Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Little Quiet Here...

QUIET! Wouldn't that be nice? A little quiet time? What would you do with it? Would you even BE quiet? There are times (probably more times than not) in my life when although my mouth wasn't moving, I'm not making noise, and I'm sitting quietly...I'm really not quiet. Because my mind is a whirling dervish of activity!

Oh, if I could only shut off my brain and just be still for a little while. Well, my doctor says that it's a good thing that my brain never shuts off, because if it did, I'd be dead! *sigh* I only want a little quiet sometimes. Know what I mean? Just a little quiet. God wants us to be quiet sometimes, too.

Be still and know that I am God. ~Psalm 46:10

Have you ever wondered exactly HOW to be still and just KNOW that He is God? Oh, that would be called, FAITH. Yet, there are still times when we really need to just be quiet! Just be quiet. We come to God, maybe not daily, which we should, but we come to Him with our complaints, our requests, our lists of things we would like for Him to do. And don't get me wrong, God wants to give us SO much. Because He loves us so much. He wants to give us everything we desire (within reason, of course). Yet, there are times when we need to just take a breath and get quiet before Him and LISTEN.

How do we listen for, or to God? I think that's a personal thing for everybody. Some people claim that God has spoken audibly to them. Some say it's that "Still, small voice" inside. Some say it's a feeling, a presence, or a thought. Maybe something someone says to you is God giving you directions or confirmation. But if we're making noise and not paying attention, we miss it! I know I've missed many a word from my heavenly Daddy many times. And I have regretted it. But here's the really cool part: I can go to Him, get quiet, apologize for not paying attention, and He will re-deliver His message to me!

Don't think so? He did it for Jonah. Jonah blatantly disregarded God's directions and went the opposite way... oops... but he changed his mind (of course, he was in the belly of a great fish, so he had time to think) but he apologized and God re-delivered His message. So, why not me? Why not you, too? There's that faith thing, again. If we have faith, believe, trust, and receive, the possibilities are endless. And to me, that's exciting stuff!

"Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: "Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach the message that I tell you. So Jonah got up and went..." ~Jonah 3:2-3a (HCSB) (emphasis mine)

So, the next time life seems to be dragging you down, BE QUIET! Get before God and ask Him what He would have to say to you today. You might just be surprised in a very special way.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Encouraging Each Other

There was a time when everything I did or said revolved around the opinions of others. I could not make a decision for myself for fear of offending someone, or getting into trouble because of my actions. I literally lived in a way that made me feel like a rag doll in a dollhouse. At the beck and call of everyone around me whether I liked it or not. When at home, when at school, when with friends. I succumbed to everyone elses wishes. This is what intimidation and control does to a body.

Slowly but surely though, I began to come out my shell. I would make advances to try to stand up for myself. This initially caused me a great deal of pain and angst, to the point of suppressing things. This in itself caused a number of physical and emotional ailments. Ever heard of the Snowball Effect? One thing leads to another, which leads to another, which snowballs into disaster.

After many years of suffering this, I realized one day that I was living my life for other people and not for me. I was not doing what God had called me to do. Over the years,  I could feel His gentle pull in one direction or another. I would attempt to do His will, but would always end up shrinking back when others would tell me quite frankly that this in not what THEY thought I should be doing, or began to cause me grief because of my trying to follow the Lord's lead.

Don't criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. ~James 4:11 (HCSB)

But do we really have to listen to what others say? Maybe to some degree. There are those who are so in tune with the Holy Spirit that He does in fact prompt them to give messages to others. When we ourselves are in tune with the Holy Spirit as well, we will have the discernment to know the difference between bossiness and godly wisdom.

This happened to me several months ago. When the veil was lifted from the life I had been leading, I received a message from a very godly man. The message surprised me, yet compelled me. And in the short amount of time, I have literally seen this come to fruition in my life! Since you are reading this, you are experiencing it firsthand! You are not here by accident.

