Bragging on the wonderous works of my God

Archive for November, 2009

Black Friday

When you think of “Black Friday” what comes to mind?  Of course…the Friday after Thanksgiving with all of the sales and mad-dash, crazy, early morning shopping with thousands of your closest friends…or somewhere in that vicinity.

I had a different kind of black friday and maybe you’ve been there or are there right now. 

I spent most of the day beating myself up over past failures.  The enemy wanted me black and blue and in a non-functioning capacity and for some reason, I let him.  I have been forgiven by the Lord yet I could not seem to forgive myself and let it go.  My past kept coming back again and again to haunt me.  Been there?

I didn’t do the usual “if only” chants in my mind.  It was more like spending time feeling like the biggest failure on the planet.  As a mother, I felt like I had let my kids down.  As a wife, a failure because I had not been able to help my husband provide for this family and have made poor choices along the way.  A failure as a Christian because I have let God down (not that we ever could—He knows what we are going to do before we do it and nothing surprises Him).   But yet, in my mind, that broken record of “you’re a failure” and “you’re a screw up” kept playing over and over.

This morning I kicked myself around some more.  I spent time wondering and praying and crying.  We may lose our home.  So are millions of other Americans, big deal.  It IS a big deal to me. But yet I felt so much like I was dealing with this problem alone.  My husband seemed to just go on about his day and nothing bothered him.  God didn’t seem to answer me.

I have a few close friends that know what is going on and one suggested I go to the church and ask for help.  NOT what I wanted to hear or do.  At first I thought it was pride keeping me back but it is more like shame.  After prayerful consideration, I contacted the person that is head of that department and was told there is a process to go through. OK. Got that out of the way and cried some more.

As I read posts on Facebook about shopping excursions, my heart sank more and more because I didn’t have any money to shop, much less put gas in my van for the week.  I had to borrow money from my son to pay a bill and then when I went to pick up prescriptions, they were way more than I anticipated and it just added to the stress.

My other friend seems to think that all of this has nothing to do with me and that God is dealing with someone else through this situation.  My husband?  My kids?  I don’t know.  This is such a test of trust and faith in God.  He only promised our daily bread and it is hard for me to function at that level. 

I have been trying to get a job as an administrative assistant but was told yesterday in a round about way that “no, you’re not getting one.  It’s not that easy.”  He is not going to give me an easy “fix” financially.  Sure, having a steady income every two weeks would fix a lot of things but would it increase my dependency and faith on Him?  No.  

This afternoon another friend brought an artifical  Christmas tree over for me to use since we didn’t have one. Ours had a short in it last year so I tossed it.  I didn’t have the money to buy another one.   I was having so much of a pity party that I almost didn’t put it up.  As I started going through the ornaments, memories began to flood back of previous Christmas’ and a reminder that each ornament held a special place in my heart.  My spirit began to lift and I put on some Christmas music and sang along. 

You know, I may not know what the future holds but I know WHO holds the future and in order to survive this troubling economy, I have to trust Him.  He is sovereign and He is in control.  I need to make a choice to not wig out and try to fix it myself.  I can only do so much.  But, I can pray.  I love that verse in 2 Timothy1:7 that says, “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of self-discipline.”  Isn’t God awesome?

Be blessed in the Lord!

Sheila

 

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Does it really say that??

I grew up in church and Sunday school and was in a Christian school all of my life.  My parents ensured that I was there every time the doors were open.  One would think that I was totally grounded in the Word and in my faith.  Not necessarily so.

I was in the legalistic generation of the seventies and by the time I graduated high school in 1983, I wanted out of that environment.  It took me two years to figure out who I really was and what I believed.  Of course, I was a believer in Christ…of that much, I was certain.  The rest was a gray area.  I wanted to know what other churches did and why.  I was hungry for truth and not man-made laws (no movies, no pants on women, if it was fun—it was sin, etc.) 

