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Posts Tagged ‘peace’

As autumn sweeps over the valley I call home I can’t help but marvel at the beauty and wonder that in all actuality signals the death of summer and warns us that winter is just around the corner. I am a warm weather lover. I don’t shed my jacket until the air hits at least 75 degrees, 80 is better and 85 is perfect. I want to be out in it, inhaling sunshine. But as soon as that pre-winter chill hits, I’m the sit by the fire and read girl, a quilt over my legs and a hot beverage in my hand.

Still – autumn captures me. I love russet maples. I love the sight of trees that rain down gold and yellow. I love the sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet and I smile when one lands lightly on my hair or floats past close enough to brush my cheek. Logically I know they are dying. But spiritually, I sense them dancing.

They have accomplished their mission in life, to bud and unfurl and shine lush green, giving shelter to birds and squirrels and frisky house cats. They have dressed the branches in a vibrant veil of life and given the breeze something to tickle. They’ve provided shade for the summer lover, a cool spot to sit and watch bees and butterflies do their thing.

And now that their virile days are over, they don’t go out without making a statement. Oh no – nothing quiet about their golden age. They transform. They get out their catchiest outfits, they wear red, they laugh in rusty tones, they twirl and float and settle soft.
They know the secret. They know that while others might see their purpose at an end, they have much more to offer. Children will love to jump and play in them, friends will enjoy walking through them, couples will grasp hands for warmth and share special moments taking in the beauty they add to the landscape.

Winter will come, snow will cover them until the world forgets they were ever there. But they will still be doing their work, mulching the earth to provide nourishment for the new growth that comes with the spring.

Never forget that like the leaves, God has a purpose and a plan for us at every age. Our mission is to listen, follow His leading, and embrace our value in our current season. Don’t lament the fertile green we once wore when you can dress in a ball gown of autumn colors. Don’t regret the day you find you must rest at the root of the tree when you can treasure the memory of the journey that brought you there and the rich heritage you leave for the new growth that is nourished by it.

“And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come” . Psalm 71:18

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FerventWhat a great book with real, practical, helpful thoughts on making your prayer time powerful. In Fervent, Priscilla highlights ten strategies to focus on as we spend time in prayer. They are key to opening our hearts and minds to the true power in prayer.

I loved that strategy #1, right out of the gate, was to pray for renewed passion for prayer. Priscilla says “Fervent prayer is fueled by passion.” So very true but we get complacent, even lazy in our prayer life because the passion dims. We treat prayer time like a task to check off our to do list instead of the great privilege of coming before God and having a conversation.

Each strategy chapter includes Priscilla’s thoughts on why the strategy topic is key, a down to earth story illustrations from her life or the life of others to prove her point, and a host of scriptures that support the chapter. In fact, scripture is abundant throughout the book tying every thought back to God’s word. This is truly one of the author’s strengths.

I felt one especially “nailed-it” point she brought out in her chapter on “Our Hurts” was to point out that the bible tells us not just to forgive but to offer comfort to those that hurt us. What a challenge and yet, when acted upon, what a huge place of grace.

I also liked the way Priscilla began each chapter with a thought on “If I were the enemy I would ..” It made so much sense seeing it in writing that satan will attack the areas most likely to interfere with your ability to be completely focused in prayer.

I received this book from the Lifeway bloggers group in order to offer a review. I’m so blessed that this is the book I had opportunity to read and comment on. It was truly prayer-life changing and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to discover the power in fervent prayer. Some of my favorite women will find this book in their Christmas stockings for sure!

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Here’s imagesXTVDN01Vhow it went for me last night. It was only Wednesday evening and it had already been a long week with lots of stress and busyness. I finished a full day at work, came home and fixed dinner, started a load of laundry, visited a sick grandchild and spent almost two hours helping another grandchild with literature homework. I was ready for a break.

But before I sat down I slipped into the kitchen to clean and put some dishes in to soak. Squirting a little dish soap into the sink I turned on the hot water and while it filled, I poured a cup of coffee and carried it into the living room, setting it on the table by the puzzle I’d started a few days ago. And then I was distracted searching for an elusive piece. So I sat down and before I knew it I was involved in the puzzle, sipping my coffee and letting my overtaxed mind settle.

