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Posts Tagged ‘Julie B Cosgrove’

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I remember it all too well. Dad, grumbling, down on his hands and knees, moving along the wires of Christmas tree lights strewn across the floor. He had to test each one to see which one had burned out, causing the rest to not shine. Rarely did the culprit appear in the first ten or so bulbs. And once he found the burnt-out one, replacing it presented its own challenge. No two red ones next to each other. Heaven forbid! Mom had a strict pattern — red, blue, yellow, green, white. We used to hide the replacements in a small box behind the garland on the mantle just in case …

However, in a way, I think it describes the individualistic attitude that has become so prevalent in our society. We claim to not need each other. We want to do our own thing and if we don’t follow the norm, it’s okay. It is the way we are wired.

Today, the tree lights are individually wired so if one, or two, or ten go out, it doesn’t affect the rest of the strand. Modern technology at work. I am sure many folks appreciate the invention. I have to admit it is a time saver!

There is an old saying that states, “Christ unites, Satan divides.” From the Garden of Eden on down to today, it has been proven to be true. There is a reason believers are called the Body of Christ. We are not supposed to exist independently but are united in His love. It binds us together and flows through us so we can shine brightly into a dark and cold world.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ ... Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it (I Corinthians 12:12 & 27, ESV).

When life happens to one of us that makes our light dim, we need the energy of the others to help us shine again. We need that connection of the Holy Spirit flowing through us. Not everyone can be strong and positive all the time. We are not wired that way. We humans need each other, rely upon each other and naturally band together in groups. John Donne had it correct when he wrote over 400 years ago that no one is an island.

Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash

 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world … (Philippians 2:14-15, ESV)

As long as we live on this broken planet, darkness will linger on the edges, slowly seeping in. This season, be the light of love that points to Jesus the same way the star over the manager pointed people to Him 2000 years ago. May this darkest time of the year (Winter solstice) be the brightest one in your heart and gleam into those around you, be it the widow next door, the frenzied store clerk, the moody teen, or the grouchiest person in the office.

Uphold those who believe, and encourage those who do not. Shine the love of Christ into others’ lives and you might find yourself shining a tad brighter as well.

Now everyone, join hands and sing, “This little light of mine…”

Have a bright, shiny, beautiful Christmas season.

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I the Lord do not change. Malachi 3:6

The register rang up $19.98. I handed the cashier a $20 bill. She asked, “Do you want change?”

I smiled. “Not really, but nothing stays the same does it?”

We both laughed.

Oh, how we hate change…

Isn’t it strange that we so greatly resist, even dislike, change when life on earth is always changing?

Babies grow into toddlers, then to kids, then to teens, and hopefully into competent adults. Even then, our bodies continue to change. Our metabolism slows, our skin wrinkles, our bellies widen. Our joints ache, and our stamina lessens.

The seasons change, right? Temperatures dip, leaves turn colors, and rains pound, then maybe snow falls. Temps rise and the squiggly miraging heat on the pavement make us wilt and dream of cool streams and sandy beaches.

The moon waxes and wanes, tides ebb and flow, and rivers slowly carve out a new course. Flowers bloom, then wilt. Seeds push through the gorund and grow into plants. Catepillars turn into butterflies.

Political opinions change. Social standards change. Fashions change. So do relationships, friendships, and the desire to keep vows.

And still we resist…

If change bothers you, look to the One who never changes. Only things that are eternal remain the same:

God’s love

God’s grace

God’s mercy

Christ’s death that eradicates confessed sins.

The Holy Spirit’s guidance.

CAUTION: when you seek the things eternal and set your mind on the things that are above instead of earthly things, as Paul states in Colossians 3:2 , you are going to change. Sorry, but it’s true. And that’s okay.

You will be less stressed. Less anxious. Less swayed by emotional ups and downs. Calmer, more at peace, and joyful. Things will have a positive reflection instead of a negative influence. Your posture will be more upright and your step lighter. Your burden will seem less heavy. People may even react to you differently.

Do you want change?

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 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6:6 NKJV

Many of us grew up saying a set prayer. For example, the Lord’s Prayer, which is also found in Matthew 6. When asked how to pray, Jesus answered his disciples:

 In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us this day our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
[d]For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen (vs. 8-12 NKJV- some texts eliminate 13).

