Where Have You Been?

a monks life 100“Where have you been?” a faithful reader emailed.

Well, it’s time to give you an update from Grace Inspired World of Marji Stevens.

I’m buried in my office working on my book: Gifts From the Porch Swing. It has been a slow process, and harder than I expected,  but God keeps impressing me to keep going.

I can only work so long at the computer before my brain turns to mush.  Once I’m done working four or five hours on the book I’ve got nothing left to write a blog.  Plus, I’ve been finishing up the drawings for  Baby Moose in Blahville children’s book.

Speaking of  your brain being mush . . . how many times have you driven all the way to the store and realized you forgot your purse?  Today I got all the way to the grocery store, which I hate doing anyway, and left my purse home.  However, THIS time I remembered my list.  Argh!

I couldn’t rectify going all that distance and not getting something, so I found a dollar in change on the floor of the car and bought  a donut.  (Yes, I know I could have bought an apple.) At least I was happy for the ride home (I hope you appreciate my transparency).

I’m not making excuses,  BUT,  (which means I am)  between writing, grandkids, ministry obligations, and my 105 lb. German Shepherd PUPPY, Oden, (now only 10 months)  I haven’t had the time to do a lot of the things I normally do.  I’m trying to train the dog not to eat my shoes, or my furniture, or the wood molding etc.

Housework is NOT a priority when I’m in the middle of a project. One reason I invite a friend over once a week is to force myself to clean the bathroom.   I’ve successfully piled more dishes in the sink at one time than ever before in my life, and it hasn’t bothered me in the least! (that’s a God thing)  That’s not much to brag about, but the stacking part was rather clever.

oden 3 10:15Thanks to Oden, the dog hair floating around here is out-of-control.  So to save on vacuuming, I’ve decided to periodically spray the floor with adhesive and before you know it I’ll have a new rug.

I also didn’t bother switching the seasonal clothes in my closet.  I took most of it to the Goodwill (where it came from in the first place).  Who needs fashion when you’re an artist/writer.  I wear layers of thrift store flannel shirts because I freeze in my office since I switched to heating with wood.

That’s another thing . . .  My hippy, mother-earth streak, from the 70’s, never really left me.  It recently resurfaced with all the preper-talk,  so I bought a wood stove.  Then, I spent a good deal of the summer stacking wood.  I love the smell, the cozy heat, the wood piles.  But it is a process you have to get used to.

First, you order the wood and they drop it in a huge pile in your driveway, then you wheel barrow it to the woodpile,  from woodpile back into the wheelbarrow to stack on porch, porch to wagon, wagon to wood box next to stove, from wood box to stove, ashes to pail, then back behind the wood pile.

It’s been a very creative season for me.  I hope you don’t stop visiting my blog.  I’ll try to do better keeping in touch.  God bless, ya’ll.

 

 

Posted in Humorous | 7 Comments

F-L-O-W!

flowing 72 dpiA dear friend, and awesome teacher of the Word, refers often to the importance of being able to  flow in the Spirit.  I totally agree, and I’ve spent years trying to perfect this aspect of my Christian life.  However, I think there is an interpretation issue when referring to  someone resembling a “reincarnated Lucille Ball,” (to quote my husband.)

With all the stress of the season, I decided to look up the definition of  flow to be sure it was fresh in my mind.

Flow:  to runglide, drift, trickle, pour, ooze, spill, derive, be brought about by, stream, gush , sweep, rush, surge. 

So, how does this widow flow through the holidays?  First, I invite 15 people to dinner the Sunday after Christmas.  This is not my gift, but I’m going to flow, right?  I can do this.

Two rather choppy nights of sleep follow as I run through my list of three or four things I cook well. My friend told me to figure one pound of meat per person. (gag) But, I only had an 8 lb. ham????  After swirling into a tizzy I received a revelation from God (I know it was Him because it was smarter than me)

“Buy another ham, stupid.”  (my emphasis added)

Then, of course, my friend calls back to say, “I made a mistake it’s 1/2 lb. so you’ll have enough.”

So what am I doing for Christmas eve?  Not wanting to sit home alone, I derive a plan. Rather than go to church, I decided to take my brother George, and his wife, out to dinner at Applebee’s (partially wanting to ease my guilt for ignoring him)

At the restaurant, I heard a chunky woman with blue glasses say, “I’ll have the cowboy size hamburger complete with barbecue sauce, crispy onions, bacon, and cheese,” The words spilled out of my mouth. “And, may I have those sweet potato fries extra crispy?”  (I skipped dessert because I’m health conscious.”

cowboy hanburger 72After gulping down a hand-full of Tums, I glided  home through the bumper-to-bumper traffic in Fairport, drifted past Mendon Ponds Park at thirty miles an hour because  the deer were out in hoards.

I rushed into my darkened house, and went to put my purse down but, “MY PURSE!”  Oh God, no!  I made a good sweep with the flashlight in and around my car then ran back in in the house to call Applebee’s.

