Friday, August 21, 2015

The Treadmill of Life...

But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

Funny how things come to mind while you're doing just regular least that how it happens to me.  While at the gym on the treadmill doing my regular routine it came to me how similar it is with traveling the journey of life....

I would love to paint a picture of me in a cute and matching gym outfit (preferably in fuchsia and turquoise) oh! and with a matching headband, socks and shoes. No visible perspiration on my face or armpits and of course perfectly coiffed hair and full makeup in the vision that I would like to see of me on the treadmill.  But honey, first of all I have to fight to get to the gym to get ON the treadmill, so most times that means a T-shirt with a faded logos,

oversized gym pants, my gym shoes that I have broken in and don't care if they match my outfit, no socks, hair combed back from my face in prep for all that sweat that will drip down my face with a smidgen of makeup (I have to at least put eyeliner on or I would scare folks...can't have that.)  Not quite the "vision" I would like to see of me on the treadmill, BUT I get there and begin...

I start slow at first, getting myself acclimated to walking against the belt. Lots of times I get distracted by the change of music or folks coming in and out and when that happens it makes me begin to concentrate on how much longer I have to stay on this blasted thing! The distractions seem to get my mind off the the good results of the exercise routine and instead it makes me become weary of what I have to do to get there. The distractions make the act of going "forward" tedious instead of a joy for what is ahead. So I have to stay focused on my goal...yes the belt is going in the opposite direction, but as I continue to walk forward it is making me stronger.

I am a people watcher, so as I am looking around I begin to notice how some people use the treadmill: you have your slow walkers, they take it nice and easy, no hurry and know their limitations and just thankful probably to be able to get on a treadmill. Then you have your runners, that seem so confident, they are there for a workout (and a little showoff I think sometimes) and they want to do this routine, and reap the results quickly. Then you have your moderate walkers, like me...start off slow, increasing gradually, trying to stay focused, keeping the goal in mind so the routine won't become a chore instead of a joy and did I say SWEATING up a storm!  Is any one of these the correct way?

To be honest with you, I don't know, all I know is what works for me. In this life's journey we are reminded in God's Word to constantly go forward, to not look back.  Going back is actually no longer an option, but we sometimes spend so much of our time and energy worrying about things that we can not change. Yes the belt of the treadmill is constantly going opposite, but it is the going forward that produces the desired results.  Imagine if you will a person walking backwards on a treadmill, I see a crash landing and broken limbs, hardly what we would want. Even if life seems to want to pull us backwards, we have to constantly allow the Holy Spirit to help and encourage us to go forward.

Distractions will come, but we must stay focused on this walk and the goal of being successful only comes with being more like Jesus. Not one of us is perfect, we each have our own "style", some are slow walkers, cautious and laid back, some are runners, very confident and fast, and some start off slow, but increase as they stay more focused. We are all on a treadmill of life (I know that sounds corny, but there ya go). We are all given an opportunity to go forward and become what God intended us to be. My prayer is that I will continue to hold steady, not be distracted, to stay focused and to keep my eyes on the learn more about the character of God and to become what He wants me to be. As we walk in His Truth and Light, we will accomplish all that He has for us on this earth.

"Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,  I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. " Philippians 3:12-14

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Jesus Loves me...this I know.

One of, if not THEE most profound, liberating Truth ever to be spoken.  Jesus LOVES ME...can you say it with me..."Jesus LOVES ME". It sometimes gives me goose bumps when I say that, mainly because I know the things that I've done, the things that I have said...I know the Real me...and yet there is One who knows me even better than me. He sees beyond my faults and sees my needs, He sees past the rejections, heartbrokenness, and confident fa├žade and sees...ME and He STILL loves me, without restraint, without condition.

The little song "Jesus Loves Me", author unknown:
Jesus Loves Me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little one to Him belong,
They are weak, but He is Strong.
Yes Jesus Loves me, Yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus Loves me, for the Bible tells me so.

I sang this song for the first time when I was a tot in Sunday school and today many years later it still rings true in my heart. In the midst of chaotic situations, the singing of this song still brings me peace and reminds me of the simple yet dynamic Truth that in spite of it all Jesus LOVES ME!

I have seen this simple song turn the hearts of some of the most unhappy souls. Once while preparing to sing during a prison ministry service, as I watched the inmates file in to be seated, I noticed their faces and body language. They had heard it all from folks coming in to preach at them, they knew they had sinned and disappointed their families, society...themselves. The songs that I had prepared to
sing no longer seemed fitting to share with this group of people that seemed to have no hope. When it was my turn to sing, even though we had brought in all the equipment to make each song sound as if it was being accompanied by a full orchestra, I left it off and began to sing accapella  "Jesus Loves Me This I Know."  One by one each inmate's head began to lift, their body language began to straighten and soon each and everyone was singing along with me, "Yes Jesus love me, Yes Jesus loves me."  Needless to say there were many tears and then smiles.  That little simple song changed the atmosphere of the whole service.  Many of the inmates later shared how they remembered singing that song as a child and how it reminded them of God's love for them.

