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Archive for the ‘Life Experiences’ Category

We both burst out laughing. We couldn’t help it. My writing critique partner and I were going over an article I wrote in which I stated we are all untied in Christ. Typo.

I meant the word united, of course. My dyslexic fingers reversed the letters i and t.

Hmmm. Then we both looked at each other and grinned. “Blog topic!” I cried out.

She nodded. She knows me too well.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14

What keeps things untied instead of united? It’s a matter of the strength and tightness of the strings, isn’t it?  One draws together, the other pulls apart.

When a person ties their shoes, they pull the strings, which in turn, draw the two flaps of the shoe to become interlinked together. The shoe becomes tight. It won’t come off as easily. It is sturdy and secure.

Unite the strings and the two flaps separate. Now the foot can easily slide out. Anyone who has watched a toddler wobble with untied shoelaces knows it is a trip hazard.

We, believers, are no different. To be strong and secure in Christ’s love we must be bound together. Christianity is meant to be a community thing, not just a “me and Jesus” fest. That is why we are His Body. We are made to interact, support, and work with each other as the parts of the shoe do when strung together. As the author of Hebrews warned, let’s not give up meeting together as some have been the habit of doing (10:25).  Satan’s battle plan has always been to divide and then conquer.

When we are united in Christ, we are drawn together by His love into a solid unit. Christ’s love is the “tie” that binds us.  He interweaves us together so we can become stronger in our faith, in our commitment, and in our service to others. It is hard to slip out of His grasp when we are tightly bound together.

But, once we begin to wriggle loose, we slip away from the other members of the Body. We are separated a bit so it is easier to slide out of the binds that previously bound us. The longer we remain apart, the further away we tend to get from not only our faith but the fellowship with other Christians. Oh, we may still go to church and smile and pretend everything is hunky-dory. But the close-knit feeling is missing. After a while, we may fool ourselves into believing church attendance is less important than a few more hours of sleep.

Slowly, other things in our lives loosen. Our habits, maybe our tongues? Our morals?

It’s all a matter of where we place the i and t –the “it” in our lives.  United shows that U ‘n I  are together.  Let the “t” (temptation) separate U and I and we are no longer as closely bound together.

What is the “t” that threatens to separate you from Christ and perhaps other believers who make up the Church (Body of Christ)?  Pride, unforgiveness, hurt, doubt, anger?

When one of us is not in church to worship and fellowship, the whole Body suffers. We need each other like the two halves of leather on a shoe.

Let’s U ‘n I make every effort to draw together often so we can be strong ties to our Lord through His love and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our faith, attitudes, and service will be better for it.

People will notice the unity that binds us in Christ’s love. We may also find our lives seem less unraveled as well.

 

 

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I was out of paper sacks, so I loaded my recyclables into a plastic trash bag and headed for the community recycling dumpster.  I had full intentions of opening the sack and dumping its contents into the receptacle. The bag was simply a means to carry the items to their destination.

As I walked along the drive, a man pulled over and rolled down his window. “Don’t dump it in there! They’ll fine us and we will lose the privilege of having a recycling dumpster here.”

He didn’t know my intentions, nor the contents of the trash bag. He assumed…and I was offended. How dare he presume to know my intentions! When I explained, he became red-faced and apologized. Even so, all the way back to my apartment I felt the heat in my cheeks. If he had taken the time to really look, he’d seen that the opaque sack was filled with plastic water bottles, flattened cardboard boxes and shredded paper.

The Holy Spirit convicted me. “You are judging by appearances,” Paul warned his readers in 2 Corinthians 10:7.  How often do I do that? To be honest, too often.

God sees the good intentions on the inside, in our hearts, minds, and souls. All we see is the opaque outside unless we take time to really peer into a person.  Our bodies are simply a means for carrying what are the most important things, the things God can recycle for His use.  Our thoughts, feelings, conscience, desires. He can take all of it and reuse it, remake it, reclaim it.

“God doesn’t make junk”, the bumper stickers proclaimed back in the day. Truth.

From now on, may I trash any preconceptions I have about other people and their intentions. Lord, help me do so.