“No ma’am, we’ve looked everywhere, it’s not here. Give us your number in case.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS, MARJ!  Someone is about to go to the mall with your credit card!

I rushed to the phone, drifted through endless recordings on the Visa hotline, finally found a human being, and cancelled my card.  Thankfully I was still flowing.

The phone rang . . . I swirled back to the phone . . . “We found your purse, Mrs. Stevens!”

By this time, my son’s 92 lb. PUPPY German shepherd was throughly disgusted that I’d been swirling around instead of giving him attention. Loud barking ensues. So, I went to fetch his ball . . .

When what to my wondering eyes should appear . . . but a lake of pee, big enough for kayaking!

FLOW WOMAN, FLOW!

Two rolls of paper towel later, one urine soaked ball in the trash, I finally settled down for a long winter’s nap . . . but first, I must hang up my coat.  Hmmm, what’s that stiff thing in my pocket?

MY CREDIT CARD!

Flow?

Frankly, ice cream sounded better.

Posted in Humorous | 1 Comment

The Square Christmas Tree

Square Tree 3 72As the sky turned black, winds swirled with billowing gusts. The poor visibility concerned me because my boys were still on the four-wheeler in the field, looking for a Christmas tree.

Finally, I heard the welcome sound of the engine come roaring over the hill from behind the barn. Relieved, I grabbed by coat and went out to greet them.

“We got the perfect tree!” They yelled against the wind. “It’s a huge one.”

The only thing I could only see was a huge snowy heap dragging behind their vehicle. When they hoisted it up for my inspection, my heart sank. It was a huge one all right. It towered over us, at least eleven feet tall, and defying all pine tree logic was absolutely square!

Square Christmas tree 72 flat“Don’t you like it, mom?”

“Ohhh, guys – uhhh – sure – it’s, uh – square – it’s uh…”

“It’s a SNOOPY TREE, Mom. It needs a home.”

It needed a home alright, but did it have to be mine? This was, by far, the ugliest Christmas tree I’d ever seen. The pine needles scantily fringed the end of the branches. Pruning the shape would leave us with sticks. Then, if we hack a foot off the top and bottom to fit our ceilings, it will be even more square!

My reaction was a bit deflating, I could see it in their faces. “We’ll fix it up – uh – good job, guys.” They weren’t fooled.

This was MY year for a perfect country Christmas tree. I’d spent hours crafting one-of-a-kind primitive ornaments. MY tree was going to rival anything Country Living Magazine had to offer. Now a gargantuan, dysfunctional pine growth was about to dominate the entire corner of my living room. I was heart broken.

It left a hefty trail of pine needles as we dragged it through the house. We had to rearrange every piece of furniture in the living room so IT would fit. Trying to anchor it into our old, rusty metal tree stand was a job. (We lost a lamp during that process) Next came the musty ornament boxes from the crawl space.

box ornaments 72 flatThe one job I loathe, and swear every year to never do again, is untangle the bird nest of twinkle lights. No matter how carefully I package them up, I’m convinced there is a twinkle light demon assigned to sabotage your decorating experience.

I tried hanging the lights in a triangular pattern, in hopes that at night – if you squint – it would look like a pine tree. My grumbling went into high gear as I hung my ornaments over the cords and bald spots. The boys were long gone.

“DAD’s HOME!” they yelled as they thundered to the door to greet him.

“What’s all the excitement?” He said dropping his book bag on the floor.

“We have a surprise, Dad. Come see. Mom hates it.” They were pulling him toward the livingroom when he saw my face.

“How was your day?” I just rolled my eyes. Then I heard: “Wow! Look at that. I love it. Great tree, guys. You did an awesome job.” I was sure he meant to say: great, now I won’t have to do it.

Before I could grab his attention, he disappeared upstairs to lie down for his usual nap before dinner. I just sat and stewed. All that work and it’s still ugly. I couldn’t stand it another minute. I had to hear what Bill really thought. So, I tip-toed upstairs to our bedroom.

square tree 2 72 flat“Huh-neee, are you asleep?” A low grunt emanated from beneath the covers.

“I have to know what you really think about the tree?” Without a breath I added, “Isn’t it the ugliest tree you’ve ever seen? I just hate it… and with all the work I did on those…”

The blankets rolled again, and I heard him mumble, “It’s only a tree.” Silence. End of discussion.

Just a tree? JUST A TREE? I was incensed. Making no attempt to be quiet, I retreated down the stairs. I took a giant step over our 95 lb. Coon dog sprawling across the doorway to the kitchen. “Us girls are outnumbered around here, Babe. The only way to get them more interested in the tree is if we hung Hostess Twinkies and shotgun shells all over it.”

Later in the evening when everyone was asleep, I went into the living room to have a quiet time. There in the corner sat the square tree. I hated to admit it did look pretty in the dark with all the twinkle lights. I pulled my chair in front of the tree and picked up my guitar.

