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Posts Tagged ‘Julie Cosgrove’

I shake my head and wonder how is this going to turn out? I don’t see how it can…

Lately I have been watching old reruns of the late Bob Ross with his reddish-brown afro as he painted his wet canvas masterpieces. You may recall his Joy of Painting shows on public stations as he donned his brushes and made happy little trees and mountains in the 1980’s and 1990’s. He blotched on color with a regular painter’s brush and as the Van Dyke brown, Titanium white and Phtalo blue splotches appeared on the liquid white or black gesso coated canvas, many like me wondered what on earth he was doing.  I found myself thinking, I don’t see how this will turn into a tree or a mountain. But it did.

watercolor-1968058_640Lately my life has been a grouping of blotches. Things are muddled, not really in focus.  Reading a Bible lesson a few days ago, one verse suddenly appeared in bold and a larger font in my mind. “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7)

I sputtered the sip of hot tea. Tingles zipped over my chest and up into my neck. Tears welled in my eyes. It was one of those God-zapped-me-with-His-love moments.

Often times I think we are not meant to see how the canvas of our circumstances will turn out. Instead, we have to trust the Master painter. Let the brushstrokes form the image He has in mind and watch the process, trusting He is the expert and knows what He is doing. Eventually a picture will emerge as a testimony of His handiwork. paintbrush-315638_640

As things take shape, then we will begin to understand. Oh, now I see how…

Lord, may my life be your blank canvas so all can witness Your work in my life and marvel at the masterpiece you are creating in Your timing and for Your purpose. Prevent me from the desire to snatch the brush from Your expert hands and finish it the way I think it should be in my amateurish mind.

 

 

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wool-1142177_640You want to pull it, but you know you shouldn’t. That dangling thread on the seam of your clothes is bugging you. Does that describe your life?

I looked down and saw it. Arghh. Now would everyone see it? Would it snag on things through the day?  A broken strand of thread dangled out of the seam. And I was running late.

Do I pull it? Is it worth the risk unraveling the whole hem?

Tape it? Most likely it wouldn’t hold very long.

Snip it? A temporary fix, but that wouldn’t solve the issue of the broken thread unraveling again. I knew the integrity of the stitch had been compromised. But it might give me time to deal with it later…when I get the chance.

Things in our lives can feel as if they are starting to unravel. What we have carefully hemmed together is starting to tear. What do we do about it?  Do we yank at the problem to get rid of it quickly and take the chance of it all falling apart? If we tug, it might reveal more and more that has become untied.

Do we tape it and hide the issue from others, hoping it will stay beneath the surface. Then go one about our business as if it is fixed?

Or do we snip at it each time it appears, never really investing the time to dealing with it properly?

Do we rush to discard that piece of clothing, put on something else, and toss it in the to-be-meded pile?

Or do we actually stop, take time to tie it, stitch it back, and secure it so it doesn’t happen anymore?

I once heard that a day knotted with prayer at both ends won’t unravel. Paul says it this way:

The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope. I Colossians 1:5 (MSG)

When something snags in our lives, we need to deal with that equilibrist-1831016_640dangling thread lest it unravel us. Hope, bolstered by prayer, is the best way to re-anchor our faith.  We need to allow our Lord to be the needle which can guide the wayward thread and knot it so it doesn’t affect the rest of the hem that is our life.

That may mean stopping what we are doing in order to handle it. It may involve a few pricks of our conscience as His needle deals with the transgression, anger or guilt. Perhaps it will cause us to halt in our tracks and not go further until we are sure it is dealt with properly.

But unless it is resolved correctly, that dangling thread tickling our conscience will bother us over and over until we are forced to deal with it. And by that time, the things hemming our lives might be starting to unravel enough that it shows.

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There are many posts, blogs, articles and thoughts about the New Year. Make a resolution or not. Turn over a new leaf. Find a meaningful word. What is our focus?

ID-10018835If it is on us, then perhaps it is why we seem to fall short each year. After all, Paul reminds us that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

I once heard that both SIN and PRIDE have “I” in the middle. In today’s “me-ism”  world of selfies and all-about-me introverted thinking, our society suffers from too much of a focus on ourselves and not others. Whether we meet our goals or not, the focus is still the same…it is on us. How quickly that can absorb us, right?

In contrast, the Christian is supposed to strive to be more other-focused. Paul also told the Philippians, and tells us –

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!  (2:3-8)

ID-10024045Perhaps, instead of focusing on how we should change, become more aware, adjust our weight, habits, etc. we need to shift our focus to the Cross. Not rely on our own strength, or even ask God to give us strength, but for Him to be our strength. May we choose to be other-orientated and open to being used to His glory. Let God set the path, and be pliable enough to be molded in the way He wishes so we can be His hands and feet in this world and point others to Him, not ourselves.

Who knows. In the process, we might discover by the end of 2017 we met our original “goals” after all. I personally pray I will have done infinitely more than just that – because my actions and reactions will have eternal consequences either way.

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I strolled up the sidewalk to the church and noticed a grackle (Texas black bird and all around menace) pecking at side exit  door as if it wanted inside. It was the fellowship time between Sunday school and worship. That side door led into the room where people gathered for snacks and coffee.

grackle-591594_640Perhaps the grackle saw it’s reflection in the sunscreen-filmed glass, or maybe a juicy bug crawled up the door. I couldn’t be sure. But the bird pecked on the door then waddled back a few steps, cocked its head, and once again approached and pecked the glass.

What seemed odd is that there weren’t ten other grackles around. They usually flock together. This male seemed to be all alone. That’s when I noticed one wing dangling at a weird angle. It didn’t tuck in like the other one. My heart sank. The poor thing probably couldn’t fly. He’d been abandoned.

Then an unusual thing happened. One of the elderly men of our congregation wedged the door open. I watched as only his head and one arm peeked out. He crumbled part of a cookie onto the ground at the stoop. It took a half a second for the grackle to grab a piece.  Maybe I am personifying, but to me the bird’s demeanor did a 180. Crumb in beak, it held it’s head high and hopped under the safety of a parked car to gobble it’s meal. I couldn’t help but smile. Later I caught up with the man and thanked him. He seemed a touch embarrassed that someone had seen his gesture. He shrugged. “It looked hungry.”

324In our worship, right before we receive communion, there is a prayer in which we tell our Lord we know we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under His table, but He always draws us near in mercy. It is in reference to the Canaanite woman who boldly told Jesus even dogs get crumbs from the master’s table. (Matthew 15:27) Jesus commended her for her faith and answered her prayer. It reminds us worshipers that we also are in need of mercy but must have the bold faith to ask for it.

I thought of that grackle. And I wondered about all the broken people out there who feel all alone and abandoned. Ones who are not as bold as this injured bird to beg for help. Ones who may feel hesitant to tap at our church door.

Lord, may we seek out the ones in our communities who also feel they are unworthy to eat the crumbs. May we show them mercy, tend to them, and then bring them into Your midst to Your table. Amen.

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????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????One letter can make all the difference. Today, while playing Word with Friends, I noticed two words with total opposite meanings separated by one small letter – “R”.

Fiend   –  Friend.

What turns a fiend into a friend?  The “R” can stand for:

RESPECT – Show proper respect to everyoneI Peter 2:17a   When we begin to look at people as worthy of our attention instead of ignoring them, or worse shunning them, our attitude shifts 180 degrees.  Even if your political, religious or lifestyle choices are different than mine, you and I have one thing in common: we are human.We are precious in God’s eyes. We are created by a caring God and have a purpose.  We both share the same oxygen for a reason.

And Christ died on the cross for us equally.  I am no better than you and vice versa. Whether we may have made horrid mistakes in our lives or have lived a good, sheltered and honorable one without so much as a speeding ticket, we are both flawed by sin and are in need of a Savior.

RELATIONSHIP –  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5  It is hard to view another human being as a non-entity once we take the chance and begin a relationship. People are often friendlier in small towns because everyone knows each other, and are somewhat dependent on each other. In large metropolises, people become more anonymous. Neighbors may barely identify each other in a crowd, much less know each other’s name. People pass each other on the street without eye contact. They covet their private space. If you aren’t known by them, you are invisible. You are a faceless number. But not to our Lord. How many faceless people have passed by you today? How many did you make eye contact with and smile?

REGARD – So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  2 Corinthians 5:16  If I do not care about you, then I can’t call you a friend. But if I see you for the potential you can be, as Christ sees you, then suddenly your good points outweigh your flaws.  Not that I can change you, that’s God’s job. But I can change my attitude towards you. I can put on the spectacles of  godly love and see you differently than the world sees you.

When asked,  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

lay handsAn old hymn sings of what a friend we have in Jesus. He wants us to take the “r” into our world so we can respect, regard and then develop relationships with our fellow human beings for one purpose:  so we can lead others to another “r” – redemption. That way, we will become eternally friends.

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Is flesh – selfish?   Both contain the same letters. Go ahead, check it out. I’ll wait….

I love word puzzles, and sometimes I find His Word in them. Like “selfish” and “is flesh”.