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I received the following  from Angela Nagarajan from Mumbai, India and asked her permission to share it with you:

John 6:35 says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Photo by Harry Thaker on Unsplash

One of my daily chores is making Indian bread (Chapatis). One morning while I was taking the flour, adding the oil, salt, and water to make the dough, God spoke in His wisdom. He made me realize the symbolism of the ingredients which are added to make the Indian bread.

The wheat flour is Jesus, the oil is the anointing, the salt is us (we are the salt of the earth), and the water is the Holy Spirit.

I was amazed at this thought.

Later, as I kneaded the bread,  God also allowed me to comprehend that without the pressing and kneading I won’t get the dough I want. The same is true in our lives.  Yet through all of our experiences, He is faithful to be with us with the anointing and provides the Holy Spirit to guide us.

So no matter what you go through in life, He is with you in the moment and till the end of time. Press on to Him as He fills you with nourishment.

 

Father God I thank you for wisdom and your loving-kindness. It amazes me how you are with me, even though I may not be aware of your presence. Today help me to know that your purpose is higher than mine, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.  Psalm 25:15

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My parents used to take us to the coast each summer. We were told to be wary of the undertow. My sister and I find pockets of this mild quicksand, and at first, it was weirdly intriguing to watch it surround my feet. Cooler than the surrounding sand, untouched by the sun, it held a strange sensation. I could feel the sand particles almost come alive as they encased my feet. But the longer I stood still, the more the sand developed my lower extremities, up past my ankles. I was stuck! I couldn’t wiggle free.  I was helpless.  TALK ABOUT A SAND TRAP!

My eyes scanned for my mother or father as my breaths quickened and the sand crawled higher.  When our gazes locked and my father dashed to free me, I sighed in relief.

An intriguing, not-so-legal situation, a temptation, a movie with iffy scenes can be intriguing. We are drawn to it. Yes, it may not be proper or wholesome or upright. The Holy Spirit may whisper for us to back off, turn away or be careful…even so….  we venture toward the experience.  A little of it won’t hurt.  I’ll just watch for a few minutes. Everyone else is doing it, right?

Then, we might go deeper, watch longer, become more entangled in the deceit.  Soon, we are stuck. This isn’t fun anymore.  Two choices. Try to get free on our own with our eyes solely on the problem as panic begins to gurgle up from our stomach juices, or…

Raise our eyes and seek our Father. Call out to Daddy for help.

Of course, if we had kept our eyes on Him in the first place, we never would have wandered. But no sense going back to woulda, shoulda.  Instead, it is best to ask forgiveness, receive His help, and move forward while holding on to His hand. It may take a while to shake the wet sand from our feet. Actions do have consequences. But if we walk with our Lord in the way He deems, then the undertows in our world will no longer be a snare.

Just as my father splashed sea water on my toes that day to release the sticky, itchy granules, we can be washed in His waves of mercy.

 

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Maybe I am the only one who still uses an electric mixer instead of a bullet or processor, but the harvest gold one I got as a wedding present in 1976 still works just fine. I use it often in making crustless quiches, almond flour pancakes, and gluten-free, low carb cloud bread.

Anyway, I put the beaters in the dishwasher basket along with the rest of the silverware.  After the dishwasher had done its thing, I wanted to use the beaters again. But I thought I didn’t have time at the moment to empty the  rest of the things in the dishwasher. Wrong. Some of the forks and spoons had gotten mixed up (pun intended) in the loops of the beaters.  I tried to wiggle them free but to no avail. With a deep sigh, I decided I had to remove the utensils one by one in order to get to the beaters.

So, why am I telling you this? Once again I heard that holy whisper.  I found God today in a dishwasher basket.

Sometimes I think that I am ready to have God help me work on a fault.  Yes, I have them. Now you know.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me (Psalm 51:3).

Instead, He gently shows me another area of my life He decides to clean, remove, mold or polish first. Before we can get to the “beaters” we need to remove the other things I hadn’t noticed as an issue.  I don’t think I have the time or the gumption, but He, in His eternal wisdom, knows the order in which to tackle things even if I do not. I have learned that instead of struggling, it is easier to take them one by one and untangle them from my life.

And yes, this old gal is still working, too. Thank you, Lord, for still using me even if I do get things mixed up now and then.