It wasn’t until I took a “Precepts” class at church one year that I began to see how deep the Scriptures were and that every period and comma were there intentionally.  My hunger for the Word increased and I bought a study Bible.  I read it through for the first time in my life.  I wanted to see what God’s Word said for myself.  I figured if I died and went to Heaven, Jesus would probably wonder why I never read His love letter to us.  I didn’t really stop and study it but wanted to read it.  Things I didn’t understand, I went to online commentaries.  I think I read it in about four months.  I had to keep running my family out of my bedroom so I could read.  Satan used every interruption in the book to try to get me to stop, including my kids rolling their eyes at me because they “needed” me.  Not really.  They don’t bother me if I’m sitting in front of the TV or on the computer.  But if I’m trying to get closer to the Lord by reading or studying, they are all over me. 

After studying a few “Precepts” with Kay Arthur, I was introduced to Beth Moore studies by a friend and I have been soaking them up as much as I can.  I’ve learned so much in the last year.  It is amazing how God will peel back layer after layer of Himself as He knows you are ready to handle deeper truths. 

One verse that I have often quoted was Psalms 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”    I have read it as “delight in the Lord and He will give you what you really want.”  That’s not what it says.  We often misinterpret Scripture because we do not truly read it as it says and allow the Holy Spirit to show it’s true meaning.  I did not catch how I had been reading it until Dr. Charles Stanley said something one day about that verse and it hit me like a brick wall. 

It literally says to delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.  HE will give you proper desires, not sinful ones.  The desire of our heart should be to please Him in all our ways.  He will purge our old desires and replace them with ones that please Him.  His purpose for us is to make us more like Christ.  Our human nature has to die first.  The more we read Scripture and take it word by word and let Scripture interpret Scripture, then we are on the right path to understanding Him and what He wants for us.

Don’t ever think that you will figure God out.  He’s too multi-faceted and deep for that.  Even King David couldn’t figure Him out.   But, really….do you want to?  I mean, think about how boring of a god we would have if we could figure him out. If we could figure him out, he wouldn’t be God.  I like that He keeps me wondering and pondering and searching.  He reveals something new everytime and it delights my soul. Only He can satisfy us like that.  Only He can fill that void inside of you.  Only He can bring pure joy.

Be blessed in the Lord!

Sheila

Religion

A few days ago, I was riding with a group on a tour bus viewing various new construction homes in our area.  Somehow the conversation turned to each person’s religious actions and beliefs.

One woman stated that she liked going to the Lutheran church because she knew exactly what was expected of her and what “she was supposed to do.”  Exactly.  Religion is about YOU doing something.  It is man-made.

Pride keeps us from accepting a free gift or help from anybody so religion was created to help us “feel better” about working toward Heaven.

What God has given us is a GIFT.  You cannot earn your way to Heaven…period. 

It amazes me when I listen to others talk about church.  Catholics have their rituals and they are comfortable doing this weekly.  Does it edify anybody?  Does it change lives for the better?  I don’t think so.  If you knew exactly what you were going to do every moment of every service, what is the point in going?

I’m not saying one “religion” is better than the other.  Far from it.  I am saying that religion is not made by God.  He gave us freedom through Jesus Christ and His death, burial and resurrection.  All we have to do is believe.  Wow…too simple?

OK.  If somebody hands you a gift, do you offer to pay for it?  No.  In order to get the gift, what do you have to do?  Receive it.  No strings attached.  It is humbling? Yes.  Do you have to knock your pride out of the way? Absolutely.

That is one of the reasons why God hates pride.  Man can do nothing without Him. 

Jesus died to set us free.  Free from the confines of man’s made up rules.  Freedom from legalism.  He’s not saying go hog-wild and do what you please.  But nowhere in the Bible does it teach us to pray to Mary.  She was human, just like you and me.   Nowhere in Scripture does it say we have to ride bicycles or live in poverty or take vows of celibacy. 

Each of us, as we are saved by believing in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, to save us from our sins, are given a gift of the Holy Spirit.  This enables us to have a discerning spirit to know what is right and what is wrong.  For some, having a glass of wine is ok. They do not take it to extremes or get drunk or become alcoholics.  Each of us are different.  But, we also shouldn’t cause others to stumble in their walk with the Lord.  We shouldn’t misrepresent Him or tarnish His name.