You see, God knows that a little encouragement from the right people will set me, and maybe even you, into motion. When I begin to feel a little doubtful, even though I'm reading God's Word, praying, and studying, there are times when I slow down just a little bit to evaluate my direction. It's at these moments when someone I have great respect for, or something I read or hear, gives me the little spiritual nudge that I need.

It doesn't have to be something huge. Just a little something that confirms for me in my soul that yes, I'm on the right path, doing the right thing. Which is why I write the things that I do. I am spurred on by the gift God has given me. Because I know that to write something that comes from deep within, something I have experienced, or that I feel I must write down, will also ultimately help and encourage someone who reads it.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing....give recognition to those who labor among you.....esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. ~1 Thessalonians 5:11, 12(a), 13 (HCSB)

May I encourage YOU today? God has a plan for you. He has something that He wants you to do. You will succeed, if you place your trust in Him and go forward. Don't listen to naysayers. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Trust that still, small voice inside you, leading you in the only direction you'll ever find peace.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Be A Penny Picker-Upper

Several years ago, I went to a youth camp with my daughters. We were in Nashville, Tennessee at an event called MissionFuge. We would have worship, Bible study, games, lessons, and then go out into the city and actually DO missions. 

One particular morning during our morning worship time, we were all given a penny and told this story: How many times to you see a penny on the street and don't pick it up? It's dirty. You don't know where it's been. It could have dirt on it. Mud, germs, who knows? So you either step on it or over it and walk away. But it still has worth. It is still a penny and it is still worth what it's valued at. Just like people. We were encouraged that day to have a face-to-face encounter with God and be "Penny Picker-Uppers."

How many times though, do we treat people like an old penny? How often do we pass someone on the street, dirty, maybe a little smelly, maybe they don't speak clearly, or maybe they smell like alcohol, and we walk on by them because we just don't want to mess with them? They aren't worth it. But... they ARE still valuable...just like the penny. And while we might stoop to pick up a penny, would we stoop to pick up this human treasure?

We are ALL valuable to God. He sees our hearts. He sees our worth. And He has called us to be "Penny Picker-Uppers." It's a matter of life and death, really. A literal matter. Because what if that dirty, smelly, alcohol-and-drug-ridden-slurred-speech-speaking treasure of God was the next person to save the life of someone you love? What if they were the next minister-in-waiting to bring a group of people into a relationship with the Lord?

The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. ~2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)

That day at MissionFuge, I was supposed to be leading a group of teenage girls to our mission destination. Just after hearing the penny story, we were taken into a daycare and shown the 4-year-olds' room. Outside the walls, there were the precious little blessings, playing on the playground. Then the lady in charge handed us rubber gloves, buckets, and cleaning supplies and told us were were going to clean the kids' room. We were all quiet. I knew the girls didn't want to clean the room. I didn't either. I had come to do ministry, by golly! I wanted out on that playground to be with the kids!

But we split up and started cleaning nonetheless. I went to the corner where the cubbies were, and began to half-heartedly wipe them down. But as I swiped into the one of the empty cubbies, I heard a scratch. I felt around inside, because I was sitting lower than the cubby, and I picked something out of the little box....a penny. My eyes watered and I realized that I had just had a "Face-to-Face" encounter with God. He reminded me of the penny story and that those little "pennies" out on the playground needed love, and the greatest love I could show them was to clean their room.

I turned around and got the girls' attention. I held up the penny and said, "Look what I just found." The room went silent. They got the message, too. Then I said, "I think we need to get this room cleaned." Immediately they went to work with a new found vigor. That room was cleaned top to bottom, including over the trim around the doors and windows!

It didn't take long and the room was spotless and smelling wonderful. Then we were able to go out and play with the little ones. It was such a better blessing after we humbled ourselves. But afterward, when we all went back inside, the teacher had the kids look around their room. Even as little as they were, they noticed. Then she explained that their "playmates" had cleaned up for them, and they should say thank you. It was what happened next that surprised all of us.

Every one of those little, precious blessings, ran to us and threw their arms around us and hugged us! You see, these blessings were children of parents who were recovering drug addicts, some just out of prison, and all trying to clean their lives up, find jobs, and start over. The kids would come to the daycare at 6:30 in the morning and sometimes not leave until 10 at night. 