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So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  1 Corinthians 3:7

Back in March, I wrote a devotional about my sad, scrawny little plant I just could not throw out.  (See Barely Thriving). I’m pleased to announce the plant has grown a new, beautiful, dark green, healthy leaf! (It’s the one in the center.)

For the past few weeks, I have been watching it daily with anticipation.  Every morning I’d curl up on my couch, hugging my coffee cup, and determine how much it had “grown” overnight. It started as a small “bump” and when I saw it I caught my breath in my throat. Could it be? After almost a year, a new leaf?

Yes! Within another few days, it was confirmed. Then the stalk began to get longer and longer. Soon, a tightly-wound leaf began to stretch from the tip of the stem and slowly unfurl. It only took a few days before the newly-opened light green leaf darkened as the sun shined on it, spurring the chlorophyll to flow.

If I can root (no pun intended) for a little leaf growing, how much more does God get excited to see growth in me?  Understand that I mean spiritual growth, not my waistline and hips. I can almost envision Him smiling and encouraging me. It made me realize anew that any growth is celebrated. It means progress, no matter how slow.

That thought led to another. How impatient am I in watching for growth in others? Do I become frustrated with them, assuming they are on my timetable and are not putting out the effort they should in order to become more Christ-like? Do I scoff and judge their faith walk? Or do I celebrate whatever tiny revelation I detect in their thoughts or behavior?

If I can celebrate a new leaf growing on a scrawny plant, how much more should I acknowledge the work God is doing in those I know…and in me as well?

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Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, Hebrews 12:28

My pastor stated in our adult Sunday school class that many of us have forgotten what worship should be all about. We so used to sitting in an audience to be entertained, be it in a theatre, concert, or on the couch binging on Netflix that we have a tendency to treat church like that.  We “watch” what is going on near the altar. We may participate by saying amen or sing a hymn. maybe nod when the sermon has a rhetorical question in it. Perhaps we feel a stirring in our hearts over the words of the hymn or what the preacher said. But often times, conversations on the way our the doors is whether or not worship was “any good” that day.

But that is not what worship should be about. It should be us entertaining our Lord, telling Him how much we love Him, honoring Him and giving Him the glory. It’s not about how well the choir sang, or if the preacher got off track, or if the service went off without a hitch. We are not to be the critiques and whine that the church just doesn’t do it for us. If we do, perhaps our focus is on the wrong thing.

It’s not about us. It’s about Him.

Then we are to go into the world, filled with His Spirit, to be His hands and feet to a hurting, confused world filled with lost people. Instead, we crawl into our air-conditioned cars and go out to lunch to be served by a waiter (who didn’t get to go to church but had to work instead) or to the store to be served by a floor clerk and cashier. When we make it home, there is laundry, or the game on TV, or projects to be completed before we hit the ground running on Monday. And church became just another check mark on the to-do list. That’s not worship.

I’ve mulled over his message all week like a cow chewing on its cud.  Not only did it challenge me to check my motives in the pew, but my private worship time as well.  Do I judge my quiet time with God by how I feel at the end? Do I rush through it so I can get to my other errands? Is my time less about praising God for who He is and more about what He can do for me? Is my daily Bible and prayer time just another check mark on my things-to-do-today list?

Euginia Herlihy, an author and spiritual leader from Capetown says, “Praise and worship shouldn’t be a few hours of church service entertainment. It should be our heartbeat and should never depart our lips. ‘Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song’ (Psalms 95:2).” *

Lord, is my worship time all about me…and then You somewhere in the mix? Forgive me if I have slipped into that pattern.

 

 

*https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/praise-and-worship

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“O taste and see that the Lord is good!” Psalm 34:8

This verse had always confused me until I saw something in a restaurant. A mom carved off a very small piece of her meat and put it in her toddler’s mouth. The tiny eyes widened as a smile spread across the little girl’s lips.

The mom nodded. “See? Good.”

Toddlers taste everything. They judge what is good and bad by how it reacts on their tongues. Are we any different? How many of us have asked someone to taste what we are cooking to “see if it is good”?  Even though smell and taste are intertwined, we describe food as yummy or yucky more by its taste than its smell, appearance or texture.

So, why should we not taste and see that God is good?

