Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What I've Been Learning in My Backyard~

Turtles are something else. Over the past few years, we have "adopted" three turtles. The first two that joined our family were given to us by the granddaughters of our next door neighbors. Evidently, these two little critters were excellent at digging. All that digging, however, had these two turtles looking for a new home.

Our most recent addition was given to us by my husband's co-worker. This turtle had been living in a yard with several others turtles but unfortunately, he had fallen victim to the backyard bully. His shell can attest to the unfriendly environment he came from.

So now, our backyard is home to these three turtles. I am happy to report we have yet to discover any unwanted holes in our yard. And, I have yet to see signs of any bullying in our yard. What great news, especially since I am not a fan of either.

As I have been observing these little guys (at least I think they are all guys!), God has been teaching me some spiritual truths.

1. Enjoy where ever life takes you

All of these turtles ended up in our backyard without any say as to where they were going or where their next home would be, or if they even wanted to come! Circumstances beyond their control picked them up and dropped them off at our residence. Yet, every morning, I see them trucking around our yard. And from all accounts, as far as I can tell, they seem to be having a lovely time. They climb over this and hide under that and live each day here in our yard to the fullest. They didn't choose to come here, but they are choosing to make the most of where they are and enjoy it.

Hmmmmm.....what about you and me? Has life dropped you off at an unfamiliar place? Is where you are now not at all where you envisioned you would be at this time in your life? If so, rest assured. While it may feel as though circumstances beyond your control have taken control, God is still there. Ultimately, He is still in control. He has a beautiful way of taking the barren, unfamiliar, un-chosen places of our lives and transforming them into fruitful, enjoyable, desirable abodes. Trust Him to be where you are. Trust Him to do amazing things where you are. Knowing God is in control and is at work in your life, you, too, can enjoy where ever it is life takes you.

Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
~ Isaiah 43:19, (AMP)

2. Forget about the past

Naturally, you would expect these creatures to be a little wary of humans. And, they are. Well, two of the three are. One, surprisingly enough, is not wary at all! In fact, this one in particular seems to thrive on human companionship. If I happen by our patio door and spot him boogieing across our yard, I call out to him. As soon as he hears my voice, he makes an immediate turn in my direction and heads straight for the door. Whenever I am sitting out on our patio writing, just like I am right now, I often am joined by this little guy. He will come right up on the patio and rest under my chair.

Can you guess which turtle this is? Yep! The one who was bullied and picked on in his old environment. Isn't that amazing?! You would think he would be the most cautious of all the turtles. But he's not. He is the one most willing to make a new friend. He doesn't let the hurt of his past keep him from experiencing new opportunities or developing new relationships. And, not only is this turtle friendly with my husband and I, he is also friendly with the other turtles.



Hmmmmm.....what about you and me? We all have scars, some visible and some hidden deep in our heart. Do we allow these wounds and scars to hold us back or to keep us cowering in a corner? With God, the pain of our past can be used to serve an amazing purpose in our future. Instead of allowing the pain to hold us prisoner to our past, we need to take our scars and seek out those who have been hurt, too. We can choose to move ever forward comforting others with the comfort we have been given in and through Christ. The choice is ours. I am so glad this little guy has chosen to forget his past. His choice to keep reaching out to others has brought me so much joy and such wonderful companionship....not to mention, inspiration! Who needs you? Are you willing to put yourself out there for them?

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.
~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (MSG)

Which, by the way, brings us to the third spiritual truth God has been teaching me through these fellas.

3. Be willing to stick your neck out

I marvel at the Creator's design. Have you ever studied a turtle up close? What a protective armor they have! When danger comes, they are not only able to duck their head into their shell for cover, but pull all of their legs in as well. In this position, they are safe and sound. But, there is one problem. As long as they are all safely hidden in their shell, they are stationary. Where ever they were when they pulled it all in is where they are when they poke it all back out again. They may be safe in that position, but they certainly aren't going to go anywhere. In order for them to move anywhere and in any direction at all, they must first be willing to stick their necks out, literally!


Hmmmmm.....what about you and me? Are we willing to stick our neck out and take a leap of faith out into the unknown? Or, are we willing to play it safe tucked inside our life, stagnant and motionless? If we are content to simply stay put, hiding, and playing it safe, we will eventually die. Faith requires action. If we are ever going to get where God would have us to be we must be willing to stick our neck out. If we are ever going to be who God created us to be we must be willing to come out of our shell and move in the direction the Lord is leading.

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
~ James 2:17

I am so thankful for these three turtles! Even more, I am thankful for a Heavenly Father who is using these small creatures to grow my faith, to deepen my relationship in HIM, and to open my eyes to spiritual truths.

And, who knows.

Maybe, God used these three turtles to do the same for you.







 
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Friday, April 24, 2015

Reminders of His Love~










 
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015







 
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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Because of His Mercy~








 
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Sunday, April 12, 2015

On Microphones, Gazebos, and Living the Word~

Several years ago, I sat in the middle of a gazebo, which sits in the middle of a park, which sits in the middle of our small town. With a microphone positioned in front of me, I opened up the Word of God and read Psalms 78 through Psalms 82.

I was just one of many who had volunteered to give twenty minutes of their time reading from the Bible. It was the plan of those who organized this "read through the Bible" event, that by the time the National Day of Prayer rolled around later in that same week, the entire Bible would have been read and proclaimed in our city.

As I took my place in the gazebo, I listened to the instructions of one of the organizers of this week long, around the clock, event. "Speak loudly and boldly into that microphone. We want God's Word going out into our entire town."

And, so I did.
Loudly and boldly I read from the pages of God's Word.

And yet, only two people heard the sound of my voice:
the lady who had given the instructions, and me.

You might think I had volunteered for one of the shifts in the wee morning hours. Nope. Twelve o'clock noon. Right in the middle of the day. During lunch breaks and mid-day happenings. Only nothing was happening here at the park. No one had bothered to come hear "God's Word".

As I sat reading, I couldn't help thinking about a particular verse found a few books over from where I was reading.

 Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have.
Large gazebo in the Kiseleff park
{Photo  Credit}
~ 1 Peter 3:15, NCV


Reading the entire Bible aloud and proclaiming God's Word boldly "over" our town. I understood the concept behind this long thought out, well organized, event. I understood the scripture they were basing this event on:


So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

~ Isaiah 55:11


And, I believe in this cause.
That is why I signed up to read from 12:00pm to 12:20pm.


And yet, we are told in the very pages of God's Word that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)



It is a noble and grand idea to want to proclaim God's Word "over" our city. But, in order for faith to take root, and lives to be changed, people must truly hear the Word of God. No one had taken the time or felt the need to come to the park to hear the Word of God read. During my twenty minutes of proclaiming, no one heard the proclamation.

But, later in the day, when a friend shared a concern with me, I was able to pray with her. I spoke words of scripture that went gently and tenderly from my mouth straight into her ear and into her heart and infused her with faith.

When a co-worker and I were working on a project, I was able to quote a scripture of encouragement, reminding us both, that with Christ, we can do all things. Our spirits were revived and our appreciation and love of the Lord deepened.

We are not going to win our world to Christ, sitting in the middle of a gazebo, that sits in the middle of a park, that sits in the middle of our town, boldly declaring the Word of God.

This is good. This has its place.

But...
hearts are best won, one on one.

Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have.
~ 1 Peter 3:15, NCV

Our Christian lives, lived out each day through the power of the Holy Spirit living inside us, should create a hungering and thirsting in the hearts of others. As they observe our life and the way we live, they should notice something irresistible about us. Our love for God should draw them closer to discover a love of their own.

As we share our faith,
as we tell of the GOOD NEWS,
they, who have ears to ear and a heart that yearns to understand, will find God.

Am I saying we shouldn't have been reading God's Word aloud in our park that week? No.

Am I saying it is going to take much more than this to touch lives for Christ here in our community? Yes.

We are called to proclaim God's Word to the world around us. Sometimes, this might be done by sitting in the middle of the gazebo, in the middle of the day, in the middle of your town, boldly proclaiming the Word of God. Always, this should be done by living our life in a way that upholds God's Word and draws others to us in search of the hope in our heart.

Sometimes, we need a microphone.
Sometimes, a gazebo will work.
Always, we need to be living the Word.~






 
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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sometimes, You Gotta Knock~

One night, I spent some long overdue quiet-time out on our patio writing. While I enjoyed the great outdoors, my husband enjoyed kicking back, relaxing and watching a basketball game indoors. Occasionally though, my sweetheart would open the sliding glass door and share a smile or a "Hi, honey. Doing ok?" with me and then head back indoors to cheer for his team. As the sun slowly meandered beyond the horizon, I typed until my fingers and my heart were content.

As dusk melted into darkness, I decided to pack up my laptop and head indoors to cheer alongside my mister. Gathering all my belongings, I reached for the door handle only to discover it was locked. Out of habit, my husband had accidentally locked the door the last time he had poked his head out to check on me.

What to do?

* Stay out on the patio until my honey decided to once again shower me with terms of endearment.

* Check all the windows on the back side of the house and shinny my way through one that might be open.

* Attempt to scale the tall rock fence, land in the front yard and check all the windows on that side of the house - or better yet, hope the front door might be unlocked.

* Sleep out under the stars.

* Knock.

Seems like a pretty easy decision, right?
And yet, when it comes down to knocking, we seldom do.

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 
~ Luke 11:9, KJV

When life presents us with a closed door and we find our self standing out on the back porch alone with our hope and dreams,
our fears and failures,
our wishes and wonders,
we usually use all of our time, energy, and resources
thinking up,
mapping out,
and executing our plans.

