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People have asked me to tell this true story. It’s long, but here goes….

Back in 1974, I bought a small corn plant at a local nursery because, well in the 70’s, everyone had a jungle in their apartment. But it didn’t thrive, so I put it in the bathroom to get more moisture. Every time my to-be-hubby came over, he’d been down, waggle his finger and tell the scrawny four-leafed heap, “You better grow, little guy, or I’ll make her pitch you out.” Yes, we talked to our plants back then. It was a 1970’s thing.

Fast forward through the years. We moved 22 times in 33 of them, and the corn plant was always last on the truck and first off. Then in 2005, we had to leave because of Katrina. All of our salvageable items were put in a storage pod and sent to San Antonio. Only some of our clothes, the “very breakables” and our prized possessions (well, and the cats) would travel with us. People from our church gathered to help us pack and bid us farewell. Corn plant by then was over seven feet tall…a scrawny-trunk thing we tied to the wall with string and thumb tacks.  No way would it survive months in a storage unit. Six men stood in our garage constructing a container to house the plant, which would travel in the bed of my husband’s truck. Using cardboard and plywood they encased it as if it was Michelangelo’s David.

As I followed in my car, I watched through the windshield wipers as the the wet winds whacked the carefully plotted-out tower. When we crossed the border into Texas, I gasped as it bent into a jack-knife. Tears welled. For three hundred more miles it bounced and bowed toward the bed of the truck. About 1 a.m. we arrived at my family cabin in the Texas Hill Country, which would be home until he found a new job. That’s when my husband analyzed the damage. I blubbered as he dismantled what remained of the tower and confirmed my worst fears. All the angst over the past few days following the hurricane poured down my cheeks. I took the top of the plant and jammed it into a gallon jug, filled it with  water, and set it by the window. My husband, instinctively knowing not to question my futility, carried in the pot with the bare trunk and plopped it next to the same window. Somehow, we just couldn’t toss it down into the ravine gully.

The snippet grew roots inside the plastic jug. Hubby found a job in Florida, so we moved – this time with plant-jug steadied on the floor board of my car. We left the scraggly trunk behind. Later my cousin opened the cabin for the spring and found it had sprouted! She kept watering it and the next summer we snipped it off the trunk, jugged it, and took it back to Florida. Now we had two corn plants, side by side in the same pot.

In 2008 we moved back to Texas. For reasons I will not go into, my husband developed medical problems and grew more and more ill. During this time, one of the corn plants wouldn’t thrive. It’s leaves were lighter in color, the other was lush and green. As he diminished, so did the plant. One by one the leaves yellowed and withered. I planted it in it’s own pot but no amount of soil, food or horticultural care would stop it’s decline. Eventually, two years later, the scraggly one died. The last leaf dropped off. It left me with an eerie feeling, to be realized forty-eight hours later when my husband died in the shower getting ready for work.

I moved with the healthy one to an apartment, and my son later moved in with me to ease my widowhood. Lo and behold, a “shoot” began to grow off the surviving corn plant. An offspring. Here is the plant today, June 2017.

My son no longer lives with me, but often when he comes over, he bends down, looks at the corn plant and says, “Well, I guess God wants us both to live a bit longer. Lookin’ good, plant.”

On the “bad days” when my chronic pain gets to me, I see the lush green plant and it helps me put things in perspective. It is as if God is telling me He still wants me to “bloom where I am planted.”

I learned a godly truth from a bunch of cilantro. Sitting in my fridge for a week or so, I noticed some of the leaves had rotted before I got to use them in my food. My first instinct was to chuck the whole thing.  But I love cilantro, and it isn’t cheap. So I decided in order to keep the lush green ones from being contaminated, I’d pluck them away and sealed them in a storage baggie. Much less icky that snapping away the  slimy, brown ones and getting the gunk on my fingers.  Blech.

As I pulled the fragrant, dark leaves, I realized there were a lot more “good ones” than I originally thought.  That made me sigh with relief because I hadn’t wasted all my money after all.  Yet immediately my eyes had detected the bad ones and thought the worse.

It took a while to pluck all the tasty leaves away,  and I had to be more methodical and careful about doing it, but I felt better about ditching the rotten remnant once I had finished the task. A bulging baggie proved to me how much good remained. And my kitchen smelled amazing!

Of course this became a God-lesson for me.

Thank goodness our Heavenly Father doesn’t see only the bad in us and decide we need to be trashed. Instead, He sees the good in us as His Son points out, “These abide in me and I have made them worthy to save for Your use, Father. Do not cast them out.”

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful  (John 15:2).

Our precious, loving Lord carefully and methodically plucks away the sin tendencies in our lives to keep them from contaminating us, and uses the good He has found in us to do His will.  Then He bags and seals us in His Spirit to protect us and keep us fresh until He can use us.

Instead of concentrating on the bad, rotten and yucky in me which needs to be thrown away, perhaps I need to see how much good God sees in me through His Son, Jesus. He is viewing each leaf in my life to determine if it is worth keeping and using. There may be more good for Him to use than I originally thought. It makes me more thankful of the process, no matter how long it takes.

