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Posts Tagged ‘#JulieBCosgrove’

for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

Sometimes, I have doubts. I know I am not supposed to, but I’ve always been one who judged my efforts by tangible results. It’s why I  love to clean–my  house, the church altar, the car. I immediately see the fruits of my labor and it feels good.

As a digital missionary who writes and edits for The Life Project,but not yet fully funded to do the work, my efforts are not always as visible. I become frustrated and wonder if they will tell me they can’t use me anymore because I can’t pay my way, which would break my heart.

Or as an author who struggles to get anyone to read or review her novels, even if those who do usually award them 4-5 stars. (I can picture other writer and authors nodding. We all struggle with it.)

Sometimes, I just wonder…am I even making a difference? Why put out the effort? Am I fooling myself? Should I just hang this all up?

God quietly responded this past week. “You are doing fine, daughter. Keep going.” How?

  • My Life Project team sent me gifts as a thank you for my service and a nice note telling me how vital I am to the ministry.
  • One of my articles saved a Satanist, helped another woman in an abusive relationship, and has now been translated into French and picked up by two other missionary publications, reaching thousands more than most of the other articles.
  • A friend told me one devotional I wrote was exactly what she needed to hear that day.
  • Another devo converted a man in prison, and he has made copies for others to read.

I say this not to puff up my ego, but to show that if we ask, God will provide proof that we are in His will, even if we can’t see it. It was a confirmation that He not only has a purpose for me but loves me enough to show me, the one exhibiting a “ye of little faith” moment.

But then, as if to drive home the point, God intervened again.

I set a pot of eggs to boil on the stove, then gathered my trash, hung it to my walker, and shuffled it across the way to the apartment dumpster. When I came back inside, the place smelled weird and my cat kept sneezing. I turned the corner to see flames leaping on top of my stove.

I’d placed a pair of kitchen shears too close to the burner. The toxic odor of burning plastic quickly filled my nostrils and made my eyes water. Terrified, I prayed a split second prayer. What do I do?

My logical side kicked in. I put out the fire, clicked on the stove vent, and opened the patio door and windows to air the place out. Soon both my cat and I began to breathe better. And I’d caught it in time, so the fire alarm didn’t blare in our ears.

So why do I contribute this to God answering me? Feeling fairly good for once, I’d thought about also dragging my walker up to the front of my large complex to get my mail, but then got a strong message, “Um, no. Don’t do that. Go back and get  your car keys. That is a too much of a trek in your condition.”

Had I ignored that thought and gone anyway, the whole kitchen might have caught fire, the fire alarm blare, and who knows what would have happened to my cat, which is apartment bound, as he inhaled all of those fumes.

Some might say it was my subconscious or the “universe” that made me change my mind. To me, God’s Holy Spirit did, and in the process, confirmed three more things. First, He is always watching over me. Second, He is ready to guide me. Third, He cares about things like me not losing my eight-year-old cat after having to put down my nineteen-year-old one two weeks ago.

Recently, I found a holy pat on the back through little things that happened one right after the other. Where will you find God today? Why not ask Him to reveal Himself and confirm His love and purpose for you?

 

 

 

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courtesy of ken-treloar.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. I Peter 4:10

Recently I had to go for a CT scan and an MRI. Why do they make those tunnels so confining and loud? Even the open ones seem freaky. I’ve had these procedures three times before. I know they are  harmless (except to the eardrums) and I should not get anxious. I know this.

Even so, as I drove to the imaging center with my aroma-therapy drenched washcloth to put over my face and my ear plugs tucked inside a plastic pouch, I asked God to calm me and bring me physical evidence of His presence. I really need to find God in my day!

After the CT scan (no big deal. I got to go in feet first, and then only up to my chest so my head stuck out into the room) I was led to another waiting area and told my MRI would be performed in a half hour. No one else sat in the row of chairs. I was alone.

I sat, and wiggled my knee. OK, I can do this. I refuse to let the heebie-jebbies bubble up. Trust in God, be not anxious scriptures floated through my mind.

A kindly, older black man wandered in and nodded hello. Seeing his warm smile, I asked if he was here for an MRI, too. He explained he was there as a consultant to instruct the staff on some new procedures. This was his second career and he got to travel all over, which he enjoyed now that his kids were off on their own.

We chatted and found several things we had in common. His presence calmed me and the time zipped by. When they called my name, he gave me a wink and thumbs up.

I told him he was a true God-send, and even though my remark took him back a bit, I truly meant it.

God uses flawed and fumbling folk on earth to be His hands and feet. Sometimes we are the ones He encourages to get out there in a ministry, and at other times He graces us with others to minister to us.

That day, I found God in the calming presence of a stranger. Where will you find Him?