The real author of that little song is not known and I think the reason why is that we can all write and add a verse to it. We can tell the many ways we know how much He loves us, how He allowed us to be born, kept us from all harm, met our needs, was always there, etc. etc.  I know that I could write a million verses!

I have sang "Jesus Loves Me , this I know" in Nursing homes where many felt discarded by their loved ones and were preparing to leave this earth; I have sang it to babies and children, who had their future before them and maybe not fully able to understand, I have sang it to teens with walls of  indifference seemingly so high and impenetrable and yes, many times to harden criminals without hope of ever having a second chance at life; and that little simple song always has the same response.  It has nothing to do with my singing skills or lack thereof...but it is the simple words of this age old song that rings true in their hearts.  Those words make you stop...listen and meditate on that fact that God LOVES us...He really matter if we can feel it...or see is so true! He loves us and there is not a thing that we can do about it, but receive it and allow Him to make us better.

"For God so loved the world , that He gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life."  John 3:16

Friday, July 24, 2015

Early in the morning...

"But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress. " Psalms 59:16

There is something about the early morning and "meeting" with the Lord.  It has always been my most favorite time to sit in His presence. I think what started it was many years ago when my late husband got up his usual time (around 6:00 AM) to get ready for work and he saw our son, who was a teenager by then in his room praying and reading scriptures at that early hour. My husband was an avid Bible reader, but would do his devotional time usually after dinner; and let's face it , how much can you really get out of reading the scriptures when you're tired with a full tummy? But what he saw our son doing that wee hour in the morning inspired and encouraged him to get up an hour earlier each morning and spend time not only reading the Bible, but really allowing God to meet with him.

What can I had a rippling effect and before long instead of dragging my body out of bed around 6:30 to make my husband coffee, pack his lunch and see him off...I was getting up earlier to spend some time in God's presence. We each had our own meeting places.  For some reason my husband found the bathroom to be his "sanctuary"...go figure, but it worked for him  :-).  Me...I loved sitting out on the back porch, no matter how cold it was.  It just seemed like the right place to be early in the morning, with the birds singing and the sun slowly coming up over the horizon. I can feel Him in the quietness of the earth waking up to a new day.  When I read the Bible it is like Him speaking directly to me, when I pray it is me speaking directly to Him. It's an invitation, for the Holy Spirit to come and sit with me a while.  He reminds me of His Goodness and Mercy. I recount the times that He saved me from things that could have destroyed me, of times when I knew that He was there for me. Times when it has been lonely, but I KNEW that I was never alone.

My heart weeps for this world because what I see is a whole lot of people without Hope.  To be hopeless is very sad.  I know what it is like to feel as if there is no hope. As a young person before I met God for the first time...I thought a lot about ending it all by taking my life.  And then there was that time as a young married woman, I did try to end my life.  Thank God that I did not succeed, but it was very embarrassing in the ER trying to explain to the medical staff why I did what I did.  When the words were coming out of my mouth they did not make sense "I give up and no longer want to exist" wonder they all looked at me like I was crazy.  But I wasn't crazy... I just had no hope that things would get any better. And that is what being hopeless feel as if your situation will never get better.  What a lie! I believed that lie for a very long time, until one day, after a neighbor had been praying for me (unbeknownst to me) , that I surrendered my heart and life to Jesus Christ. Not only did I received Hope, but Peace and real Joy.  And He is the only One that can restore your Hope and give you real Peace and Joy.

So my early morning times are very precious with Him, because not only did He save my life, He has rescued me time after time again and again. So many devastating moments and yet...He whispers " I am with you" Times when I have lifted my hands and said " I can not and will not go a step further because this thing is too hard"...He whispers "Yes you can because I am with you."  Times when I've messed up big time and say to myself "I'm not worth it."  And He whispers " You are worth it to Me" and I am reminded of His Sacrifice...for me...and you.

Yes those early morning times restore my strength in Him, it puts the gas in my spiritual tank so that I can get through the day with the assurance that I am not left alone to figure this journey out. He is my stronghold and refuge and He desires to meet with me. When I come early to meet with Him, He is already there, waiting and eager to listen , comfort, even chastise and most of all with love.

"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Matthew 11:28-29

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Are we really free?

July 4th, declared a day of Independence from Britain's rule over what was to become the United States of America. Freedom from Britain's tyranny, a real reason to celebrate, especially with  all the lives that were sacrificed to attain that freedom.

