Relationships Review {9.2.18}

I woke up this morning at 4:30. Way too early I might add. As I laid in bed trying to go back to sleep, I tossed and turned and tried to clear my mind. Then, finally the lightbulb went off. God, Do You have me awake for a reason? You’d think that after several years of God speaking to me in the middle of the night that I’d “get it” sooner than 45 minutes but…no. I was still trying to just get back to sleep. Anyway, He did have a message for me. It was one for my Sunday school class this morning as we spend time in prayer. It was also, I believe, a message for this blog post. Hopefully someone out there needed to hear it as much as I did.

It is probably a good idea to give ourselves a “Relationships Review” from time to time. Here are the things I believe God spoke to me about as I review my walk with Him and others. First, we have a Relationship with God (if we don’t, we need to). Second, we have relationships with others. Let’s look at what God says about them.

Our Relationship with GODRelationship with God

“The Greatest Commandment” – Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Praise: First and foremost, God deserves and inhabits our praise to Him. Praise for who He is; Praise for what He does; Praise His Holy Name. How will we praise God today? With our lips and with our lives, He deserves our praise.

Psalm 150 (NIV)

Praise the Lord.[a]

Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Thankfulness: Where to begin? No matter what our circumstance at this moment, we all have reason to be thankful to God. I think this song sums it up pretty well.

Give Thanks Don Moen, Paul Wilbur

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son

Relationship not just SundayHowever, I also believe that God wants us to be specific in our communication with Him. What, specifically, are we thankful for today, at this moment? Sometimes all it takes is to open our eyes and ears to see the blessings of God. Let’s be truly thankful today and let God know it.

Our Relationships with OTHERS:

“Royal Law” – John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

My Witness/Ministry: Are we already serving God in some type of ministry? Are we already witnessing to others (by word and deed)? If so, great. But just because we are involved in a ministry, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have something else for us to do. We must be open and continually looking for where God is working and where He might want us to join Him in His work.

Sometimes it’s an immediate need/ministry. Sometimes it’s a way off but I have come to realize that if it seems far-fetched or out of our comfort zone, it’s probably God calling us and not our own desires. Remember this, if we feel like we can’t do it – that’s when God gets the glory. We must pray about it and then be still, so we can hear His answer. It may come through prayer. It may come through a conversation with another person. God is creative after all. It could be any number of ways.

My Place of Service in the Body: Are we serving others in our place of worship/body of believers? Or, are we simply attending so we can be fed ourselves? Some people (and maybe it’s been us or is us) attend church services to feel good or to check of a box of sorts. Is it a ritual with us or a relationship? Do we attend church because we love God and He calls us to meet together? Or, do we just go because we think it will get us to heaven? Are we taking without giving? God never meant us to receive without passing/paying it forward. After all, we are called to be witnesses, not simply recipients. So, the question we must ask ourselves is, “How can I serve my fellow believers”?Relationships with Others

Maybe we feel like God might be calling us to something or someone to share the hope we have in Jesus? Is it a new neighbor? A family member? A lonely person at church? Is He calling us to intercede for our teens or children through prayer? Is He calling us to pray for our nation? Are we called to open our homes and share meals with those who need love? Does someone need encouragement? Does someone need a helping hand? Maybe there is a need in our community that we can help as we join in our local body of believers. Many hands make light work. What is it we think God might be speaking to us about?

So, let’s all give ourselves a “Relationship Review” and ask God to reveal our results. May God Bless You!

Excuses, Excuses {8.23.18}

excuses pulled by manExcuses. We all make them. This is one I have personally never used but we’ve all probably heard it – “my dog ate my homework.” Here’s another one the comedian Flip Wilson made famous – “the devil made me do it.”  Here’s what the dictionary says about excuses: 

excuses (plural noun) a reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense.                      synonyms: justification · defense · reason · explanation ·

Excuses are what we use to avoid something we really don’t want to do, or a responsibility we really don’t want to own/admit.

Sometimes they seem like good reasons. Sometimes they are. Sometimes we use them to avoid hurting another person’s feelings. Sometimes though they are just simply excuses masquerading as reasons because we don’t want to do something.excuses - important  I’ve used a lot of excuses in my life. Some seem like reasonable and legitimate arguments but, they can start the ball rolling toward a life full of excuses.

