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Posts Tagged ‘Julie B Cosgrove’

You have probably seen them. Little sprigs of green eking through a concrete crack. Seeds were blown in the breeze, landed there, and somehow, despite the odds, grew into plants.

I saw these while stopped at a traffic light before entering the highway. Pretty blossoms decorating a Texas urban domain during the scorching summer heat. Amazing.

I am reminded of the lesson from Jesus’ story of the seeds. Some land on rocky ground, others in fertile soil. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root (Matthew 13:5-6).

However, these bunches of foliage are thriving and spreading and blooming. Perhaps the roots are short and so they exist all right in shallow soil. Maybe this flora used to the Texas sun. I think they are a wild variety of verbena.

Anyway, these plants were a “God whisper” to me that we should never predetermine the potential of the seeds we believers spread by our actions and words. Those we think may never take root may end up blossoming because at that time, the conditions we could not see where just right. The crack in their wall of doubt just wide enough. The questioning in their heart just deep enough.

Our job is to sow…kindness, love, justice, forbearance, mercy, and grace. The seeds of the fruit of the Spirit that have begun to ripen in us. Especially now when so much of people’s worlds are upturned and confused. Let the seeds fall where they may. The rest is up to the Creator, Savior, and Guide – our Triune Lord.

There is a saying on my fridge. “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple but only God can count the apples in a seed.” Remember that the next time you encounter a frustrated stressed person who has had a bit too much of the negative news absorbed into their brains.

Let us cast our seeds of God’s love far and wide. We might just see our land blossom in beauty and majesty again.

 

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Sometimes it just jumps out at me from the Bible. Today, I found a message from our Lord in Psalm 47:

For God is King of all the earth; sing praise with all your skill. (verse 7)

We praise God by doing what He has designed us to do. All of creation does. Trees praise Him by leafing out each spring and providing shade in the summer, then becoming colorful in the fall, and losing their leaves as the sap drops in winter. Birds praise Him by singing. The sun and moon praise Him by rising and setting.

We praise Him with the skill He has designed in us. We each have one. A gift that He slowly develops in us the way a piano teacher trains a child prodigy to play his best.

Maybe it is patiently raising active children. Maybe it’s writing, like me. Maybe it is extending hospitality to others, or giving grace to the invisible in our society. Perhaps you are a super organizer, a motivator, or an empathizer. You are good with your hands, skilled with mechanical things, or can see inside people and help them see themselves.

Each time we use our individual skills, we glorify the Creator who provides them. True, we can try to claim the glory, but that will eventually lead to our downfall. Even then, God will be glorified when we are redeemed from self-centered sin and brought to repentance.

Never think you have nothing to contribute. Someone somewhere needs your skills. God made you for a purpose. Yield to Him and let Him bring out the best in you. Then praise Him with your life.

 

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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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He blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased, and he did not let their herds diminish. Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled by oppression, calamity and sorrow…Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the LordPsalm 107:38,39,43

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

It’s that time of year again. Taxes. Ugh.

But on a positive note, it encourages me to look at my financial life over the past year. Where and how much I spent on what. How much did I save? Did my freelance writing business grow or make a profit? More importantly, what can I do differently this year to have a better outcome?

Now that we are in a new year, we can take a tally of our spiritual lives as well.

In my spiritual tallying, I found that the verses I’ve quoted of Pslam 107 hold a deep truth. Now, please understand. I am not advocating the prosperity gospel that states God blesses those who are “good” and put the disobedient in the poor house like a celestial Santa Claus with a naughty and nice list. Yes, we, as good stewards, should be responsible for how we handle what God provides. But we also must realize we live in a broken, unfair world where sometimes the bad seems to win out despite our best efforts.

Despite what happens, in prosperity or calamity, there are two things that occur:

First, a lesson is learned.

Secondly, God is still there and He loves His kids.

As I crunch the spiritual numbers, I find I need to be a bit humbler. I also need to be a bit more grateful. Most of all, I need to recall the number of times I realized God was right there beside me. One time, I had a dead car battery. I prayed instead of panicking. I found out my auto insurance offered free roadside assistance, and that after getting the car jumpstarted, there was a discount store a few minutes away from where I had broken down. When I arrived, I had hardly any wait time. And when I returned home and opened my mail, I found three unexpected checks inside which totaled up to almost the same amount I’d just spent on getting a new battery installed. Thank you, Lord.

Benjamin Franklin said, “There are only two things certain in life: death and taxes.” I suggest he was incorrect, as intelligent as he was.