Our purpose on this earth is to glorify Him and to bring others to Him.  Our rewards are in Heaven.  I, for one, am looking forward to the Rapture of the saints.  Anytime I get frustrated about the world in which we live, I start singing that song, “This world is not my home….I’m just a passin’ through…my treasures are laid up…somewhere beyond the blue…the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door…no I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.” 

There is beauty in this world but none can compare to what awaits those who have accepted Christ as Savior.  I love taking photos of nature.  It just brings me such joy to study the mind of my Creator.  I cannot wait to meet Him.  I know this:  I am going to hug Jesus for what He’s done for me.  I am in awe of Him.  He’s my best friend and I cannot imagine living without Him. 

To God be the glory, great things He has done! So loved He the world that He gave us His Son.  Thank you, Father!

Stigmatized…for life?

This is a game that you can play in the privacy of your own mind.  Think of our current president.  What is the first word that comes to mind?  Too easy?  OK, here’s another.  Think of your best friend.  What comes to mind?

We all stigmatize each other whether we want to admit it or not.  Even if it is just one word descriptions like “cheesy” or “funny” or “hairy.”  How do we break away from that or is it just human nature?

I noticed this morning as I was reading Scripture that a lot of Old Testament folks were stigmatized or typecast with a one word description following and it stuck.  For instance, Rahab is listed as “Rahab, the harlot.”  Wow…even though she helped the 2 spies escape in Canaan and was in the lineage of Christ, her former lifestyle remained a part of who she was.   All of the actions that we do are woven together like a huge tapestry that makes up who we are.

Several others that are familiar are “Mordecai, the Jew;” “Ruth, the Moabitess,” and “Jesus of Nazareth.” 

Back then, they didn’t have last names and middle names like we do today to distinguish us from others so they tagged them according to their birthplace, their profession or who their parents were.  

Some of our typecasting helps us to mentally picture someone if we know several women named Valerie.   Valerie—the hairdresser or Valerie—the tall blonde.

What about ourselves?  How do others picture us?  Do we leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth?  Our first impressions can be lasting ones, especially if that is the only time someone sees us.  Are we nice and courteous? 

I’m going to share something with you that I am so totally ashamed of but I’ve asked forgiveness from the Lord and from the offended parties and we are fine but I really wish it hadn’t happened.   It was a painful lesson.

I was working with my sister and she took on a partner who was very blunt, up-front and could be abrasive.  One day, she told me that I didn’t need to be so nice and I needed to stand up for myself.  Well, instead of running it through God’s Word first and seeing if her advice was Biblical, I took it and used it one day…much to my dismay.

Our water bill was due and we didn’t have the money to pay it.  They had shut it off– on a Friday of all days.  So, I thought I would “stand up for myself” and a little voice whispered, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  I opened a door inside myself that I don’t ever want to see again.  When I called the water company, the girl I talked to got the full force of my anger plus road rage and I said some stuff that I wouldn’t dare repeat.  She hung up on me.  I would have, too.

As the day progressed, I tried to validate my stance but the more I tried, the worse I felt and the worse the situation got.  I was so guilt-ridden that I couldn’t stand it.  I prayed and asked God to forgive my mouth and my behavior and then I had to call and apologize to the lady at the water company (and all of the other people I involved in this tragedy).  She wasn’t going to take my call until I told the other girl that I was calling to apologize. She accepted my apology and I told her that it was not like me to do something like that.  She told me that she figured I had a bad day.  Nope, just took some bad advice.  But you know what?  I’ve not talked to her again and I don’t remember her name but I guarantee you she will remember me and not in a good way, even though I apologized.  I ruined my testimony with her. 

What lasting impression are you leaving on people that you meet? Are you known as “Johnny…the quitter”  or “Suzie…the constant talker” or “Joan…the prayer warrior?”  What is your testimony?