I wonder sometimes if people think of the sacrifices that were made so many years ago, while they crank up the barbecue, enjoy the beach, family picnics, etc, etc.? Of course there is nothing wrong with celebration, but why do we really celebrate this holiday? To be honest I think that the farthest thing from our minds are the young
soldiers that willingly left their homes to fight in the war, or the older soldiers that left wives and children. I think that basically to us nowadays it means a day off of work, family reunions and cookouts. How do we get so far from celebrating the real meaning of the holiday?

Well on a more personal level, what about me? Have I allowed the day to day activities of life to diminish the true meaning of sacrifice? Have I allowed MY personal circumstances in life to override the great price that others have paid so that I could be a beneficiary of better living.  I think of my parents that sacrificed so that all of their children could have a better education than they did. There are so many benefits that we all have in our lives that have
come because some else LOVED us so much they were willing to go without so that we might have.They gave their all, maybe not seeing the results in their lifetime, but by faith doing it so that we could enjoy. So instead of me, and I make this personal, complaining about what I don't have, I should be celebrating what I do have. Instead of seeing all that is wrong in life, I should be rejoicing over the fact that I have so much that is right! Instead of having a pity party and inviting who so ever will listen to come, I should be thanking God for the Grace He has given me to make it in this life and inviting others to trust Him.  I should be celebrating my True freedom, my freedom in Him.

He indeed gave the ultimate sacrifice. So when we shake our fists at God in our grief and say "You don't understand how I feel!" We are so very wrong, He knows...He knows very well what it is like to not only see a loved one die, but to also see Him suffer. The men and women of the America Revolution gave their lives, sacrificed themselves so that freedom would come to their remaining loved ones and their country. God sacrificed His Son Jesus who willingly laid down His life so that anyone that accepted that gift and trust Him would have True freedom on Earth AND throughout eternity. That calls for celebration!

I think that I am speaking more to myself through this post...I am so blessed! Some things in life we don't choose...who our parents are, how we were raised, physical and some health limitations and when we lose loved ones. These things can have a major negative impact on our lives, but even though we do not choose these things, God can use them for our benefit. We must trust Him to show us how to live this life to its fullest. Only He can show us through His Word how to walk in True freedom. "If you abide in my Word you are my disciples indeed and you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free!"John 8:31

 He has already paid the price and greatly sacrificed so that we can succeed. We are Free in Him!  And for that we Celebrate!  "Therefore if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed."  John 8:36   
 Happy 4th of July Everyone!

Friday, June 19, 2015

His loving kindness and faithfulness...

This will be a different kind of post. One not so much about learning more about God through my everyday experiences; but more about reminding myself of what I already know about Him...

I don't know if it was the news of the recent passing of a longtime friend, or the beautiful memorial for another dear friend that went to be with the Lord several months ago...or maybe it is that Father's Day is approaching, but I am missing my late husband.  Maybe it is a combination of all three of these things, but at any rate it has all affected me with a sharp reality of my husband's absence from my life.  Many of you will understand what I mean.  Even though it has been over 13 years since he has passed and through God's comfort and healing of my soul, there are still times when there comes a sharp reality of the absence of a loved one that has passed.

I am not depressed, nor do I feel sorry for myself. I am just experiencing a grief moment as I process the sad news (local and the media) that I have been hearing over the past few days and even the wonderful news of a life remembered, but sorely missed, as I converse with a wife and a mother and feel with compassion their grief.

I am reminded of what Pastor A. has been teaching about the Holy Spirit (God's Spirit) and how He is grieved at times (Ephesians 4:30); He grieves out of love, not anger nor frustration.  How grief is not from loss, but love. So I don't grieve for my husband because I have lost him, I know exactly where he is and I will see him again someday. But this grief is out of love, love that the Lord blessed the two of us with and will last forever.  Come to think

of never goes away...yes even though that person has been gone from my presence for over 13 years.  Love is eternal...God is eternal...God IS love...and "Love never fails". (how my husband always signed his cards and notes to me) I Corinthians 13: 8a

So what I am experiencing is all about love, how God loves us and how He has blessed me to be able to love others and miss their presence. How He has blessed me to feel with compassion for others that are fresh on a journey of living without the presence of a loved one. How He has blessed me to be able to turn my eyes upon Him and see HIS beauty and know without a shadow of a doubt that He knows what I am feeling at any given moment and does not judge me, but takes my hand and walks with me. He lifts my head, wipes my tears and assures me that I am not alone, He will never leave me nor forsake me. He IS my Glory and the lifter of my head. Psalms 3:3

Pastor A. mentioned this old hymn a couple of weeks ago. Written by C. Austin Miles in 1913, but it still rings so true for me today. It was one of my mother's favorite hymns and I
can still hear her singing it in her light soprano voice when I as a child, sat beside her in the choir loft at St. John Methodist church in South Carolina so many years ago...

I come to the garden alone 
while the dew is still on the roses, 
and the voice I hear falling on my ear, 
the Son of God discloses. 

And he walks with me, and he talks with me, 
and he tells me I am his own; 
and the joy we share as we tarry there, 
none other has ever known. 

He speaks, and the sound of his voice 
is so sweet the birds hush their singing, 
and the melody that he gave to me 
within my heart is ringing. 

And he walks with me, and he talks with me, 
and he tells me I am his own; 
and the joy we share as we tarry there, 
none other has ever known. 

"It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your loving kindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night..."
Psalms 92:1-2

Thank You Lord for your faithfulness and thank You Holy Spirit for reminding me that I have so much to be thankful for.  :-)

Saturday, June 6, 2015


"To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born,
And a time to die; A time to plant,  And a time to pluck what is planted..."  Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2

There is a season for everything, God in His Infinite wisdom and love for us knew that we would need change in our lives in order to be motivated to move forward; to complete His purpose .  Hmmm Change...something most needed and yet it is something that we fight so hard against sometimes.

In nature we see change all the time with each passing  Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. We complain about each one, rather it be too cold or too hot...too much wind or rain or bugs; and yet each season is so necessary and beneficial for the next one.  There are events that occur in each season that brings success to the next.  In Spring, seeds sprout and pollination of flowers occur to bring forth an abundance of produce and flowers in the summer. By the end of Summer and
the beginning of Fall there is a great time of harvest, a time to reap the benefits of the hard work of the passing Summer.  By Fall the plants begin to go into rest; coupled with the cooler nights and frequent rains, brilliant colors appear in trees and seed pods fall to the ground to die. Winter brings complete rest, necessary rest to gather strength for the coming spring when everything burst on the scene in beautiful pastels and fragrance...renewal...and the wheels keep turning...

Change...I have seen some changes in my life, some I've wanted and seemed right on time, there also have been others when I asked God "Surely you must  be mistaken this time?"  Knowing full well He NEVER make mistakes.  That is why He saw me go through the change and answered my prayers by giving me more strength to endure.  In the natural we expect that from a good coach, that they won't just make it particularly easier, but will be by your side to encourage you to go longer, to press in, to get a second wind until you can not only see the finish line, but actually run through it.  How much more important and excellent is He, our Lord.  He has started a good work in us and will be by our side to complete it.  "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6

If we give up, it is by our choice, not His.  From season to season there are challenges, any farmer can tell you that, but with each one there are also successes: Seed time, Growing time, Harvest time and then the time of
rest.  So it is in our lives, there are seasons that come that we may never understand why they were necessary.  I am learning that when it seems to us that God is hiding an answer or is silent, He is actually protecting me and if or when it is necessary He will reveal it to me at the right time...His time.

Seasons...changes...we complain, we question: "How long will it last?", when we know all the time that the season won't last forever. We know that Spring, will turn to Summer, Summer to Fall and Fall to Winter. The seasons have changed for all the number of years I have been on this earth and will continue after I am gone. So should I complain about it or enjoy, learn and harvest everything God wants me to experience during that time, so that I can exceed and succeed into the next. So that I can become all that He wants me to be.

What season are you in right now?  Is it one of renewal, coming out of a time of a trial and now you feel the weight of some issues lifted? Maybe you're in a season of growing, maturing and finding out about your real self. Or are you in a time of actually seeing some of the things that you have been praying for come to pass.  What about rest?  Are you in a time of just taking time to rest not just your body, but your soul and spirit, I call it my ALONE time or as one author puts it our ALL ONE time. Time when we alone become ALL ONE with God, Him making us a whole person. Taking time to be healed in every area of our lives.  A little FYI: It is scientifically proven that the body heals itself during sleep, that is why sleep is so important.

Whatever season you may be in, know this...God is with you. As you trust Him, He is with you to make sure you  not only make it through, but that you succeed to go forward into the next season of your life. Be encouraged !
Tree from my Sister's yard in Virginia

Thursday, May 28, 2015

True Fellowship...

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep."
 Romans 12:15

It has been a while since I have posted on this blog, but it was not because I was not learning anything. In fact I think I was learning so much that I got overwhelmed and when that happens I have to take a breather to "digest" what I have learned about God's character and what I have discovered about me.