It was nice – the flickering light of the pellet stove, the quiet broken only by the gentle drip of rain on that mild autumn evening. I listened to the rain and shuffled puzzle pieces for at least a half hour. I don’t know what it was that kicked my brain into full gear and brought the sudden realization that it wasn’t rain I was hearing. It was the water I’d started in the kitchen sink overflowing on to the floor!

I jumped up, ran into the kitchen and nearly killed myself as I hit the wet floor. I am not exaggerating when I say there was a veritable flood! I could not believe it had taken me that long to realize what was happening. I could also not believe my husband had been sitting at his computer at the other end of the room and had not noticed the disaster.

Not only was the floor flooded but several cabinet drawers had filled and everything on the countertops was sitting in water. All the linens were wet, the rugs were sopping, the water was dripping down into the basement, and – well just know it was a complete catastrophe.

For the next two hours as we mopped up, soaked up, wrung out and emptied out – I kept berating myself for letting that water run as long as I did. Why hadn’t I taken care of it immediately? Why had I even walked out of the kitchen without turning it off? Why had I let myself be deluded by the subtle sound, thinking it was a gentle rain and wouldn’t harm anything? I was thankful I’d finally come to my senses and put a stop to things, but I berated myself over and over that I hadn’t done it sooner.

It was a good though messy lesson. Too often I let things go on when they need to be shut off. I lull myself into thinking they aren’t going to do damage, or delude myself into thinking it’s just a gentle rain not a torrential storm. I get so caught up in other things I don’t pay attention to the subtle reminders that something is amiss – until the ark starts to float in a sea of trouble.

Which is what started my stressful week in the first place – having to turn off a flood that was overflowing far too wide and deep. Just like in my kitchen, I may have finally turned off the water, but that didn’t decrease the big mess that had to be cleaned up.

God, cleanse me of complacency. Make me bold when it comes to defending You, Your holiness, Your direction. Even when I know it won’t be popular, don’t let me stifle my actions when they are clearly called for and Biblical.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 1 Cor 16:13

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We hear the word ‘glory’ so often it sometimes becomes a bit hard to define in the spiritual term. What is image[1]glory anyway? Can you truly see glory? And if you can – how would you describe it?

I love our motorcycle rides this time of year because the beauty in the landscape is just breathtaking. So all week I was looking forward to Saturday. Imagine my disappointment when I woke to fog and mist shrouding everything. However, this does not deter my husband in anyway so we leathered up. I always pray at the beginning of the ride for God to show me something amazing along the way. Yesterday I prayed especially for God to show me glory despite the fog and dark skies. (Honestly, I figured in order for Him to answer this prayer He would have no choice but to do away with the fog and give me sunshine and clear skies. How clever of me, right?)

We were just a few minutes on the road when the skies did open up to what promised to be a gorgeous day and I thought, now that’s glory – blue skies, sunshine and a wispy cloud now and then.

But down the road a few miles the fog set in again and pretty soon all we could see was well – fog with a few shadowy tree outlines buried within. We decided to keep going hoping things would change. (I can smile when I say that because my trusty electric jacket was keeping me toasty despite the chill in the air.) As we started over Blewitt Pass things did change. There were places where the sun would break through for a few minutes and shine on the rich autumn landscape and I thought to myself, now that’s glory.

Then the fog would close in again. We came around one corner and though we were still in fog, there was one spot where a break allowed sunlight to come through like a spotlight. You could see the rays radiating down and where they touched on a patch of meadow the colors were enhanced in such a way they shimmered – green grass touched with moisture, red and gold trees surrounding the patch. But it was better than that – standing right in the middle of the scene was a soft eyed doe, just frozen there enjoying the beauty. And – it was even better than that because at her feet was a small pool of rainwater and her reflection was clear as day. And I thought – now that’s glory.

We moved on, the mist closed in again. But a few miles down the road the fog was gone and brilliant sunlight highlighted the amazing fall landscape of red and gold and green and yellow and every shade in between. And I thought – now that is really glory.

But coming around a corner there was a stand of trees that hadn’t even begun to turn. They were still green and lush as if they had ignored the change in the weather. Right in the middle of that stand of green was one small maple – every leaf the brightest yellow. Kissed by brilliant sunlight it was almost blinding. And I thought – that truly is glory.

The realization suddenly came to me that glory is not in a beautiful landscape or the sun or the moon or the stars – the glory is that God chooses to reveal Himself through these things. Glory is in the fact that with our common human eyes – we can see God in the things around us He created. All things move and breathe and shine and shimmer because of Him. We won’t see glory in all its fullness until we meet Him face to face. But in His mercy He gives us glimpses and tastes and touches along the way.

We live life in a fog of busyness, stress, pressure, grief, bitterness, fear, anger, troubling news headlines, soaring highs and plunging lows. The only way we will see glory day to day is to choose to see it. We must believe God is always just a mind shift away waiting to show us He is bigger and better, more powerful, life giving, battle winning, promise keeping and hope shining in the dark. He is the beauty around every bend in the road.

Even more amazing about God and His glory – not only do we get to see it, but we get to be it. Matthew 5:16 says “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We are to be the small maple among the forest of evergreen, standing out and shining that blinding light of Christ in us to a lost, broken, dark and suffering world. What a gift! What a privilege! What an amazing God to come up with a plan like that.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

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images84YL6NK0I have been feeling the heaviness of responsibility for two weeks and it is pretty much all tied to the new Bible study I’m leading. I struggled with the decision to do Beth Moore’s Children of the Day (a study of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians). Don’t get me wrong, I love her studies, but they are intense and demand a lot of time if you are going to get the most out of them. I have such a mix in my group, from brand new Christians to seasoned believers, it’s hard to always know that the material I’ve selected will meet everyone’s needs.

All that said, I felt impressed to move forward with Children of the Day. We are only in the first session, but I’ve already had some amazing testimonies from my ladies. One of my favorites was this – “I’ve never ever committed to actually following through on all the lessons of a Bible study until now. So far I’ve done every one and I’m hooked.”

I’ve had three ladies tell me in separate, one on one conversations “This is exactly what I needed right now.” And one who said, “I’ve been looking for something to motivate and get me moving and this is it, I can tell.” And today I heard from one who just made a decision to join us that ‘she doesn’t know anything about the Bible.’

I’m excited but I’m nervous at the same time. With so many women expecting great things I worry that I’m not smart enough, strong enough, educated enough to be their leader. I’ve been having mini panic attacks and major anxiety over this. So today I pick up my current personal bible study on the book of Esther (also by Beth Moore) and there God meets me with just what I need. Again!

This morning’s lesson focused on Esther 4:12-14. Mordecai has requested that Esther approach the king on behalf of the Jews and Esther has responded with the fact that she is most definitely not the person to approach the king. He hasn’t been interested in her for the past month. She has obviously lost favor with him. And death comes to those who approach the king without an invitation. There must be someone better for the job.

I’m sure you remember Mordecai’s response. “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

God puts us in a time and place for a purpose. To back off when that purpose becomes apparent is to deny that God can and does use us, inadequate as we are, in mighty ways. With Esther, Mordecai assured her that God would still accomplish His purpose because to annihilate the Jews would go against all of His Old Testament promises. But Esther and her father’s family would not be moving forward in history if she didn’t accept this task.

With me, I recognized from this study that God didn’t have to use me to see that these ladies’ spiritual growth takes place. But for some mysterious reason, He has chosen to use me. And – if I refuse – I am the one who will suffer, not them. I am the one who will not experience the miracles and the wonder and the enlightenment that takes place when His plan collides with my ministry.

Am I still nervous? You bet. But I’m taking it on because He will be with me, and it’s His show. It may look like I’m center stage, but I’m not. And that’s a good thing. Because when His shadow covers my spot at the head of the table, I’m disabled and He’s enabled to do great things.

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.” Phil 2:13
Or as the Message Bible puts it:
“Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.”
Wow!

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imagesCAYQ3DZ0Any idea how Black Friday got it’s name?  Actually, it was first called Black Friday in 1966 by police because of the chaos, traffic jams and acts of violence associated with the day. It has become a very profitable day for retailers and certainly, a profitable day for bargain shoppers if you are willing to get up early, stand in line, fight the crowds and push and shove your way to the best buys of the day.

Are you a Black Friday shopper?  Then I’d like to bring to your mind a little scripture in Mark’s gospel (8:36) that goes like this, “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”  The message Bible puts it this way, “What good would it do to get everything you want and lose the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?”

In the me-version paraphrase, “Is that piece of electronic equipment or that great buy on name brand boots worth compromising your entire Christian list of principles?”

