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Posts Tagged ‘peace’

MP900049751[1]Ahhh – sunshine.  A commodity my home town is famous for but which has been in short supply these past few weeks. Instead, we’ve had rain.  Lots of rain.

But this morning I’m looking out the large window of my office at clear blue skies and sun so bright it is glistening off the still wet grass and kissing the trees until their leaves wiggle in delight.

I am looking forward to our Saturday ride – finally. So far this year it’s been cold, windy, overcast or rainy. Not every ride has been completely miserable but close. So I have a habit of praying at the start of each ride, “God, if I have to be cold or wet at least let me see something amazing along the way.” And He is always faithful to answer.

A couple of weeks ago as I was hunkered down shivering I spotted two large bald eagles, a male and a female, perched high in a tall pine tree. They just sat there like they owned the world, guarding their nest and watching us with haughty eyes as if laughing at our silly venture.

Last week as I was dodging raindrops I spotted a beautiful buck deer still in the velvet but already showing about 4 points on each side standing knee deep in a field. As if the sight of him wasn’t a breathtaking enough, next to him was a sleek and graceful doe and her young fawn. The whole family just standing there watching us roar by, reminding us there’s more to life than racing down a highway.

This weekend the weather is forecast to be in the mid eighties with clear skies and sunshine. I’m finally looking forward to the ride because I know the hills will dressed in green and flowers will be popping their colorful heads to bask in the beautiful day.

Pondering on this fact I realized the reason the scenery will be so beautiful on Saturday is because of the amount of rain we’ve had this spring.

And that led me to understand just how God answered my prayer these past weeks. I thought the amazing things he wanted me to see were the eagles and the family of deer grazing.  Actually, He was letting me see how He never focuses on a single moment in answering my prayers. He looks at the entire picture of my life and provides in such a way that I experience Him over and over and over.

I heard a comment in a training session I attended a few days ago and it has stayed with me. The comment came from a farmer’s prospective.  “Drip irrigation beats a flash flood any day.”

God is definitely a drip irrigation kind of guy, providing a steady stream of what we need rather than giving us everything in a flash flood. The rain drops I dodged two weeks ago will result in miles and miles of enjoyment in days to come.

I am reminded not to take everything I see at face value. When God answers prayer He doesn’t do it to gratify a momentary need. He does in such a way as to provide a better path moving forward and a greater impact on my future.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater  Isaiah 55:10

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 MM900254494[1]We got our miracle this past week when my granddaughter’s test results were negative for cancer. It wasn’t what the doctors expected and I’m ashamed to say it wasn’t what I expected.

I’m ashamed that I was prepared for the worst instead of claiming the best. A legion of prayer warriors was beseeching God on our behalf. I myself  spent hours and hours in fervent prayer.

And – we prayed specifically for a miracle. But when it came – my reaction was disappointing. I didn’t immediately jump for joy. Instead, I wondered how that could be. If four biopsies came back abnormal, how could a fifth test come back negative? What if they made a mistake? What if they missed something? Should we get another opinion? Should we trust the results?

It took a few hours for me to truly believe that God had answered our prayers exactly as we’d requested. What originally was bad news had been flipped around by the Hand of God. Why was that so hard for me to grasp?

Our pastor has been preaching a series on the Lord’s prayer and just this past week I noted and underlined a statement he made.  He said, “People who pray mighty God centered prayers live a mighty God centered life.”

I’m trying to live a mighty God centered life. I believe in the power of prayer. So why is it so hard for me to accept a miracle when it happens?

I think it has to do with a world that pelts us daily with horror and violence, immorality and disappointment, bad news heaped on bad news.  Seldom do you come across an uplifting, positive piece of reporting. Each day when we turn on the TV or open the newspaper we are programmed to prepare for the worst.

If we would only open the Bible first we’d see a different story. Bad things happened in Biblical times but they were never the headline.  The headlines are always the redemption, the promises of God, the restoration, the forgiveness, the love – always the love.

Imagin the difference if we all started our day expecting the best instead of preparing for the worst.

What if we read this:   By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:79

Before we read this:  Another School Shooting

Or this:  my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. 4 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. 2Samuel 22:3-4

Before we read this:  Another Terrorist Attack

Or this:  The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Before we read this:  Suicides on the Rise

If we could just concentrate on the best God has for us we could put in better perspective the worst the world has for us. In order for our mighty God centered lives to be mighty and God centered, we’d best be delving into the good news that never changes. And when we pray those mighty God centered prayers, we’d best get ready for mighty God centered results.