Snow was still falling in giant flakes outside leaving delicate arches on each window pane. The house was silent and peaceful. As I softly worshiped the Lord, a question crossed my mind:

“What’s the difference between this tree and a tree you would find in a king’s palace?”

“Certainly the shape.” I sighed.

He continued. “The difference between this tree and a tree you would find in a King’s palace is that this tree never had a Tender. It had to grow up in the fields where harsh winds and winters scarred its shape. This little tree never felt the skillful hands of a gardener. Just like you. But, you are no longer growing on your own. You have been uprooted from the field, adopted and planted in the King’s personal garden. Now, the skillful Gardener will prune away every wounded branch, and lovingly tend and shape every new branch that grows. He will ornament and adorn your heart with His fruitfulness.”

Square tree 4 72 flatThe little square Christmas tree suddenly began to twinkle and shimmer more radiantly. The reflections danced around room – as if filled with joy. Though the tree itself was still imperfect, the light shining in the tree made it beautiful. And all those ornaments, that I didn’t think the tree deserved – are just like the ornaments of His fruitfulness – worn only because of His grace.

I could see that this homely, square tree was no mistake. It was a gift from God.

While the snow drifted higher, and the tree shown brighter, there was nothing more for me to do but give thanks for this most beautiful Christmas tree. Thankful. He welcomes us, square branches and all, to be tended by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

This story is true. It is my gift to you this Christmas. Feel free to read it to your families and share it with your friends. Thank you for all the wonderful comments and encouragements this year. I pray that your holidays will be happy and your joy will be full. God bless you… Love Marji

Posted in Humorous | 4 Comments

Hidden Mysteries – Six, Twenty, Thirty


174b45b47b0e243a4e532e2cfcd3b8c6
She could see from across the room the embarrassment on her father’s face.  The unthinkable had just happened.  Even with all their careful preparations, they’d  run short.  Not wanting to draw attention to the problem, the bride turned to her husband and let her father, and the master of the banquet, handle the embarrassment.

Mary tapped Jesus on the shoulder and drew her mouth close to his ear, “The wine is gone.”

They talked privately and then Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you to do.”

Then Jesus said, “Fill the ceremonial washing jars with water.”

I can only imagine the servant’s conversation as they moved all six water jugs to the well.

“Who is that guy?” said one servant to the other.

“That’s Joseph’s son.”  The servant lifted the first stone jar to the edge of the well.

“I thought they were out of wine?  Why do they need more water?

It was no easy task filling the already heavy stone pots with twenty to thirty gallons of water each.  “Fill them to the brim.  We don’t want to have to do this again.”

The guests  stepped aside as the servants carried all six pots back into the crowded banquet room.   “Please pour some and take it to the master of the banquet to taste,” Jesus said.

Still confused, the servants did exactly what he said.

The master of the banquet was shocked that the best wine was being served now. “This is the best wine I’ve ever tasted. Where did this come from?”  The servant knew as they watched Jesus returned to his seat next to his mother.

Amazingly, the first miracle Jesus performed was at a party, to save a Bride’s family social embarrassment.  Isn’t that just like Jesus?  Too often religion teaches that when we run short it’s only because God wants us to come to the end of ourselves so we’ll learn humility.

Jesus didn’t model that in this story.  The hosts had prepared, they did all they knew to do to give the best wedding possible.  Jesus didn’t scold them, he quietly covered their shortage.

There are more wonderful lessons in this story than what can be covered in a short blog. Let’s look at just a few nuggets.

Our best is not enough.

Number six (the number of stone pots) represents the number of man . . . It represents the very best human system of governance that mankind can produce without God.

Twenty (gallons) represents the anticipation of divine completion.  

Thirty (gallons) represents the manifestation of divine completion.  It can also represent the sacrificial blood of Jesus. (for more study on numbers)

We all know how far short we come.  But the good news is that, by faith, we can know divine completion through the shed blood of Christ Jesus.

How wonderful that God planned his first miracle to happen in the midst of celebration, and left us with a marvelous weavings of truth concealed in every number, color, name and event of scripture.

The best Christmas blessing of all is that we have a loving Father who doesn’t want us to settle for lack, but instead gives us the best solution of all . . . himself.

Posted in Inspirational | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Barley Bread and Broken Pieces

barley-bread

We can learn a lesson from Barley bread and a little boy with a big lunch.

I love the Bible story of the little boy with the lunch.  He was happily on his way to have a picnic – five loaves of barley bread and two fish.  We’re not told why his mom gave him five loaves, that’s a lot for one small lad.  But the Holy Spirit knew the mentioning of five was important because it’s the number of grace.

Broken plans and a miraculous act of grace . . .

Little did that boy know that he would be a part of a miraculous act of grace that would go down in history.  I’m sure he had big plans for his lunch. His very own picnic under a shady tree.  A feast he didn’t have to share with his brothers or sisters.  It was special, his alone . . . until a grown-up, a discipline of a man called, Jesus, came along and took it from his hands. I’m not convinced the little boy knew who Jesus was.  Maybe he’d heard rumors, or his parents talking.  I question if he had a single generous thought when he watched that lunch walk away.