For instance, I have always worked sitting at a desk. Not much opportunity for exercise during the day. Then there was lunchtime and fast food was the choice. A career full of fast food lunches. I only had so much time on my lunch break – right? And, there was no cafeteria. I did not have an office, so I didn’t bring my lunch. Oh, and I wanted to be social with my co-workers. Think those are enough excuses? On top of that, we raised five children who were all involved in extra-curricular activity. That took time out of the evenings to drive to and from, not to mention the laundry from all those activities. Then, there was travel time to/from work, supper to fix, dishes to wash, etc. etc. I had loads of excuses then. But, at least I was moving while I was doing those evening chores. Something funny happened though when the kids grew up and I no longer had to cart them to and from and they could take care of themselves. Instead of filling that extra evening time with physical activity, I wanted to sit down and rest! Rest is good and we all need it but…it can become a habit worth breaking when it is prolonged.

I have recently had my eyes opened to the consequences of my sedentary lifestyle as my parents have aged and developed one health problem after another. They, too, led sedentary lives and now since they didn’t move much, they can’t move much. Because they didn’t watch their diets, they now have to really watch their diets (and take medicines to counteract the damage done). Well, I don’t want that to be me in the future. So, those excuses are out in the open now and I have to deal with them. I’ve made changes in my lifestyle and thanks to God, He is helping me avoid the pitfalls and temptations awaiting me. As I focus on Him and what He does bless me with, I can ignore those things I shouldn’t have on a regular basis. Habits of many years are being changed. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. excuses or results

These are the excuses I’m dealing with now but what about you? Sometimes we make excuses because we don’t think we can do whatever it is that God might be calling us to do. Often, we don’t feel qualified or “ready” to take on a challenge that is before us. Sometimes just plain fear prompts us to make excuses. I am reminded as I read scripture though that if God calls us to something, He will give us all we need to accomplish His purposes.  As a friend told me once, “If God can use a donkey, He can use you.” A good reminder of God’s provision and the need for our humility. [You can read all about a donkey used by God in Numbers 22.]

I wonder what all I have missed by making excuses. Don’t you? Look at this scripture in Luke 14.

The Parable of the Great Banquet: When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.  At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  “But they alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’  “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’  “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’  “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’  “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’  “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.  I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” (Luke 14:15-24)

I even drummed up excuses in my mind for procrastinating about publishing this blog post I felt led to write. After all, who wants to air their own bad habits?!  But, I don’t want to miss out on anything God has planned for me. excuses - time for actionWho knows what blessing we pass up by making excuses. And maybe, just maybe, someone needs us to quit making excuses, so God can bless them through us. The only way we will know what we should or should not do or say is to be so in tune with God through His Word, that His Holy Spirit guides our thoughts, words and actions. He promises to guide and direct our path IF we trust in Him (Proverbs 3:5-6). Let’s quit making excuses and start making a difference.

Dear God, Open my eyes to see the truth in me. Reveal to me the excuses I make to keep from doing what I know to do. Let me see the opportunities you put before me and to take that step of faith to follow Your lead. In Jesus name, Amen.

Gifts – part 2 {8.2.18}

Using our gifts. Hopefully by now you have identified at least one or some of your gifts. The big question is – are you using your gifts? Sometimes it’s a gift, or gifts, that God has given us to use in our careers. Often though, we look at it through the eyes of the world and can’t imagine how we can support ourselves using these gifts. There comes a moment of decision. Do we follow the path God has given us or stay in our comfort zone?gifts back to god There is usually transition time involved, kind of like stepping into cold water one step at a time.  It’s sometimes a very fine line to know when and if to “step out of the boat” (or box where we have been comfortably living). That was a situation my cousin and his wife faced several years ago. [Their story is in my post titled “GIFTS- part 1 {7.24.18}”.] They decided to take the leap of faith and have not looked back. God has allowed them to provide for their needs and they are enjoying the life He planned for them. In the process of loving their life, they are giving joy to many others by using their artistic gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”

My job for the past 20 years has been incredible. I was able to use my gifts that God had grown through my life experiences.gifts require work I mean this in a very nice way but raising five children gave me a lot of practical experience – enough said. I have thoroughly enjoyed my job. The company is wonderful and has integrity and values that match mine. While now I only work occasionally, I still enjoy it. That’s not always the case though. Many do not enjoy their jobs.  If not, prayerfully consider a change. But, maybe you are there for a reason that you just don’t see yet. Keep your spiritual eyes and ears open. Answers come – just not always in our timing.

Maybe your gifts aren’t to be necessarily used in a business/career way but rather to bless others in your family or community. Using our gifts to help, bless or encourage others is a wonderful use of them.