You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples Psalm 77:14

I believe in miracles. I believe my family just experienced one. And I believe it is a direct result of the powerful prayers sent up to a mighty God by family, friends, my Bible study ladies, my church, my pastor, and my own desperate heart. In all humility, greatfulness and overwhelming joy I shout, “Thank You, God!”

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MB900316860[1]Sometimes it’s hard to figure out if your life is one of peace interrupted now and then by crisis or one of crisis interrupted now and then with peace.

Our family is certainly in the middle of crisis at the moment with a granddaughter facing surgery and our fear of test results. As any medical situation, this has been going on for what seems like forever but is actually about two months. Appointments, tests, test results, more appointments – it’s endless and frays the nerves to the breaking point.  

When someone you love is suffering, you suffer. But what about when it is not necessarily someone you love?

 In the midst of our overwhelming crisis comes the Boston Marathon bombing. People I’ve never heard of dead and horribly injured. Families shocked and grieving. Friends trying to make sense of a nightmare.

And then just a few days later an explosion in Texas causing widespread devastation with the same result – death, destruction, pain, anguish, grief.

When you are mired in your own personal heartache it’s hard to read the stories. My brain wants to say that in the large scheme of things my problems are small. My heart speaks louder crying out “But this is my grandchild, not a stranger.”

And yet, I don’t ever want to become calloused when it comes to feeling compassion and heartbreak for God’s people.

The prophet Jeremiah actually prayed for a greater capacity to grieve.  “Oh, that my head were waters, And my eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night For the slain of the daughter of my people!” Jer 9:1

It’s not like Jeremiah didn’t have enough to cause him grief. He was the ultimate misunderstood, mistreated and unappreciated prophet. Yet he longed for a much larger resource to provide the tears he wanted to shed for God’s people.

Psalm 35:13-14 says “But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting; And my prayer kept returning to my bosom. I went about as though it were my friend or brother; I bowed down mourning, as one who sorrows for a mother.”

I love that – I went about as though it were my friend or brother. My pastor’s wife shared with me yesterday how they just received news that their very good friends have lost a son.  She said their shock and grief goes so deep “We feel as if we have lost our own son.”

If only we all had the kind of love for mankind that caused us to grieve in a manner where an onlooker would think we’d lost a loved one or a close friend.

Because when we are that tender to the hurts and needs of those around us we are stifled in our ability to hurt those around us. Imagine a world where people could only act out in tenderness, a community of kind, generous souls unable to be anything but loving because the sight of a hurting human brings them to their knees.

I would love to close my own life by repeating Job’s statement to God as I enter His presence.  “Have I not wept for the one whose life is hard? Was not my soul grieved for the needy?” Job 30:25

Let’s inscribe that on the walls of our hearts and live the legacy.

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MP900390547[1]Waiting – we hate it but we can’t avoid it. Some waits are simply irritating. Standing in line, stuck behind a stalled car, sitting in a doctor’s office.

Some waiting is pure agony. Waiting for news that could send joy bubbles coursing through your veins or plunge you into a place of pure grief is the worst kind of waiting. Time drags until you are convinced the clock is broken. Minutes tick slower and slower and so do you, weighed down with the wait.

How should we wait? Talk about it? Don’t talk about it? Push through or sit it out? Hide it deep in our hearts or put it out there where our heart is exposed and sore?

I am waiting today in one of those pure agony situations. It’s hard and very emotional. This morning I found myself reflecting back on  Easter week and finding the timing ironic. The Son of God was waiting for the completion of His mission and the fulfillment of the scriptures that week. Knowing beforehand that what He awaited would be agony, how did Jesus wait?

In Luke Chapter 7 it says He started His week of waiting by going to the home of a Pharisee for dinner, an interesting decision given that the Pharisee’s were not exactly friends or supporters. While there his meal was interrupted by a women whom the Bible says was “known to be a sinner”.  Although it isn’t specifically stated, that would indicate she was a prostitute. The woman proceeded to have a complete meltdown, sobbing uncontrollably and we all know how comfortable that must have been for the men in the room. I know it was that kind of red nosed, puffy eyed crying because it produced enough tears to be used in the washing of Jesus’ feet. Once she got her hysteria under control she dried them with her hair and massaged them with expensive oil.

And there in that room, as Jesus waited forthe events that would lead to His  painful death, He restored a broken soul and gave her new life. Of course, He was challenged to justify all of this, prompting Him to teach about great love – just days before He would experience great hate.  (Luke 7:36-50)

How else did Jesus wait that week? Luke says that after the incident of the woman who washed His feet “Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. “ Luke 8:1

Jesus didn’t put Himself on hold as He prepared for the devastating results of His trial. He went about His Father’s business, continuing to reach out and heal, teach and preach, nourish and love the ones who would bring Him to the cross.