One great thing about God is that no matter how badly we screw up, He can fix it.  He will use it for good.  It’s encouraging to me to know that He loves me in spite of myself.  He knows me intimately and yet still loves me.  So much of my life can be related to Old Testament heroes and I use them often to help get through tough times. David messed up, yet God used him in a mighty way. 

It’s just so much easier when the Lord can use us willingly.  I’m not saying it’s hard for Him.  Nothing is too hard for Him and nothing shocks Him.  It’s easier on us when we willingly obey.  All of His precepts are there for a purpose.  His laws are there to help us and keep us safe because He loves us so much.

I hope this has helped you to think about your behavior and testimony.  Be kind to others—even a simple smile to a stranger may brighten their day. 

Thank you, Lord, for your unfailing love!

Waiting…

I love the way the Lord speaks to me through nature.  He doesn’t audibly speak, but His message is loud and clear.  He loves me and He loves YOU.  I can have a bad day or feel down and I can go outside and He has created something beautiful and I see it for the first time and it just makes me smile every time. 

I’ll never forget the time I was mowing and I was down in a pit mentally and emotionally and could not see daylight.  I got near the fenceline and there was this neon tropical orange flower blooming.  I didn’t plant it. Somehow a seed made its way over there and grew.  I knew it was not wild purslane because that had little tiny pink flowers and they were everywhere in my yard.  This was portulaca and it was gorgeous.  My heart soared and I smiled.  Simple things like that give me joy because my Heavenly Father created them and He does an awesome job!

Look around you. The beauty of the sky. The graceful flutter of a butterfly.  All creation sings His glory.  Have you ever studied the details of a spider?  or the beautiful detail of a cat’s markings?  My Father has an awesome imagination!

My kids call me a “tree hugger” because I enjoy nature so much. What they don’t see or understand is that nature puts me in awe of the Creator Himself. I can’t wait to meet Him!

I spend countless hours in the yard, watching nature and talking to the Father.   It’s something that I do to remind myself that He is still in control and life goes on no matter what is happening in our lives.  When you are waiting on an answer from Him, what do you do?

I don’t know where He’s leading me but I do know that each day is a fresh start.  Spend time in the Word and in prayer to align your heart with His and you are off to a great start.  You will need every bit of help you can get from Him as the day progresses.  Sometimes things get tough and He can guide you through it.  We are only promised today. That is all we can count on.  Today is a gift. 

There is a popular song that asks us, “if today were your last day…”  how would you use it?  Would you spend time with family and friends?  Are you making regrets?  My dad used to tell me never do anything you’ll regret.  Live wisely. 

How can you make the most of your time while you are waiting on the Lord? 

Start each day with Him. Ask His direction in each aspect of your day. Are you doing something He would be pleased with?  How are your responses to others?  Are they short and snappy or thoughtful and considerate?

One thing that always amazes me is how Jesus treated others when He was on this earth.  Even knowing how brutally He would be tortured and then die for us, He still cared for others.  On the cross,  He made sure that His mother was taken care of when He told John, “Behold your mother.”  The thief on the cross next to Him believed and Jesus told him, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”  

I don’t know about you, but if I have something coming up that I know is going to be painful and I’m dreading it, I am not very pleasant to be around.  I am too consumed with worry and dread. 

Waiting, worrying and wondering can cause us to be  so preoccupied that we miss the small things and the daily gifts that God sends our way to remind us that He is sovereign and in control and nothing happens without His knowledge or consent. 

Take your life one day at the time and while you’re waiting on the Lord, do what you know you should do.  Do your best and leave the results up to God.  When the time is right, you’ll have your answer but only when the time is right.  It’s not our timing but God’s providence.  His timing is always perfect.  When He’s completed a good work in you, you will be able to look back and see His hand on your life.  He may have been protecting you from something or preparing something for you.  You may need extra training before you are ready for what He has for you. 

