Warm Wednesday Words: The Three Step Plan

There are moments when I am weary inside and out and loosen my grip on the promises I stand on.  That’s when I use the Three Step Plan – Turn, Believe, Go.  It’s all right inside the hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”.  It seems to be the same plan in essence that God spoke to His remnant of people through Haggai and other prophets as they worked on the temple when he told them to be strong (turn), get to work(go) and remember His promises (believe).

First I turn my eyes from troubles toward my Savior through one or more avenues such as worship, Bible and devotional readings, or seeking Godly counsel with someone who cares enough to both exhort and encourage and will take the time to give thoughtful and timely counsel.

Second, I believe.  I find what God has said and reposition myself on that truth, or if it’s not clear to me yet, I try to unearth it.  This is usually through my Bible, devotional or journal (which has notes of encouragement, exhortation, scripture promises  sermon notes, a diary and prayer log).  As Oswald Chamber said in the June 5 “My Utmost for His Highest” devotional, “I will remember God’s say-so…like a child ‘bucking himself up’ to reach the standard his father wants.”

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Third, I go.  That means action.  We all have different callings and burdens in various seasons of our life, so action can look entirely different on each of us.  Action can just as rightly be toiling over a prayer list in private or faithfully serving in the family as it can be doing the most visible job in a traditional church service or sacrificing time on a mission trip.  But, acting allows God’s Spirit and light to flow out in ministry, in addition to being an act of obedience to God.

094e796d7fcccdf8eb225715589989cb What a promise we have to know that Jesus life is our light and it can never be extinguished no matter what dark places we go forth with it.   Sometimes it may feel like my light is flickering, but since it’s Christ in me, it burns strong.  What is your strategy for those weary moments?

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Warm Wednesday Words: Stretcher Bearers

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There are times I’ve been carried on a stretcher, unable to walk where I needed to go, and there have also been times I have helped carry a “stretcher” with a friend aboard where he or she needed to go.  Though one of the stretcher times for me was a literal stretcher from our wrecked one ton suburban to the ambulance and ER, (I was miraculously ok, albeit sore with a case of whiplash and bruised ribs,  after the full speed blow of a semi broadsided my side of the car giving me a couple full twirls), most of the stretcher times for me weren’t literal.  These have been times when I needed the emotional support of a friend to get through a hard time.  I’m sure you’ve had those times as well.  God is faithful to provide those friends who provide the crutch or stretcher and ample words of encouragement and exhortation.  A stretcher situation requires some coordinated efforts between more than one person, but even if it’s just one friend with a crutch, it’s enough to get me through.

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In the Bible, (Luke 5:17-26) there is a story of a man who was carried on a stretcher by his friends to seek healing from Jesus.  In between the lines of this story, it’s easy to see that here were some friends who left enough margin in their lives for helping someone.  And they had enough strength, courage and determination to try the rooftop route when they couldn’t squeeze through the crowd at the door.  They weren’t looking for the first excuse out of this job.  This roof didn’t just have a stretcher sized hole in it.  They had to remove roof tiles, and presumably hung around long enough to fix the roof as well.  I doubt they had the ropes in their back pockets to lower him down.  This endeavor, as most endeavors do, started to grow larger on them.  But they pressed on.  And Jesus healed the man based on “their” faith.    Wow…what a thought that Jesus is willing to heal a man based on his own, possibly weakened, faith combined with his friends.

a friend hears the song I am so thankful for friends and family who lend a crutch or provide a stretcher when I need it.  What I don’t need is tale bearers.  And who does?  Our prayers and faith should have “feet” that spur us on to good deeds of encouragement.   One of my favorite songs is “Carried to the Table” by Leeland.

Christ is my ultimate “stretcher” bearer.  Actually, He doesn’t even need a stretcher to carry me.  He carries me to the table of communion with His strong arms and He’ll carry me (and all who trust in Him as Savior) to the table at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  A table where I don’t belong, but He says I do.  “Have you had a crutch or stretcher provided for you when you couldn’t do it alone?  Have you lent one?  Do you know the One who will carry you to the ultimate table where you can’t go without His invitation?

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Warm Wednesday Words: Get social

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How do you socially connect with those around you?   Beginning with the Trinity, and thereafter with Adam, then Eve, and on down through time, God designed and modeled social connections.  From invading Adam’s personal space when He breathed life into his nostrils to sharing friendship in the first garden with Adam and Eve, God showed Himself to be social and still does in your life, too.

God with Adam & Eve

While there are times when a silent retreat is needed and good, as in Jesus example of getting away to pray alone or with a few followers, most of His adult life was spent in connecting and engaging with individuals and crowds.  He had a mission both with the lost and with His followers.  Social pretense was and is a waste of time with Him since He can see right into heart motives.

prayer and solitudeAs Brandon Cox said in his book, “Rewired”,  ‘boundaries, in their proper place can be a good thing…What I am saying, however, is that keeping people away usually makes us feel safe, and not in a good way.  We live in the most connected yet disconnected age since the Garden of Eden..we are lonelier than ever, and our isolationist ways have left millions struggling through life…honesty and intimacy are far more difficult than silence…’

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While appropriate boundaries are occasionally needed, in our society walls are too conveniently erected and fortified, and silence magnified in our relationships.

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In our day and age, it is not the lack of connections that breeds loneliness and worse maladies.  It is the silence we allow in those connections.  Overcoming silence with friendly and encouraging words may very well be that “cup of cold water” that is needed today, both inside and outside the church.  “And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” (Matt. 10:42) And what better way to display to the world the love God has given, then to start within the church and go out.

speak life & truthTypical modern day lifestyles are often missing healthy margins and can be the death knell for maintaining social relationships, therefore it is becoming a trend to seek out receptive places to listen, speak and connect.   Socializing is sprawling into constantly changing networks; i.e.  facebook, twitter, blogging, linkedin, pinterest, instagram, google, tumblr and more.  Some are surface skimming social avenues, but many have the means to go deeper.  Churches who encourage and support small groups and small group atmospheres are onto the modern day needs of all ages within their membership.  The kinds of relationships that result are an attraction to a lonely world.  Online social groups, such as (in)courage  offer places where friendships can be made and enjoyed to whatever depth and extent you desire and even encourage real life meetups by sponsoring annual  simulcasts and other supports for such gatherings.   The example of those engaging in social networking and small group fellowships may just be the winning ticket to stamp out the societal ill of problem-breeding relational silence and loneliness.

social networkingPerhaps it is the modern day come back to front porch chats among neighbors back when the word “neighbors” meant something more personal.  What ways do you think socializing has changed, for better or worse,  in recent years?  What ways can you socially give “a cup of cold water” to someone?  What ways might you be denying one by your silence?

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(In)Courage Friendships

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Today marks a fresh start for friendships as registration begins for a new session of (In)courage groups for Christian women.  In these groups you will find amazing camaraderie, heartfelt prayer support, cheering  you on type encouragement, humble empathy and more.  There is an empty spot needing what only you can pour into it among like minded friends.

As C.S. Lewis said in his book “The Four Loves”,  ‘Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden)..It is when…they share their vision – it is then that friendship is born….The opinion of this little circle, while I am in it, outweighs that of a thousand outsiders, as friendship strengthens.  It will do this even when my friends are far away.’

I can attest to this in the (In)Courage groups I have been in for near empty nesters in the last couple years. Even though I have been involved in different groups during different sessions, the friendships formed have been tenacious.  If you are approaching an empty nest or already knee deep in finding your way through that season, there are several groups just in that category alone for you to choose from.  But the mind-blowing thing is that there are over fifty groups covering a a large variety of interests you can choose from to connect with friends who will cheer you on shoulder to shoulder while pointing you to Christ in a closed group setting.  Check out this (In)Courage link and find a group for you this week.  You will not regret it.

Warm Wednesday Words: You’re Beautiful…Just as You Are.

Whether you feel it or not, either inwardly or outwardly, God wants you to know, through Christ, He considers you beautiful just as you are.

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In regard to outward appearance, the only ironclad standards worthy of adherence are in the Word.   So defy comparisons, whether in regard to bodies, clothing, cosmetics, etc., and find happiness and satisfaction in your own flesh and modest preferences.

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In his book, “The Four Loves”, C.S. Lewis rightly said, “the naked man has seemed to our ancestors not the natural but the abnormal man, not the man who has abstained from dressing, but the man who has been for some reason undressed…nudity emphasizes common humanity and soft-pedals what is individual.  In that way we are ‘more ourselves’ when clothed.”  Aside from obvious lasciviousness and the sometimes justifiable bearing that culture may  have, ignore the myriads of opinions out there on styles, cosmetics, etc. or lack of them.  Thankfully, when the layers are peeled back, true beauty is a character matter.    Outward appearance is of trivial consequence and, within the framework of modesty, a matter of individual preference.  There is beauty in variety, as well as in constancy, because what is behind those preferences or circumstances is what shines through as truly beautiful, as in this picture of Lou Xiaoying, 88-Year-Old Poor Chinese woman who saved abandoned babies.

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Inward beauty is the consequential and potentially eternal facet of beauty.  Feeling “ugly” inside can create a chasm of your own making between you and God.  Yet, God wants you to know you are beautiful just as you are.  Because He is holy, He can’t look on sin, but He sees you through, Christ, the Mediator.  He sees you as beautiful because you are His handiwork, despite flaws and  mess ups.   You may disappoint yourself or others but God doesn’t tire of you when you desire to please Him.

God loves us as we are

Zeph. 3:17 says  God rejoices over you with gladness, quiets you with His love and delights in you with shouts of joy.  Jer. 31:3 says God has loved you with an everlasting love and has extended faithful love to you.  When you walk in His ways, His love becomes even more personal.  1 John 3:1 reminds you to take note of the great love God has lavished on you that you should be called His child.   It is apparent that he wants to nurture you along in just the skin that you’re in, albeit a new heart.  He is rooting for you.

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Imagine a God who would indwell you so that He could revive you!   “For the High and Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy says this:  ‘I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed.'” (Isa. 57:15) It’s a staggeringly triumphant thought to know that when you are weak, then you can be strong because of your wonderful God.  There is no better guarantee than that.  He takes messes and hands back beauty, which becomes your uniqueness merged with His Spirit.  That, my friend, makes you a stunningly beautiful treasure, inside and out.

saying beauty for ashes

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Check out more encouraging posts from other bloggers!

Warm Wednesday Words: You are Loved Even, and Especially, in the Storm

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You are loved even when you’re in a dark place, whether the dark place be a blurry focus that is difficult to correct or whether by reality.  Some weather storms much closer to home than others.  It can feel like you are that little tree bending in the fierce wind.   Life’s storms can be huge, leaving staggering devastation in their wake, or they can be small and short, still causing occasional damage.   I can’t tell you the outcome of your storms, or all the reasons why they may occur.   But I can tell you that when you submit to Christ and keep your focus on Him, He will give comfort, direction, and correction.  You can even expect miraculous intervention in either storm diversion or divine character changes in you, such as strength, joy and endurance as you walk through trials unscathed.  The latter can be a greater good.  In retrospect, you will see it.

storm clouds on horizon

I hope that when the next storm clouds of life appear in your horizon, you seek God in prayer, first recognizing that we all contribute to “storms” on occasion, and second, that even if you did nothing to deserve your current circumstances, YOU ARE LOVED by a God who sees you and knows what you are dealing with.  When you truly seek Him, He will rescue you in ways that you know are personal and precious.  The more you trust Him, the sweeter He becomes to you, both during the storm, and reflecting on Him once it has passed.  He becomes your Storm Chaser, Comforter, Healer and the most personal Lover of your Soul.  You become aware that you were the Apple of His Eye all along, and gain confidence in His strength in you.

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You are not defined by love that wanes or seems to fail.  You do not fall down when your props are all knocked out from under you, whether from a health calamity, job loss, financial problems, friendship/reputation issues, etc.  You are never alone.  In marriage, whether you are a husband or wife, God reaches out to you with comfort and answers.  He soothes your broken heart with personal words urging you to march on because He has crushed the enemy.  And He helps you know who the ultimate enemy is, and that you are, at times, just as much the enemy as anyone else on this messed up planet, so there’s never an excuse for not forgiving , restoring and counting your blessings.

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Don’t lose sight of the fact that rainbows come after storms, smiles after tears, joy after sorrow and rewards after steadfastness.  With endurance you can become that tree that is deeply rooted, has stood the test of time, and bears much fruit.  With that kind of plan, it’s hard to doubt that you are dearly loved and will make it through life’s storms, and be the better for them.

tree rooted by waterP.S. Be sure to check out all the other bits of encouragement linked-up on the Coffee for Your Heart 2014 Encouragement Challenge!

The Ways I Like Coffee

I need to set the record straight about how I like coffee.  The other day a friend and mentor sweetly informed me that she had studied up on lattes, so that when I come by to see her she could indulge us in my favorite drink.   After doing some research she had found a recipe for lattes to make with her Vita-mix.  This was after our first meeting at our local coffee shop, where I think I must’ve taken her by surprise with my  coffee choice.   While it seems natural to me to choose a latte with no flavorings, (though sometimes I indulge in half the regular flavoring amount), skim milk and slightly less hot than normal temperature, it was a new thing to her, to order beyond a simple cup of “joe”.  So while I have fun with a love of coffee and have even blogged about methods (check out this post if you’re interested), here’s the REAL scoop on my coffee habits.  My favorite thing really isn’t about the coffee, it’s about what that cup of joe, latte, tea, juice, water or whatever the drink is, really speaks.

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My favorite way to have coffee is with a Bible nearby on the arm of my recliner.  It may be accompanied by a devotional book, a Bible study book, Sunday School literature, and definitely a highlighter and ink pen.   Though I put this at the top, it often gets put off until afternoon, due to blurry morning vision.

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This coffee method ranks right up near the top, and occurs when Tony has picked up his FedEx load and comes back through right past our house on the way to his route.  It is a blessing of enormous magnitude to have a few minutes together over a cup of coffee before we embark on our separate daytime roles.  That stern look is only to belie the fact that he spoils me with great breakfast eggs before he rushes on.   It also may be expressing how he feels about me having Hannah take this picture.

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This is another lovely way to drink coffee.  In a chair beside my teens who wish to remain obscure after stumbling out of bed to the couch while they try to make their eyes open for the day by way of a cup of coffee.  This is that time of day that I enjoy bugging my children with conversation.  Sometimes they actually wake up and converse coherently and pleasantly back with me.  And that makes my day.

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This is a great way to enjoy an occasional sip of coffee.  I love to sit on the back deck and enjoy the view while I sing hymns or practice choir or ensemble songs.   Not only does it afford a great view, but it makes my kids happy when I take this part of my day outdoors.  Buck, my Boston, often joins me, and, when I have to hit the high notes, he accompanies me with howling.  I’m not quite sure how to take that, but it’s camaraderie with the dog and worship time together.

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Here is another enjoyable way to have coffee.  Sitting at the computer writing, blogging, or connecting with friends.  Yes, I’ve enjoyed many a cyber cup of coffee.  If the drink cools, which I am not really focusing on, anyway, I may add a splash of  hot coffee from the pot.   If I can connect with friends in person, that’s all the better.

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This is the “siesta” cup of coffee.  Not long after lunch, I often gravitate to a cozy sitting position on the bed with pillows of every shape and variety to support my neck, which often needs a rest.  I love having a lamp on, a Scentsy warmer wafting some favorite or seasonal scent, and a stack of books beside me.   I may even read a chapter or two if my eyelids allow it.  There is usually a prayer list tucked inside the books for this “coffee” time.   The rest of my day may be on  autopilot, unless I get this little break.  During the days of all (or most) of the kids at home and doing their school, I often unintentionally took this little break in a living room chair “while” reading History to them.  They hated it when I began slurring words and nodding and jerking my head.  It is the time of day that may be beyond the reach of a cup of coffee.  Sometimes it’s just better to take a 5-20 minute time out!

Though it may seem like I drink coffee, espresso and precision lattes all day long, that is only a little bit true.  I just like to have a cup of something nearby, even if it has the original morning coffee in the bottom of it and I’ve just refilled it once or twice.  So, please, don’t think I am truly a coffee snob.  I mainly just like all the pleasant habits that I associate with it.  And for that friend who is investing in me, mentoring me, encouraging me, and/or allowing me the privilege of mutual friendship, I don’t even need a drink at all!  It’s just an added nicety any old way you serve it!

Forgiving

Amazing Grace

Many of us love the dear old hymn “Amazing Grace“, written by John Newton, a man, at least indirectly, responsible for who knows what all sorts of atrocities as he dealt in the slave trade, but saved by the same amazing grace that we all need just as much as he did.   So many other songs have also been written and composed along the theme of God’s amazing grace.   If we dare to think of our worst moments, (and most of us have had a few), we are exceedingly glad for the grace that flows down from the cross and covers us.  Those are moments that we would rather not be broadcast, despite that they may be forgiven history.  We delight in a God who moves our confessed sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12) when our hearts are penitent.  If there are some who can’t think of anything they’re ashamed of, then they likely deal with either forgetfulness or pride, but regardless, we were born with a need to be saved thanks to Adam and Eve.   C.S. Lewis considered pride to be the the essential vice, the utmost evil.  How can one admit his need for the grace of the cross when pride blinds him to it?

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Pride also causes us to have blind spots that allow us to judge others sins and consequences by our own experiences, culture’s standards, or our governmental system of justice.   Justice has it’s necessary and helpful purpose, of course, especially in regard to consequences and safety.  Though we can and should find comfort and relief in necessary steps to stop an injustice, generally, our purpose is to humbly pray for heart changes and for what we can do in our society to make a difference.  How often we involve ourselves in the news reports of someone’s sin with just a tad of satisfaction in the back of our minds that we would never do that.   I remember a pastor once saying regarding the worst of offenders, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

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For most of us forgiveness is hardest when the infraction is personal.   In a just over two minute video,  Corrie ten Boom tells how we can actually let God do the hard work through us if we are just willing to take the next step (or, as she did, extend the hand). She said, “You see, you never so touch the ocean of God’s love as when you love your enemies.”

When we deal with forgiveness it helps to remember that we are only promised the amount of grace and forgiveness from God that we extend to others.  One of the hardest areas of forgiveness is when time has gone by and the offense was never dealt with, or perhaps continues.  (Outside of forgiveness, I am not referring to physically abusive situations here.)  But in emotional mind games,  subtle or outright meanness, bullying, betrayals, rejections, slights, “cold-shoulders”,  favoritism, backstabbing, etc., James 5:8-9 gives encouragement.  “You also must be patient.  Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.  Brothers do not complain about one another, so that you will not be judged.  Look, the judge stands at the door.”  “Patience is the attitude that can endure and bear suffering without getting angry…Patience is the evidence of the love inside of us…You win by waiting and trusting in God….When you complain against others, you put yourself in a position to be judged.”  (Lifeway Student Commentary, Fall 2013, Session 6)