We try this and we try that. Then, we try this and that again.
Over and over. One idea, one notion, one strategy after another.

But, knock? Nope. We seldom think to do that.

And yet, this is exactly what Jesus invites us to do. Could it be any simpler than that?! No wonder we end up wondering why God isn't answering, as we stand on the outside looking in.

You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.
~  James 4:2, NLT

Standing on my patio that evening, I did what any wife would do. I ratta-tap-tapped on the door.
Upon hearing his wife knock, my husband did what any loving husband would do. He came to my rescue. He made a way where there was no way.

Are there locked doors in your life?

Have you been stranded out on the back porch?

Knock.

Upon hearing your cry, the Lover of your soul, Jesus, will come to your rescue.

Key to the open door
{Photo Credit}

He'll make a way where there is no way.
He'll even go before you and prepare the way.

But,
you gotta knock!








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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Our Blessed Hope~








  
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Friday, April 3, 2015

The Message of the Cross~








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Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Way of The Cross~

Awkward and uncomfortable, a fellow believer and I stand in the hallway at church; our words guarded, our conversation stiff. Words spoken in the past have now formed a dam, causing the normal flow of communication to seek alternate routes. As we sputter and stammer and search for the right words, we are interrupted by a five year old boy on the way to his classroom.

"Look, Ms. Stacy! I have something to show you!"

With one hand, he tugs on my pant leg. With the other, he tries balancing his open Bible, while flipping pages with his chin.

"WOW. Did you get a new Bible?" I ask.

"No. It's my same old Bible, but what I want to show you is new."

As he searches for the new treasure he longs to share, we "adults" attempt picking up our awkward conversation right where we left off. It is obvious our hearts are on different sides of this issue. It is also obvious this is a chasm that will not easily be crossed.

"Oh, look! Here it is, Ms. Stacy. Here's what I want to show you! LOOK!"

He points to a picture of Jesus, bent low, under the weight of the cross.

"Oh, honey. It's a picture of Jesus carrying the cross."

"Yeah. It's sad. Don't you think?"

My eyes meet the eyes of  the man standing beside me. We both nod in agreement.

"Yes, sweetheart. It is very sad. But, that's how much Jesus loves us. Jesus loves us so much He was willing to carry that heavy cross and He was willing to die on it."

"Yeah," he shakes his head up and down. "And He died for all of us, didn't He? For me, and you and you." Now he's using his free hand to point at me and my brother-in-Christ.

"Well......want to hear the new part?" he asks excitedly.

"Yes, I'd love to hear it."

Again, eyes of two different viewpoints meet and we wonder together what this little heart has discovered.

"The new part is from when I looked at that picture. I prayed and told Jesus I would carry it for Him. It's new because this story is old, BUT, if it was a new story, this time, I would carry the cross for Him."

With that, he snaps the Bible shut, and heads down the hall to his class, skipping and smiling all the way. Standing alone once again, all we can do is smile, lower our heads and walk, each to our own destination.

Strife.

Division.

All too familiar roadblocks in the body of Christ.

One person sees it this way.
One person sees it that way.

Neither can see past their own way to see The Way.

The same old story - time and time again.


crossing the wey
{Photo Credit}
But,
what if?

What if this time,
we chose to make the story new?

What if this time,
one of us was willing to bend low?

What if this time,
one of us was willing to sacrifice,
to trade our want for the want of the other?

What if this time,
one of us was willing to walk the road of love?


What if this time, one of us was willing

     to carry the cross of the other,

          to walk in a different pair of shoes,

               to see this issue from a different point of view,

                    to give up our all that all might be gained?

I peek in the window of the classroom where this sweet little boy now sits at a table with his friends. As he points to the picture and excitedly shares his revelation, I lift my eyes to heaven and smile.

Thank you, Jesus.
Thank you for loving us, ALL of us, enough to carry the cross;
the cross you would give your very life on.
Thank you for this precious little boy who has opened my eyes to see a new way,
a death to self, life-giving way.
May, I too, be willing to carry my cross, to die to self,
that your body, the church, might live.

As I head down the same old hallway, I carry a brand new truth in my heart:

The only way to cross a chasm is by way of the cross.





 
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Esperanza~

This post is for me.  After sitting in a staff meeting this morning and speaking the word "esperanza" - hope in Spanish, I needed this reminder. I originally wrote this post May of 2009, but my heart needed to hear it again now. Sometimes, it does a heart good to be reminded.

 **********

As I hung up the phone, I could hardly breathe. The news was simply too wonderful to contain. I felt as though my heart would burst with joy and excitement. My husband and I were going to have a baby...a dream come true.

This wasn't the first time I had heard these words from the doctor or experienced this overwhelming flood of emotion. Twice before, I had been able to surprise my husband with this same, wonderful news and watch as his face lit up, and his eyes sparkled. We both have a deep love for children and having one of our own was a dream we both shared and talked about often. Twice before, however, I had also known the deep sorrow and silent grief that rips your heart apart when you lose that little life before you have ever had a chance to meet your son or daughter face to face, or embrace and tenderly kiss them.

This time was going to be different, though. I just knew it. I could feel hope running all through out my body, from my head to my toes! I had lost my father eight months earlier, and I felt as though this was God's way of bringing new life back into mine and joy back into my heart. I could hardly wait to tell my husband and the rest of the world.

Even though my faith was strong, and my hope sure, I have to admit, there were moments when I would start to worry about losing this precious little one, too. When those moments came, however, God was always faithful to send a reminder to keep me hoping.

Like the time I was sitting in a hospital waiting room, waiting to have some routine blood work done. I started to feel anxious, but before I had a chance to dwell on these feelings, a beautiful little girl, about three years old, came and sat down right next to me. We talked and laughed and had the best time. After a few minutes, I asked her what her name was.

"Esperanza" she replied.

"What a beautiful name. Your name means HOPE in English, doesn't it?" I asked. She just smiled, but her mother nodded and said, "Yes, yes it does." I knew this because Esperanza was the "girl" name I had picked out for this new little one. Esperanza - Hope, because once again, through this pregnancy, God had filled my heart with hope.

Instantly, my fear vanished and hope ruled my heart. God was with me and everything was going to be just fine. Weeks flew by and soon, at my six weeks Dr. visit, I was able to not only see my baby, but to hear the beating of it's heart.

"Your baby has a very strong heartbeat. Everything looks and sounds terrific!" the doctor declared.

Still, as days went on, fear tried desperately to steal my joy. With each moment of fear, however, God was faithful to send me a hope-filled moment to hold on to.

Like the time I was driving home from work and caught myself once again fearful of facing yet another miscarriage, and another heartbreak. Turning a corner, a sign at a church beckoned for my attention. There, for all the world to see, were God's words of hope.

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
~Romans 15:13

I pulled over to the side of the road, found a pen and paper, and copied down this powerful word from God. I decided, right then and there, to commit this particular scripture to memory. The next time Satan tried to bring doubt or fear to my heart or mind, I would hold up my shield of faith and quench his fiery dart by boldly proclaiming the hope in my heart.

Weeks turned into months - three to be exact. Then, my hope died, right along with the death of the tiny life I had carried inside me. I was devastated. This time was suppose to be different. How could this be happening again, especially after God had been so deliberate in His attempts to encourage me to keep hoping, to keep believing? I felt totally and completely numb. To be totally honest, I felt as though God had been teasing me. He knows the end from the beginning. He knew this pregnancy was going to end just like the two before it, and yet he kept dangling hope out there in front of me. My numbness soon turned to anger and bitterness.

Time went by and I struggled to keep my relationship with the Lord vibrant and strong. I had walked with the Lord long enough to know his true character: all love, all mercy, all wisdom, all the time. I knew God loved me and wanted only the best for me. I knew He was always working all things for my good and His glory. I knew what Satan meant for harm, He could and would use for my good. My head knew all of this, but my heart, oh my heart. It felt betrayed. It had dared to hope.

Then one night, as I was reading in the Psalms, God, in his tenderness, revealed to me the true substance of the hope He kept placing in my heart during those three months. I suddenly realized that my hope had been completely misplaced. All that time, I had been placing my hope in the life I carried, not in the ONE who was carrying me. God did know how this pregnancy would end. He knew my heart would once again be broken into a million pieces. He knew all of this and because He did, He was preparing me for this loss by placing seeds of hope into my heart. Not hope in my baby, but hope in HIM! Tears filled my eyes, once again, as I found myself on my knees thanking God for being all loving, all merciful, all wise, all the time.
Over and over again in the Bible, we find verse after verse leading us to the only one we can truly place our hope in.

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD. 
~ Psalm 31:24

And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.  

~Psalm 39:7

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:  

~Psalm 146:5

Blessed is the man that trusts in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.  

~ Jeremiah 17:7
 

Now, years later, I would love to be able to tell you that my heart no longer feels the pain of these losses, but that wouldn't be true. Not a day goes by that I don't feel the hurt. Yet, through the hurt, I have chosen to keep placing my hope in my God. As I allow the God of hope to fill me with joy and peace in believing, I abound with hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever been disappointed by God? 


Have you ever felt as though he dangled hope in front of you only to lead you to heartache? 

If so, I encourage you to take a closer look. 

Could it be, like me, your hope was misplaced? 

The world and all that is in it will let us down, abandon us, and leave us broken hearted, but our God - who is all love, all mercy, all wise, all the time - never will. Put your hope in Him and I guarantee, you won't be disappointed.










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