What an incredible lesson for me today. My soul may be heavy but my feet and arms still work, my heart can still be touched by brokeness, the people in my life still need me to minister and God still has work for me to do.

I am not called to build a fortress to hide behind while I wait. I am called to be a fortress for a frightened, lonely world by not hiding the light that leads to Jesus behind my own dark situation.

I’m not saying that in times of distress we can’t be sad, or ask for support or seek counsel. I’m just saying that life doesn’t stop because I am in a hard place. Every day, along with the challenges I face, there are tasks I have been given by the One who guards and guides me.

I expect Him to follow through on His promises. He expects me to follow through on my calling. Believe me – He’s getting the short end of the stick while I’m getting the best end of the bargain.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Ro 12:11

 

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Rose On Wood BWIt’s the day after Valentine’s Day and wherever you go you will hear mixed emotions and contrasting expressions of how love was or was not expressed.

A few at work received flowers, a very visible expression of a relationship.  Or is it? I have known women who received flowers at work from a spouse when everyone knew their relationship was in shambles. But, sending flowers was the expectation so he did it.

Fancy dinners out are a topic of conversation today. Candlelight, soft music, expensive menus and muted conversation – those certainly express a deep love and commitment, right? Yes, but not always.

Candy? Cards dripping with mushy phrases? Hugs and kisses? Well of course, that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about. At least that’s what those on the commercial end will tell you.

Today there will also be much disappointment expressed. Someone’s spouse forgot, another was expecting much more than was given, another has no one to share the day with.

We live in a world that pushes us to twist and turn an idea into to something it is not. St. Valentine was a Catholic priest who it is said was imprisoned for ministering to persecuted Christians. This is a far cry from today’s commercialized version of his designated day.

Originally it was a celebration of sacrifice, mercy and reaching out to others. It has become a celebration of romance and a pressure filled time of striving to outdo, out give, overspend and meet or exceed impossible expectations promoted by the florists, card designers and stores.

Let me tell you about my perfect Valentine’s Day. It started with a phone call at work from my husband apologizing for forgetting to put my gift out before I left that morning. He was worried that I would think he had forgotten all together. To tell you the truth, I’d not had the slightest twinge of being forgotten. But his call gave me a great big burst of being remembered. All day I kept thinking about how precious it is that he worries about my feelings.

He did take me out last night. But it wasn’t for a candlelight dinner. No soft music or expensive menu and certainly no dressing up in our finest. You will laugh at this but here’s the story.

First he took me to Goodwill to see if there were any cheap movies we might want to grab. Since we don’t have television, we watch a lot of movies and some of our favorites are ones we’ve already seen and remember enjoying together. Those are the ones we peruse the Goodwill rack for. Not that we always have the same taste, because we don’t. I hold up one and he rolls his eyes. He holds up one and I give it the thumbs down sign. Last night we did find a couple and paid our ninety nine cents apiece, walking out to the car holding hands and carrying our Goodwill bag of entertainment.

 From there we moved on to the local drive-in that makes awesome BLT sandwiches. We slid into a booth like teenagers, listened to the jangle of the video machines under the not so subtle florescent lights, drank from straws and talked.

Looking at him across the table I just kept thinking, this is what 45 years of marriage ends up being – comfortable, no pretense, no pressure to prove our love. There’s not much we haven’t been through and we’re still together –proof enough.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the mushy card and the chocolates he gave me later. It’s not to say I don’t love a romantic, candlelight dinner. It’s certainly not to say I don’t get excited about flowers and jewelry and other girly stuff. I do. But it’s frosting to me, it’s not the cake.

Last night was the cake. Him, me, a BLT and words of love expressed in laughter, hands touching, simple conversation and a Harley shirt staring at me across the table.

Proverbs 15:17
A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.

 

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Wow – JanuarMB900442471[1]y is over. It hardly seems possible. Why do the days, weeks, months, even years seem to speed by so quickly as we get older? Children complain often about time standing still, while most of us complain about how fast it goes.

When you really think about it, the explanation is clear. Children live for the moment. They seldom plan ahead because what is happening right now consumes them. They are focused on getting the most out of whatever they are currently engaged in.

For us it’s different. We are constantly looking ahead, planning ahead, making lists and getting into a panic because it seems we won’t have nearly enough time to complete the lists. We gloss over where we are today thinking about where we need to be tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in planning and organization. I make lists and I keep a detailed calendar. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been participating in one activity while looking at my schedule and thinking about the next activity.

And when I do check something off my list, I can’t always say it’s been done well. And I can’t always declare I thoroughly enjoyed it because I realize I wasn’t fully engaged in it at the time it was happening.

