Monday, March 25, 2019

Monday Meditations - Beauty


Bearuty

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." That is so very true. What one person sees as gorgeous another person only sees as ugliness. Sometimes only a mother can see the beauty in a picture a child draws. Sometimes it's not actually the artwork itself it's the heart behind it.

I remember after my mom passed away us kids were helping my dad go through some things when we came across the Christmas decorations. We begged my dad to let us throw away the ones we had made while we were children – you know those over-glittered, over-glued paper items, and the angel who lost her Styrofoam head more times than was respectable for any angel. My dad didn't object. It wasn't that he didn't love us or our creations; he just wasn't as attached to them as Mom was. Moms see beauty more than dads do.

I love the snow during the winter. We don't get a lot here in Virginia, but growing up in New York there was no shortage of it. I posted a picture of our last snowfall on Facebook recently and said it was pretty. Not everyone agreed with me. While our puny amount would be melted in the next day's 60° temperatures, my New York friends, who were under 10 feet of snow (that's only a slight exaggeration) wouldn't be so lucky. Where I saw beauty, they saw a lot of backbreaking work with a snow shovel.

God also sees beauty where many don't. If you talk to anyone long enough, you're going to see some ugliness. We all have experiences in our lives that we are not proud of and would rather not remember. It's those experiences that make us who we are. Some experiences make us stronger people; some allow us to help others going through the same things.

"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-4)

Finding beauty in creation is easy. Now, look for it in a person that rubs you the wrong way. Look for in a situation or circumstance you'd rather not be in. Look for God's love and the unexpected blessings in your life.

The challenge this week is to find beauty in something where many might only see ugly barrenness. Even if you feel your life is a mess, even that God can turn around into a thing of beauty.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Monday Meditations - Maintain


Maintain

I am a great starter of projects. Unfortunately I'm not a great finisher of those projects. My sewing room has plenty of proof with piles of started yet unfinished quilts. Then there's a drawer in my office that is full of notebooks of started but unfinished books. Will I ever return to those projects and finish them? I hope to. Someday.

The problem I believe is that a new, more exciting idea comes along that I can't wait to begin, or it could be that I get bored with the time it's taking to complete the project. I become complacent when I need to maintain the course. Persevere.

More often than not we have the same unfortunate attitude comes to our Christian walk and ministries. We get excited to begin something new, but soon pizzle out when we don't get the response or the recognition we think we should get. But ministry is not about a great response or recognition. If one person responds to God's call or grows spiritually, that should be enough. Who knows what the future holds for that one person. Just imagine if that one person is another Billy Graham or Elizabeth Elliott. One person can make a huge impact on the world.

When we are serving we should never do so with the hopes of recognition. It is God people should see not us.

When our ministry becomes hard that's when we need to keep on and maintain. Satan doesn't like anything spiritually good to happen, and he will fight you each step of the way. He will make life difficult. He will make you want to quit. When you face spiritual warfare and turmoil, you can be assured you are doing the right thing, that you are where God wants you to be.

Trust in His strength as He walks along beside you. That is what helps you maintain, stay the course.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Monday Meditations - Praise

Praise

An attitude of praise is one that can be difficult. People expect us to be happy all the time. They would rather we put on a brave face in times of difficulty instead of talking about them and looking for support from friends or family members. Yet it's in those times of distress that we can be a testimony to others as we give God the praise. Yes, even in the bad times. And, yes, it's hard.
When my mom was battling cancer I certainly didn't feel the inkling to praise God. I didn't see anything for which to be thankful. However, I just wasn't looking hard enough. In the midst of my sorrow I found some complaints and also reasons to praise.

Complaints

             I wanted my mom to be a grandmother to my kids
             she was way too young to die
             she was such a godly woman and made a difference in people's lives where there were so many others who were/are the opposite

Praises

             I praised God I was born into a Christian home and raised by godly parents
             I praised God I was able to have my mom and my life for 21 years.
             I praised God for her example to me – (not that I've been successful in living up to the      caliber of woman she was!)
             I praised God that she was able to see me get married
             I praised God for her influence in my writing

Since then I have taken to writing in what I call my Blessings Book. It's a blank journal where I record God's blessings to me and I give Him praise. When I focus on praising God, the difficulties in life don't seem so overwhelming.

I challenge you to keep your own Blessings Book. Write down the littlest things that are a blessing to you. Did you avoid an accident? Did you save money at the grocery store? Did you receive a friendly note? Were your kids well behaved today? Once you start writing the blessings down you'll begin seeing a whole lot more.

I'd love to hear the ways in which God has blessed you. Leave a comment with your praise.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Perseverance Devotional Guest Post with Josh Phillips

https://devotableapp.com/perseverance/


God’s people need God’s people.

As a family of God in my small town we live in community. An open and honest family who shares struggles and brokenness and rest in the hope of Jesus. We live openly, our doors and our lives and we have all things in common.

Last year we “planted” a church with two other families who were seeking Jesus. Things have gone well and God is truly blessing His work. Many new families have come into covenant fellowship alongside of us and last year was beautiful. 

The first service of the new year God laid a word on my heart to share with the families in our body. The word was cut and dry and fell among good soil. This was the word, “Suffer Well.” Suffer well knowing we serve a God full of grace and truth Who loves us and gave Himself for us and is working for us an eternal weight of glory in our suffering. "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 17)

At the end of January we received the wonderful news that our lead pastor and his wife were expecting! We were all excited and worshiped God for this gift. 

A month later we received the news, they lost their baby. Heartbroken and sorrowful we did only what we knew to do and that was to be there for them, to walk with them in this difficult time. A couple days after the bad news, my family took them dinner, planning to drop it off and leave to give them some space to wrestle through these things. They asked us to stay and my brother reminded me, “The message you spoke to us the first of the year, suffer well, I don’t know how we could do it without the body.” And he was right.