A Series of Blunders and Grace

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My kids love the book series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events“.  I had one of those days recently that just began a series of unfortunate events, amidst some good times, too.   I had an early appointment; i.e. a long coffee chat with a friend at Art and Joe’s, and that was a wonderful time.  Then I got home in time to throw in some laundry, grab lunch, spiff up the house and settle down into a prayer date with another friend who came over.   We spent a couple hours together and after she left,  I was in BAD need of a nap.  Have you ever felt like there is no other option?  I completely empathize with toddlers who can fall asleep with all kinds of activity around them.  That is completely where I was, and exactly what I did.  Our driveway alarm has days of getting overzealous and loudly alarming us every time a car goes down our busy highway.  Then the Bostons start barking.  Today was one of those days.  Did it wake me?  Yes.  Probably a half dozen or more times.  I kept dreaming I should go shut it off, but then kept going back to sleep.  Just…too…tired.

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After waking one more time to the loud alarm and dogs barking, I decided to resume my day like a normal adult, though by now it was 5:00 p.m.   I went to the kitchen to begin dinner preparations with the small package of salmon I had thawed that morning and absentmindedly wondered when the 10th of the month would fall, because I knew I was due to have a meal to a mom in our church with new twin babies on that day.  I had  acquired all the ingredients well in advance to make a chicken enchilada casserole for her.  I glanced at the date on my phone  and  was shocked to realize it was today and the meal was due to her home in exactly one hour!

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Determined, to conquer a day that was quickly seeming out of my control, I did the only thing I could think of to salvage the situation and ordered the Casey’s Pizza special, which happened to be Taco Pizza.   Scratch the salmon.  Hubby will be thrilled with a pizza splurge, anyway.   Meantime, I threw together a  garden salad, and grabbed some of the home made butterfingers my teen daughter had made the other day and froze.   Voilà.   Sides ready and pizza nearly ready for pickup.  Amazingly, I had money in my account, which is usually down to nearly zero, so I could splurge on pizzas with my debit card.

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I would have just enough time to pick up the pizzas, shove a couple pieces down, have my daughter meet me to run the meal out and see the babies, send open pizza box back home with her for my family, while I went on to community choir practice, which was 7-9pm.  Feeling satisfied that I had rescued a spiraling day, my daughter and I made the  meal drop off (well…a few minutes late due to an odd house number situation), enjoyed a short visit with tired parents (who were grateful for pizza), and I headed off to choir, without the work pages done because the printer wouldn’t work today.   But, the songs and fellowship were fun and worship is always like a medicine to me.

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However, I  forgot my pencil that had been supplied in our notebooks.  Still being in the “learn and mark the music” phase, I had to constantly take turns using the pencil of a friend sitting next to me, until she kindly found one for me during the break.  Thankfully, she was  happy to help and was familiar with where to find things since it was her own church hosting us.  I still was feeling hopelessly scatter brained.

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Despite all the setbacks, I headed home satisfied that my husband would have enjoyed his pizza and we would watch one of our favorite shows to unwind and head to bed.  He did not tell me until the next day that he had not eaten any of the pizza because he hates Taco Pizza.  Oh, yeah, I knew that.  Why can’t I remember things that matter to others?

The next day I got an email saying my eagerly anticipated card order from “Heart Connection Club” had been canceled because of a payment problem.  Ergh!   THAT’s why I had money in my account.  Oh well, it went for a better purpose.

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Then I discovered the washing machine had something wrong with it and was leaking all over the floor.  Meantime, my husband and I were on the second or third day of some sort of tension that I didn’t even get (he would probably say the same thing).  Some days are just good to remind us that there are better days.  Ann Voskamp said in her devotional, “Music is made in stress…As the string bends, as the string arches in stress and then releases, it vibrates – and there is the offering…The resonance is in the surrender.”   Sometimes the surrender is in trusting God to give and cause grace to flow down and cover all our mistakes.  There are some things we can’t fix.  We just have to trust God!  And there IS grace.  But I did take the chicken enchilada meal a couple days later.

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And my husband and I enjoyed an evening of flowing grace and starting fresh.

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How has grace covered you lately?

