rejoicing in Heaven it must be when one of us finally decides to trust our Master enough to crawl up from our situation and reach out to Him then whisper, “I love you and want to be near you.” Let us not then skitter away.

 

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The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” Jeremiah 1:12

After seven years, I finally was able to afford new glasses. I had gotten by okay with the old ones. They were not scratched up.  I could read street signs if I drove close enough. The computer screen appeared a tad fuzzy, more like looking through a thin film of dust. But I could read what I had typed.

When the optometrist showed me the difference between my vision with the old glasses and what I could see through her lens, it became very obvious I needed a new prescription. When new glasses were placed on my nose, the world appeared so clear, so sharp. I could read street signs from a distance, see leaves on the trees, and the letters on my computer screen became crisp.

In life, I think we can get used to seeing things a certain way. We adapt ourselves to it. But perhaps, we need an adjustment now and then. God may bring a situation into our lives that help us to see things from a new perspective.  A small adjustment can make a huge difference. Perhaps we didn’t understand why he or she acted the way they did. We didn’t see the situation clearly. Now that we see them through God’s perspective, we have new empathy for them.

Glasses can help us visualize our world more clearly. Could it be we also need glasses on our hearts to better see things the way God does so we can respond the way He wants?

 

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Do you know why they put erasers on pencils? Because humans use them.

In other words, none of us are perfect. We make mistakes. In fact, we learn more from our mistakes than we do our successes. Why? Because we have already corrected errors and moved on when we succeed. The lesson has been learned.

A friend gave me the ultimate “human pencil”. It has two erasers. I hope she wasn’t trying to tell me something.

But after I laughed, I saw great meaning in it. This is the type of eraser Christ uses in our lives when we confess our wrongdoings. One that will never run out. No matter how many times our sins are confessed, His three hours on the cross has already eradicated them.

Not to say there are no consequences for our actions. After all, we must learn from our mistakes, and sometimes that lesson is harsh. It may even seem unfair when we see others “getting away with it”. But it is part of the process to erase sin from our lives. Over and over.

A devotional writer once wrote about her father’s comment that there are two types of people in this world – saved sinners and unsaved sinners. We all need erasers in this life.

But here is the good news. There is no need for erasers in Heaven. We will be perfected and purified in Christ to stand before the throne of God. And as it says in Revelation 3:5,  I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will declare his name before my Father and before his angels.

Hallelujah.

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“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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