God didn’t create us to be lone rangers in the mission to make disciples of all nations. He blessed us with a family to walk with, in our weakest times and the most joyous times, family to encourage us and to rebuke us, to lift us up and to keep us grounded in reality. God’s people need God’s people.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Monday Meditations - Ready



Ready

Ready. That's a word that describes my personality. When big events come up, I have no need to panic or to be nervous because I am fully prepared. My husband thinks I plan too much and too far in advance. Spontaneity isn't an idea I'm always comfortable with.

People who are ready are prepared for whatever life throws at them for the most part. Doomsday preppers come to mind in the extreme. I knew someone who was sure the world would come to an end at Y2K (remember that?). He and his wife bought 5 gallon buckets of rice, beans, and other sundries in preparation for the event. They're probably still eating that food.

We prepare for weddings, school, new babies, holidays etc. We prepare for the inevitable by purchasing life insurance policies. The Bible warns us about being prepared versus worrying.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:34).

This verse doesn't say we should never plan anything or never be prepared, but some people can go to extremes of readiness. Then there are others aren't prepared enough for some things. We are often slack when it comes to the things of the Lord.

1 Peter 3:15 tells us, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."

I was once jealous of a friend who always seemed to have an opportunity to witness. I complained to God and asked why He didn't do the same for me. Then He did, and I failed miserably. I don't think well in the moment. I end up saying things that shouldn't be said. After that episode, I knew I needed to do some more prep work. I began praying that God would use me when and where He saw fit, without my even knowing it. Things work out much better that way. I know because comments have come back to me later on after an event or conversation.

Prayer is one way to prepare, but staying in the Scriptures is a must as well. We won't know how to respond if we don't know what God has to say. And we won't always have time to go and research the Bible.

This week put a little more effort into spiritual readiness.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Monday Meditations - Listening

Listening

If you don't know me very well, you may not know I'm in opinionated person. I like things done a certain way… My way. The only good thing I can say about it is that I realize it's a problem and I'm training myself to listen more. Other people can have good ideas too. In realizing my listening issues I sometimes have to force myself to listen to other people's ideas… All the way through… Without commenting… And then take those views and thoughts into consideration.

Believe it or not, I've even had the audacity to tell God how I think certain things should be done. He didn't answer the prayers (demands?) the way I told Him He should. I can't imagine why. Later on, after the fact, I see how I should have been seeking His will and not mine. He always wants what is best. I can see that in His answers to my requests (again, demands?).

I have a tendency to spew out of the mouth for my brain has a chance to process. The words that end up coming out are words I often regret.

I have a tendency to roll my eyes when I think someone's conversation is ridiculous. I can imagine God rolling His eyes at my ridiculousness. I must sound like a child whining to get my own way. I don't respond to children who whine to me, what makes me think God will respond to mine?

Whoever has ears, let them hear (Matthew 11:15).


So what can we whining, demanding, non-listeners do?

Stop. Just stop.

Stop talking.

Stop the me-me-me attitude.

Stop and take the time to think before speaking.

Stop and open the Bible to see what God wants you to know.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19). 

You can usually tell a good listener by how much they talk, or rather don't talk. They don't talk because they're too busy listening.


Friday, February 22, 2019

New Perseverance Devotional - Lauren Sparks

I am proud to be a part of a new devotional coming soon. Each devotion is written by a different author, but they all have a common theme: Perseverance.

 https://devotableapp.com/perseverance/


I wanted to introduce you to some of the other authors that contributed to the book. This devotional is all about persevering through life and the difficulties that come up on a daily basis. My first guest is Lauren Sparks.

Lauren Sparks is a wife and mom to two daughters – one with special needs – and one bonus son.  She lives, worships Jesus, and teaches yoga in the Dallas, Texas area. She shares her adventures, victories and flub-ups from her laptop at laurensparks.net
 
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  James 1:2-4


My daughter Shelby is currently participating in a drug trial. At regularly scheduled intervals we must travel to the children's hospital and spend all day with doctor's appointments, EKG's, echocardiograms, tedious documentation and lab work. I also track her seizures and medicine doses daily in an electronic diary In addition to this drug, my husband and I administer 4 other drugs to her twice a day.  She hates them. And yet we still must watch her have debilitating seizures.  I find this tiresome, not joyful.  

Because my daughter is mentally disabled, she will never hold a job or be able to earn any kind of income. We are grateful that there are government programs in place to help provide for her. But I must be honest - every time I go down to the social security office or wait for an hour and fifteen minutes on the phone to speak with an agent, I want to pull my hair out. I find these experiences torturous, even adversarial at times. I don't find joy in them.  

At 18, Shelby still wears diapers and is completely dependent on the help of others to use the restroom. We must bathe and dress her as well. At her size, hygiene is difficult, sometimes painful on my aging joints, and other times embarrassing. She can never be left unattended, which means we never age out of the need for babysitters.  

Although in disposition my girl is a joy and a delight, there are many things - more than I have the space to write or you have the time and inclination to read - that are frustrating, painful and discouraging. But I'm not left without hope. And neither are you. The trials and suffering you encounter may be quite different than mine, but the book of James tells us that each one produces endurance in us. And the more we endure, clinging to faith in Jesus Christ, the more God is perfecting us. Every time we turn to Him in our hardships, He drives out the sins of doubt and self-reliance. He makes us more like Him. We may not understand the reason for our afflictions, and we certainly don't have to pretend we enjoy them, but we can find a little joy in knowing that we are being transformed more and more into the image of our savior. "Lacking nothing."  

Thanks for hanging out with us and sharing some of your story today, Lauren!

You can reach Lauren: