Warm Wednesday Words: Inside Out

insideout.jpgSitting in church Sunday, I glanced at my husband and was dismayed to notice that his shirt was inside out.  Surprised, but not too ruffled, he exited out the side door right by him and made the switch.  That was actually the second time my dear husband has been an inside out shirt trend setter at church.  The first time I noticed it after we returned to our seats from the alter where we had stood, back to congregation, and prayed for our youngest son on Graduation Sunday, while sporting “Faded Glory” washing instructions across his back for anyone with a keen eye.  While laughing at work the next day about our mishap, a sweet boss told me that it is the sign of a lucky man to find his shirt on inside out.  I don’t know, but I was thinking about the inside out business of being a Christian.

His strength in our weaknessWhen life seems overwhelming, I run to the Rock that is higher then I, and (sometimes after kicking and screaming inside first), I usually find this inside out truth – that His strength is made perfect in my weakness.  I make it my goal to…” take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures because of Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Cor. 12:9-10 HCSB) When I forgive others with the same grace I’ve received, knowing the ground is equal at the foot of the cross, and when I trust God to turn a situation around for the good, He is then willing to go to work on my behalf.

possible with HimHe picks up right where my weakness and faith invite Him in to take over.  Nothing is impossible with Him.

do not be anxiousMost everybody knows worry is a bad thing even in the most upsetting of circumstances.  It might take me a little while to get to a place of peace.  But the most inside out thing of all is to give thanks for my upsets and tragedies.  Not that I am glad for tragedies, but that God can be glorified through them.  For that I can give thanks with His help.

more blessed to give then receiveHere’s another inside out principle….storing up and  coveting more and better without thought for the poor (and that is not necessarily defined by government) can make a selfish and hardened heart, yet generous sharing enriches a soul.  God warns not to live in selfish  luxury and indulgence.  Giving, especially sacrificial giving, definitely softens the heart and just plain feels good.  In another inside out twist, God has actually chosen the poor who love Him to be rich in faith.

rejoice in insults I have been on both ends of rudeness and mistreatment before, (whether intentional or not) as likely anyone whose honest has.  It happens, though the persecutions spoken of here are more serious and horrific around the globe, and on the increase even in our country.  But the inside out perspective is this.  There’s a reward waiting when I leave it in God’s hands and refuse bitterness.

treasures in clay jarsThe cool thing about being a child of God is the enemy can’t win.  He’s already lost.  Even when I’m down.  God rushes to  rescue (soul first and foremost) and uses it all.  When I rally in my own strength this promise does not apply.

those who exalt themselvesWith God, the way up is down...bowed down in prayer that is.  Praying His promises, believing He will fulfill them because I have died to self and live for Him.  Just as a flower dies to drop it’s seed before renewal, so I have to leave my vision in His hands to fulfill or not, according to His best plan.

we look at what can't be seenHere’s a great inside out truth.  I look at what can’t be seen.  But actually, in my faith, it can be seen and I hold onto it through His promises.   Because of this I can let go and worship while still in the storm.  I can “see” with my faith vision, and because of His love for me that I know so well, I know that I know that He is at work.

we fight on our kneesIn my prayers, I go to war with the most powerful weapons not generally known to man.  They are mighty weapons that demolish “invisible”, but very real, strongholds.  They are the weapons of the name of Jesus, my faith in Him, and the Scripture promises that I stand on!  There is nothing on this earth so effective as a devoted child of God praying with “clean hands” and a pure heart (because of Christ) and childlike trust.  It’s here that often dismal circumstances turn with God’s miraculous touch, but whether or not, I definitely abide in His presence and know His love.  No matter how my life is going here, where I am just a stranger, I long for the day I am with Him in eternity and these present sufferings behind me.  I know it’s just ahead and I keep my eye on the prize.

faithful to death - crown of lifeThat seems to be the ultimate inside out deal.  Faithful unto death, gets the crown of life.  Whether it’s death to a thousand little selfish things, or choosing death over denying Christ for eternity’s sake, this is the ultimate call.  So next time you find your shirt on inside out, consider yourself “lucky” to be reminded that we live inside out.  What have you worn inside out or turned around?   Please tell me it’s not just at our house.  What “lucky” application fits?

 

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Warm Wednesday Words: A Few Favorite Things

When life gets a little too busy or sad, I find comfort and joy in a few favorite things.  The lyrics from the song, “These are a Few of My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music” portray the distractions I enjoy lately.  The song was sung by Maria  to the von Trapp children during a thunderstorm; and the lighthearted lyrics and melody were a purposeful diversion from the undercurrent of terror during the time of Hitler’s rise.  I am thankful for the diversions I find in my favorite things.

“When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.”

So here are a few of my favorite things….

big family at lakeThe English Clan (with Mom) who I love dearly

the bridge at the end of my runThe bridge at the end of a three mile run

zinnias and lavenderZinnias and lavender on the deck

the view from the hammockThe view from the hammock at night…add in a few zillion stars and that’s typical!

the hammock and the moon

IMG_8707Spending life with this guy!

books, lamps, chocolate

A stack of books, a few current cards (I keep a whole box of special cards and memorabila under the bed), a journal, a few pillows and a lamp!  There might be chocolate hidden in there somewhere.

my favorite pain

 

both laughter and tears shared with friends

 

when some shares your tears and accepts you

Oswald & WorshipBible Study, Oswald Chambers, Worship & Choir….and a cup of coffee.

So what favorite things do you think on when “the dog bites”?  “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–dwell on these things.”  Phil. 4:8

Warm Wednesday Words: Fresh Starts and a Grateful Heart

photo.phpFresh morning starts for me involve breakfast and coffee with Tony, cool morning air (preferably sitting on the “chicken yard bench”,  a scripture promise to focus on throughout the day, some worship time with music and a grateful heart.

ytyGod really is greater then all my concerns and as a friend texted me this week…”Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—”(Eph. 3:20).  There is so much in that one verse!  Yes, He is able.  He can do so much above and beyond what I even ask or think!  Last is the catch, if there is one.  It works according to the power that works in us, which hinges on our belief and trust in Him.  This morning I am again thankful for fresh starts to to humble myself before Him and let His power be at work in me. 

forgiven much loves much

As our pastor said in another great message Sunday, we have to make a choice who we will be like, the prideful Pharisee who was consumed with a judgmental, critical spirit, or the humble woman known as a sinner, who could not stop her tears of gratefulness for her Savior.  (Luke 7:36-50) Though the Lord is exalted, He takes note of the humble; but He knows the haughty from a distance.”  Ps. 138:6 HCSB

“Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning great is Your faithfulness! I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.”  Lamentations 3:22-24

Warm Wednesday Words: Gargantuan Gratitude

start with a grateful heartThis week I am expressing thanks to God for a new job.  Since the last of the seven chicks have now graduated from the Pine Valley Home School “nest”, effectively closing that nearly 30 year chapter of our lives, I decided (with the encouragement of my husband) to seek a secretarial/clerical job, which is what I did right up to three days before my first childbirth.   With my “retired business teacher”sister’s help in constructing an appropriate resume, I set out on the quest for a satisfying new venture that might afford us private healthcare and a tad more wiggle room in the budget.  About two weeks after dropping resumes here and there, and preparing to follow up on a couple leads, I got a call from someone I go to church with who runs a family business wondering if I would be interested in a secretarial/clerical job.  I had not made them aware of my job search, assuming the family members continued to cover those positions.  But God had placed the only person at church I had mentioned the job search to in a position to learn otherwise and make some strategic connections.

I am now in my third week of being trained among a sweet multi generation Christian family who continue to grieve and feel the loss, in myriads of practical and emotional ways, of the family patriarch who passed away on Easter Sunday.  In fact our entire church family and community keenly feels the loss of this Godly man.  It is a remarkable blessing that the endearing family matriarch is brought into the office by one of her lovely granddaughters who is now providing live in care for her.  With slow determined steps and a walker this matriarch continues in at least part of the weekday office role she has done for many, many years, despite being  nearly swallowed up in grief from her husband’s recent passing.  She adds her own unique touch of humor and quickly finds empathetical reasons to defend me in any mistakes I make, making me feel like she would’ve done that same thing, even if I know better.  Not that anyone would’ve been critical, mind you.

great work

I know it will be months before I feel confident in some of the tasks I am learning.  Meantime, I am thankful for patient people who enjoy chatting and humor interspersed with productive work.   I have learned three particularly relevant tidbits:  strong magnifiers are a must for zip code directories and phone books, locking the office keys in the office first thing in the morning while stepping out is not wise, and dry wall mud tape is not calculator tape.   Shucks, I had unearthed a gargantuan roll of it, too.  I wonder if we could make it work?

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Warm Wednesday Words: Grace Inspires

amazing grace how sweet the sound

When I think about the grace that has been given me at the cross, I am humbled and deeply inspired to respond in devotion.  I know that I share with human kind the desperately wicked heart malady that birthed sin back in the Garden of Eden, and I am forever grateful for a Savior who chose excruciating affliction in my place.  He vacated His throne to be humbly born and live among us, suffered every kind of trial known to man, was tortured leading up to the cross, carried the tribulation to completion, paying every debt while hanging for all to see on a cross.  There, pride was nailed in place by the King of Kings, who knew its insidious evil.  He refused to indulge in it.

He is Risen

I am amazed that during those hours of extreme pain, He spurned relief because of His great love for the likes of you and me.   He could’ve called ten thousand angels.  But He didn’t.  He had us on His mind.  And that’s a claim no one can make undergoing that kind of suffering.  Not one of us would languish in agony until death for our enemies, when we had a choice to end it with one word.   Amazing grace.

love not nails held Him

I wholeheartedly concur with Carl Boberg,  “And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing; Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.”

my God how great thou art

That grace that saved me inspires a response.  It calls me to devotion, obedience and action.  If I were to go on about my life like nothing ever happened and change is not vital, I  would need to take another look at whether I had ever truly repented.  At the very “least” (really not so “least” at all), pride would be replaced with humility and gratefulness.  If I continuously and knowingly take advantage of the grace I received as a result of Christ’s suffering and victory over sin, something is very wrong.   In regard to this very subject God uses Paul to say in Romans 6, “By no means!

kneeling at cross

To quote another hymn writer, George Bennard,  “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.”  Do you cherish the salvation that is offered you because of the cross?  How does it inspire you to respond?

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Warm Wednesday Words: It’s the Small Thing

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A small thing that makes a big difference is…to sing.  Edmund Clarence Stedman, a late nineteenth century poet, said, “Faith and joy are the ascensive forces of song.”  It doesn’t matter what kind of voice you have as long as you can make a noise.  Heartfelt singing lifts depression, reduces stress and anger, instills gratefulness and joy, unscrambles jumbled thoughts and and desires into prayers, exercises your lungs, improves circulation, decreases muscle tension, tones your facial muscles, releases pain relieving endorphins, improves your immune system and, best of all, when worshipful, invites God into your circumstances.

worship is a lifestyle

Singing with a group adds even more benefits.  It is a powerful experience to abandon “self” for the immersion into a corporate body of believers for unifying worship in which God’s very presence is felt.

corporate worship

Ps. 147:1 says, “Praise the Lord!  For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and a song of praise is fitting.”  Ps. 104:12 says, “Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches.”  Prisoners in deplorable conditions have found joy from hearing a bird sing outside their cell each morning.  Others have gained peace from the recollection of a song.  As Paul and Silas prayed and sang while in prison, God sent an earthquake to break the bonds of all the prisoners and then used Paul and Silas to bring them and the jailer to heart freedom.  When you choose joy in your trials and sing praises, you might just witness the unexpected and miraculous.IMG_6169

As Jesus was making His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his disciples broke out in joyful praises of God.  When the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke them, He replied, “I tell you, if they were to keep quiet, the stones would cry out!”  Like some today, the Pharisees were impervious both to the contagiousness of joy, and, of far worse consequence, to the humble insight that would recognize Jesus as Savior and Lord.

triumphal entry

During many of the early years of raising our family, we attended a home church which employed an hour of  A Capella worship each Sunday before communion.  The men and boys called out the songs of choice for their families, and my kids nearly always chose “The Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands”.  Breathtaking imagery is harnessed in the visualization of merging with nature in majestic praises.

go out in joy

For me, singing propels faith, joy, thankfulness, love, hope, and peace into prominence as I go about my daily chores, and it articulates heart prayers.  What small thing makes a big difference in your life?

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

storm

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.

stand strong

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.

rainbow

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!

Warm Wednesday Words: Hope for a New Year

As 2014 unfolds,  I hope you know how loved you are.   Regardless of whether you can fathom God’s love for you, the fact remains you are deeply and personally loved by a Savior that went to the cross to prove it.  He would’ve done it, had you been the only one in need.  But you’re not.  And the awesome and incredible thing is God loves you just as you are.