There seems to be a lot of posts on social media today about self-esteem building. You are special, you are beautiful, you a worth something. You are strong inside. You can do it. You go, girl!

It reminds me of the maid in the movie The Help who whispered positive reinforcements over and over to the small girl who was ignored and emotionally nay-sayed by her mother. Great intentions. The child needed to hear those things to offset the negativity that fogged her home.

imagescael7vryBut I worry if we are not swinging the pendulum too far the other way in this me-orientated society?  Just check out the number of selfies as you scroll down the posts on Facebook.

Esteem shouldn’t stem from the mantras I tell myself in the mirror to pump myself up.  Instead, it should come from the fact I am created and put on this earth for a reason by a God who loves me more than I can ever imagine. He gives my life purpose. He equips me for the tasks He call me to do. His death on the cross paid to make me worthy…not anything I have done or anything I tell myself over and over in the mirror.

Don’t misunderstand. As a victim of severe bullying from 4th-9th grade, I know what low self-esteem is like. I bear the scars on my psyche. They gouge deeply into my personality.  I battle it daily, even now. But healing doesn’t come from me puffing myself up.  It came from me bending to my knees.

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. Psalm  29:11

Do I look to myself or to the mountains from where my strength comes. (Psalm 121:1) When I am dipping into the pity-pool, the best way to lift myself out is to praise God, not my own attributes. Doing something to help someone else helps to get the focus off of me, and that is the best remedy for the down-in-the-dumps.  Christ is my strength, my rock and redeemer. Not the mirror.

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” James 4:6

Do I bolster myself,  or humble myself so He can lift me up? (James 4:10) The mirror emphasizes my flesh- not just skin and bones, but “me.” It is all about self.

Mirroring Christ who humbled himself to obedience,garden of geth even on a cross (Philippians 2:8) reveals an eternal spirit. It is all about Him who is greater in me than anything in the world.

Flesh is – selfish, and temporary.  But selflessness is the essence of spiritual wholeness.

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low-batteryMy tablet gave me a soft beep-beep. A warning came on the screen. Low battery. Time to plug it into the charger. If only our spirits came with such a warning…perhaps they do.

I hate for my phone or my tablet’s battery to get low. What if it dies just when I need it most? So I have made a habit of plugging them in when I get home each night. Usually. I forgot last night, and got the warning signal today. Oops.

Like my tablet, there are signs that indicate when I am running low on faith.  Perhaps I just don’t feel a s forgiving of others today, or as tolerant of their behavior. Personalities rub me wrong, like a towel dried without softener.  Frustration bubbles into my throat and a sense of anxiety nibbles at my psyche. I find my teeth keep clenching.

Faith, like energy, needs to be replenished. It is used all the time, sometimes more days than others if we are honest,  and I think it can run out if it is not continually renewed. Of course we have an initial faith in God, which prompted us to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, and that I am sure it never runs completely dry once we have the Holy Spirit alive in us.

Am I as diligent about plugging into God as I am plugging in my phone?

I know there are times, like my tablet or phone, I have felt as if I was running on empty.  Dragging through my emptyday, zombie-like, and not due to lack of sleep, I felt drained of energy.  At times like these, I can almost hear a small beep-beep sounding in my soul. “Come back to the charger. Return to my Word. Fill up on my promises and love. Renew your strength. Pray.”

God taps my shoulder in many ways. If you have been reading this blog a while, or have read my book, Experiencing the Present of His Presence, you know His message can come to me in something I’ve spotted in nature, in a household item, a verse in Scripture, words to a hymn…His ways to communicate with us are endless.  I have learned those taps are like the beeps on my tablet. Time to plug back in to the Source. I need God’s power to fill me up again and fuel my faith. Through prayer and study of Scripture, I need to reconnect to the Almighty.

You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God! Psalm 68:35

Prudence dictates I should never let my faith run low, because I don’t know what tomorrow brings. I made need all of the spiritual energy I have inside to make it through that day. But God knows.  As He prompted Joseph in Egypt to store up grain, before the famine hits in the form of an unforeseen tragedy, illness or stressful event, I need to store up my spiritual energy and keep it full, day by day. That comes through reading His Word and prayer.

the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel…   Colossians 1:5

If you are run down, anxious, easily irritated, or short tempered as of late, perhaps the Holy Spirit is prompting you to re-connect to the Word of God. Maybe you need more prayer time to refuel your faith and energize your spiritual life.

After dedicating several hours of God-and-me time to read, reflect and pray in order to to fill you up,  you can stay full if you return to the charger each day. As little as a half hour a day can help to keep that indicator near full.

So go ahead. Plug in.

 

 

 

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