Hey . . . that’s MY lunch!

Make the people sit down,” said the Man called Jesus.

What for?  That’s MY lunch!

The little boy watched with apprehensive curiosity.

Then Jesus took the barley bread, gave thanks, and started to break it into pieces.

I’m sure the boy’s eyes were wide as more and more bread came tumbling from Jesus’ hands. Did he respond with spiritual accolades, or did he say:

My mother is amazing!  How did she get all that in my bag?

He was witnessing a miracle, but did he completely understand? One thing is clear to me,  his big plans were being broken right before his eyes.

I can imagine the conversation that might have ensued between Jesus and the boy.  “Son, that sure was a fine lunch.  You must have had big plans for your lunch.  Thank you for letting it go when you didn’t understand.  You see, when you trust Me,  I can take those broken pieces and shape a miracle that will bless multitudes.”

Broken pieces.  We all have them.  A job you didn’t get, or lost.  A relationship that left you wounded and alone.  A loved one dies, and all the plans and dreams you shared disappear.  We all have broken pieces.

What can we do with all the broken pieces in our lives?

Perhaps we can learn a lesson from this little boy.

Perhaps we can trust our broken pieces to God, even when what we’ve lost seems like the greater reality.  Can we dare let go of every crumb and believe His grace will follow?

DSC03948A final thought:

From now until Christmas we can be sure that stress and conflict will increase.  Family dynamics, extra expense, all the preparations. Even though Christmas is all about Jesus, this is the one time of year it’s easy to get so busy we forget Him.  He’s well aware of the stressfulness.  I believe He wants to change this broken tradition into a miraculous feast of grace with Him right in the center.

Father, help us put all the broken pieces of our lives in Your loving hands. May you turn this season into a miraculous display of Your love and grace.  In Jesus name, amen.

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The Glorious One

streamThis was a post from a friend.  It is the prayer on my prayer this morning, too, so I wanted to share it with you.

Praying from Ephesians 1:17-19

asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.

We honor you as the Lord of our lives. We align our hearts with your heart. We love partnering with you. We look forward to partnering with You and being with you today.

We are confident that all the wisdom we need today is found in you. We lean into you today inviting that spirit of wisdom and revelation into our hearts.

Would you help us serve people and see people the way you do? Our own wisdom and strength is not enough.

Thank you that you share your thoughts with us. When we are wavering or uncertain, you shine your light on our path. You show us which way to go. We expect to hear your voice today. We expect to know which choice to make today. Show us that we might declare truth and speak a word that puts you on display today.

We are your glory bearers. We are your sons and daughters. Lead us with absolute certainty.

It is our delight to honor you today. It is our delight to serve our clients and customers with joy. Make us strong in the strength of your might. It’s You! It’s all for You!

We pray that righteousness and truth would come to bear today on wickedness and perversion. We believe you.

We look to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
You have not left us alone. We are not on our own. You are with us.

I am yours and You are mine.

​From the prayer room, a friend.

Posted in Quiet Time Prayers | 1 Comment

Do You Know God’s Greatest Gift?

sunrise 11:15It was a glorious morning on the swing.  Usually, I’m at the computer writing when the sun comes up, but today the Lord wooed me outside on the swing.

Ribbons of majesty streaked the early sky bringing instant tears of gratitude. How can my words, even of my grandest praise, be sufficient, Lord.

We understand the Lord is with us, a concept taught since we began our walk of faith.  But, rarely do I feel His presence like a guest sitting beside me on the swing. Today was different.

Beside our salvation, the greatest gift the Father has given us is His blessed Holy Spirit.  I knew He was there, as real as an indentation on the cushion beside me,  like an emanating warmth of a body close enough to rest your head.

sunrise 2- 11:15I realized how often I forget He is with me – as if I must search through disciplines of faith to earn His presence, or climb to where He is.  Sad.  And so untrue. The Holy Spirit is with us because Jesus promised  if He went away, He would send the Holy Spirit to each believer.

 “. . . do you not know  that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”  (1 Cor. 3;16)

We may nod our heads in agreement,  but do we really know this is true?  Does it change how we live, what we hope for?  Do we walk with reverence, not wanting to insult the Spirit of Grace?

He is our closest friend, and constant companion, our comforter. The resurrection life of Christ, living with, and IN us.

Too often the topic of the Holy Spirit divides us.  We argue if His gifts are for today, but how can we extract a gift from the One who owns it?  If He has come, then all that He is has also come.

sunrise 3 -11:15He is our gift.  The reason we can say, we are not alone.

I felt Him next to me today, and without any effort on my part, my heart ripped open at the possibility that I  would ever grieve, or insult Him, or take Him for granted.  An earnest prayer formed instantly on my lips: “I want to know You, Holy Spirit, like never before.  I want to be more sensitive to Your leading, to Your whispers, and respond to the slightest touch.”

