Dot-To -Dot

When I was a young child, I remember being given a sheet of paper with numbered dots. I would draw a line from the smallest number to the next larger number continuing until I ended up with an outline of a picture. Sometimes, I feel like one of those disconnected dots. I rarely see how anything in my daily life connects to God’s greater purposes. Although I often cannot comprehend it, that does not mean there is not a bigger picture.

Our lives are similar to pieces of tile in the mosaic. God places us together to tell His story.  The red tile above is from the center of the flower which by itself is merely a broken, red tile but placed alongside the other tiles, an image becomes clear. As an introvert, I thrive in my time alone, yet too much solitary time prevents me from experiencing how my little piece, while small, interconnects to others. When I spend time with God’s children- hearing their stories and observing their spiritual gifts, I appreciate how each individual piece, including my own,  is a significant part of God’s intricate design.

God knows the picture He is creating, and that is what matters. Even when I am unable to recognize my purpose, Our Almighty and Sovereign Lord continues to fulfill His. We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. As God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 2 Corinthians 4:14-15

“It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the most exquisitely beautiful pictures.”– St. André Bessette

Our Adversary

Your adversary lurks like a prowling lion waiting for someone he can destroy – 1 Peter 5

Last week we were on vacation. It was beautiful time away at the beach with one exception. We agreed to listen to a time share presentation in order to receive a $100 gift card. We have participated in similar spiels over the years, but each time I come away thinking how similar the tactics of the selling agent and the strategies of Satan.

The agent finds out what you want and tailors the package to what you desire. He is well-trained to sell by creating a false need for something that is not necessary or even good for me, making me believe I should prioritize this goal. He points out all the benefits and hardly, if at all, mentions the steep costs. He glosses over any objections, keeps at continually repeating the need to act quickly, wearing me down, maiming me by confusion and doubts.  At this point, I want out and become susceptible to saying yes just to escape. Before I realize it, I am suckered into something that in the long run will be very costly to my well-being, finances or relationships.

He may speak half-truths in such a convincing manner that I accept everything he is saying hook, line and sinker. His lies are clever, entwined with logical, sensible statements. If I am not on guard, I am duped. (As an aside – I realize if I cloak my language in half-truths by only disclosing what is in my best interest, I am like the enemy. Yikes!)

While the end game of a time share agent is to sell me a vacation package to further his own financial gain, the enemy of our souls has a much more destructive agenda. He wants to extinguish the light of God in us.

Knowing this, I still fall prey to my adversary’s deceit.  But more and more often, I am able to detect and resist his traps. I am an overcomer because I stand strong in the Lord and in strength of His might.

Favorite Quotes – Part 2

Over the years I have kept many journals (I am currently on #28 😊) and I include quotes that are meaningful during the season I am experiencing. Here are some more of my favorites and why I like them…..

A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred.  -Amy Carmichael

This is one of the earliest ideas I began to ponder. It is not about events or the circumstances but Christ in me. When I am not living for myself but allowing Jesus to live through me, He turns the bitter water into fresh springs.  The fragrance of my life becomes the sweetness of Jesus.

In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.  -John Bunyan

I used to worry when I was in a position where I needed to pray in front of others because I can’t form my words quickly, and sometimes I lack the ability to even complete a sentence. This reminds me who the most important listener is and that He is not bothered by my lack of eloquence.

To love to teach is one thing. To love those you teach is quite another. – Hudson Taylor

At times I can get really passionate about what I am teaching, but I can never lose sight of the reason I am teaching – so others will know the love of Jesus and grow closer to him.

God doesn’t hand out medals for performance; He hands out crowns for perseverance. – Holly Gerth

Unlike the accomplishments the world applauds, God treasures faithfulness. Lord, let me be found faithful in your eyes.

People will remember that things you accomplish, but the way you handle life’s challenges can affect them just as strongly.  – Lori Deshane

The believers with the most visible and large-scale ministries may not have the greatest influence.

Our contentment becomes an act of worship – Linda Dillow

This is my most recent entry. It helps me redefine worship to include some much more than words or songs to include my everyday attitude about the things (or lack of other things) that God permits in my life.

After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  -Peter the Apostle

I never want to forget God’s redemption in the midst of this difficult and confusing life. His grace is enough and our eternal glory with Him is beyond comprehension.

Self-Talk

Do you not know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not you own? You have been bought with a price: therefore, glorify God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

I wonder if this has happened to you too – you read God’s word and come away with an understanding until you are sharing thoughts with another believer and she has a completely different way of viewing it. Since the verses preceding the verse above warn against immorality, I recognized the warning that we are to guard ourselves (God’s temple) against immorality and impurity.