Think about Moses and David.  Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness being “untrained” as an Egyptian Prince before he was ready to be used of God.  David spent 14 years running from King Saul before he was ready to be king.  During those times, he was heavy hearted.  Read some of his Psalms and you’ll see where he poured his heart out to God.  The Bible doesn’t share what was going through every patriarch’s mind but we did get to see the heart of David, whom was said of God, “He is a man after My own heart.”  David was honest with God.  He didn’t try to be brave when he was hurting.  God knows how we really feel and He wants a relationship with us.  How can you have a relationship when you are not completely honest? 

The time that David spent running from Saul, prepared him for warfare.  He became an expert warrior, which helped him when he finally became Israel’s king. 

What does God have planned for you or me? Only He knows.  We just have to take it one day at the time.  When you are down, look to what the Creator created.

Every morning and evening, the Canadian Geese fly past my house coming and going to their daily activities.  I love to watch them fly in the “V” formation and they chatter as they go past.  They reside at the pond near the back of our neighborhood.  In the morning, they fly out to look for food and then come back at dusk.  It just fascinates me how God created such amazing birds.  It doesn’t take much to excite me when it comes to our Heavenly Father.  He is my hope and joy in this dismal world. 

Stay focused on Him and be blessed in the Lord!

 

Be blessed in the Lord!

Faith in Action

A couple of months ago, I was headed out to mow the lawn on a Sunday afternoon.  We had no money and a little gas left in the mower. Typically, it took the entire tank to cut the back and it was down to about 3/4.  I just wanted to get the back yard cut.  I prayed…hard.  Lord, please let this gas stretch and allow me to finish cutting just the back.  The back yard was the biggest part and I HATE looking out and seeing partially cut grass. It’s just one of those things that drives me nuts.  Maybe part of my OCD…who knows.  I make sure all the nooks and crannies are mowed, too.  When my kids cut it, they leave so much of that unfinished, so I just would prefer to do it myself.  As I got toward the last 1/3 of the yard, I prayed harder…Please, Lord, please!  I kept going until I was finished.  I whispered, “Thank you, Lord!” and then I opened up the cap to the gas tank. It was almost bone dry.  Only God could produce a miracle like that.  I knew it was a miracle.  I went inside and sat down and just cried. 

I cried because I really realized that God loved me enough to  help me in that seemingly small situation.  It was a huge deal to me.  I’ve mowed the grass enough to know that it takes a full tank to finish the back yard.  I even got the nooks and crannies done.  I was flying high.  I’ve heard Beth Moore say, “There ain’t no high like the Most High.”  She is so right.

I was so ecstatic about what the Lord had done for me that I posted it on Facebook to share with my friends.  It wasn’t long that I got a nasty reply from someone who thought that my “God” should have struck me with lightning for mowing on a Sunday and why in the world would He bother with stretching my gas.  My friends went on the defensive and the post got rather ugly.  I removed her as a friend.  She was a friend of a friend and I had no idea her background.

Have you ever noticed that when you have a victory, that Satan counter-attacks with something to knock you down?  He did with that post BUT the Lord can also turn that around.  He tells us that “all things” work together for good.  The lady emailed me and explained her upbringing and asked me a lot of questions about my faith.  I had the chance to share the Gospel with her. 

You know, people watch us very closely and they expect Christians to behave a certain way.  We may not always fit into that mold but we should make the most of every situation so we can share Christ with others.

Be blessed in the Lord!

Crow’s Feet, Cow Lick and Duck Tails

I just finished a three-hour cleaning blitz on my house. It needed it badly. When you have four cats, a dog and two teenagers…well, you get the picture. 

I recently signed up to be an independent Mary Kay beauty consultant.  What is so ironic about it is that it comes on the heels of Beth Moore’s Esther Bible study that we are wrapping up at church.  Back in Esther’s time, beauty was a treatment.  It had nothing to do with who you were as a person.  When Esther was taken into the harem to be presented before King Xerxes, she, along with the other women were given 12 months of treatments.  Six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. Wow…were these women in their natural state so bad?? I guess if they were hard-working maybe they had calloused hands or feet. Their skin may have been dry from the desert sun. In order to be Queen, you had to appear pampered and it took a year to get these ladies’ where they were looking pampered.