” . . . if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11)

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”  (John 16:13)

“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.  But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:15)

We need to eat, drink, talk about, study, memorize these verses.  For the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is our hope in these days of darkness.

You are with us, in us, blessed Holy Spirit.  Open our eyes to see You with greater clarity.  

 

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A Good Conversationalist

sharing coffee:souls“Where have you been?” she asked as she took my coat and poured me a giant cup of coffee.

“Oh, I . . .”

“Just one more cup.” she mumbled as she filled her mug.  “I was worried when you weren’t posting anything.  It’s not like you to stop blogging.  I mean, after all . . . so what’s the story? Do you take cream and sugar?”

“I really don’t drink cof . . .”

“I shared your blog with a friend of mine and she loved the one about bra shopping.  We laughed our heads off.  Are you going to write any more humor?” she asked, and took big gulp of coffee.

“Yes, actually, I . . . ”

“How’s your family?  Things aren’t the best for me right now,” she said.  “I’m having a problem with my husband .  . . Oh gee,” she gasped, “I hope I didn’t upset you when I said husband?”

“No, of course not, I . . .”

impressing parents 72“What have you been doing art wise?  I have your bird picture hanging in my bathroom.  I bet you’re busy every minute in your studio, right?” she waved an imaginary paint brush over her hand then tilted up her mug to get the last drop.

“Why do people hang my pictures in the bathroom?”

“I met a lady at Bible Study, she invited me for the first time  to her house for lunch and you’ll never guess what she had hanging in her bathroom?  The exact same picture – I said to myself . . . this must be meant to happen. Don’t you just love when God does that?”

“Well . . . ”

“The same picture hanging in the same place,” she said euphorically and filled her cup again.  “You never said if you like cream or sugar . . . so, how is your writing coming? I can just picture you in your office typing away. . . Are you working on a book? What about the blog . . . gasp . . .you’re not going to stop blogging I hope . . . are you? . . . I’ll tell my friend and she will be so upset. . . How are the grandkids?”

“Sorry I can’t stay . . . writing you know.” I carried my full cup over to the sink.

Looking startled, “Oh, well okay.  We’ll have to do this again sometime, I know we were meant to meet after all you painted that picture and  . . . I’ll be looking forward to your next blog . . . I’ll call my friend, the one with the bathroom, and tell her I met you.  Wouldn’t that be awesome if we three got together sometime? Do you hang your artwork in your bathroom?”

She walked me to the door. “Nice to chat,” I waved as I walked to the car.  “Thank you for your hospitality. Next time, what do you say we have decaf?”

                                . . . . . . .

I’ve been working full time on my book: Gifts From the Porch Swing.  This requires strict focus  Please feel free to enjoy some of the older blogs.  And don’t forget to add your comments – a little feedback can really keep an old gal going. Blessings . . .

Posted in Humorous | 1 Comment

Pushed? or Led?

oden 10:15Errr-eeee, errr-eee, errr-eee!  Lovely new sounds in my morning.  Errr-eee-err-eee!

Oden has a new squeaker-ball.  He loves it.  You can hear just where he is in the house because you hear that incessant err-eeee-err-eee.

It’s the gift that keeps on squeaking.  

Oden has six tennis balls, usually hiding under the furniture.  But, NOoooo, he doesn’t want look for those balls,  he wants the one with the annoying squeaker.

Oden, or Odie, is the newest member of the family.  However, after a day on the farm, he’s referred to as Grodie-Odie.

He’s only 6 months old!

Why, such a big dog, you ask?   That’s what I said when my son, Kyle, brought him in the door.

But God knew what He was doing – again. One thing I still miss is morning coffee with my husband.  So, God sent another male into my life.  This one has much bigger ears.

The minute I sit in my chair with my morning coffee, he decides it’s time to play.

oden 2 10-15“No Oden, I’m having my coffee now . . .”

Pleeeeeeeze . . .

Guess who wins.

God knows best.  He knows what gifts to bring our way.  Even though these gifts require time, energy, and training, they come to us with the purpose of being a blessing.

Eeer-eee-eeer-eee?

Oden is very obedient, but he wants to lead.  Currently, a walk on the leash looks more like a drag-a-thon  . . . who’s pulling whom?  He has to learn to follow my lead.  It’s going to take some time, but he’ll get it.

Aren’t we like this?  It’s easy to rush ahead with our plans,  and then try dragging the Lord along, almost as an after thought.  “Lord, please bless my plans.”

I think a more excellent way is: “Lord, what are Your plans? I want to move with You.”

Sometimes I get to striving.  I get all un-peaceful, and finally realize I’m the one in the lead.

If you’re feeling pushed by something, there’s a good chance you’re not being led.

The flesh pushes.  The Spirit flows.

He wants us to work hard, press-in, and aim for excellence, but keeping mindful of our peace.  It’s a good rule: the minute your become un-peaceful, stop, and check with the Lord.

Oden wants to lead.  I want him to learn to walk beside me.  Isn’t that what the Lord is trying to teach us, too?

