Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Let's Talk About It~

In a split second, the word I had been trying so desperately to avoid was out there. I was sure at the near mention of the name, "Mommy", BJ would once again burst into tears.

It was BJ's first day at preschool. He was only two and this was his first adventure away from the familiarity and security of his mother. As soon as his mother walked out the door, leaving BJ behind, his tears had started to flow. And flow they did....on and on and on, like a steady river.

I tried everything I could think of to bring comfort to this precious little boy. I tried showing him around the room, pointing out fun toys and puzzles. He wasn't interested. I tried introducing him to some of the other children. He wasn't ready to make their acquaintance. I tried reading him a story. He was only interested in his own story....life in a new place, without his mom.

All through out the morning, BJ would cry, then stop momentarily, only to stammer, "I want my mommy" and then, start crying all over again. If only I could get his mind off his mom and onto something else in this room, I thought.

A short while later, another student, five year old Benjamin, walked over to where we were sitting. BJ, still visibly distraught, had for the moment at least, hushed his crying and I was hoping to keep this tear-free moment going for the rest of the day!

"What's wrong with him?" Benjamin wanted to know.

"Oh, he'll be fine," I said, "It's his first day, so everything is new to him and he's just feeling a little uneasy about being here.".

No," Benjamin replied. "That's not what's wrong with him. He misses his mommy."

"Uh, let's not talk about that, OK, Benjamin? I think talking about it will only make BJ feel worse. Let's talk about something else, OK?" I now found myself feeling just as uncomfortable as little BJ.

"NO. I can tell this is really bothering him and I think we should talk about it" Benjamin said, as he moved right up next to his brand new classmate and looked him straight in the eye.

"You miss your mommy, don't you? Well, you know what? When I first came here, I missed my Dad. But don't worry. My dad always comes back to get me, and your mom will come and get you too. Now, dry up those tears. Wanna play with me?"

To my utter amazement and total surprise, BJ wiped his eyes, climbed off my lap, then took hold of Benjamin's hand as they wondered off to play. I sat there totally speechless. For hours, I had tried to bring comfort to BJ, yet foolishly, I had totally missed the mark. Instead of tackling the issue head on, I had tried to skirt around it, and avoid it completely. Who says we can't learn from children?

Benjamin, having gone through a similar experience, was well equipped to handle this situation. He knew exactly what BJ was feeling, and spoke to the heart of what was bothering little BJ the most -fear of abandonment. Once Benjamin reassured BJ that his mom would eventually come back for him, he was free to play and have fun.

How many times have you and I skirted around issues, not wanting to bring any more pain or discomfort to those around us? We casually talk about the weather, share in politics, or talk about the cost of groceries, all the while missing the mark totally.
Counseling
{Photo Credit}

Sometimes, the best thing we can do is to talk about it.

Yes, it might be awkward at first.
And yes, it may stir up painful memories or buried hurts, but in the end, it will bring comfort and healing.

There is something powerful about talking to someone who has been there and experienced first hand what we our self are going through. There is also something equally powerful about sharing your own experience and your testimony with someone who is now walking down a road you have already traveled.

I am a firm believer that pain has a purpose.
We will all suffer pain in some form or another in our lifetime.

The choice,
 then,
 is not will we hurt,
 but rather what will we do with our hurt.


We can choose to allow the hurt to take root in our heart, producing loneliness, bitterness or apathy,
or we can choose to find the purpose in our pain,
and use our own experience to help someone else.

When we are willing to talk about it, our pain begin to reveal it's purpose. Purpose, in turn,  brings with it strength, restoration and healing. The Bible tells us to comfort one another with the comfort we have been given. The only way we can do this is to talk about it......openly and honestly.

Is there hurt in your life you have been carrying around way too long?
Why not find someone whom you trust, and talk about it?

Is there someone you know who could use a listening ear and an understanding heart?
Why not ask the Holy Spirit to give you the words they need, and then approach that person?

Let's quit ignoring the issues of our hearts.

Why should we choose to settle for only pain,
 when God has so much more in store for us,
 if we are simply willing to talk about it.







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Monday, September 28, 2015

From God's Vantage Point~

One winter,
as I sat waiting in the car,
I just happened to look up.

GOLD.

To the naked eye, I suppose it would have resembled bare branches on a tree, but, not from where I sat.