The only two sure things in life are that, no matter what, God is there and He cares enough to teach us valuable life lessons. When you crunch the numbers, that about sums things up.

 

 

 

 

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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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“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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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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“God does all these things to a person—twice, even three times— to turn them back from the pit that the light of life may shine on them.” Job 33:29-30

A dear friend gave me a pothos ivy. The kind with wonderful green leaves that stretch into strands to dangle down bookcases, shelves or stair rails. I placed this one on top of my bookcase near a window so it could get some sunlight. Soon, the tendrils began to grow longer, curling down the side of my bookcase, leaves angled toward the light streaming through the blinds. After a while, all the leaves exposed to the light had turned toward it. Their leaves were lush and full.

However, on the “darker side”, the leaves stop growing, and several died. I decided to turn the plant so that side could receive the light. And sure enough, the thriving side’s leaves still began to turn toward the light, even though they were further away. They had gotten used to it and knew it was what they needed.

Now the botanists among you will nod, saying this is common. For plants, yes. But is it common for us humans?

Once we receive the light of the Son, we thrive on it. We know we need it to grow in our faith. To flourish, we need to be near Him daily. But Jesus wants all of us exposed. That means even our darker sides. The side that harbors our bad habits we try to hide from the world. The sins we have pushed to the back of our hearts and minds because we simply do not want to deal with it right now. Perhaps we gossiped, or unkind words slipped from our mouths. Maybe we left off some tiny thing on our tax return so we could get a bigger refund. Perhaps we told a lie because it sounded better, or we didn’t want to reveal the truth. Maybe worse.

Eventually, Jesus will nudge us to turn those darker things to Him so His loving mercy can expose them. Once that happens, His grace can pour in. We can begin to flourish again where we were once stunted, and in fact, shriveling.

My ivy taught me that though I may not wish to do so, I must expose my whole being to my Lord so I can reflect His Light in my life. All my thoughts, fears, desires, and doubts need to be turned toward Him. Full Son exposure!

Do you dare turn your darker side to His glory?

 

 

 

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Today is April 15th. It marks two big events this year. It is Tax Day, and it also begins Holy Week.

As a freelance writer, I am self-employed, so I have to pay double the taxes people with employers do. The thing is, when money is tight, it is tempting not to pay into my savings so I can make those nasty quarterly payments to the beloved IRS. And if an expense comes up, such as an unforeseen medical bill or a flat tire, well, okay I could skip a quarter and pay next April. Or hope that I can find a few more deductions to make up for it. I can let it slide, right?

The IRS won’t forgive the debt, though. By April 15th, I have to pay back every cent I owe to them. Or set up monthly payments at exorbitant interest rates. Talk about sliding downhill into debt! At times I wish I had a Sugar Daddy to bail me out.

Two millennia ago, Jesus warned, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.  Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:25-26). Debts have to be paid.

We live in a debt-filled society. Many owe thousands on credit cards. Our income barely keeps up with inflation, and the tax system is skewed to applaud those who can figure out the best how to get out of paying. When someone does, don’t they toot their horn and tell all their friends? “My accountant is the best. He found a way to deduct 1,000 extra dollars. The wife and I are off to Cancun after all.”

Cross on a hilltop in Kerrville, Tx. Photo courtesy of Coming King Sculpture and Prayer Garden

Not to be a Debbie Downer, I have good news. When it comes to our souls, there is also a way to get out of paying our debt to God for all that we have let slide. It is called accepting Christ as our Savior. He paid our debts–past, present, and future–on the cross.

The payback? Our gratitude, which draws us closer to Him. And it doesn’t hurt to tell others about how our debt was paid. “You would not believe how much I owed. But He paid for all of my transgressions. Every single one.”

God’s method of accounting would make a tax attorney rub his temples. God prefers to cancel as many debts as possible and let His Son pay them all.

But there is a catch. We have to ask for it.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1John 1:9).

We ask for help at tax time from professionals, be it online, hiring an accountant, through software, or mulling through the irs.gov site (there’s a headache).  How much more should we ask for help from the One who can save us from the worse debt of all…the one caused by our sins!

This week, don’t let the IRS deadlines overshadow the tragedy that will happen on Friday, to His glory, and for our sakes.  Pay Ceasar his due, but render your hearts, minds, and souls to God.

Then rejoice next Sunday. Celebrate that our debt is canceled because Jesus is alive. He is risen indeed. And Daddy has bailed us out!

 

 

 

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