I prayed many years ago to always have a "teachable spirit". That no matter how old,
experienced or wise that I thought I was, I would always be willing to learn from whomever God put in my path to enlighten me.  Now does that mean I look for every spiritual or mystical person or thing that cross my path to have a "word" from God for me? Heaven's sake No!  But I knew that as I submitted myself to God with a willingness to learn, then His love would never lead me down the wrong path; as long as I discerned and obeyed His leading.  Have I ever missed the mark? You betcha!  But those were times when in my flesh, I wanted to "fit in" with the so called In Crowd, and yes they do have those in Christian circles...sad but true.

Anyway, I said all that to say that through the brilliant teaching of I'll just say Pastor A., I have been learning about the true meaning of Fellowship.  That it is not always about a group of believers getting together around food (though food could be included), but basically it is about sharing, truly sharing about the goodness of God, His Word, how He has helped us, truly listening to and encouraging one another,  being truthful with one another even when it may not be popular, and really CARING for each other.  When we can do that kind of fellowship, I believe that it overflows and spills out to this desperate, sad world. True fellowship also means having a common bond, love and respect for one another with the openness to invite others in to partake of our experiences with God.  With this in mind... I took my dogs for a romp at the Dog park...

As I entered the gate I was greeted by not only various breeds of friendly pups, but friendly people. This was a group of folks that really loved their dogs and by bringing them to the dog park on a regular basis had developed a sort of "family".  The fact that I was only an occasional visitor did not deter them from bringing me into their conversations about the
antics of their beloved dogs.  In fact one lady very sweetly dubbed me, the "Chihuahua Lady".   :-)  These precious people , even though some were a little "different" and maybe a little eccentric, very lovingly included me into their family as they recognized that we had a common bond, a common love...our dogs.

As I have mentioned before, I love watching people, their mannerisms, reactions, body language (once again I promise, I am not a stalker). And even though I love to talk, I sat quietly and watched as these people demonstrated fellowship.  They had a common love, they respected each other, they gave each other remedies and tips on how to have a happy dog, they laughed with each other about the funny dog stories and they were sad with the ones that had sad stories and sick dogs.  They had different appearances, temperaments, personalities and yes even skin colors. But because of their common bond, they were "Fellowshipping" and it WORKED!  They made me feel welcomed, and because of what I saw and felt, I wanted to be a part of this "Family". They cared about what was important to one another and that made me want to embrace them.

As I watched, I thought about us as believers in Christ, about how we have gotten so far away from true fellowship, the kind that is written about in the Book of Acts.  We have a common bond/love: Jesus Christ and God's Word, but in many ways we have gotten off the path that God intended for us. My desire is to care more, talk less and listen more, share more about God and His Word, respect more, encourage more, rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those that weep more, be more generous and hospitable, so that it will overflow and spill out to this world and they will want to embrace God.

It's not too late, we can still fulfill this purpose that God intended for true fellowship among us. We can still be examples of God's love for the world.

"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
 Lovingly, "The Chihuahua Lady"  ;-)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Worry is for the Birds...not really..

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?" Matthew 6:25-27

Several years ago, I read a book entitled "Personality Plus" by Florence Littauer.  In it she discusses about what is believed to be 4 basic personalities in mankind. To her credit, she also wrote that she believes that just about everyone is a combination of at least two of the basic personality traits. In reading it I figured out that I was probably a combination of all 4 ! 

 No wonder as far back as pre-puberty I never felt like I "fit in" any particular group.  While I  did not have a problem with peer pressure in my teen years, I never fit into any particular group because I just wanted everyone to get along. I really dislike "cliques".  I saw the "cool-ness" in all the girls, even the ones that wanted to beat me up; and could not understand why we couldn't all just get along together. That could possibly be a good trait, but what it did for me was put me on the outskirts of every other words I didn't fit in.

Knowing now that God made no mistakes when He created me and my personality, and since Romans 8:28 says that all things can work together for my good, I have chosen to allow my personality to work for the good of God's purpose. I love people and love being around them, love watching them (so if you catch me staring at you, I promise I am NOT a stalker), but at the same time I love my times of being alone and being can learn so much in both scenarios. I love encouraging people, it just comes out and from the heart, but it has been brought to my attention that I can also say what may be perceived as harsh things to people thinking that it will somehow jolt them to what I think is correction.  Talk about Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, move over buddy the laboratory is mine!  Can God use me?  I believe so. 

I am learning (and this is what this blog is all about by the way) how to balance not only my personality, but my reactions

Sitting on the porch this morning, with the soft, spring rain coming down, the melancholy side of my personality began to feel sorry for myself.  The enemy of our souls plays a dirty game, he condemns and reminds you of all things negative. As I allowed these thoughts to marinate in my mind, depression and fear stood by to get entrance. But as I began to talk to God, pour my heart out to Him about what was troubling me and to read scriptures, peace began to come...and then I saw the birds...