From my vantage point,
the sun had transformed these barren branches, stripped of any sign of life, into pure gold.


It was in this light, I saw God's hand at work in my own life.


Seasons - the ebb and flow of life.

Seasons of
hope,
new life,
fruitfulness,
barrenness
and death.

It's not hard to see God in the blossoms of spring.

It's not difficult to feel God in the warmth of the summer sun.

But, where is God in the fall and winter of our life -
when cold winds blow and dreams crumble up and fall to the ground?
when periods of darkness strip us bare and leave us void of life?

Where is God then?

He is seated at the refiner's table.

I'll refine them as silver is refined,
test them for purity as gold is tested.
Then they'll pray to me by name
and I'll answer them personally.
I'll say, 'That's my people.'
They'll say, 'God—my God!'
~ Zechariah 13:9, NLT



It was only after this tree had suffered through the winter season that I was able to see it's hidden beauty.



As long as leaves of green adorned its branches, the underlying bark was concealed.



Now, on display for all to see,
this tree was radiant in the afternoon sun.



It is the same with you and me.

It it only after we are stripped of
all that is sinful,
all that is superficial,
all that is merely for show,
that the hidden beauty of "Christ in us" is revealed.

It is only after we have suffered through
the fall of self-denial and
the winter of affliction
that we are refined into His likeness.

Jesus loves us just the way we are, but, He loves us too much to allow us to stay that way.
When all we can see is barrenness and death, God sees what we will one day be.

Are you walking through a season of fall or winter in your life?

If so, don't for one minute think God has abandoned you.
Don't allow the cold winds and the stagnant growth to convince you He is not there or He is no longer working in your situation.

He is there, and chances are, He is up to something glorious.

Trust Him.
.
Trust in the One who can redeem this season of barrenness in your life and make it count.

Chances are,
from His vantage point,
you are beginning to shine like gold.~











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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Have You Ever Stopped to Wonder . . .?

(Feeling raw - from the events of the past two weeks - has me remembering this post, and sharing it one again.)

Not to get personal, but here I go....

Have you ever stopped to wonder what's hiding behind a smile?

I hadn't, at least not in quite the way I did recently, until well, recently.  You see, up until about a year ago, I suffered from an undetected, extremely serious circulation issue in my left leg, which led to ongoing wounds, which led to many trips to a wound care center, sleepless nights, and ongoing, never ending pain. Thankfully, last December, I underwent a surgery through which God healed me.

I tell you all of that to tell you this:

Neatly tucked under bandages, leg wraps, compression stockings, socks, and long pants, I carried this hurt with me each and every day. Except for a limp here or a limp there, I prayed no one would notice.  I don't like to be fussed over.  I don't like to make others aware of my weaknesses or my needs.  Maybe, it's pride.  Maybe, it's that I am a very private person.  Maybe, it's just me.

About a year ago, however, as I was going through life with my normal "nothing is wrong with me" facade, I wondered how people would react if they could see what was hiding under all these layers of protection on my leg.  Would they be more patient?  Would they be more helpful?  Would they be more compassionate, caring, supportive?

In this moment of contemplation, God captured my thoughts and took them to a whole new level.  "Stacy, how would you react if you could see what is hiding under all the layers of protection covering the hearts of people all around you?"

And, it's true, isn't it?

We have all been hurt by life, and yet, many of us go through life with our normal "nothing is wrong with me" facade, all the while, hiding the hurt in our heart.  How would we react if we could see the raw, wounded parts of each other's hearts? Would we be more patient?  Would we be more helpful?  Would we be more compassionate, caring, supportive? 

I remember when my husband's mother passed away. With a broken heart, not wanting to be out and about, he had stopped by a grocery store to pick up a few necessary items.  While there, he found himself on the receiving end of some harsh words from an impatient cashier.  Later that evening, as he recounted this incident to me, he summed it all by saying, "You know, Stacy, we never know what someone is facing, what someone is going through, what someone is feeling.  We should always treat everyone with extra love and tender care."  And, he's right.

So, back to my original question. 

Have you ever stopped to wonder what's . . .

{Photo Source}



Maybe, we should.