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Chalk up past mistakes and difficulties as unique experience and wisdom gained, and other than making any necessary amends, put the past behind you.  With a little contemplation, you are simply better equipped  for your future.

forgetting past

Know that in your humility is strength and do constant battle with that dangerously insidious and worst human vice of all, called pride.

pride

Let God make all things work together for good for you, by pressing into His will.  Since your calling is unique, keep your eyes on the goal and don’t compare to anyone else.  Value you’re work and contributions, disregarding any inapplicable disparagement from some who don’t understand your particular walk of life.

drum beat

Tap into the best friend ever.  God wants to connect with you in a most intimate way through worship and as you study His Word and  put it into practice.  C.S. Lewis said, “It is in the process of being worshiped that God communicates His presence to men.”

worship

You are worth the time it takes to pamper your body nutritionally and with physical fitness.  Your body hosts you, and you are irreplaceable to your family and friends.  You love them better when you take care of yourself.  If you’re married, guard that union and indulge often in the pleasures God afforded to it.   Prov. 19b (KJV), “Be thou ravished always with her love.”

beloved's

Keep a grateful, pure heart.  When you keep your heart stocked with gratefulness and are careful to pluck out that occasional weed of bitterness, then your happiness will overflow to others around you.  To be able to love others regardless of their reciprocation is powerful.  A gratitude list or journal is a great tool.

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Enjoy fellowship. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”  (1 Peter 4:8) Nothing compares to the benefits that abound when we decide to continue in love.  Extend the same grace that you want God to extend to you for your worst moments, because what you give to others who have offended you is all you should expect from God.

sunset at church

Procure God’s favor by respecting the authorities in your life, whether in your family, a marriage, a job, society or in the church.  God likens us to sheep.  Picture a sheep deciding to strike out alone oblivious to the wolves lurking in the shadows.  To put yourself under appropriate, albeit imperfect, authority is to invite God’s blessing and favor on your life.

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May you know God’s abundant love for you and experience His favor and blessings on your life in the New Year.

 

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

Morning Musings in the Gardens

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I don’t know if it was dew or raindrops from last night’s rain nestled in the elephant ear, but it puts me in mind of the hymn “I Come to the Garden Alone“:

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.

It’s the perfect place to read a devotional and then dig a little deeper.  Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts devotional #16 has some good stuff about why Daniel, the keen, fit, strong, courageous character who went into the lion’s den and came out unscathed, may have come into such miraculous grace.  Daniel had alot of ingredients for a pity party, after all he was brought out of his country against his will,  but he didn’t spend much time bemoaning his lot. He proved himself, not only above staying in a pit, but beyond the reach of a power grab by rejecting the king’s offers of power and riches as a reward.   Most of our politicians, and maybe each one of us,  would do well to read that portion of scripture each morning.

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Daniel’s  jealous political comrades could not find any corruption or negligence in him, despite every effort.   His circumstances never changed his grateful heart, even when his future looked even more unstable than his difficult past.   “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving THANKS to his God, just as he had done before.”  (Daniel 6:10) This was by his open window even after it was made illegal.  I wonder what he focused his eyes on when they weren’t closed in prayer.  Long range vision was toward Jerusalem, his home he had been torn from.  But close up?  Maybe a bird or flower?  His window was open.  I wonder if he could smell honeysuckle or lavender.  Or whatever delightful aromatic plants grew in Babylon.

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But, back to Voskamp and thankfulness, “the only way to be a man or woman of prayer is to be a man or woman of thanks.  And not sporadic, general thanks, but three times a day eucharisteo.   When I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.  This, this, makes me full, and I ‘magnify him with thanksgiving’, and God enters the world.  What will a life magnify?  The world’s stress cracks, the grubbiness of a day, all that is wholly wrong and terribly busted?  Or God?”

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I choose God and the pleasant little things He lets me see, if I will but look.   And I have let God enter my world again today to carry me through the less than glamorous moments that will, undoubtedly, arise.  What things will you focus on and magnify today?

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227302_1949699295004_5929862_nhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=49C1cFVoYd4

I was twenty;

You not quite,

And I knew it was you

After just one night.

Thirty-two years have wrought much transition.

Seven wonderful kids keep multiplying the clan.

God has matured us by our own admission,

And He will refine what we began.

You’d still be the man

Despite good times and bad,

Because you heart listen – when you can –

And to me that is rad.