Over a week ago I contracted some one to come and take down the large bushes that are trying to takeover the fence. To me they were becoming a menace, and in fall the leaves would go into my neighbors yard, who never complained, but I felt bad about that. The contractor gave me a date as to when the job would be done...which was several days ago. So when I see the bushes I feel a little frustrated that they are still there; but this morning as I watched these birds gather there to be sheltered from the rain...I knew that the bushes had been left there today for a reason. My eyes focused in on one little swallow sitting among the bush branches, finding shelter and the Holy Spirit reminded me that if God cares for this little bird enough to make sure that during this particular rainy day it would have much more does He make sure I have shelter in the storms of life, how much more He is looking out for me, How much more is He my protector, how much more does He feels what I feel, how much more He loves and cares for me!

I am so thankful that God knows how to keep my personality in check and balance. How He is teaching me to keep looking to Him, the author and finisher of my faith. He knows me and He loves me! Wow!  Hey! and He KNOWS you too, and guess what? He LOVES you!  As you surrender all that you are to Him, He will make something beautiful of your life (sounds like a song) ;-) Allow Him to be your shelter and cover you with His unconditional, everlasting love...

"Those who live in the shelter of the Most High, will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;  he is my God, and I trust him." Psalms 91: 1-2

Friday, March 20, 2015

He Renews My Joy !

Spring time! Often spoken of as a time of renewal.  Nature that has been dormant over the harsh, cold winter begins to come alive again. Sometimes it seems to be chomping at the bit to wake up...I saw a Robin a few weeks go when it was no way near spring, and yet I am sure in it's "God clock" it knew that it was very near, regardless of the snow piles still on the ground.

A time of renewal, a time to wake up from the burdens, maybe even sadness that has hovered over your life.

I have been reading Isaiah 53 this week and it is the prophecy of the suffering that Christ would endure. It always amazes me how the Prophet Isaiah was given the message by God many, many years before Christ was even born, of how He was to suffer for our sins. These scriptures, among many, are proof that the Old and New Testaments are one Book of Truth from God; because as you read in the gospels of the New Testament, the prophecy was surely fulfilled in Christ's crucifixion.

And oh how Christ suffered for our sins, as Isaiah 53:4 states (New Living Translation):

"And yet it was OUR weaknesses that He carried, it was OUR sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins!"  Then Verse 5 goes on to say "But He was pierced for OUR rebellion, crushed for OUR sins..."

He allowed them to lead Him to the cross as an innocent lamb to be slain for our weaknesses, our sins, our rebellion...because of His Love for us.  After reading these scriptures I felt impressed by

God to read Psalms 21-23. and when I got to Psalms 23:3 this verse stood out "He restores my soul" (King James version.)  But I like the New Living Translation that says "He renews my strength".  God is in the "Renewing" business!  LOL

In the book of Nehemiah, chapter 8 and the end of verse 10 it says "...the joy of the Lord is your strength." A familiar quote for some, but here is the background: Nehemiah along with Ezra was in Jerusalem during a time of the Feast of the seven months (the feast of the trumpets) and the people who were once exiles but now returned to Jerusalem, requested that Ezra read the Book of the Law. It was a custom to do so, but the custom had been lost with them being exiled from their home land. As Ezra read the Holy scriptures, the people were very moved and reminded of how far they had ventured from what God had said to them. It made them grieve because of their sins and hopefully they repented...and that is when Ezra, Nehemiah and the other Levites instructed the people not to grieve but to rejoice and celebrate on this holy day..."for the joy of the Lord is your strength!" These people that had been enslaved for many years...I'd say they were a little weak, wouldn't you say? They needed to be revived by the Word of God and in being so to celebrate!

Now THAT is renewal! God renews our strength through His He renews our joy!  When I read how Jesus suffered, being rejected, curses hurled at Him, being spat upon, His flesh torn from His body, His beard torn from His face...He suffered unimaginable pain and grief...and not for anything He had done, but He allowed it willingly for you and me.  Why? so that we can have the Joy of knowing the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords on a face to face basis, so that we can have the joy of knowing that we will go and live with Him one day, and that we can have the joy of living out this life here on earth.  What a privilege and honor He has given us to wake up each day, with His new mercies and to be able to let the light that He has given to us, shine in this dark, sad world.  He renews my joy and that gives me strength to face each day. I have known sadness, yes, but I know joy and I thank God for giving it to me.

Joy is something that you must choose each day to walk in. Our situations in life may not be conducive to happiness, but there is always joy. When I read about how Christ suffered for my sins, it grieves me, because it reminds me not only of His pain, but also, just as the Jews did in Nehemiah's time, it reminds me of how far I may have ventured from what He suffered and died salvation.  It causes me to take a long hard look at where I am right now and mercifully God gives me another chance to repent and get back on track, so that I can celebrate once again and have renewed strength and joy!