It’s taken Odie a while to learn he can’t leap and grab the ball out of my hand.  He has learned to wait for my lead . . . “Oden, keep your eye on the ball . . . wait for it . . .”

oden 3 10:15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father, help us be more aware of the Holy Spirit’s leading.  We want to walk besides You, yielded to Your guidance every step of the way.  Show us when we run out ahead of You.  In Jesus name, Amen.  

Posted in Inspirational | 5 Comments

Are You Managing Your Distractions? Or, Are They Managing You?

home to mama 5There are two kinds of distraction: 1. a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else. and 2. Extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.  

(Above – Grandkids are happy, good distractions!)

I was a brand new Christian when my own kids were little.  I didn’t have a lot of patience worked in me yet. I’d blow my stack if I was trying to work on a project and the kids kept interrupting. Then, a visiting speaker said something that changed my life:

“God wants us to be women of action instead of reaction.”

Boy, was I convicted.  I was more like an atomic reactor.  So, I began to pray for God to change me. He faithfully brought me into His classroom and I gradually acquired the skill to manage my distractions instead of them managing me. 

(Oops, grandkids just woke up.  Time for morning hugs and breakfast.)

I’m not talking about happy kid distractions.  I GET to be distracted because they are a gift from God. Most of the external distractions, I’m referring to, only need to be turned off, unplugged, or dealt with through better time management.

(Excuse me, German Shepherd puppy needs to go out.)

Caution sign72It’s the internal distractions that are the most challenging for me. These distractions need to be discerned.

The most paralyzing distractions are the ones that agitate the mind and emotions.

Ever have those?

Driving to church Sunday, I was composing a list in my head of all the things  I was not doing “right.”

By the time I got to church I was feeling really down. (duh) Using great restraint, I briefly shared my feelings with a friend.

“That’s a whole lot of condemnation,” she responded.

BM undercloud-2A light bulb went on. Now, I know about condemnation.  I teach about condemnation.  But, when it’s between your ears, it’s easy to let it go unchecked. I was listing all the things I’m NOT doing right and forgetting what I am doing right.  I was listening to all the negatives without discerning where they were coming from. The enemy was having a hay day with my mind.

Sometimes, all we need to do is download the clutter on a close friend – or write it on paper – and we can see clearly that we’re just being distracted.

(Oops, dog wants to go out again . . . puppy bladder.)

I’m so thankful for the close friends God has given me, who help me process my thoughts.    And, I’m so thankful for the freedom we find when we bring our needs to the foot of the cross.

Father, help us be more aware of  what’s distracting us.  Help us manage, and not be managed by them.  Help us be good stewards of our time. Give us greater discernment, Lord, to recognize the enemy’s distractions. Help us lay down our lists of  condemnation and accusations at the foot of the cross, pick up the joy and keep following the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

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The Power of A Hug

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There’s something so powerful about a hug.  When my sons wrap their big arms around me it’s the best feeling in the world. It makes me feel the world is a better place and I’m not alone.  My whole family are big huggers.  My son, Kyle, hugs the guys who work for him.  He’ll spread his arms wide and say, “bring it in,” then they give each other a manly back-slappin’ hug.

My grandkids used to call it  a “shhhhnugle.”  The word has evolved and now the littlest one woos me with “Let’s nuggle.”  Their tender nuggles were a big part in healing my grieving heart.

Neuroscientists have studied the affect of a hug.  It actually helps the brain and the body calm down from overwhelming states of anxiety, panic and stress.  It also helps to relieve shame.  They’ve proven hugs calm the nervous system, too.

I read about a woman who used to go into nursing homes dressed in a bear suit.  Her primary purpose was to bring hugs.  Those who might never feel comfortable hugging someone felt totally free to hug a bear. What a brilliant idea, I’ve put buying a bear suit on my bucket list.

So, what do you do if you are hug challenged?  Scientists have proven that the brain doesn’t know the different between reality and fantasy in many ways.  If we think about being held by someone, who makes us feel safe, it has similar effects as an actual hug.

Once again, science and Scripture agree. Meditating on Scripture is one way to receive a healing hug from an invisible God.

David used meditation as a way of calming his heart during the long journey in the wilderness.  “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.” (Psalm 63:5-6)

When the father saw his prodigal son walking toward him, he “felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”  (Luke 15:20)  What a wonderful image to meditate on.

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings shall you trust: his truth shall be your shield and buckler.”  (Psalm 91:4 KJ 2000)

“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him,, and he in God.  And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us.  For is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.”  (1 John 4:15-16)

No matter how wonderful meditating on God’s Word is, we’ve all been created with the need for physical touch. A warm hug can melt years of frozen pain. There are people all around us who never get a hug.  When my mom was widowed, the only time I saw her cry was when I wrapped my arms around her.

So, let’s put on our holy “bear-suits” . . . You never know how much healing you’ll be spreading around.

