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Posts Tagged ‘Where Did You Find God’

A post-Christmas God-lesson: It looked so bare!

The Twelve Days of Christmas came to an end. So with a heavy sigh, I boxed up all the Christmas decorations. The tree, the wreaths, the garland and stockings on the mantle, the potted poinsettias (fake because the real ones are highly toxic to cats), and of course my two Creche scenes with the Holy family and my advent wreath and candles.

space-1715058_640I stacked the boxes in the back of my closet, stretched the kink from my lower spine, and walked back into the living room.

My heart sank. It appeared so bare.

Okay-maybe not as bare as in this photo, but in my mind it looked about the same.  Perhaps you have had that experience.

It made me wonder how that manger over 2,000 years ago looked after the Holy family vacated it. Did the innkeeper scratch his head in confused wonder and whisper to the livestock, “Funny, it never looked this barren before.”

As I pouted, God tapped my soul’s shoulder. Julie-I’m still here.

“I know, God. You are always there. It’s just at Christmas it seems we can see You more easily. Joy and good cheer, charity and giving make the season bright. It is as if we finally take being Your light in the world seriously.”

I heard His celestial chuckle. Christmas is the incarnation of me coming into the world, dwelling in flesh. Now, I dwell in you, and every Christ believer. You carry on my incarnation, guided by my Holy Spirit. Right before I ascended into heaven I said, “Lo I am with you always.” I meant that. You don’t need to see a figurine of me as a baby lying a manger to remind you of that fact, do you? You don’t need a candle flame or a star topping a tree to know I am the Light, correct?

I cast my gaze downward and dug my toe into the carpet. “No, Lord.” Then my mood brightened. I glanced around my living room, and then to the ceiling.

“Lord, may my life, as it begins 2017, be a bare room. May You, as the months go by, fill it to Your glory so everyone I meet knows You are here, even it is is not the Christmas season. Decorate it as You please.”

I think He smiled.

After all that is the theme of this blog, which He inspired, and ID-100141400it has been for the past four years. May this blog be filled to His glory this year with ways I’ve found God in my daily journey so you can be encouraged to seek Him in your day as well.

 

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The following is written by Penelope Marquez, an author I know. It is taken from her novella, Hoping for Joy, part of the Love Is series based on 1 Corinthians 13, releasing today.  http://www.prismbookgroup.com/love-is-series.

Soon after Logan’s sister dies, her preschool aged daughter, Joy, who is now his responsibility, disappears.  His father has had a debilitating stroke and his fiance is severely injured in a car accident, possibly intentionally caused by the drug lord who killed his sister.

Now he is stuck in a mega traffic jam and can’t get to her. His anger at God increases. Prayer seems futile. He ponders if God really cares, or is even real.

 

ladybug-169943_1280When he opened the bag, a ladybug flew out. It landed on his hand.

His sister had loved ladybugs. He glared at it. “Fine. I give up. This is a message. Give it to me straight.”

The ladybug crawled along, struggling over each hair in its path. Every hair was an obstacle to its goal. Logan pondered over his own plight. His life was littered with obstacles, too, but unlike the ladybug, his problems involved people. He could not protect them, or fix them, or find  them when they were lost.

The ladybug stopped when it reached the cuff of his sweater, which undoubtedly looked like  a mountain to the little insect. It turned around briefly and stared at where it had been before it swung back to attempt to conquer the woolen peak. He frowned at the insect, but held still so he wouldn’t disturb it. The ladybug believed itself capable of scaling a vertical wall of yarn. It fell backward and landed upside down. All six of its tiny legs swirled in the air. He gently touched it with the fingernail on his pinky and set it upright. It held still for a moment and then flew out the window.

He was sad he had lost his small friend, but hoped it would find a safe place to rest. He wondered if he was like a god to the ladybug. How many of those small insects fell over with no one to help them?  How many people simply crushed ladybugs?

A chill slid up his back. Though Logan had struggled to do what he could, he had no control over life’s circumstances. He was powerless. He was alone. His burdens would crush him if he didn’t share the load with someone. Who could help him?