Spring time a season of renewal! A time to celebrate the great sacrifice God made for us. Sometimes I still cannot wrap my brain around how amazing that is.  ME? He did it for ME?  Wow!  Now that's Love! And on top of that He gives me Joy!

"I will be filled with joy because of You. I will sing praises to Your Name O Most High." Psalms 9:2

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

He defines us...

It was the Christmas season of 1969, and I was home from college on break and working part time at J. C Penney as a gift wrapper/clerk. I took my lunch break and decided to go to the drugstore and get myself a soda.  All of my life up to that point I had attended segregated schools in my hometown. However when I went away to college, it was in a town that with recent marches and sit-ins, there was considerably a lot of changes. With those changes there had also been tragedies and lost of some lives, and as a student I was the beneficiary of the price paid. In my college town, my room-mates and I could go downtown and eat at the KFC or  drink at the public water fountain that no longer had signs for "colored" and "white". I remember us giggling to ourselves and feeling special after going into a public bathroom and walking out without someone yelling at us.  It was with this attitude that I went into that drugstore that day, not a smug attitude, but an attitude of confidence that change had come and now I am just like everyone else.

I was not trying to make a statement or be defiant, all I wanted was a soda. When I walked up to the counter, I did notice some strange looks and it did take a really long time for the lady working the counter to finally come over to me to ask what I wanted, but did not consider that change had not come entirely to my hometown.  My original intention was to order my drink and leave to go back to work, but because the waitress was moving so slow, I sat down at the counter on one of the stools.  Finally she came over with my drink and sat it on the counter in front of me. I paid her then inserted the straw to take a sip and that is when her movements that had been in slow motion all this time turned to turbo speed as she rushed over to me and said "You cannot sit there."  I asked her "Why?" and she said "Because we do not serve people like you at this counter." I then asked her "What kind of PEOPLE am I?" and she replied with so much anger in her voice "Nigras."  Now when I look back in retrospect and giving her the benefit of the doubt...maybe she was trying to say "Negroes", but with the venom in which she said it, I think she was aiming for the other word. LOL  I laugh now, but back then, trust me, it was far from funny. Because with that, something snapped in me and I watched in what looked like what had now become my turn to be in slow motion  as I took the large soda with ice and dumped it over the counter with a big splash. I did not aim for the waitress but I am sure that she got several DROPLETS on her shoes anyway. I arose from the stool and as I slowly left the store I could hear the waitress and others by now, shouting, cursing and calling me awful names.

After exiting and walking back to my job I fully expected to have the police follow and arrest me, or even someone throw something to hit me in the back.  But thank God, that did not happen, even though that walk was only about a block, it felt like an eternity to get back into the safety of J.C.Penney that day. Now... did I benefit from tossing that soda on the counter? No, and I would handle it much better and differently today...but can I be honest and say that it sure did feel good back then :-)

Recently I was having a phone conversation with my 13 year old granddaughter about the movie "Selma" that we each had seen; she and her friend of the same age were blown away with the portrayal of some of the scenes of segregation and how some people felt about it back then. When I told her that when I was 13, "that way" was a real part of my life. Now don't get me wrong, I did not have a tough life, both my parents were hard working folks that gave me and my siblings the very best that they could in everything, I never remember wanting for anything as a child growing up.  They also taught us to have respect for others as well as ourselves. My father worked in a Paper Mill,which was considered a very good job back then, but he was not allowed to eat his lunch in the cafeteria/break room, he and his other black co -workers had to find a place in the rafters or wherever to eat.  But my Dad never complained, he was just so thankful to have a steady job that provided for his family. He worked there many years and was awarded special recognition upon his retirement.  My mom was a housekeeper and not only was she excellent at keeping other people's homes, but she kept her own home immaculate and organized. I have so much to be thankful for, because they taught us to be good at whatever we do and never let someone else's opinion of you, define you. But it was still a time when segregation reigned and underneath even all the love and security that my parents provided for us, was a certain fear of being rejected or even harmed while out in public because of the color of our skin.

That experience that day at the drugstore and many other similar experiences I have had do not define me. Yes, I am black, an African American, a Negro if you will, I was made by God, I am not a mistake and though it may sound cute...God is NOT color blind. When God made me He knew exactly what color He wanted me to be and He does not expect me or anyone else to ignore that fact. I do not expect others to NOT see my color, just as I will not ignore theirs; but I will respect our diversities. God in His graciousness made diversity in all of creations...I think it would be quite boring if we all looked the same.  :-)  We have so much to benefit from each other.  While a bouquet of only yellow daffodils is certainly beautiful and can brighten a day, there is so much you can say about a bouquet of yellow daffodils, red roses, purple tulips and pink peonies!  The mixture and abundance of diverse colors and features of a mixed bouquet will bring hours of OOO's and AAAH's (ever been to the Philadelphia Flower show?)