Gracious Heavenly Father,
You who know the secret hurts safely tucked behind smiles and hidden between "I'm doing just fine"; fill us with Your compassion.  Teach us to love like You love, Lord.  Help us to be ever mindful of those around us.  Guard our mouths and our actions that we might not hurt the already wounded, but instead, be instruments of Your love, Your healing, Your peace, Your comfort.  May we treat every one with love and tender care, Father God, just as You so lovingly and tenderly treat us.
In Jesus' precious name, we pray-
Amen








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Monday, September 21, 2015

From the Mouths of Babes~

 "It's so simple," he said matter-of-factly. "We do what's right because it's the right thing to do. Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd, (he slowly and purposely let the word hang in the air for a few seconds as if to make sure we were all still listening; as if what was coming next was just as important as what had already been said, but somehow easily overlooked) if we keep doing what's right over and over and over again, it gets easier to do what is right."

And, of course, he was right.

Sitting in Children's Church, we were picking up where we had left off last week. In our discussion about righteousness, we had discovered our righteousness is not based on the "right things" we do.

We do what is right because it is the right thing to do, not because it makes God love us more.
We do what is right, not because if we do wrong, it makes God love us less.
God, we all repeated in unison, loves us no matter what.

Our righteousness comes when we believe in Jesus with our heart and confess Him with our mouth. Worshiping God, cheerfully giving our tithe, reading God's Word, helping the needy, obeying our parents - these are all right things to do, but they don't make God love us more.

So, what about the choices we make each week, each day, each moment?
What about all the right things we do?
Why do we do them? 

The same five year old continued his thought.

"When people don't listen to me, or are being mean to me, or they are hurting me and making me sad, it can be . . . (he lifted both arms high in the air and with fists closed shaking violently, he spoke the word bubbling out of his heart) frustrating!!!! I want to be mean back.  But, if I was mean to them, then (he straightened his arms out in front of him with palms turned up) I would be mean, too, annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd (there was that slow and purposeful drawl again) that's not right. So, (he shrugged his shoulder) I try to be nice."

"How in the world do you do that?" another child blurted out before I could speak a word.

"I ask God to help me and He does.  Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd, (we all listened now) it's getting easier to be nice.  Like, I'm getting stronger or something at being nice. (He shrugged his shoulder again.) I can't really explain it."

{Photo Source}

And, what he didn't realize, is that in a few words spoken straight from his heart, he had opened our eyes to the very truth God was wanting us to take hold of deep down in our own hearts.

Worshiping God, cheerfully giving our tithe, reading God's Word, helping the needy, obeying our parents, being kind one to another - these are all right things to do, and if we do these things, we grow closer to God and deeper in our relationship with God. If we do these things, we grow stronger in the ways of our Lord. If we do these things, we "grow up" in Christ.

"Why does God want us to grow up?" I asked.  "Why can't we stay baby Christians?"

Again, the same 5 year old was quick to answer.

"So, we can make disciples. God needs us to grow up so we can make disciples."

A sixth grader, sitting behind this precious young heart, totally baffled by the spiritual wisdom of one so young, looked right at me and said, "He should be teaching this class."

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd, of course, he was right.

Age has absolutely nothing to do with spiritual maturity.






 
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Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Next Step~

She knew it in her heart.
More than that, she believed it.
Yet, her knowing and even her believing were not enough.

She had to reach out.
She had to touch.
She had to take her faith one step further and take a step.

We find her story in Mark 5:25-29; the woman with the issue of blood.

No doubt she had heard about Jesus' healing touch.
And, no doubt, she believed His touch could heal her.

She thought, "If I can just touch his clothes, I will be healed." ~ Mark 5:28, NCV

Faith is more than just believing, though.  Faith is action.

She could have spent the rest of her life knowing Jesus was a healer.
She could have tarried away the remaining years of her days on this earth believing He could heal her.
But, sadly, she never would have received her healing.

Peter believed he could walk on water, but it took stepping out the boat to do it. (Matthew 14)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abnego believed God could save them from the fiery furnace, but it took their obedience to God, refusal to bow down to the golden image and a trip into the fiery furnace to experience God's deliverance. (Daniel 3)

Abraham believed God would provide a sacrifice in place of his precious son Isaac, but it took building an altar adorned with his son and a knife-clad hand held high to the sky to reveal the ram hiding in the thicket. (Genesis 22)

It is faith that propels our knowledge and our belief into action.
It is faith that
reaches out,
steps out,
stands tall,
and sacrifices all.


Our righteousness is found in our faith in God. Period.  (Romans 3:22)  There is no doubt about that.
But, faith in action opens the floodgates of Heaven.