The whole point of that trip was to have a face-to-face encounter with God... and that day, we did. We were humbled and learned a very important lesson. Being a penny-picker-upper isn't about the copper coin. It's all about spreading the love of God....

Then these righteous ones will reply, "Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?" ~Matthew 25:37-39 (NLT)

If all you get out of this article is that you need to pick up more pennies, then you've missed the point. I told this story at church several years ago. A week later, we were eating dinner with a group of people after church and a lady called me over to her table. As I approached, she held up a penny and said, "Look what I have! I have been picking up pennies ever since you told that story." She was so proud of herself and how many pennies she had picked up that week. But I couldn't smile at her. I could not acknowledge her accomplishment. Why? Because she totally missed the point. She was picking up monetary pennies, not human ones. It saddened me greatly.

It saddens me now that there are others missing the point. Every time I see a penny on the ground I remember that day at the daycare. I wonder, how many human pennies are there? And I begin to look. It may be a smile, saying hello, giving encouragement, or just visiting someone who is alone or feeling down. But picking up "Pennies" is what we are called to do. Don't miss the point. Instead, ask God to show you someone you can lift up today, tomorrow, next week... but whatever you do, be the right kind of Penny Picker-Upper.

And the King will say, "I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!" ~Matthew 25:40 (NLT) many "pennies" can you find to pick up?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Oysters of Life

Little Oysters, little Oysters! Oh, the little Oyster. A living, little thing that lives under the sea. Some like to eat them...especially on the half-shell. Not me. The poor little Oyster.

There it is, the little Oyster... one of God's little creations, minding its own business. Living there under the sea on the ocean floor. Just trying to exist, find food and eat... and is constantly being hunted. It's constantly being irritated by various things and people.

See, the little Oyster has many layers. When a little speck of something gets under its "skin," it immediately begins to cover that irritation with layer after layer of its delicate nature, hiding that irritation, rolling it around on the inside. That irritation grows larger and larger. But over time, many years, and with the help of God, that irritation is turned into a beautiful pearl.

That's kind of like our lives if you think about it. We, too are one of God's little creations. We, too live our lives just trying to exist. We, too are constantly being hunted and irritated by various things and people. 

O God, have mercy on me, for people are hounding me. My foes attack me all day long. I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, and many are boldly attacking me. ~Psalm 56:1-2
And not unlike the little Oyster, we also gather those specks of irritation and cover them within layer after layer of our delicate nature, hiding that irritation. We roll it around on the inside, letting it grow larger and larger.

Yet over time, unlike the Oyster, we suffer through things like depression, anxiety, headaches, anger, sadness, worry, and many other illnesses both physical, mental, and emotional. Sometimes our little irritations cause us such grief that we feel we can't go on...

But while we go through these little things, over time, they mold us, change us, and when we turn our irritations over to God and trust Him with these things, just like the Oyster, God will turn them into a beautiful pearl. 

"To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning..." ~Isaiah 61:3a (NLT)

He will take those things and show us how to use them to help others who are suffering the same things we once did. Oh, we think we could never be able to help someone else. But let me assure you, once God heals you and brings out your precious pearl, others will see it and wonder. They will come to you, some unknowingly, and you, you little Oyster, will share your pearl...and help another little Oyster find their pearl.

Trust me on this...

What irritation in your life has become a pearl?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What If I Did It Wrong?

There are many times over the past few months that I've wondered... am I doing this right? I get little "thoughts" that try to manifest themselves into larger thoughts, that go something like this: What if someone doesn't like what I've said? ~ What if someone confronts me about what I've written? ~ What if what I wrote starts an argument? ~ What if someone says I'm lying? ~ What if I'm doing it wrong? ... Too many "what ifs."

Let me clarify something. Each of those questions are random. Each one is not even true. Each one is straight from the father of lies, the devil. And he would like nothing better than to push me back into the black hole the Lord pulled me out of.