Romans 12:13 – “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Maybe you earn a great living and can share monetarily. Your gift may be cooking or baking which gives you opportunity to share with a shut-in, someone sick or a new mother or neighbor. gifts used for othersDo you love to work in a garden or lawn? Perhaps you know someone who could use some help. If you have a skilled trade, you can help someone while saving them money on repairs needed around their home. Some people have no way to and from doctor appointments, grocery shopping, etc. If you like to drive and meet people, this may be an opportunity for you to use your gift. Do you love to clean? I’ve heard some people do (smiling as I type this). I’m sure you can find a place that needs your help. Me, I enjoy quilting. Even more, I enjoy making quilts as gifts, specifically designed for the recipients. That brings me great joy.

Proverbs 3:27 says “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.”

The point is, just like any skill we have – if we don’t use it, we may lose it. Let’s consider our gifts and what it is we are doing with them. Maybe God has a better plan than the one we’ve been using.

Hebrews 13:16 – “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased

GIFTS- part 1 {7.24.18}

God-given gifts. We all have them. Yes – even you and even me. gifts given by GodSometimes we look at others and recognize their gifts but miss our own. Last night we met up with our cousin and his wife. We had not seen our cousin in years and met his wife for the first time.  It was a great evening getting to know them and share a bit of our lives. They were driving through our area on their way to an art show. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? They are both artists. Great artists I might add. His paintings are fantastic, and she makes lovely jewelry. We had the privilege of seeing samples of both of their arts. Our daughter, son-in-law and grandson were there too. They each have wonderful gifts of their own. I was thinking about that and realized that all of us have been given gifts. Some just seem more “special” than others – in our minds. Not with God though. He carefully gave them to us – specifically, on purpose. You have one (or many).

Can you identify your gifts? I am not musically inclined, and I do not have the gift of painting or making jewelry. But, I do have a big smile. Even though it shows teeth that are not straight and makes my eyes almost close, I have had people tell me my smile brought them joy. Imagine that – a crazy looking smile bringing joy! I think tha a gift. Maybe you have a green thumb. That’s a gift. Are you organized? Can you hit a homerun on a baseball field or make a 3-pointer in basketball? Do you swing a mean hammer? Cook a great meatloaf? Bake brownies like nobody’s business? Are you a great storyteller? Those are all gifts. Are you “tech savvy”? Now that’s a gift I could use! We mustn’t think more highly of ourselves, but we also must not think less of ourselves because our gifts aren’t visible to the multitudes. Maybe our gifts were to be shared one-on-one. Take a minute today to identify your gifts. Then thank God for them.

James 1:17-18 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

gift gods greatest loveBack to our evening with family…

Isn’t it amazing how love can just pop up? We didn’t really know these two relatives but last night love showed up and now we have a love connection as well as a blood connection. That’s the greatest gift isn’t it? LOVE. GOD IS LOVE. GOD GAVE US LOVE. GOD INTENDS US TO SHARE THAT LOVE. We all have that gift and can put it on the top of our list. LOVE. The greatest gift of all.

Circle the Wagons {6.18.18}

It’s probably because I used to watch Saturday morning westerns with my Grandpa in the summer when I was a child, but I still like western movies. This is a good thing since my husband also likes them. We can watch them over and over again – and do. If you have seen any westerns that involved wagon trains, I’m sure you’ve seen and heard the phrase “Circle the Wagons”. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One thing about the pioneers of the Old West, when they traveled in wagon trains, they always circled the wagons. Whether they were just stopping for the night or getting ready to fight off an attack of some kind, they circled the wagons. Have you ever thought about that? Why did they circle their wagons? The wagons formed a barrier to whatever might be a danger to them. It allowed all the people to remain inside, together, sharing good or bad, whatever came their way. It became a defense and a comfort. It was also a time of fellowship and joy in the midst of the trials of their journey. They formed a community. They helped each other.

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

While we don’t live in the Old West and aren’t part of a wagon train, we still need to sometimes circle our wagons. Life is full of ups and downs. Thankfully God intended for us to live in community with one another so that we could love, encourage, help and simply share life together (good times and bad). Do you ever feel like you are being attacked? Maybe it’s a physical attack of poor health or injury. Maybe it’s financial or relationship struggles. Maybe it’s a struggle with demands of our time which we don’t feel we have. Whatever it is, if we “Circle the Wagons” and let others in, they can help share our burden. More importantly, Jesus tells us to give our burdens to Him. He can handle them.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Another thing I like about westerns is that the good guys always win. I love happy endings.

calm - circle wagons
If we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are assured of a happy ending to our life here on earth. In this world, we will have many troubles but glory to God, we have a happy ending ahead. I say, let’s “Circle the Wagons”. We can help each other through the struggles and rejoice with each other in the happy times.  