I am sure that many of us from all races can share stories about when we have been mistreated because of prejudice (pre-judged by the color of our skin) but we all know that those experiences do not define us.  God is the One that defines us.  When we surrender our past hurts and rejections to Him, He becomes our foundation of which we build not only our existence but our very character.  I found this list on a website and according to His Word, this is how He defines us:

I am God’s child (John 1:12)
I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
I belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)
I am a member of Christ’s Body (1 Corinthians 12:27)
I am assured all things work together for good (Romans 8:28)
I have been established, anointed and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
I am confident that God will perfect the work He has begun in me(Philippians 1:6)
I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)
I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)
I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18)
I am blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing(Ephesians 1:3)
I am chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 11)
I am holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4)
I am adopted as his child (Ephesians 1:5)
I am given God’s glorious grace lavishly and without restriction(Ephesians 1:5,8)
I am in Him (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30)
I have redemption (Ephesians 1:8)
I am forgiven (Ephesians 1:8; Colossians 1:14)
I have purpose (Ephesians 1:9 & 3:11)
I have hope (Ephesians 1:12)
I am included (Ephesians 1:13)
I am sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)
I am a saint (Ephesians 1:18)
I am salt and light of the earth (Matfthew 5:13-14)
I have been chosen and God desires me to bear fruit (John 15:1,5)
I am a personal witness of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8)
I am God’s coworker (2 Corinthians 6:1)
I am a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)
I am raised up with Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6)
I have been shown the incomparable riches of God’s grace(Ephesians 2:7)
God has expressed His kindness to me (Ephesians 2:7)
I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
I have been brought near to God through Christ’s blood (Ephesians 2:13)
I have peace (Ephesians 2:14)
I have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18)
I am a member of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19)
I am secure (Ephesians 2:20)
I am a holy temple (Ephesians 2:21; 1 Corinthians 6:19)
I am a dwelling for the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22)
I share in the promise of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6)
God’s power works through me (Ephesians 3:7)
I can approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)
I know there is a purpose for my sufferings (Ephesians 3:13)
I can grasp how wide, long, high and deep Christ’s love is(Ephesians 3:18)
I am completed by God (Ephesians 3:19)
I can bring glory to God (Ephesians 3:21)
I have been called (Ephesians 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:9)
I can be humble, gentle, patient and lovingly tolerant of others(Ephesians 4:2)
I can mature spiritually (Ephesians 4:15)
I can be certain of God’s truths and the lifestyle which He has called me to (Ephesians 4:17)
I can have a new attitude and a new lifestyle (Ephesians 4:21-32)
I can be kind and compassionate to others (Ephesians 4:32)
I can forgive others (Ephesians 4:32)
I am a light to others, and can exhibit goodness, righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:8-9)
I can understand what God’s will is (Ephesians 5:17)
I can give thanks for everything (Ephesians 5:20)
I don’t have to always have my own agenda (Ephesians 5:21)
I can honor God through marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33)
I can parent my children with composure (Ephesians 6:4)
I can be strong (Ephesians 6:10)
I have God’s power (Ephesians 6:10)
I can stand firm in the day of evil (Ephesians 6:13)
I am dead to sin (Romans 1:12)
I am not alone (Hebrews 13:5)
I am growing (Colossians 2:7)
I am His disciple (John 13:15)
I am prayed for by Jesus Christ (John 17:20-23)
I am united with other believers (John 17:20-23)
I am not in want (Philippians 4:19)
I possess the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16)
I am promised eternal life (John 6:47)
I am promised a full life (John 10:10)
I am victorious (I John 5:4)
My heart and mind is protected with God’s peace (Philippians 4:7)
I am chosen and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12)
I am blameless (I Corinthians 1:8)
I am set free (Romans 8:2; John 8:32)
I am crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20)
I am a light in the world (Matthew 5:14)
I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
I am the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)
I am safe (I John 5:18)
I am part of God’s kingdom (Revelation 1:6)
I am healed from sin (I Peter 2:24)
I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1, 2)
I am not helpless (Philippians 4:13)
I am overcoming (I John 4:4)
I am persevering (Philippians 3:14)
I am protected (John 10:28)
I am born again (I Peter 1:23)
I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am delivered (Colossians 1:13)
I am redeemed from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13)
I am qualified to share in His inheritance (Colossians 1:12)
I am victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57)