I am challenging myself this year to take more time in the moment and less time in the future. By that I mean that I will lay down the list of upcoming events and tasks and concentrate more on where I am right now. 

One of the ways I’ve started doing this is with my morning devotions. Every morning as I go through my Bible reading for the day I’m not just checking it off the list so I can complete the entire Bible in a year. I am taking the time to look for one nugget I can pull out and apply to this very day.

Today, for instance, I finished up Exodus and read about the priestly garments God designed for those who ministered to the people. God wanted the people who ministered in the temple to be easily recognizable. When they were dressed in their business clothes, no one would mistake them for anything else but Godly men serving in a priestly role. Everything people saw when they looked at Aaron and his assistants screamed “holy”.

As a Christian and as one called to ministry, do I dress with the same meticulous care? When people look at me do they recognize my role as a witness to His faithfulness, a follower of His word, a vessel for His use?

  • Am I wearing the face of contentment regardless of my circumstances? (1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.)
  • Am I thinking and speaking words that build up not tear down? (Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whateveris right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.)
  • Am I covering myself with compassion, kindness and generosity so that others are drawn to me?  (Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.)

Taking time before I start my day making sure I am ready for whatever comes my way is one way I am slowing down and assuring that I “thoroughly live” instead of “frantically live”.  

My next step is …. I’m not sure. This slowing down is a real challenge for me. I’m thinking I need to gather some children around and let them drag me into their world for a while.

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It happens every January 1, a new year like a blank page begging for a story.  It stretches out before you, not yet sullied, not yet marked by disappointment, not yet peppered with regret.  You look back and analyze the past year and there are always parts you’d like to erase.  You look forward and begin to make resolutions that will guarantee improvement.

There is excitement and enthusiasm for a while.  If you are like me, you get into a cleaning frenzy.  You reorganize.  You dust corners you’ve forgotten about for the past several months.  I would love to start every year by throwing out the old wardrobe and starting over with everything brand new, never worn. 

The first day of a new year is perfection – for about five minutes.  Hard as you try you can’t keep it that way. Before the day ends you’ve probably said something you wish you hadn’t, neglected something you should have taken care of, and shoved an item into a place it didn’t go. All those wonderful resolutions already starting to crumble and you have another 364 days to go.

Still, I am a hopeless resolution maker. I am a dreamer of better decisions, kinder thoughts, more generous actions and a deeper walk. I am a seeker of more meaning and richer relationships.  I am a planner of more organized days and fewer busy nights.

For several years now I have been reading through the Bible, beginning January 1st and finishing triumphantly December 31st. I have not failed to live up to this commitment yet.

And God has not failed to reveal new ideas and thoughts to me through His amazing words.  Here is the perfect example.

It’s January 3, 2013 and I have just read through the story of creation again.  I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve studied this particular section of scripture. However, this is the first time I was struck with how it parallels the start of a brand new year. Picture God looking out on nothing and deciding to create something, so He starts with light.

Now here is the clue God gave me for how to improve my life in 2013. God didn’t create light and jump to the next step. “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good,…” Genesis 1:3-4a

God took time to look His first step over and make sure it was good before moving on. What a thought!  Take time to make sure where you are is right and good before you move forward.

To me that means when the realization comes that I’ve stumbled in thought, word or deed, I need to stop and make amends. When I’m short with my husband, who is one of the few people who can push me from my normally tolerant and gentle self to irritation, I can’t just walk on.  I have to stop and ask forgiveness because I desire to please God in all things.  I want Him to look at me and say “that was good, move on.”

When I neglect my devotions or don’t take time with someone who needs time, or spread gossip, or fail to put all of my effort or talent in what God has called me to do, I need to go back and make it right.

God stopped several times in the creation process and assessed His work. Did the world He created stay beautiful and unsullied? Nope.  Man messed it up within a very short time, and continues to distort it every day. But that doesn’t change what God did.

Take some time this first week of 2013 to look for the original good in God’s actions that first week of the very first year ever.  Here’s what you will find:

  • There is still heart wrenching, soul moving beauty in a sunrise. 
  • There is still tranquility in the still waters and breathtaking power in a waterfall.
  • There is still majesty beyond description in the mighty mountains and cool, soothing peace in the lush valleys.
  • There is still hope in the shimmer of moonlight, laughter in the antics of animals, wonder in the effortless soaring of a bird, faith in the ebb and flow of the ocean.
  • And never doubt, there is still goodness in man. The news may try to hide it, evil will try to cast a shadow on it. But it’s there, every day, in the heart and spirit of the ones who choose to walk with God and live out love, forgiveness and grace.

Look for it and you will find it. When you do, remind yourself “it is good”.

 “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good….” Genesis 1:31a

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