1 John 5:3-5 “This is love for God to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

The Power of Music {5.17.18}

Music. It’s powerful, isn’t it? It has the power to transport us back in time to a memory of a person or place. When I hear the Beach Boys for instance, I’m immediately transported to summer, windows down in the car and singing along. When I hear Christmas music I’m thinking of the love of God and time with family in a warm cozy house or caroling in the snow. power of musicEighties music reminds me of our children growing up and having fun at the lake or pool. Marching band music takes me back to my school years and marching in parades in our small town. 

I have been thinking about music since last night when I was honored to attend our grandson’s first band concert. I was so impressed with that 6th grade band. They sounded great and it was evident that they love their band director and he loves them. He made music enjoyable and fun for them while at the same time demanding and receiving their respect and attention. It was a glorious time.

I enjoy music so much! I enjoy hearing people sing and play. I also love to sing along but unfortunately for those around me, I do not have the gift of voice. I am one of those mentioned in the Bible that makes a joyful noise (at least it comes out of my heart joyful – not sure it is a joy to those who hear it).  Thankfully, people at church are kind and I sound a lot better with others around me singing in tune. In my car, the radio gives me great accompaniment.

Songs and musical instruments are not necessary to enjoy music though. Music is all around us. We can simply go outside and listen to the birds. They sing a joyful song and always seem thankful for their existence. Even doves in their cooing have a sound that is soothing to the soul.

It seems to me that music has the power to change our moods. It has the power to bring joy, love, happiness, sadness or even anxiety and anger. Just like what we read gets into our minds and hearts, what we listen to does as well. Are the words we are receiving uplifting and positive or hurtful and negative? I’m not saying we shouldn’t allow sadness or grief to enter our lives or even that we should shy from sad songs. What I am saying though is that we should all be very careful what we allow to dwell and linger in our hearts and minds.

After all, music comes from God. praise in musicThroughout the Old Testament we see how important music was to God. He took great care to share His directions about musicians. Songs and sounds from musical instruments lifted to God in praise were a delight to Him. They still are. Even after this life, heaven will be filled with our praises to God! So, why not start now? Among all the other music God has given us to enjoy, let’s make it a priority to honor and praise Him.

Ephesians 5:19-20 says, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I’m going to turn no the radio and sing along. Anyone want to join me?

Fear and Worry {5.11.18}

Fear and worry. They come upon all of us at one time or another. Most of the time I think we deal with them and move on. However, we can become enslaved by them. They can totally consume and immobilize us,fear in jar keeping us from living joyful lives. This can feel like a terrible weight on our mind, body and soul. How about you? Are you fearful and worrisome?

Healthy fear can be a good thing. It can keep us aware and sometimes safe. We need to feel fear when we are heading toward a dangerous situation. On the flip side, we can also let fear control us – our emotions, our actions, our words, and our relationships. This is an unhealthy fear. Often though, we are fearful of something that does not really threaten us. That fear can be overcome.

What about worry. Are you a worrier? Do you know someone who is a worrier? I have a close family member who worries about everything. We hesitate to share news that this person might think is something to worry about because it would consume. Worry can be taken to the extreme where it kind of paralyzes you from enjoying normal things life has to offer. I have found in my life that most things people worry about never happen. Sounds like wasted energy, doesn’t it? Here are wise words we should take to heart and practice: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:6-8

What does God say about fear and worry?fear cartoon I did a quick search and found that God shared in His Word over 100 times these phrases: Do not fear; Do not be afraid; Do not worry. Here are just a few examples. When you are feeling fearful or worrisome, let these verses speak to your soul. Believe them. God’s Word is Truth!

 “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6

“So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we pray, “Abba, Father” Romans 8:15

“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 worry corrie ten boom

“…do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time, you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Matthew 10:19-20

“…do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:11

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Luke 12:22-31

With God’s help, we can overcome unhealthy fear and worry. While we can’t take fear and worry away from anyone else, we can share with them what the God who created us says about it. We can listen and offer positive words. We can pray for and with them. worry - peace

We will all continue to deal with fear and worry in this life but what a blessing it is to have peace as we process it and give it to God. We can’t explain this peace, but we can experience it.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27