Faith in action reveals the active presence of our God.

She knew it in her heart.
More than that, she believed it.
Yet, her knowing and even her believing were not enough.
She had to reach out and touch.

She had to take her faith

                one                step                  further



One Step at a Time
{Photo Credit}


     and
                   take

                               a

                                          step


                                                       of


                                                                    faith.








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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What's That Stench?~

When my father’s health was declining, my mother found herself carrying the heavy load of caregiver along with her other daily responsibilities. Eventually, it became apparent to all in our family, that she was in need of a time of respite. My mother asked my sister and I to return home, care for our father, and give her some much needed time away. We agreed and hesitantly, she packed her bags and headed for the home of my father’s sister.

Each evening, my mother would call to check on my father and to see how we were doing without her. The first few phone calls confirmed that we had made the right decision in “sending” her away. Her voice still sounded tired and she mentioned she was sleeping a lot.

Several days into her trip, however, after some much needed rest and relaxation, her phone conversations became more lively, full of laughter and excitement. My aunt, her hostess, was going out of her way to make sure my mom was waited on hand and foot and my mom seemed to be thoroughly enjoying this arrangement.

Each day she would tell of the delicious food they ate,
the wonderful places they visited,
and the lavish attention my aunt was giving her.

One night after speaking with my mom and hearing all about her day, my dad asked to speak to his sister, the gracious hostess. What he told her made us all laugh.

“Don’t be spoiling her too much now. I’m the one who has to live with her, you know!”

Of course, he was teasing, but the thought behind the laugh opened my mind to a spiritual truth. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.

More than my aunt wanted to bless my mother, God longs to bless us. He delights in showering His children with blessings.

Yet, even something as beautiful as a heavenly blessing, when given to a heart that fails to recognize or appreciate it, can begin to have a very repulsive human stench.

We have all smelled it and it isn't pretty. No wonder we refer to someone in this condition as "spoiled".

Often, when God's blessings runneth over and we find our self in need of nought, we become untouched by the generosity of our Heavenly Father. Blessings pour into our life and we barely take notice, much less offer words of thanksgiving to the giver of all good gifts.

Other times, however, the problem is not that we don't notice the blessings. Quite the opposite. Oddly enough, when we have received so bountifully from the hand of God we can come to a place in our relationship with the Lord where we begin to expect such blessings. When they don’t rain down on us as we feel they should, we become bitter and disenchanted. We become spoiled by the selfless love of our gracious God and our actions and attitude attest to it!

Yes, God loves to lavish gifts upon His children, but like my father, He is very wise.

Our Heavenly Father understands what we don’t.

We may love to be spoiled with blessings but, - - -
 the rest of the world has to live with us!












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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Excuse Me, but ummm, . . . Your Vulnerability is Showing~

Have you ever felt vulnerable?

As I have been studying the armor of God,
I have became uncomfortably aware of how "under dressed" I sometimes am.

{Photo Credit}
Have you checked your spiritual wardrobe lately?


Upon close inspection,
you, too, may discover
you are stepping out into life
with nothing on
but your own strength and power.


Hmmm???

Could this be the reason the world (and Satan) leaves us feeling ill-equipped, uncomfortable, weak, defeated and..... vulnerable?

www.dictionary.com defines vulnerable as:

1. capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon
2. open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.
3. (of a place) open to assault; difficult to defend

Does this describe you?

Today, far too many Christians are walking around in an extremely vulnerable condition. Without even thinking about it, we charge right out into life. We give no thought to our spiritual covering, our spiritual armor. I hope you don't mind me asking, but when you got dressed this morning, did YOU think about it?

This should be our first order of business.

Before our feet even hit the floor in the morning, we need to spend time with God, putting on His armor. Yes! Before you even get out of bed! Have you ever noticed how Satan doesn't wait for you to leave your house before he starts attacking? The home is where Satan fights the fiercest. We cannot afford to give Satan one opportunity to catch us unaware or unguarded.

But what exactly are we to dress ourselves in? What does our spiritual wardrobe consist of? What is the armor of God? How can we be strong in the Lord and live in the power of His might?

Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

~ Ephesians 6:11-17 (NLT)

Each piece of spiritual amour serves an important and unique role in our ability to fight (and defend ourself!) against spiritual attacks. If even one of these pieces of armor is missing, you and I are VULNERABLE!