Thank you Lord, for taking the time to save what is good in me and not chunking me in the garbage because of the sin which has tainted my life.  Seal me through Your Holy Spirit. It is through and by Your Son, who has made me worthy to save, that I pray: use me to draw others to You. Amen.

 

Hacked!

If it hasn’t happened to you, it will.

Hackers are on the rampage. FaceBook posts, emails, tweets are compromised. Safe “share” posts have lewd images hidden in them, or links that illegally access your profile. Banks, hospitals, even government entities are not immuned. It seems there is no firewall strong enough.

Our souls are not immuned to being hacked, either.  Call him what you will…the devil, the evil one, satan, the father of lies. He leans in and whispers into our brains –interrupting our thoughts and warping around blessings.

You aren’t strong enough to resist.  

You’ll never achieve that goal.

You don’t serve God’s favor.

God has walked away because He’s mad at you.

You’ll never get back in His good graces after this.

Everyone does it, it’s not so bad. 

The Bible is outdated. That verse doesn’t matter anymore in today’s world.

 

And the worst of all.…I’m a good Christian. Nothing big can tempt me.

C.S. Lewis said in his book, Mere Christianity, “A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.”

….When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  John 8:44b

This hacker know the places where our “firewall” is the weakest.  He knows what words to say that will crack our will and get to us emotionally. Then He wiggles in with a negative suggestion and clouds our positive viewpoint. Soon, like a virus, it begins to affect all of our thoughts and actions, even our prayers or desire to pray. Step by step, we become more and more vulnerable to his wiles. Trust me, as soon as you begin to do God’s will, this hacker will show up. Big time!  You got it wrong. God didn’t mean for you to take this on. That’s why this is so hard. You misunderstood.

Where is your firewall the most vulnerable?  How can you make sure your soul is “unhack-able”? Paul shared the algorithm two millennia ago: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer  (Romans 12:12).   Jesus used Scripture to keep Satan from seeping into his thoughts while he was in the wilderness being tested. (Matthew 4:1-11) Remaining joyful and counting your blessings no matter your feelings at the moment keeps your attitude up and running. (Philippians 4:6)

Prayer is the best defense against becoming compromised. Scripture is the best method to detect hacked messages, and a joy-filled attitude that knows without a doubt that God is faithful, true and loves you is the best way to have uninterrupted power.

 

Held Up

…though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37:24

God upholds us in many ways – sometimes through other people.

Due to an acute attack of sciatica, I’ve been relying on a cane for the past month as I await referrals, test results and treatment. I have also become reliant on others, something that is not easy for me to do.

Last night at Bible study we were told to all stand, hold hands and pray. Then sing.  Holding hands meant not leaning on a cane, but I wanted to be part of the experience.

After a minute or so I began to wobble. My leg gave way and immediately the two women on either side, whose hands I held, gripped tighter and kept me from toppling as they eased me into the chair. I didn’t have to ask, they automatically reacted.

It made me realize how much we believers need each other in times of weakness. It also showed me how ready people are to help, even without us asking.  That’s the love of God flowing through,spreading from one hand to another, muscle to muscle and bone to bone in the Body of Christ.

What made my eyes pool was the fact that, though I was securely seated, the ladies continued to hold my hands through the prayer and song. A warmth surged through me. Even though I sat securely in my chair, I became aware of how much I needed these sweet women, and not just physically.

Convicted, I became aware of how many times I may have missed opportunities to uphold someone else because my day filled with other obligations or I felt too tired to run one more errand. Or the times I have held on in the crisis, but let go too soon, assuming I’d done my part.

Buddy systems are not just for kids. We all need to hold tight to each other for safety in this hostile world. The adage there is safety in numbers is very true. None of us are meant to “go it alone.”

Plain and simple – we need to be in need and we need to be needed.  It’s a two way street. Part of the commandment from our Lord is to love one another. That means getting into each other’s messy lives by helping and being of help. The love of Christ flows from one human to another. To not receive help from others is to block that flow.

Lord, help me to realize I need help, even when I feel strong, and that I need to be open to the times you spur me to help others. May Your Spirit flow through me, and not be blocked by my pride or independent streak. I pray this through my Savior and ultimate Helper, who stretched out His hands on the cross for me. Amen.

To all who have helped me with rides, running errands, lifting me in prayer, texting me, and bringing me meals during this trial, thank you doesn’t even  begin to cover it.  You have been Christ to me. May I, in turn, uphold you.

My husband and I moved to seven different cities over a ten-year period as he pursued his career. Unlike the old adage states, I found the third time was not the charm. Neither was the fourth, fifth or sixth I didn’t “do” change very well. I would grumble and complain, and become anxious of the unknown. Then, my pets’ behavior taught me some important lessons to remember whenever I face uncertainty.