I'm writing this today because I truly feel that there is someone out there who is struggling with this very thing today. So I'm writing to let you know that yes, you will struggle. Yes, there will be times when things don't go as planned. You will have bad days among the good days. But if God heals you of any malady you have carried or suffered, you ARE healed... in Jesus' name! No one can tell you any different. You are masterpiece, created by God, and He has great things in store for you!

For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago ~Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

God healed me in May 2012. Many long years of suffering mentally, emotionally, sometimes physically. He healed me. I don't doubt that one bit. And He gave me this website right here to encourage each one of you who come to visit. Each day is a new day. Each day, His mercies are new. Each day it is up to me to claim the positive. Each day I claim the hope that He has given me. Do I feel His presence every day. No. But I know He's there because His Word promises that He is.

So my friends, don't let the enemy drag you down. Don't let him get a toe hold on you. And whatever you do, don't let anyone intimidate you or try to tell you that what you feel in your heart, or what you are doing is wrong. Because if God called you into it, God will see you through it. No one knows but you and God. I'm choosing to follow Him and go where He leads me. I hope you do, too.

Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. ~1 Corinthians 7:17a (NLT)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Well, I Never!

We've always been told to "never say never." Because saying, "I'll never..." will always end up being the very thing that you DO. And while we usually end up doing those things we NEVER want to do, it is not that way with God. There are many things that God will in fact, never matter what: 

He will Never...leave you nor forsake you.

"...For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." ~Hebrews 13:5b

He will never... stop loving you.

"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~ Romans 8:38-39

He will never... remember your mistakes.

"...For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." ~Jeremiah 31:34b

I have never had God remind me of something I did "back when." Because when I asked Him to forgive me, He DID, never to remember it again. When I have messed up, He has never stopped loving me, because His Word says that nothing shall separate me from the love of God. When I have been in the deepest pit of depression, and felt all alone, He has reminded me that He is right there with me and if I'll only ask Him, He'll get me out of there.

I have yet to find anything that God said He would never do, that He has done. Of course, I really haven't looked. Because I know that He also never goes back on His Word.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Running, Running, Running...

It seems as if I've been running & didn't know it. I haven't gone anywhere. Just haven't payed attention like I should. And the funny (odd, not ha ha) thing about it is, I have felt like something changed, but couldn't put my finger on what!

But reading the blog of a friend put things into perspective for me. I haven't been to The Stoop in a while. It has been so cold in the mornings that I haven't ventured outside to my porch, where I usually stand and talk to the Lord. Being that a couple of mornings it was in the 20's outside, I just couldn't stand there. Because not only was the temperature so cold, there was a breeze along with it, and I was already chilled INSIDE the house! And you know what? I can make excuses all day long for not going to The Stoop. The fact still remains that I've been running.

I get into these little "funks" from time to time. I shy away from prayer like it was the plague. I begin to feel as if I'm bothering God because I seem to say the same things every time I talk to Him. Doesn't He get tired of hearing it? I begin to feel as if I'm not a "productive pray-er" so-to-speak.

Growing up, I was afraid to pray...because I had gotten in trouble at home for doing it, after a particularly bad episode with severe depression. Praying then became something I was afraid to do, for many years... but I eventually figured it out, with a little spiritual help.

So, when I read about my friend and how she experienced a "soul quenching" one night when she walked out into her orchard to find her lost dog...then realized how beautiful and quiet and soul quenching it was. Because she could see the stars, feel the breeze, and just felt peaceful and in the presence of the Lord. And I felt jealous! Can you believe it? I felt jealous! 

That's when I received a little prompting that I hadn't been out on The Stoop and I hadn't made an effort. So where was God through all this? Waiting. He has been just waiting for me to get my act together and figure myself out. He's never been pushy. He's never been derogatory. He's never even MADE me talk to Him. But I always feel bad when I don't.

And the best part about all of this is that, even though I flit from time to time...God NEVER leaves me. He understands me. He loves me. He waits for me. And never, I mean never does he throw my mistakes back at me. I never have to worry or be afraid. Yes, I mess up. But when I come to Him, He's there, ready to listen. Ready to comfort. Ready to love me, just as always.


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