For a long time, he had denied God’s existence. What if he was wrong? What if there was something bigger than everyone? He was a giant to the ladybug. Could the tiny bug see him, or only his hand and sleeve? Maybe he couldn’t see God because God was too big for him to see all at once.

But perhaps he could see parts of Him if he tried.

 

God finally got to the microbiologist  Logan, mourning for his deceased sister, by sending a ladybug. He touches each of us in unique ways. Where will you find God in your life today? What message does He have just for you?

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An author friend of mine, Anita Klumper, *took this photo.

anita klumper's hoolyhocks

I saw a godly message in it. If we stay within the boundaries God sets, we can grow high and bloom.

Decades ago, another author, a minister’s wife, wrote a little devotional book called Bloom Where You Are Planted. Hard to do. Our human nature wants us to sprawl, to go beyond the fence. But if we do, we will not grow correctly, will we? Like a tomato vine that needs training, we humans need boundaries. Today, free spirits of society whisper to  be self-orientated, follow your own path, dare to be different.

But, as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, this is nothing new under the sun.  How much better to be under the boundaries of the Son! Our loving God wants us to grow correctly and safely, so His Word provides a fence for us. What is His fence?

Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. Deuteronomy 11:1.

Or as our Lord stated, 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. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39

So, unlike the old cowboy song sung by Roy Rogers, Don’t Fence Me In, I pray the opposite. How about you?

 

 

* check out Anita's faith-based fiction on Amazon.com

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When I went through catechism, to discern if I would claim IMG_20131030_075636_787my parent’s faith as my own before God and the congregation, they taught us that Scripture should be read, marked and inwardly digested.

Jesus, according to John’s Gospel, is the Word, and He said He is the Bread of Life. We need a steady diet of the Bible in our lives. We need M&M, and M.

Mark – not just underline verses in different colored highlighters, but memorize them. Make them an important part of your thought process so at a moment’s notice if the devil is tapping on your shoulder you can respond by praying with Scripture. Let it leave a mark on your life.

Meditate – think on that verse and what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell you through it. What lesson is there in it for you, or an answer to prayer, or perhaps a head-thunk revelation? Truly learn it.

When we combine the two, then an amazing, positive, calming power envelops us and seeps through us, does it not?  Scripture comes alive, and we feel God’s hand gently upon our shoulder. The words are now personalized. We smile and whisper, “That is my verse. God wrote it for me.”

The final “M”? Masticate.  It means to chew. Chew on what has occurred, or continues to happen, in your life because of that verse. What has impacted you? How? Is there an action you should now take? Or maybe one you should not?

Mull it over for several days in prayer until you totally digest it inwardly. Let it flow through your system giving your spiritual nourishment. Feel God’s grace as it courses through your life.

MP900443254[1]_cropA steady diet of M&M, and M when it comes to God’s Word can do wonders for your health, your faith, and your attitude.  Try it.

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My son, James, and I belong to Toastmasters. Each meeting offers a chance to think on our feet as one member asks impromptu questions and calls on others to answer. We call it Table Topics. Last night, he told us flags are battle signs. They mark where the soldiers are and designate the battle line, i.e. the land they have conquered up to that point. That is why there is so much emotional response to a flag, even during times of peace. He asked what symbol would we be willing to die for.

Of course the Cross, and the Stars and Stripes immediately zipped through my brain. I heard the hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.” I also heard the hymn, “God bless America… stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above.”

God Bless America

I believe the United States is in a dark time. So are other countries in the world. Battle lines have been drawn, and we are at war…with those who would desire to take away our freedom to worship and with those who call us, the ones who pray to a redemptive God of forgiveness and love, hypocritical haters because we will not bend to the winds of current social trends. Over two millenia ago, Paul encouraged us to put on the full armor of God. We need to dress appropriately before we can fight against the principalities which threaten to undo our faith.

The cross goes before us. It symbolizes one who was willing to die in order to save us.

Will you pray to Him  and ask Him to save your country before it dies? Then, pray for those who are being persecuted, and even executed just like the Savior, for their steadfast faith as they battle prejudice and evil in this earthly life. Because there but for the grace of God go you and I.

Today, God is asking each of us an impromptu question. What will be your answer?