And how good is He? The yummiest thing ever. Better than gooey caramel, a chocolate candy bar, or a fresh-from-the-oven bread. Better than lobster dripping in butter, chowder on a cold night, or ice cream…well, anytime.

Jesus often used food as a conduit to fellowship. One of his miracles involved multiplying a simple lunch of fish and bread. It wasn’t until He served the disciples fish that they recognized him on the beach after the resurrection. At the Last Supper, He said the bread represented His body and the wine His blood and commanded us to remember Him whenever we broke bread together.

Recently, I had not been physically able to attend church in months. A person from the congregation brought me a small, tasteless wafer from the communion service. That way I could be “a part” of the community of believers that had gathered at the altar table. As it dissolved on my tongue, it truly was the best thing I’d ever tasted. I instantly felt the connection of the Cross…vertically to God and horizontally to the people in my church.

I could almost picture God smile and say, “See? Good.”

Yes, Lord. I have tasted Your goodness and now I see. Let me always hunger and thirst for Your righteousness and for the fellowship with others who believe. Amen.

 

 

 

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In Bible study on the Book of Exodus, our lecturer said the Ark of the Covenant was a “portable Eden”. It was where God chose to dwell among His people on earth.  Placed in the Holy of Holies inside the Tabernacle, God recreated Eden in a golden box so He could travel with His believers and be in covenant with them.  Once the temple in Jerusalem was built, God dwelled there, in the midst of the land He’d promised them. It became “Eden.”

That sent a flutter through my chest. Why? Paul told the Corinthians that their bodies were the temple since the one in Jerusalem had been destroyed. It has never been rebuilt, by the way. Not that it needs to be because God now dwells in the hearts of believers. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1Corinthains 3:16).

That makes you and me portable Edens!

In Eden, there was love, goodness, peace, calmness, and serenity.  Mankind freely communed with God. They shared time and space. Sin was an outsider.

Eden is not a lost world. It still exists. The peace that passes all understanding still resides there like a gorgeous flower that is always in bloom. Faith, trust, and compassion flourish in lush fullness. This wondrous place now travels with us wherever we go in this un-Eden-like world. It is our “go to” spot whenever we need it. Better than comfy pants or chocolate.

So, if this portable Eden is always with us, and thus God is, why are we not more serene and content?  Why aren’t our lives centered more in Christ?

And…If our hearts contain that marvelous, fruitful place called paradise, why do we try to bring the seeds of worry, strife, anger, and bitterness through the garden gate? Those need to stay outside. We don’t need to haul them inside to dwell where only God should.

Where can we find God today? He is in Eden, a heartbeat away.

 

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A friend of mine posted a picture of how well her new solar lights worked in her yard.  When I saw it, the double meaning flashed across my brain.  So, I asked her if I could use it.

Solar lights work because they store up the sunlight during the day. It’s very easy to correlate the storing up of Christ’s Light through His word in us so we also can shine.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:6

But what was unique for me was how each lamp shined in a circular pattern.

We all have a circle of influence. First, are the people with whom we are in close contact. These are the people who see us day in and day out and with whom we have the most influence. Close friends, coworkers, family. It’s hard to hide our true self from these people. The more we have Christ’s Light in us, the more we will reflect Him in our day-to-day lives and shine into theirs as well.

Moving out in the spiral, are the people with whom we have casual contact. Notice the specks of light are further apart and do not touch. Perhaps these represent friends on social media or distant relatives. Friends we went to school with or old neighbors that moved away.  We occasionally keep in touch with them, especially if there is news to share.

Further out still may be the people on the peripheral edge of our lives. Perhaps those who benefit from our charitable donations, or the cashier who notices we actually smiled and called them by name. They get tiny snippets of light, but it can be enough to encourage them to draw closer to the Source.

Now, notice that each lamp has its own circle of influence, and the spiral they cast barely touch. It brought home to me that God has me planted where He wants me to be, and in touch with those I should be.  It’s my job to shine His grace and mercy, and to keep replenishing the Source so I can still be of use, lest I grow dim.

It’s a dark world out there, and it’s growing darker. Let’s all work harder at shining into other people’s lives, whether it is most of the time or a chance encounter. Let us never pass up an opportunity to shed a bit of God’s love.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:6

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