Also, I might point out that each of us is responsible for acquiring our own armor.
My armor won't fit you and your armor won't fit me.

Remember when David went up against Goliath? Saul, thinking David needed all the armor he could get, started placing his armor on David. Talk about uncomfortable, ill-fitting and cumbersome. Saul's armor didn't come close to fitting or defending this young man of God. In fact, it would have been a hindrance to David had he kept it on.

Besides, David didn't need Saul's armor. David had a very real, deep, intimate relationship with the Lord. He and the Lord had already won many a battle together while David was tending sheep. This shepherd boy knew it wasn't his strength or physical armor that would win the battle against Goliath. It was the Lord. All David needed to do was to put on the Lord. David knew this. When he was dressed in the armor of the Lord, his victory was SECURE!

Back to you and me and right here and right now.

What is your spiritual condition? As you look at yourself in the mirror of God's Word, do you see a Christian who is dressed for battle, or do you see only your vulnerability staring back at you? Do you see someone secure in their God?

www.dictionary.com defines secure as:

1. free from or not exposed to danger or harm; safe.
2. dependable; firm; not liable to fail, yield, become displaced
3. affording safety, as a place
4. in safe custody or keeping
5. free from care; without anxiety: emotionally secure.
6. firmly established
7. sure; certain; assured: secure of victory
8. safe from penetration or interception by unauthorized persons


{Photo Credit}

WOW!

Don't you long to be secure in God?  I do.

It's time to get dressed.
It's time to get serious about fighting the good fight of faith.  (1 Timothy 6:12)
It's time to start slaying the giants in our life.

Not in our might, not in our strength, but in the power of our God! (Zechariah 4:6)







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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Inevitable~

We pray for God to make us stronger, 
to grow our faith, 
to deepen our walk with Him. 

As we say our "Amen" and step out into life, 
more times than not, 
we are caught off guard by what is almost inevitably coming next - 
temptation, 
trials,
suffering, 
hardship, 
disappointment, 
grief.

As much as we love "easy", 
God in His infinite wisdom, 
merciful favor, 
and unfathomable love, 
knows the only way we will grow in our faith
is to come face to face with that which builds our spiritual strength. 

Easy doesn't require faith. 
Easy doesn't build spiritual muscles. 
Easy doesn't draw us deeper into relationship with God.

It is in the hard times 
that we come to depend upon our God and discover He is dependable

It is in the hard times 
that our faith reaches with everything it has deep into the heart of God 
and there discovers everything it needs

It is in the hard times, 
when we have nothing else, 
that we come to discover God is more than enough.

We pray for God to make us stronger, 
to grow our faith,
to deepen our walk with Him. 

When God, 
in His infinite wisdom, 
merciful favor, 
and unfathomable love,
answers our prayer, 
may we not murmur, complain, resent or rebel. 

May we instead, embrace His gracious gift 
and discover what is inevitably coming next - 
spiritual strength, 
a deeper faith, 
a closer walk with our God.~











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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tenderly Blessed~

As I sit at the dining room table, 
the wall separating our eating space from our sleeping space
is not "wall enough" 
to keep me from hearing the deep, slow, breathing of my sleeping husband. 

Breath after breath, 
I listen to my love breathe 
as I sit with my laptop
in the silence of the midnight hour. 

To hear him, 
to know he is just around the corner, 
down the hall, 
on the other side of this painted sheet rock wall, 
brings my heart comfort and peace.

As I place my fingers on my keyboard, 

I realize another truth: 
the world separating my physical space from my spiritual space
in not "world enough" 
to keep me from hearing the faithful, still small voice of my Heavenly Father. 
Verse after verse, 
I read from His Word 
as I sit in the midnight hour. 

To hear HIM,
to know HE is here, 
as close as a whisper,
in my very midst,
living inside me,
brings my heart comfort and peace.

As I am serenaded by the rhythm of slumber, 

I thank God for my man, 
my helpmate, 
my companion, 
my faithful friend,
my handsome honey.

As I am enveloped in the presence of divinity, 

my heart sings songs of praise to my Redeemer, 
my Saviour, 
My Wonderful Counselor, 
My Prince of Peace, 
My Shepherd, 
My Lover of my soul.

And, I smile.

I am loved and my heart is full.~♥











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