I heard on the news today that the Greater Sacramento Chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation is set to unveil 55 billboards touting atheism this Christmas season.  Frightening!

But even more frightening, the billboard Christian shoppers will be displaying on Black Friday if we fall into the trap of losing who we really are to the lure of being first, gaining a material advantage over displaying Christ, and worst of all – setting a poor, long lasting example for our children, friends and whoever else might be observing our actions.

Here are my Black Friday tips to assure that your billboard flashes a message of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self control. (Gal 5:22-23)

  1. Don’t leave the house on Black Friday if you think you won’t be able to display the Christ you want others to see.
  2. If you do go, at some point in the day, let someone go ahead of you in line and wish them a Merry Christmas (not a Happy Holiday or Seasons Greetings). This will shock some, bless some and make you feel great.
  3. Smile at everyone.  Smile at the young mother with few funds and a deep desire to make her children’s Christmas special. Smile at the elderly gentleman who can’t move as fast as everyone else. Smile at the husband who doesn’t have a clue and is just going where his wife points. Smile especially at the retail clerk who has answered the same question sixteen thousand times without gritting his teeth. Yes, even smile at the cranky woman who wants to argue and complain to everyone around her.
  4. Hold a door, give up a parking place, pick up a dropped package, do something nice at least once every half hour to remind yourself who you are and what you are trying to convey.
  5. Hum along with the Christmas music blaring throughout the mall.  You will be surprised how it will lift your spirit and take your mind off the inconvenience of the crowds.
  6. Look like Jesus to the weary, hungry crowd. People aren’t always looking for bargains. They are all too often looking for kindness, compassion, gentleness and hope. God’s gift is that with his empowerment you can be all of those things even on Black Friday!
  7. Arm yourself with the full armor. You will need it on this day more than you’ve ever needed it before.  Remember them?  Truth (when the harried clerk gives too much change back),  righteousness (the first shall be last kind of mentality in the midst of the shoving), the Gospel of peace (when everything around you is chaos),  faith (that God has a better plan when you miss out on the big deal of the day that you got up early and stood in line for), salvation (nothing is worth losing your salvation over) and the sword of the Spirit (the one you wield when you’ve been stabbed in the back, stomped into a corner, shoved out of the way and shoutedat).

And when you get home, pour yourself a hot cup of tea or chocolate. Sit down by the fire. Close our eyes and thank God that with His hand in yours you navigated Black Friday in a manner He would be proud of.

God bless you all this Thanksgiving week!

His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’  Matthew 25:21

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MP900070786[1]Like many other areas this time of year, we are battling wildfires which thrive on vegetation dried out by the hot summer sun. Two large fires, one to the south and one to the north have painted our skies with a hazy smoke cover.

The strong smell of burning timber and the fine film of ash that settles everywhere are clear evidence that those fires continue to rage and a barrage of firefighters fight to save homes and control the burn.

Ash is certainly a symptom of troubled times. The Bible refers to ashes as a symbol of repentance and grief. Men dressed in sackcloth and ashes when crying out to God as an outward sign of their humility and sincerity in their need for mercy.

For the last few evenings I’ve walked out on my deck to watch the sunset. It has been overwhelmingly beautiful, the smoky haze creating vivid reds and pinks as the sun sinks behind the hills.

I am reminded over and over of the phrase “Beauty for Ashes” when evening falls and I’m surrounded by the artistry of God where light through ashes creates a priceless masterpiece.

God always uses the tough and tragic times in our life to move us to a place of beauty if we let Him. Job suffered greatly and was restored to a point far beyond his losses. Moses was exiled from his beloved home only to return as the Deliverer of people. Joseph’s story is a classic tale of beauty for ashes.

The common threads between these stories, and many others, are acceptance, obedience and unwavering faith. God always wants to bring us to a better place but He needs our cooperation.

If the sun refused to shine because the smoke blocked its rays, none of these gorgeous sunsets would occur. If I refuse to trust and do what I am called to do because tears are the order of the day, I will never experience God’s great mercy that picks me up, sets me on my feet again and allows me a vision of my future made more brilliant because it’s been washed by those tears.

I’m thanking Him today for this reminder, handed to me as I stand on my deck on a soft summer evening, watching the miracle of ashes for beauty.

Is 61:3 :…and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness  instead of mourning, and a garment of praise  instead of a spirit of despair.”

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