And, so we have…for centuries. We teach it to our children. We say it together in church. Some of us are taught to say it daily.  It has become rote, something that rolls off our tongue the same as the alphabet song or the times table. 1×1 is 2, 2×2 is 4,etc.

A guest preacher a few weeks ago asked if we we truly believed what we prayed in the Lord’s Prayer. He spoke of the daily bread given to the Hebrews in the wilderness- the manna in Exodus 16. But his words pierced my soul.

As we turned to Matthew 6,  verse seven jumped off the page at me… And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words (emphasis mine). Is that what the Lord’s Prayer had become in my life? 

equilibrist-1831016_640Leaving my stressful job to become a freelance writer and editor, I knew in my heart that God would provide because I felt certain this was in His will for me. It was a matter of getting my brain on board. So I prayed. “God, I truly claim that you will give me my daily bread.” And that meant somehow, some way He would provide the exact amount I needed each month to get by, i.e. pay rent, have food, pay my utilties, and tithe. The basics. 

Last month, He did so in various ways – right up to the penny. This month, the amount came as a gift in the mail from someone who has been touched by my writing. She explained she sent it in obedience to what God lay on her heart. Again, the exact amount. She needed to give it as much as I needed to receive it.  Double blessing. God works that way.

What in the Lord’s Prayer do you need to claim as affirmation.  Is it daily bread, forgiveness, deliverance, or that God is in control forever? That His will will be done, that it will be on earth?

Whatever it is, pray that in the Lord’s Prayer. Really pray it, down to your toenails. Then claim it and see how God responds. Pray it in private, then see what He does in the open as a testimony to not only you but others.

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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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As I have unpacked and hung pictures on the wall of my new apartment, I smile. Many are sayings that booster my faith, even when I just glance at them. I find God’s love adnpeace in them.

So, I thought I’d share some with you. Perhaps they’ll make you smile as well. We all need something to smile about.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow.

The Bible is the only book whose author is always present when one reads it.

We cannot change the wind but we can direct our sails.

Anyone can count the seeds in an apple but only God can count the apples in a seed.

From ghouiles and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, good Lord deliver us. (From an ancient Scottish Litany.)

And the Scriptural ones – perhaps you have these as well:

Every good and perfect gift comes from above. James 1:17

The Lord will watch over your going out and your coming in forever more. Psalm 121:8

The Lord is our refuge and our strength, our very present help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1

If my people, which are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray….I will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

And above all else may we never forget that….

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She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. 2 Kings 4:22

She was rich, the Bible says. She would give the prophet Elisha a meal whenever he was in town because she knew he was a holy man of God. It was her way to honor him and the Lord. In fact, she made up a small room for Elisha to stay in so he could rest from his travels. But when her son fell ill and died, she didn’t lay the boy on his bed or even her own as was the custom for mourning visitations before burial. She laid him on Elisha’s guest bed and shut the door.

That, to me is an important difference. It shows faith. She didn’t mourn at all. She knew if anyone could revive her son, it was the man who acted for God, and hopefully, by the power of God, he’d heal the boy.

You see, she had been barren and Elisha prophesized God would give her a son in thanksgiving for her hospitality. So when that happened, she knew it as a gift from God. When her son collapsed in her arms and breathed his last, she sought out Elisha. She went to the source. She wanted the prophet, and only the prophet, to come since it was he who had prophesized she’d have the boy. Elisha saw her tenacious faith, went with her, and revived her son while she waited outside of the door.

The story tells me that when something awful happens to me, I need to respond in faith. Set it down, shut the door, and seek Jesus instead of wallowing in my sorrow or fear or hurt. Not try by my own knowledge or strength to handle it, and not to get angry with God. If I respond in faith, Jesus will respond to me.

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God may not do exactly as I ask, as Elsiha did for the tenacious woman, but He will do what is best in my situation. My response is to trust and pray. Shut the door on my problem and seek His face before anything else. He will know how to handle it as I wait patiently.

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A friend in my Bible study group said, “I keep having these negative thoughts crop up in my mind, and I have to yank them out. It’s like God is bringing them to the surface so I know they are there.”

It made me think about the “grow your own lavender” gift my son gave me. In it was a packet of seeds, which I planted in the provided soil and set out on my patio in a semi-sunny location. But evidently, some weedy seeds got mixed into the soil, probably from the bird feeder. Until they pushed to the surface and began to grow, I wouldn’t have known they had been buried there. Just like my friend’s thoughts.