Obscurity for Christ’s Sake

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How do I write something about obscurity and manage to be obscure if I think anyone else would benefit from reading it?  It’s hard to share it and hide it at the same time.  I will reckon writing about this subject and sharing it with the admittance  upfront  that I need to apply this daily and most of this post is thoughts from, paraphrases of, or straight up quotes  from chapter 7 of the book “Embracing Obscurity”, authored anonymously.

Have you ever had to suffer for someone else’s sake?  Maybe more than one person and perhaps many occasions or daily?  Are you willing if that’s the best way to love them?    When we suffer, the life of Jesus is seen more clearly in us.  (2 Cor. 4:10)When we walk in the full comprehension of how much we have been forgiven on the cross, we are more free to love deeply even if it’s hard.  (Luke 7:47) 

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…”those who are the recipients of the benefits of suffering should be the first in line to suffer for others.  Our love for and devotion to Christ, coupled with our desire to follow His example, should compel us to suffer on others’ behalves with enthusiasm – with gusto.”   I don’t know about you, but I’m not usually very enthusiastic about suffering myself, let alone for someone else and especially if they have hurt me.  But the little bit of it I have done, provides a new compassion for me and a different outlook.  This reminds me of one of my favorite sayings:  “The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose.”

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Arthur “Anonymous” goes on to give examples of ‘little sufferings’ such as a guy who works in a job he hates or is less than enthusiastic about.  Rather than climbing the corporate ladder, he perseveres, so that he can be more transformed and enabled to give Christ’s love – showing a wealth of compassion to coworkers, bosses, or others who can relate.  Or a person who feels isolated because of his Christian walk or stands, but avoids self-pity over the denial of what he wants (namely, more friends) so that he can embrace the lessons of loneliness and obscurity, cling to the cross, and reach out to others for His sake.  Or the girl who wrestles with “What is wrong with me?”, when single, or barren, or ostracized, or not Hollywood’s definition of beautiful, or….Instead of self-pity or desperate or drastic measures, she can allow these “issues” to force her into the arms of Christ, finding her true significance in her Savior.

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We don’t know when we will come out as gold, but when we pass the trials we can rest assured we will, even if it is on  Judgment Day!

” Anonymous” points out a startling trend in Christian thinking that he calls the ‘Joseph Principle’….”and it goes like this:  If I am suffering in obscurity today, God must be preparing me for something greater, better,  or more prominent later in life.”  It’s a spin off from Romans 8:28 and even finds some support there, and also with some Bible characters with whom God chose to “bring up” in the end, and of course in media such as news stories, books, music and movies.  Don’t we love to see the underdog win in the end after suffering.  Don’t we love to think of our own better outcome “over the rainbow”?  We are charmed by favoritism when it smiles on us and basque in it’s affection, whether at home, at church at work or whatever.  But we frown and whine when it wanes, which it eventually does.  No one stays in the spotlight forever and wise leaders learn to squelch their favoritism, anyway.  What we  are slow to get, is that often God chooses to “bring us up” in matters more relating to the heart and character, such as contentment, suffering, perseverance, example and behind the scene roles.

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“Yes, God works all – even our suffering – for our good, but the end result may well look different than you had hoped.  Will you still trust God if your “good” is to go on embracing obscurity – living in simplicity and devotion to Him – your entire life?  What if your “good” is to understand the deepest depths of suffering so that you have more to give to others who walk through dark times?  Would you mind if your “good” is only a greater understanding of the suffering Jesus went through on your behalf and mine?  What if your “good” is soley to make His name great?”

“All of God’s ways are good and true.  Although His plans may not look like ours, we can trust that God is in fact ‘for us’.  Embracing obscurity allows us to relinquish our dreams for and to Him – to His timing and His ways.  We prefer Him to the dream.  We don’t push our dream into being.”

Gary Thomas said,  “If we are seeking glory, honor, and immortality before God, daily and quiet persistence, faithfulness and obedience is the road to get there.  Anonymous sufferings are actually the best kind.  Jesus tells us – otherwise, others might recognize us and compliment us and that, alone, will be our reward.”