Smooth Edges

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Love is patient; love is kind. Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag, or strut about. There’s no arrogance in love; it’s never rude, crude, or indecent—it’s not self-absorbed. Love isn’t easily upset. Love doesn’t tally wrongs or celebrate injustice; but truth—yes, truth—is love’s delight! Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what. Love will never become obsolete.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8 The Voice

One day during my devotional time I decided to let my Bible fall open and that is where I would read.  It fell open to the last page of the concordance.  The words “wrong” and “wronged” caught my eye.  It took me to scriptures in 1 Corinthians and Proverbs.  The gist of the scriptures I read was this:

  • Isn’t it better to be wronged than to have wronged someone else?
  • Love covers all wrongs

This gave me pause. I still had quite a few sticking points in my heart with some folks. They felt like rough ragged edges that my feelings would get caught on. It was a place of injury.  So I started to pray.  I started to ask for the characteristics of love.  I asked for patience, kindness. I asked to be able to rejoice in the truth, protect always, trust always, hope always and to always persevere.  I asked God to help me let go of all the junk associated with these ragged edges in my heart. I began to realize that I was not the only one injured.  I was able to lift others up in prayer too.

Father, show us where the frayed and ragged edges are in our hearts. Make them more smooth from experiencing and practicing Your love.

Proverbs 10:12, 13:9; 1 Corinthians 13

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Be A Seed

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“24 I tell you the truth: unless a grain of wheat is planted in the ground and dies, it remains a solitary seed. But when it is planted, it produces in death a great harvest. 25 The one who loves this life will lose it, and the one who despises it in this world will have life forevermore.” John 12:24-25 The Voice

This scripture pointed out so clearly why I have to die to myself.  The concept is a tough one to embrace.  It boils down to what do I really want?  Do I really want all the fullness that God has for me?  Or am I satisfied with just a taste?  His fullness requires the sacrifice of self.  This helped me to understand that it’s not about me and my plan.  It’s about God and His plan.

As I picture the planting of a seed, I want to be planted.  I don’t want to die on the stalk and wither away, useless and wasted.  I REALLY want to plant and have a shot at being part of a larger harvest.  When I think about all the things in my life that I need to lay down, a few things come to mind like over-planning, over-preparing, and over-performing.  These are top of mind.  I have had a tendency to charge “over” the path all three ways without seeking God’s direction.  Moving ahead instead of following.

Father I repent for that old pattern. I can feel it kick in. I turn to You. I want to walk in Your light.  I want to understand Your ways.  I want to follow Your lead.  Help me relax and just walk with You. Help me keep it simple. Help me to count on You. Thank you for Your love.  Thank you for making my heart sing!

1 Corinthians 15:36-38, Acts 4:4

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Pick One

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Come close to the one true God, and He will draw close to you. Wash your hands; you have dirtied them in sin. Cleanse your heart, because your mind is split down the middle, your love for God on one side and selfish pursuits on the other.” James 4:8 The Voice

I remember reading this one day and feeling a heaviness on my heart. In the Amplified version it says “[realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery].” That is pretty intense. This verse really describes what it looks like to have one foot in the world and one foot with Jesus, still straddling two masters.  Matthew 6:24 says we can’t serve two masters.  We have to choose.

What does that choice look like? I think a lot of people don’t understand how much God loves us.  They think of Him as the Punisher or the Judge. And don’t get me wrong, He is those things too…But most of all He loves us.  Just like a parent has to discipline a child to teach them how to live safely and prosperously and develop in character, God does that with us too.  To teach us His ways.

As a Christian we get fooled into thinking that if we let go of the world’s ways that we will be missing out on something.  Well, we are.  We are missing out on the things that we were never designed to take.  God did not design us to take on worry, anxiety, stress, bitterness, rejection, hatred and all the other burdens that we carry in our hearts.  It makes our hearts hard and heavy and our minds neurotically hyper-vigilant. God never intended for us to live like that.

If we surrender to Him we can let go of all those things.  Just like a parent, He gives us guidelines to keep us safe in His care.  When we are in alignment with His “house rules” our heart has a chance to soften and heal.  Then we have a chance to truly experience the magnitude of His love.  It is a brighter and lighter way to live.  It goes beyond existence and becomes a dynamic experiential relationship with our Creator remembering that He loved us so much that He sent His own Son to die on the cross to mend the relationship gap between us.  There is no greater love than this.

Father, help me embrace a lifestyle that holds me in Your safekeeping. Help me be so comfortable in Your arms that others want to come there too.

Matthew 6:24, Psalm 25:4, John 15:13, Mark 12:30-32

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Constant Love

constant love

21 No wonder we are happy in the Lord! For we are trusting him. We trust his holy name. 22 Yes, Lord, let your constant love surround us, for our hopes are in you alone. Psalm 33:21-22 Living Bible

I have an old Living Bible that belonged to my mother who went on to be with Jesus some 25 years ago. Every time I touch the pages I can’t help but think of her. I think of sitting in church together on Sunday mornings.  I think of her attentiveness to the message.  I think of her care in preparing a fabulous Sunday dinner every week.  I think of the richness and depth of her love.  Unconditional acceptance.