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As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27:19

I have a turnstile on my bathroom dressing area where I keep my colognes, lotions and hair products. Easier to reach. As I spun it to locate my rose scented ones, I noticed the rose water, which is pink, now looked salmon-colored. How unique!

Then I noticed the reason. A bottle with amber liquid behind it shined through the rose water, appearing to change it’s color. As soon as I picked up the rose water, it returned to a soft carnation hue.

God whispered in my ear. This is you.

On my own, I am who I am. You get what you expect you would from a Christian widow my age, race and income level. I am not going to change from a rose to a bird of paradise or an exotic orchid. It’s not my nature.

But when Christ shines through me, I become unique. Oh, I am the same–yet different. I am transformed from the inside out. So are you.

Accepting Christ into our lives doesn’t change who we are. It doesn’t instantly make us skinnier or taller or have fuller wavy hair. We suddenly can’t sing like an angel when before we couldn’t carry a tune. I wish…

But how we appear to the world can change. Our attitudes of serving others before ourselves, or being kind, or forgiving in nature–all the things the world is not used to observing in human behavior is now reflected in our lives because Jesus shines through our hearts.

There is one major difference, however. I could remove the rose water from the amber cologne sitting next to it so it went back to its original color. We may think we can remove ourselves from Christ, but the truth is this: He never quite goes away.

Once we respond to His knocking on our heart’s door and let Him in, a part of Him always remains. We may shut Him out, but He is never far away.  We may assume we are not acting Christian enough and are not worthy to reflect His light but there is still something shining through. And it is beautiful, eye-catching and unique.

Others are not viewing us through rose-colored glasses. We are still “us.” However, they can clearly see Christ’s influence in our lives.

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Outside my living room window is a thick, lush evergreen bush. It gives me a bit of privacy, protection, and is pleasing to the eye. About arm pit high, I can see out if I am sitting on the couch, but actually–my son tested it when I moved in–people cannot readily see me inside.

Each week, the apartment complex’s landscaping staff come by and clip any leaves that shoot up or out from it. By doing so they ensure the bush keeps it shape, continues to grow thicker, and looks pleasing. Curb appeal.

Gazing at this hedge, I thought of the ways God often hedges me.

Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? Job 3:23

This green growing bush has taught me the reasons why.

  1. The Lord hedges me in to protect me against the evil intents of men.
  2. He hedges me in to provide shelter and privacy from the outside world and it’s potentially sinful influences.
  3. The bush God plants in front of me keeps Satan from peering headlong into my life.
  4. God’s bush provides curb appeal. By curbing my tendencies to not follow His plan, others see the appealing results of Him working in my life.

God trims and cultivates this hedge of mercy around me to keep it thick, growing and strong. If anything shoots up on it’s own that is not in His plan, He trims it off. By keeping it at a certain level, it provides me limited insight and vision as to what that plan is. I can view a little bit of what lies before me, enough to let me know if there might be any danger.

God hedges us in by His Word, law and Holy Spirit. Not so much as to confine us, but to hem us in and keep us protected from growing wild and shooting off in our own direction.

Thank you, Lord for keeping me bushed!

 

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Yes, I love playing Bunco with friends. We share great recipes, chat, pray, and encourage each other. In case you are not familiar with this parlor game,  groups of four each take turns rolling three dice. In the first round, you can keep rolling as long as there is a “one dot” on one of the dice. Each “one” is one point. If not, you pass them to the person on your left so they can try to roll as many ones as they can.  If you roll three ones, it is a Bunco. If you roll three of anything else but ones, it is a Baby Bunco. Then it is on to round two, in which each person tries to roll as many twos as they can. Then threes, fours, fives and sixes. Whoever rolls three sixes ends the game. Everyone tallies up their scores. The pot (if there is one) is split between the one with the most Buncos and Baby Buncos, and the one with the most points.

Some may consider this gambling. Yes, it is a game of chance, but isn’t life that way? There is a chance I’ll get cancer. There is a chance I’ll be killed by a drunk driver. There is a chance of rain, according to the weatherman. (Though I wouldn’t bet on it!)

In Bunco, you can get discouraged when you can’t seem to roll any of the number for that round, and have to pass the dice again and again without scoring any points. Or you can cheer on those who are having good rolls, and then get excited if you finally do, too. It is all a matter of perspective. There are only so many calculable rolls. The truth is, no one is going to sneak seven or eight dots onto one of the die, or erase the side with one dot on it.

Life is the same as well. You can pout because someone is more fortunate than you, or you can choose to not let “the devil steal your joy.” You can turn inward, or outward.