However, today the focus was from James – what does it mean to have a living faith? We discussed how our actions should be an overflow of what we believe. The conversation then evolved into how we use our tongues – James asks can salt water and fresh water come from the same source? Can blessing and cursing come from the same mouth?   This led to the topic of how do we mentally converse with ourselves? One of the participants shared the above verse explaining she believes when she judges herself /speaks to herself more critically than she would another person that she is not honoring God’s temple.

Previously I have written about the power of other’s words on me, yet I am guilty of using critical words on myself. If having a living faith means that sweet words and bitter words do not both flow from the same mouth, that means to live consistently with my faith I must change my words about myself.

Is it really such a big deal if I am harder on myself than anyone else? Am I glorifying God with my body if I rehash most every conversation wondering if this phrase could have unintentionally hurt someone or been misinterpreted?  Am I honoring my body as a temple of the Spirit if I allow my own thoughts to dissect everything I do or don’t do wondering how I could have done more or better? I try to attribute the best motives to others and give them the benefit of the doubt, but not so with myself.

No one knows what goes on in my thoughts except the Lord. But it is for Him I live, my audience of One. He challenged me to live by faith in every area of my life and since this is the place He cast the light of his truth, I ask him to transform my thinking so his living water becomes the source of my thoughts not the cesspool of fleshly thinking.

My Favorite Quotes

I decided to share some of my favorite quotes and explain why I like them, so here they are…

Living radical isn’t about where you live; it’s about how you love –Ann Voscamp

When I feel like I am failing because I haven’t gone to the ends of the earth to tell others about Jesus, God reminds me it is not about going somewhere but about loving the ones right in front of me with His love.

God gets glory when grace gets served –Brandon Baldwin

When I am tempted to believe the bigger influence, the more God is glorified, I can reflect that God’s glory is manifest in not only the earthquake and thunder, but also the quiet whisper.

Grace is not a tiny target; it is an endless poolHolly Gerth

I don’t have to have the right answer or make the right decision because living the life He called me to is not like balancing on a tightrope. His grace is so much larger than my mistakes or lack of understanding.

Rest is never found in the quest to understand it all Paul David Tripp

Sometimes I get so distracted by trying to figure out what God wants me to do or learn through this circumstance that I lose sight of him. If I am close to Jesus, I don’t need to know where we are going because He is leading me step by step.

Feelings are like goldfish. Their growth depends on the size of the pond and how much they are fed -John Thomas

This reminds me that my feelings are not my identity nor do not control my destiny. Even when I am feeling depressed or anxious, I can soak in God’s truth instead of how crummy I feel. 

Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit –Zechariah 4:6

My weakness cannot prevent God’s Spirit from accomplishing all He intends to do. I’m so grateful, the final outcome never depends on me. 

The Power of Words

Admittedly, I have a sensitive spirit. With that in mind, I want to try to explain something that is very hurtful to me yet may affect others differently – raised voices and harsh words. When voices elevate or sharp tones are used (even if the words are not directly addressed to me), I feel like I am pierced. I think the psalmist understands as he laments about those “who have sharpened their tongue like a sword. They aimed bitter speech as their arrow.” Psalm 64:3

While some may be inclined to fight back with words, I withdraw. It feels like a piece of my heart is being ripped away. Since my spirit is wounded, I want to protect myself because I no longer feel safe to be myself.  My trust is chipped away.

So I am writing to anyone who stumbles upon this blog urging you reflect on the power of words, how just a few careless words spoken harshly in anger may affect some people. It could be a thoughtless label such as “control freak” or “lazy.” It could be an angry tirade after a difficult day. Perhaps it is even a heated debate where you vehemently argue your point. It may even be a sarcastic joke.

Our culture says it’s perfectly fine to vent and argue and label. But we are each created in the image of God and should consider the impact our words have upon each one whom God treasures. Our tongues hold an amazing power of life and death. Choose to wield yours to bring life.

Bars or Stars?

Two women looked through prison bars – One saw mud, the other saw stars.

Our ladies’ group began a study written by Linda Dillow, Calm My Anxious Heart where she included the lines above.  For several weeks, I have been pondering this. What do I see? Both statements are true of the view from the where the women stood, yet each woman chose a different place to focus.

In my life circumstances, what am I gazing upon? Do I dwell upon the bars limiting me from what I think I should be experiencing, or do I see the stars of God’s good plans for my future?

That was my challenge – to reframe those negative thoughts into ones that better reflect God’s truth.  In recent years, scientists have gained much information on how our brains function. The longer we think a certain way, the stronger the neural pathway becomes, so when I focus on negative ideas, those become entrenched in my thinking. However, God our marvelous creator, has given our brains an amazing capacity to change and develop new neural pathways. (Long before scientists could explain how the brain works, God told us our minds are transformed and renewed by being in His presence and meditating on His words). I want to stop falling into those old ruts and let God begin to renew my mind.