Onward, Christian soldier.

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IMAG0105Ever get a scraggly place on your fingernail. It’s not a break, or even a  chip. Just an almost microscopic rugged spot enough to catch materials, like clothes, hosiery, etc.  And yes, it seems to catch on everything!! A slight aggravation  seems to grow. You rub it against a rough surface, but that doesn’t do it. You need a file, the correct tool.  And, until you can get to that nail file or emery board that rugged place bothers you.

(Guys, tell me you have this problem at times, too. Surely it is not just a girl thing. If not, bear with me. There is a point to this – no pun intended..)

But, once you get the file, it takes work to right the situation. You have to buff it away, feel the place, nope- not smooth enough yet. Buff…feel, nope…file a bit  more.  The thing is, the more you file, the more evident it becomes that the nail is damaged and needs to be re-shaped. At last your nail is smooth, well -shaped and presentable again.

Are you beginning to see the God-connection?

Sin can snag us. Until we bring it to God, it will nag at us, and as we go through the day, or week, or months, it keeps catching on our thoughts and actions. We know it’s there, even if no one else does.

So, we finally carve out time to fall to our knees and give it to our Lord. He scrapes it away, and at first, it makes the sin seem more obvious, so much larger. But with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that sin can be buffed away and we fully restored. Now we can grow again–in the correct direction.

But we know in this fallen world, we will  brush against the harshness of sin again. We women usually carry an emery board in our purses  so we are prepared when an unexpected snag occurs. May we all carry the Holy Spirit that close, and stop to correct the situation the first chance we get. It will make the day go, well, a lot smoother.

 

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IMAG0092As I walked along a shaded breezeway, I noticed a small plant peeking out of the concrete. Evidently the wind blew a tiny seed into the crack and perhaps, after a few rainstorms, enough water was captured to entice it to sprout.  Now it is growing. Will it last? Grow little plant – thrive.

It made me think of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. Jesus says some seeds are sown in rocky soil, but since they have no roots,  they die off quickly. He explains to his disciples that these are the people who have an emotional conversion, but they are never grounded in the Truth or the Word. They lack commitment and trust. But, is that always so?

Roots can take hold, even in the most unlikely places.

When it comes to spreading the love of Christ, we are all to join in the seeding process. Some are to clear the rocks away, others to till the soil, some to sow the seeds. Others are called  to nurture the newly sprouting seedlings, Still others are to keep watering it so it will grow.  But we must remember that God’s Holy Spirit does the growing.. God knows what lies beneath the surface and the potential that seed has. He know what each needs to thrive.

I am not sure if this small plant has deep roots or not. I don’t know what soil lies under that concrete walkway and brick wall. But My Father in Heaven knows.

I cannot see into the future to witness which lives my writings and lectures will have touched, and what the outcome will be for each. However, I know I am called to sow the Truth of Christ anyway and let God take care of the rest — be it through fifty more people or just one.

The next time you feel as if your efforts to bring someone closer to Christ seem unproductive, think on this tiny plant.  You may think their lives are rocky right now, but there just may be nice soil  that was once deposited underneath. Or, there may be undercurrents feeding into the rock you cannot see. Miracles happen every day.

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This week I found God in Amazon. Not the jungle, the website…the king of book titles.

A small voice whispered from the inside out, “Go look at your stats for Hush in the Storm, (my newly released novel.)” I  questioned why, since the last time I’d looked a few weeks ago, right after it launched, it was in the 127,000th rank.  But, okay, God. I clicked on the website.  Here is what it said on 9/9

#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Religious & Inspirational Fiction > Christian > Mystery & Suspense

#4 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Religious & Inspirational > Mystery

#4 in Books > Christian Books & Bibles > Literature & Fiction > Mystery & Suspense

Tears filled my eyes, clouding my computer screen.  Of course it was short lived. Now I am #25, but out of over 500 in that category… I’m okay with that.  For three days I was a best selling author!

ID-100286871But here is the message – I am always #1 in God’s eyes. So are you, if you have claimed Him as your Lord and Savior.  Human popularity is fleeting, but God’s admiration is eternal.