For me, it is God’s grace that He only gives us so many variables. Our free will dictates the choices we make, but He isn’t going to sneak in an unfair advantage at the last second, or load the dice to trick us. He knows our hearts, our minds, and our tendencies. He knew us before we were born, according to the psalms.

He knows when we will roll three sixes and end the game of life. We don’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that eventually we will. He also knows we will have other Buncos and Baby Buncos (successes) along the way, and a few dry spells when we can’t seem to make the roll no matter how hard we try. He will be there to cheer us on when we bunco and encourage us when we don’t.

When I play Bunco with my friends, I go for the fun of being with them (and eating good food.) I rejoice when someone is having a great night. And I enjoy catching up on what is happening in their lives. I try not to set my heart on winning so I can genuinely cheer on those who are rolling all the right numbers. It makes the evening, and the game, much more enjoyable.

In life, it is a bit different, however. All who believe that Christ assured victory on the cross are winners in God’s eyes. At the end of the game we all get the prize. So why not relax and enjoy it? It’s your roll, by the way.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. I Corinthians 9:25

 


By the way, if you haven’t read my clean cozy mysteries, The Bunco Biddies Mysteries, I’d love for you to give them a try. Dumpster Dicing won Best Cozy Mystery 2017 by a Texas Author, and the fourth one, Til Dice Do Us Part is now on pre-order! It releases June 15th.


 

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But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  Ephesians 5:13

At a women’s retreat about a year ago I won the door prize of an African violet. It bloomed for a while, then stopped. For months it kept putting out leaves but it never bloomed again. I figured maybe it was out of season. But this spring, though it still thrived, was pushing out new leaves…no blooms.

So I went on line and asked, “Why won’t my African Violet bloom?” The top three articles said the same thing– it needs more light. Oh. Okay.  I opened my blind slats a bit more. Within in a few weeks tiny buds appeared.

I realized, that’s me. I can read the Bible, I can pray, I can attend church. I will thrive and continue to grow, but will I blossom? No. Not unless I expose myself to His light regularly, daily.

Wait, you may say. Doesn’t all of that you said accomplish the purpose? Yes, if I don’t filter it out. If I don’t review my grocery list while I am reading about wheat in the Bible, or if my mind doesn’t wander when I pray, or if I concentrate less on the pew in front of me — the man with a cough, the wiggly child, or the woman whose clothes tag is dangling on the outside of her blouse– and more on worship.

We can be exposed to God and yet not bask in His light. We may think enough filters in, and yet we are not blooming the way we should. His power lies dormant inside of us, waiting to burst forth because something is in the way of the rays. Life-stress, anger, jealousy, an unforgiving attitude.

In order to reflect the Son, we need Him shining in our lives daily, unhindered by the blinds of world. If you are not blooming, maybe it is time you opened the blind slats a bit more. You may find what you really need is more exposure in order to bask more in His warm love and soak in His grace. Figure out what is blocking the light and how to adjust your focus. Soon, people will notice a difference in your face and attitude. You will be blossoming.

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Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Proverbs 30:8

I’ve watched way too much TV while laid up with health issues. I admit it. One thing I have noticed, though, is the trend to make foods deceptive.  Cauliflower cooked to resemble mashed potatoes or rice. Pasta from zucchini. Cream soups made healthy to fool the family into eating right because it tastes good. Even prepared diet foods that let you eat chocolate cake and still lose the pounds.

What’s wrong with that? Initially I was sucked in. I can eat the foods that were on my “no-no” list, as long as they are altered. Marie Antoinette was right after all. “Let them eat cake!”

The problem, as I see it, is that habits are not really being changed. People are not eating more healthy but stealth-y.

I see it in churches as well. Get ’em in the door anyway you can and then lay on the Gospel. But not to thick. Let them ease into it. Be tolerant. Let them wallow in sin and accept them. Don’t judge.

Like false mashed potatoes, it looks and tastes good. Agreed, people want to eat what they want to eat and believe what they want to believe.  I admit, there is truth in that evangelistic method. Jesus met people in their messes. We should as well.

But he pulled no punches when it came to doling out the truth. As a wise pastor I know one told me, “We need to love them enough as they are to help them change into who God calls them to be.”

While we have all fallen short of the glory of God and sinned (Romans 3:23) and we should examine the plank in our own eyes before we point out the speck in our neighbor’s (Matthew 7:3-5), if we wash down the message of salvation too much, we lose the reason for needing a Savior in the first place. That, my friends, to me is a DANGER:THIN ICE sign.

Perhaps it is best if we don’t try to fool them into eating mashed potatoes that is something else, and claim it is for their own good. Maybe we should be honest about “mashed potatoes’ nutritional value”  in the first place. Then offer them the Bread of Life.

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