Father,  help us meditate on all the tender scriptures that show how You wrap Your arms around us. Allow us to feel Your embrace when we’re hugged by our family and friends.  

 

 

 

 

 

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The World Is Waiting to Hear Your Story

world is waiting to hear your storyHave you ever purchased a book just because you like the author?  Me too.  When the author is God, we can be sure the book will be written with excellence, and have a glorious ending. . . Heaven.

Before a good story is written, the author has to decide what He wants to communicate to others through the book.  This is called the theme.

If God is the Author and finisher of our story, what is the theme? It’s easy to mix up the theme of a story and the plot.  They’re different.

The plot of a story is the series of conflicts or struggles the main character goes through.  Most often the character learns or grows as they try to solve their problem.  The basic steps of a plot are: 1.conflict begins, 2.things go right, 3. things go wrong, 4. final victory or defeat, 5. there’s a wrap-up, and then the steps may, or may not, repeat.

The events we experiences is the plot of our story. What God wants us to learn is the theme.

So what is God’s theme for your life?

Most of us will answer by explaining what we do, the plans we have.  But God is more interested in our processing than He is in our plans.

It’s important to note that God’s theme is the same for every believer.  Only the events of our lives will be unique.

God’s theme: that we know Christ and be conformed to His image. (Romans 8:29)

No matter where the plot takes us, the theme will remain consistent.  This is helpful to remember especially when plans and dreams are devastated.  We may not understand why things are happening, but we can be sure He wants to accomplish two things: 1. to reveal more about His character, and then 2. develop that characteristic into ours.

I didn’t plan on being a caregiver. I wanted to help, but in the beginning I felt inconvenienced and frustrated. I spent many hours on the porch swing pleading for God’s help. I knew I didn’t have what it takes.

One pointer He gave me was to take the role of being wrong. I wasn’t to defend myself, argue with her, or try to prove that I was right and she was wrong.  “Just let her be right,” He’d whisper.  It was a wonderful key for keeping the peace. She felt safe, and I had less stress.

writer 1The plot of God’s story for me was caring for her, in my home, for 12-years.  God’s theme was  to learn His patience, long-suffering and selfless-love. Once I stopped kicking and screaming against what He wanted for me to do,  His theme started being worked into my life and I came through a better woman.

No matter what is happening in your life remember: God is the Author, and His theme will never change.  He wants you to know Him, walk with Him and have the likeness of His Son, Jesus, seen in your life.

Father, help us to know You more intimately, walk with You more closely, and we ask that the fruit of Your dear Son be seen in our life.  Amen

 

 

 

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Step Into God’s Story

Work hard for God's approval 100Everybody loves a good story.  I was sitting on the porch swing fumbling through a bunch of disconnected thoughts and suddenly a phrase, as clear as crystal, came to mind: “Step into My story.”

I knew it had to be God because it was much smarter than me. I wasn’t sure how to respond.  What did He mean?  I came across an interesting quote about the power of story. “Stories have power.  They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge.  They help us understand.  They imprint a picture on our minds.” (Janet Litherland )

Want to make a point?  Tell a really good story.  “Our appetite for stories is a reflection of the basic human need to understand patterns of life – not merely as an intellectual exercise but as a personal, emotional experience.” (The Dragonfly Effect)

Each one of us has a story,  a testimony, and God is the author.  

“For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us in christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

We are God’s work of heart.  We have a plot, a purpose, and because He is God, we are written with excellence.  He doesn’t quickly throw together a few dull stories so He can move on to something more exciting.  Each one of us has a story designed and cherished by the Creator.

With that in mind, it’s rather foolish to downplay our story – or compare our story to someone else’s. Our story is one-of-a-kind, and God never writes a bad story.

But our stories don’t always take the direction we hoped.  We get sick, lose our jobs, lose our loved-ones, have accidents.  Loss can make us feel as if we’ve been knocked off plot, lost focus.  It’s easy to think that the good story has ended, and we’re suddenly trapped in a story with no happy ending.

There have been times I haven’t liked my personal story one bit.  I’ve wanted out.  I can remember after Bill died crying, “Okay, God, I’ve been a brave girl, now I want things back the way they were.”

That’s when we have to remember Who is writing our story.

When we’ve lost the sense of plot and purpose, when we’ve lost the vision, that’s when we have to go back to the introduction.

Jesus paved the way so we can step into God’s story.  We are a part of His plans – not our own.  He hasn’t lost the purpose of our story.  When our storyline takes us to the valley of the shadow of death,  Our Author will not leave us there.  He knows our ending and it’s a good one.

“Step into My story,” He whispers today.  It’s all about trusting the Author.  In God, our story always ends well, even if we don’t see it in this life, because it ends with Eternal Life with Him.

If you, like me, find yourself disliking the plot in your story sometimes – remember Jeremiah 29:11:  “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

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Kiss the Joy as it Flies

 

grassesBack in the seventies I read a book called “Kiss the Joy as It Flies”, by John Pearson.  I bought the book simply because of its title.