I so firmly believe that beauty begins on the inside.  We could be the most gorgeous woman on the outside but continually spew venom, criticism, and cut people down, people will look past the beauty and see the ugly on the inside.  Think about these Hollywood “beauties.”  Once you read a tabloid cover while standing in the supermarket line about how nasty they were to a “commoner,” it changes your attitude toward them, doesn’t it?  I used to wish I was as beautiful as they were but I’ve come to see that they live shallow, hollow lives.  Some of them are so thin, you can see their ribs.  How sad is that?  I’ve seen ads in the local paper here looking for extras for a film that Robert Redford is producing and they only want women that are size 0-4.  That’s not a woman. Have you noticed that women that small don’t have any boobs to speak of, naturally, because they don’t have the natural fat that God gave them. So, then they go have implants, which make them sick or kill them.  Botox makes them look permanently scared or like their lips got sucked into a vacuum cleaner.  Fake boobs, fake hair, fake nails, tummy tucks, liposuction, botox…where does it end?

Vanity…vanity, all is vanity.  King Solomon had it right. 

Why can’t we be comfortable in our own skin?  This is who God made us to be.   He never makes mistakes.  Who cares what others think about us?  It is the Lord that we should aim to please.  He’s the only One that counts.

Human nature is to judge from the outside inward.  We tend to size people up by the clothes they wear or the car they drive or their hairstyle.  It isnt until after we get to know them that we see who they are…their personality, heart and soul.

When you look in the mirror each day, what do you see?  I see every physical flaw.  I have a cow lick on the side of my head which makes my hair stick out in the wrong place.  I have crow’s feet around my eyes when I smile.  I have hair that grows funny on the back of my neck causing the layering pieces to look like I have a duck tail.  I see my not-so-white teeth.  I see my double chin.  I see signs of aging.  Sometimes, I wish there were no such thing as mirrors.  Of course, then we might scare people to death if we didn’t have a chance to fix our frightening hair before we left home, right?

I’ve been married 23 years.  I remember when I first saw my husband, my heart did backflips.  He was HOT. I called him a “hunk” and my mother-in-law never let me forget that.  Through the years we have both changed physically.  It is a natural part of aging and some of it has been our own fault of over-induldging.  But you know what?  When I look at him, I don’t look at his looks.  I see him:  the man inside, the man I fell in love with. 

You know what is so wonderful about the Lord?  He sees inside.  He searches our hearts.  He knows us intimately and still loves us unconditionally.  What a wonderful comfort that is! These physical bodies will be left behind when we are taken home to be with Him and I cannot wait to see what my glorified body will look like.  White teeth?  Beautiful, long raven hair without gray streaks? No wrinkles or freckles?  ~sigh~

I remember the first time I read Revelation and it described Jesus with white hair like wool and a white robe, I panicked inside.  Strange, right?  Well, all of my life, as I’m sure with you, man’s depiction of our Lord and Savior has been with brown hair and blue eyes.  That’s our image of Christ.  That’s not what He looks like. He was born a Jew.  How many middle eastern people have you seen with brown hair and blue eyes?  I wondered why Hollywood always put that spin on it.  I guess to make Him stand out from the rest.  The most accurate to me, was Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”   Jim Caviezel had those eyes that were very expressive and his hair and eye coloring were that of what I would expect from Jews of Jesus’ day.  Of course, Revelation does use a lot of descriptive terminology that is not necessarily literal.  The white could be literal but then again it could signify purity.  Jesus is pure and holy.

Each of our personalities are different and our minds are shaped by what we read and watch on TV.  I have really cut back on what I watch on television because once it is in your mind, you can’t just etch-a-sketch it out.  The old saying “garbage in – – garbage out” is true.   As children of God, if Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of your life, then you have the mind of Christ but you also still have your natural mind.  They are constantly at war.  Who wins?  The one you feed the most. 

Oh be careful little eyes what you see….

Be blessed in the Lord!

 

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