Jesus told his dsiciples about weeds in a parable in Matthew 13:

2Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

Now in the parable, the man tells the workers to let the weeds grow with the wheat until harvest and at that time they could “weed things out”. Jesus was referring to Judgement Day. There will be good and evil side by side until then.

But the concept is the same. We are sponges. Our brains absorb images and actions in our surroundings, many subconsciously. Try as we may, it is hard to filter all the “bad” out. Through the mercy of the Holy Spirit, we can be guided to know what is good (of God) and what is bad (not of God). As these weeds, which are not of God, grow into our consciousness, we can plunk them out and refuse to let them take deep root. Bitterness, anger, envy, an unforgiving spirit…these are all things that, if left to grow, can choke out the fruit of the Spirit.

So the next time a negative thought floats to my attention like an answer in a Magic Eight Ball, instead of chastising myself, I will do as my friend suggests. Yank it out, give it to God and let Him deal with it. Gone. Then fill the “hole” with Scripture and let that grow instead.

How about you?

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But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Exodus 9:16

When in comes to the Christan walk, there are three p’s:

Prayer

Power

Purpose

Prayer is the most powerful tool we have for fulfilling God’s purpose. When a car has a wobbly tire, it is hard to steer it straight. It keeps wanting to veer off. Prayer brings our mind, heart, and spirit in alignment with God the way a mechanic aligns the tires. It keeps us going in the right direction. Prayer is a privileged conversation with the Almighty, which requires listening as well as talking. It reminds us of God’s power when we humble ourselves and trust. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16b)

Power is an elusive thing, except when it comes to God. He has power over everything, yet He grants us the free will to accept it or not. Many people find this to be a stumbling block because they wish to retain power. But once a person experiences the power of God, they soon fall to their knees in awe, and their response is prayer. They discover a new purpose–letting go and letting God. They learn freedom is bliss inside boundaries. They are no longer tethered to the lie that they have to be in total control. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. (Lord’s Prayer)

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Purpose – most of us at one time or another ask ourselves what our purpose is in life, or if life itself has a purpose. The answer is found in our relationship with God. Job knew this even after he went through more calamities than a person should ever have to experience. He said, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2). The Christian has two purposes, which Jesus stated all else rests upon–Love God, love neighbor. (Matthew 27:37-40). Neither is easily accomplished without the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives, giving it purpose.

The initial Scriptural quote from Exodus is concerning Pharoah and his hardened heart. I chose it as an encouragement. God has a purpose for everything and everyone. He used Pharoah to show His power not out of some ego stunt but to show His people, the Hebrews, that He was with them and would not forsake them. It was also to show Pharoah that he was not a god. His power was limited.

Today there is pesecution in ways we have never experienced, and some say it will only get worse. Society will conintue to crumble into chaos, morals will keep declining, and life will be further devaluated.

Fear not. God has the power and a purpose. We can seek that and receive it through prayer, bringing power and purpose to our lives and those of others.

For more information, consider getting P.R.A.Y.I.N.G: Bringing more Power and Purpose to Your Prayers

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“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry… Ephesians 4:26

Anger is an emotion. Even Jesus experienced anger (see John 2:14-15). He cursed a barren fig tree and it withered. He called the Pharisees a brood of vipers. But He didn’t chew on his anger, digest it, and let it get inside of Him.

It is difficult to control emotions when they bubble up but we can choose how to respond to them when they do surface. IF your anger leads to malice, or envy, or pre-judgment or gossip or not treating the other person in love (even if it is tough love) then watch out! You may be giving the devil an entrance.

When we put a “d” in front of anger (the devil) is spells DANGER!

When anger bubbles up, be careful of what you think or say. Stop. Give it to the Lord. The old adage of counting slowly to ten before reacting has merit.

Anger can become more than a gut reaction. If we brood, it can lead to digestive issues and an embittered attitude. Righteous anger can lead to positive results if guided by the Holy Spirit’s fruit of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) but anger that has been stirred by the devil rarely makes a good recipe to swallow. It is flavored with self and seasoned with negativity. Add a dash of hurt and you are in a stew!

We are all human, and we can get angry. But it is what we allow to happen next that makes all the difference.

I found God’s message today in adding a the letter d to anger in a word game. Where will you find Him speaking to you in your day? I’d love to hear your answer.

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