The Lord was teaching me about living the joyful life and how to recapture my child-like faith.

He was getting me positioned for an explosion of creativity.

At the time, my mom had died after 70-days in  intensive care.  My kids had left home, and I was in the middle of hormone crazies.  Also, I’d recently broken a bone in my back when stairs collapsed from a platform at a conference.  As a result of the fall, Fibromyalsia was beginning to alter every activity I loved to do. I guess you could say I was a mess.

“What do I do with my this season of my life, Lord?” I cried.

He surprised me with a song.  This is the chorus:

“Under the shadow of Your wing, I will rest and I will sing.  Yes, under the shadow of Your wing, I’ll braid long grasses, whistle and sing.”

Braiding grasses was something I used to do with my best friend when we were about ten.  We’d sit in a field, soaking up the joy of a lazy summer, weave grassy jewelry, and make up silly songs. We just played – all day.

As I contemplated the words of the song, He whispered, “I want you to learn to play, again.  Do what you love to do.”

What?  Isn’t that irresponsible? I’m an adult, I do adult things – right?  I have work to do.

But, He was showing me that just as the heart of a child delights in playful freedom, we can bring that same mindset into our work.  It’s an attitude, a belief system, a posture of the heart.

Our culture has a product oriented mindset.  We are consumers, and we breed little consumers. “I’ll be happy when I have more.”  “Bigger is better!”  We tend to live from the    outside-in, instead of the inside-out.  We’re all about what’s happening around us, instead of living from the Kingdom within where joy reigns and love abides.

My artwork started to change the more I grabbed onto this concept.  When I approached it playfully, instead of rigid and wanting everything ‘perfect’, my work became more whimsical and even carried a touch of joy.

ArtSch 3-cWhen my grandkids make art they’re not worried about the outcome, they just love the process of creating.  They come up with amazing stuff.

art school - skyline 3

 

 

 

 

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This is James’ orange sky city. Only a child-like heart paints an orange sky.

 

Creativity is in all of us.  God’s ideas and life solutions rise on the wings of child-like faith and a heart of joy.

Let’s do ourselves a favor, drop the stress, kiss the joy as it flies, and paint an orange sky.

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A Brook, A Puddle, and A River?

streamShallow: of little depth, not exhibiting, requiring, or capable of serious thought.

I was taking a walk around our block one day when I came to a babbling brook and paused to study it.  It was a noisy little stream, splashing and burbling as it wound around every log and rock.  I turned to leave and the Lord spoke to me.

“What’s the difference between a brook and a river?”

I thought long and hard and finally answered, “the depth of the bottom and the amount of water it can hold.”

Then I sensed Him saying: “My people are not to be like a brook, with its direction determined by its surroundings.”

I thought about it for a few moments and then walked on. Next I came to a field with a large puddle stretching out like a small lake reflecting the sky like a mirror.  I stopped to contemplate and the Lord spoke again.

puddle-field“What’s the difference between a river and a puddle?”

“Well, Lord, certainly the depth of the bottom and the amount of water it can hold.”

“My people are not to be like a puddle that collects water and quickly dissipates into the earth.”

I had much to contemplate as I paused to sit on a rock and examine my life.  Suddenly, a picture of a mighty river came into my thoughts.  It wasn’t a particular river, but it ran  through the center of a city.  It was wide and deep and there were houses and schools and factories lining the edges.  And the Lord spoke.

“What do you hear?”

“Nothing, Lord.”

“Listen again.”

Then He opened my ears and I heard a quiet roar.

And I sensed He saying: “My people are to be like a mighty river in the land, not driven off course by every obstacle.  They are not splashy and loud but have the quiet roar of My authority.  Not shallow, My people are built for depth and have the capacity to hold the knowledge and wisdom of My Kingdom and be carriers of My presence.”

He didn’t explain how this would happen, but I knew He was working diligently and I needed to yield the best I knew how.

Since this experience years ago, I can see how He has been working this into my life.  I can also see how I’ve strayed, and allowed myself to be overly influenced by my surroundings.  I can see how I’ve allowed myself to be caught up in the materialistic culture of our times – and I can see how He’s allowed me to feel totally empty and dry because of it.

I can also see how faithful He’s been, and still is, to bring me back every time I’ve missed the mark.  His unfailing love and grace has provided us the place to find forgiveness and a fresh start – at the foot of the cross.

We are facing judgement in this nation, partly because the church have been content being brooks and puddles.  We’ve bent to the world system and bought into the shallow culture of our times.  We’ve forgotten about the search for excellence and yielded to whatever is easy and self-satisfying.  We’re too busy for prayer and too distracted to search until we find.

Father, forgive us . . . and, by Your mercy, bring us back again.

Note:  I mostly know in retrospect that I’ve heard His voice because He confirms it again and again.  I’ve never heard an audible voice.  Thoughts that are clearer, and smarter than me will enter my mind. I have the sense they are coming from my spirit not my mind.  They often come with a sense of surprise.

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