Each time we moved, we developed a routine. When we heard the rumbling diesel engine of the moving van and the hiss of its brakes, we’d each grab a cat and lock them into the bathroom, along with their litter pan, food and water. We’d then post a sign on the door — Do Not Enter. Cats inside.

At first we’d hear a questioning, “Mew?” Then would come the scratching on the other side of the door. The meows would become a bit more emphatic. A paw would appear under the threshold. Rattle, rattle. But, as soon as they heard the strange voices, the unfamiliar thud pattern of men’s feet, and the sound of shrink wrap winding around our furniture, they’d honker down and become quiet. They knew we kept them safe from whatever went on beyond that door.

Observing them showed me three things. First and foremost, I am not in control. Someone bigger and wiser than me is. Proverbs 3:5 states *Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…* If God closes me in and blocks my path, it is for a reason. Whatever is going on beyond my limited sight is not something I need to become involved in. There is no sense in me rattling the door if it is not yet time for me to have it opened. I need to calm down, and wait.

Secondly, I am being protected from the chaos outside that door. When I don’t know what is going on in my life, I have learned to cling to John 13:7— *Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”* Whatever is being prepared on the other side of this current chaotic time is not within my realm of control. I don’t want to be underfoot. It is better for me to stay put until the confusion dies down. When the time is right, God will open the door into the new situation He is preparing for me.

Thirdly, God will provide for my needs in the meantime, just as we provided food, water and the litter box for our pets. Paul told Timothy in his first letter to instruct the people *to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.*(I Timothy 6:17) Like my pets, I need to trust my Master has my best interests at heart. I am in this closed of place for a reason. He has not forgotten about me and has provided for my immediate needs. Even though I cannot see Him, I trust He has my best interests in mind.

When we got to the new place, it would be initially unsettling for us as well as our pets, but there would soon be familiarity and routine again as well as the excitement of exploring the new surroundings. Some things might be better than before, or not. But one thing remained certain. We’d be there to care for our cats and help them adapt.

Pets are wise. They adjust. They know being with their master is the most important thing. All else may not be permanent, but their master’s love is.

My mother had a plaque in her home which read, “Faith is not hope without proof but trust without reservations.” My felines are living proof of the truth of that statement. They have learned to trust me. The more I care for them, provide for them, and show them I love them, the deeper that trust grows.

The same is true of my walk with my Lord. No matter how many times He moves me into uncertain circumstances, I know I am being cared for in the meantime and eventually it will all work out.

 

for other examples of why doors close, consider my Bible study, Between the Window and the Door.

A Word, Please

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Over my first month as an internet missionary, I have felt the weightiness of words. Words can build up hope or slash a person’s dreams. They can offend or bolster one’s beliefs. They can trigger interest or make someone click off and seek elsewhere on the web.

Such power! And that is just “human” words. Written words. What about the Word? How are we using that? Or are we?

At Power To Change’s The Life Project, we are careful to not offend because we want to draw people to Jesus – not push them away. However, we also have the responsibility to bear witness to the Truth. Over 20,000 people from all over the world daily click on our articles and devotionals. Our words reach places we cannot fathom.

Isn’t that the same with each of us in our social media conversations, whether texted, posted or tweeted? The internet is a powerful platform. Folks post for different reasons. Some seek answers. There are those who seek pity while others crave fame, even if it is negative or offensive. A few want to use their words as weapons.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

As Christians, we have been given the Word. We need to not only monitor what comes out of our mouths, but what is typed on our QWERTY boards and appearing on the screens of people we may never have direct contact with.

Review your past few weeks of tweets, posts and texts. What message are you sending? Are you using the internet to build up or tear down? To bolster your own ego or point to Jesus?  Whine about your life, your elected officials, the weather, your coworkers – or count your blessings? Console others or one-up them with your list of woes? Share the Good News or gossip?

Words – powerful things. The Word, is power personified. Which will we tap into the most this week to communicate?

Always a Winner

On November 22, 2016, I blogged about the computer solitaire game I play and how reluctant I am to be shown how to play it, similar to the way I often approach life. I like to figure things out by myself.  Today, God gave me another message as I played…

solitaireI have the option to choose to play a winning hand. The daily challenges which appear on my phone each morning guarantee they can be won. Sometimes that is more of a challenge than other days. There are times I have to trust that I am playing a winnable hand, because as I flip through the unplayable cards it sure doesn’t seem possible. But eventually a pattern opens up, and I begin to see that it is plausible after all.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Once we give our lives to Christ, we are given a winning hand. Because He is beyond time, He knows what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen in our lives. He has it mapped out. All we have to do is play the cards we are dealt. Sure we have choices, but He knows us better than we know ourselves so He already has that figured out, too. We only need to trust in Him as our loving Savior that it is His plan for it all to work out for the best in the end.

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

If I can trust some unknown computer programer to give me a winning hand each morning in a game on my phone, how can I not trust my Lord and Savior – who paid the price by his death so I could win the gift of salvation – to guide my day?

Yeah, convicted.

 

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