He cares so much for this one author that His Spirit prompted me to look at  my book listing at just the right time. For me, it was a pat on the back to tell me I’d “done good” for Him.

Two years ago, I obediently began to write this suspense romance novel with an under plot of an ugly, but pertinent social issue – human trafficking. God led me down that path.  I won’t go into the ways He did that, but my Lord sent me so many signals, I finally had to laugh and say, “Okay. I’ll do it.”  Many Christian publishers pushed it back in my lap. But one took the chance. Not everyone likes it, but evidently enough do. It continues to get 4-5 star reviews.

The point is- I followed God into this endeavor and let Him use it for His glory. He has blessed me with my greatest  heart’s desire as a result.

Where is He calling you to use the talents He has bestowed upon you?  He will do the same for you as He has for me if you just step out there for Him. No matter what people say or do not say, God will always speak positive truths to you. Will you hear them? Or will your self-worth rely on the level of applause from other people?

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ID-10061708It caught my eye as I rode shot-gun with my son. A tiny, almost translucent, spider clung to the windshield of the passenger side. Smaller than my pinkie nail. It hung on as we went over the speed bumps and through the security gate of the apartment complex. The little thing clung tightly as we turned the corner and picked up speed. Five blocks later, it still was hanging to the glass, spreading its minuscule legs as far as it could. Asking my son to pull over so I could rescue a spider when we were running late didn’t appear to be a viable option. I sucked in my breath as we accelerated up the ramp to the highway.

Surely the spider couldn’t have the strength to hold on at 60 mph. You may think it silly, but I whispered a prayer for God’s protection.

Sure enough, as my son’s foot pressed down on the gas, the spider inched its way up window into the area where the metal meets the glass – a minute strip protected from the wind. Two exits later, when we pulled into the parking lot, the spider hopped to scamper over the roof of the car- safe and sound. Quite a journey for such a tiny creature.

Where are you on your journey? Do you feel the wind force against you? Are you trying to cling with all your might but are getting weary?  It might be the time to take a chance and move closer to the protection of God even when every fiber of your being says, “Don’t let go.”  What may not seem like shelter may be just the place you need to be to withstand the trek until things slow down. But it takes faith to make that step.

Something called that tiny spider to take the chance, move its legs, and scoot up into the top of the car window even as it was accelerating faster. Where is God calling you?

I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:8

Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, Isaiah 32:2a

 

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ID-100179760Coming over a hill the ribbon of road stretched to a highway far in the distance. Sunlight shone on the automobiles that zipped along it. They all glimmered like tiny drops of silver mercury rushing through an invisible tube. From that distance, it was hard to decipher which one was a brand new luxury car just off the lot and which ones were clunkers with dents and scrapes. I couldn’t tell if some were blue, black, white or red. I could barely determine if any were a truck or an SUV.They all looked the same.

So many people identify themselves with the cars they drive. The brand, the age, the style all seem to identify who they are and what life they lead. Ranchers and construction workers want that manly, hefty truck. What teenage boy, or middle-aged man, doesn’t desire a sporty one with a humming engine?  Moms with kids and too many errands want an SUV or a wagon. Business people want the luxury cars that symbolize they are important and successful. Yet from a distance, they all look alike.

“The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.” Psalm 33.13-15 (NLT)

Unlike my human eyes, God sees the difference from a distance, and up close. But He doesn’t just look at the outside. He peers into the heart, where our true self-image lies. He isn’t fooled by the material objects we gather around us the way kids herd fluffy soap bubbles in a bathtub.

How do you want people to see you? Are you being defined by the material things you have accumulated–or not yet done so but covet? Or, are you being defined by the way God is refining you into something more precious than gold? Does your validity depend on the precious metals, jewels and stocks  in your portfolio, or by the fact that your wallet always seems  empty? Or is your wealth an inner one, knowing that you are like a pearl of inestimable price worth dying for to your Lord and Savior?

How do people look at you? Will you just be another glimmering drop in the sea of humanity, like those cars on the highway I saw from a distance? Or will you be a beacon that shines from within because of Christ’s light burning inside of you?

Today, as I looked in the distance onto a highway, God reminded me the important things in life are not the material ones. In what way has God spoken to you today?

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