Here are a few of the places where my thoughts keep getting stuck and baby steps on a new pathway…

Complaining or refusing to accept the circumstances God has given me/Every good thing and every perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of lights. James 1:17

Carrying my burdens and worries/ Those who wait on the Lord will gain new strength, they will mount up on wings like eagles. Isaiah 40:31

Doubting God’s love and sovereign control in my life/ And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love Him who are called according to His purposes Romans 8:28

Counting my problems instead of blessing/ Psalm 23 The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…

Comparing my life, ministry or gifts to someone else/ In His presence, there is fullness of joy, at his right hand there are pleasures evermore. Psalm 16:11

These new thoughts still don’t come automatically but turning my eyes to the stars has come more easily after many, many repeats. May God ingrain his truths into each of our minds so in our trials, we default to trust instead of turmoil. 

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Insights from an Amateur Pruner

It was a beautiful sunny morning, so I decided it would be a good day to trim back my bushes. Unlike my neighbor who has a doctorate in horticulture, I know nothing about plants, but these bushes had been growing astray for years and something had to be done. Shaping here and there had not seemed like a big deal, but at this point some pretty radical cutting needed to e done, so I began.

First, I cut off and pulled out all the dead branches. They were interwoven with the good ones. When they were entangled, it wasn’t as obvious just how dead they were. Then I pulled out other stalks that were not of the same variety of the bush; yes, they were green and living yet they were cutting off light and nutrients from the intended bush.

Finally, the unknown…how much do I cut back? How many living, decent looking branches do I remove? This is where my neighbor’s expertise would have been useful.

And into the garbage all these pruned branches went. The bushes look sparse now – like they have been given a bad haircut, but if my last experience with pruning is typical, the bush will again grow and flourish conforming to this new shape I have set for it instead of continuing  in unruly growth.

My thoughts turn to God who expertly prunes the branches of our lives (John 15). That includes the dead branches that do not bear fruit, but with pruning, some of the good is removed to prepare for the best. Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes so that it may bear more fruit.

With pruning, the positive results are not immediately seen.  When it feels we are stripped bare In the midst of our trials and distress, we endure patiently abiding in him. The one who abides in me and I am him bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Wake Up!

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Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? Brother John, Brother John….

Do you remember this children’s song which you can probably sing in both English and French? Today I am wondering, “Are you sleeping, Sister Lynn?” I used my own name but perhaps yours could fit there as well. As believers, are we sleeping?

Is there a spiritual slumber that pervades our nation and churches? Have we been lulled into a drowsy condition by ease and apathy? Has this become acceptable, so we don’t even realize our lethargic state? A similar problem occurred with the nation of Israel described in Isaiah 29:10-13, “For the Lord has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes…because this people draw near to me with their words and honor me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.” In the book of Jeremiah, they “walked after emptiness and became empty.”

How do I wake up?

I pose many questions but have not figured out the answers.  I found Jonah who was sleeping in a ship where he was running from God. I observed 3 of the disciples dozing at the time Jesus had asked them to keep watch with him. Eutychus fell asleep and right out the church window to his death. (Fortunately, Paul went down to revive him.) We are clearly warned of the dangers of falling asleep, but how do I overcome this state of my spirit not being fully awake?

I think the letters to the churches in Revelation offer a starting place. Repent! Realize this way of living is not okay. Then, maybe the rest of is up God. Can these bones live (wake up)? Yes, as God breathes life into them. God breathe new life into me. Revive me. However, when I feel the nudging of His Spirit to awaken, I have to get up and not roll back over to keep cozily cocooned  in dreamland.

The Power of God in Me

In Ephesians 1:18-19, Paul prays that his readers “will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe in him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead.” Through the Spirit of God, the same power God employed to raise Jesus from death resides in me. What does that mean? It doesn’t feel like it some days, but God has declared it!

I have feelings of powerlessness, weariness and weakness, but those aren’t telling the eternal story. In the eternal story for our lives when we are weak, His strength becomes more evident in us. That power that caused Jesus to rise from the grave displays for us that God is the God who accomplishes what the human mind thinks is impossible.  My calculating, preserving, and planning does not accomplish the work of God, but His Spirit and power do what I could never hope or imagine to achieve.

This verse reveals my wrong thinking where I have been living according my feelings rather than truth. When I choose to believe God, I may not feel any stronger, but I do experience a marvelous peace by realizing my human weakness or messy life will not stop God’s plans.  I am so thankful the good news doesn’t depend on something I do but something I receive by faith – His Spirit demonstrating His power producing His works.

Our feelings may deceive us. Even if you cannot see or perceive it, choose faith today believing His power is at work in you to accomplish His good purposes.