I still miss her. As I read these verses, I truly believe that she was happy in the Lord!  I know that she had the contentment and peace of His constant love.  She shared that contentment and constant love with me. I am so thankful to have had a praying Godly mother!  I know I am here in my walk with God as a direct result of those prayers.

As I sit and meditate on these words in Psalms, I find myself asking God what He and Enoch talked about.  That was such an intimate, loving relationship that God scooped him right up!  First, I got this picture of a pillow.  It’s the difference between a stiff decorative pillow that sits somewhere for people to look at but never touch versus a pillow that gets all smushed just right to comfortably lay your head on at night.  It seems like we are supposed to mold into God like that and He molds into us at the same time.

Then I had the picture of holding hands with God and walking and talking. Delighting in each other’s company. True companionship.  We tell each other what is on each other’s heart.  Listening intently.  Honoring each other’s desires.

Lord, forgive me when I don’t listen to the desires of Your heart.  Thank you for always listening to mine!  I adore You Almighty God.  Thank you for giving me my mom to show me how to love well and unconditionally.  Thank you for my daughter.  Help me to always love her with Your heart.  Show me how to love others with Your heart as well.

Psalm 33

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Be Content

Be Content

“Giving grows out of the heart—otherwise, you’ve reluctantly grumbled “yes” because you felt you had to or because you couldn’t say “no,” but this isn’t the way God wants it. For we know that “God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 The Voice

It all starts at the heart. Everything grows and springs forth out of our heart.  Our words. Our motives. Our plans. Our intentions.

How can we learn to be content with what we have?

  • View material goods as given by God to be used wisely
  • Work hard to earn and save money
  • Give to the Lord’s work and those in need
  • Remember to be thankful and to enjoy what God gives

Lord, tend to my heart. Teach me how to be a good steward with every blessing that You give.  Help me to use all things with a kingdom mindset.

Matthew 25:14-30, Proverbs 6:6-11, 2 Corinthians 9:7, Proverbs 19:17, 1 Timothy 6:17

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Swimming Against The Current

swimming against the current

21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21 NIV

Have you ever been swimming against the current? I am not a very strong swimmer. I have had several near death experiences with water that have given me a healthy respect for it.

I know what it feels like to glide along with the current.  It feels effortless, even graceful.  All is peaceful and beautiful…until you have to make your way back! Then it becomes a whole different story.  It can be frightening. Exhausting. It is a fight with every stroke. If you let up, you get battered and set back more than you think you can make up.

There have been times in my life and career when I felt this kind of struggle.  At the time, I wasn’t aware enough to pull up and see that I was swimming against God’s plan and purpose for me. God patiently waited for me to wear myself out.  And it happened.  I fought a hard fight…needlessly.  I could have followed His plan and purpose and let His current carry me along.  Eventually I got there, but wow was I tired when I finally stopped fighting!

Father thank you for Your patience.  Thank you for Your love and Your grace and Your mercy.  You are so gentle and kind even when I’m not.  Thank you.  Thank you for never giving up on me and never leaving me or forsaking me…even when I’m swimming against the current.

Proverbs 19:20-22, Luke 1:79

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Eternal Encouragement

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16” May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV

Encourage:

  • to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence
  • to stimulate by assistance, approval, etc.
  • to promote, advance, or foster:

When I looked at these verses closely I was amazed. It is through the love and grace of Jesus and God our Father that our hearts find encouragement and strength. It encourages our heart, our words, our deeds. It strengthens our heart, our words, our deeds. It is the love that we have received that enables us to persevere.  It is the love that has already been given – bought and paid for through sacrifice – that can be poured into us like milk in a glass for cookies. That love can be poured into us whenever we let it in. It heals everything. It cleanses everything. It brings light into every dark place…if we accept it.

The light of Jesus was designed to clear a path in our hearts for eternal encouragement.  No matter what has happened to us in the past, present or future, it is that love that will light a path for us.  We dial into the voice of God through a heart connection that is demonstrated in our every word and deed.  No matter what we look like from the outside, it is the Holy Spirit that reads our hearts, hears our cries and frustrations, and massages us into a place of worship of the one true God. It is through this heart connection we receive eternal encouragement!

So think about your heart as a wireless internet connection.  If the connection is weak, you may drop the connection and not be able to dial back in easily.  However, if your connection is strong, the likelihood of getting bumped off is pretty remote!

The same is true of our relationship with God.  The stronger our connection, the better reception we have (less distracting noise in the background) and the less likely we are going to lose our connection (the voice and direction of the Holy Spirit).  The stronger the connection, the more confidence, strength and encouragement we receive.

Father God, thank you for the strongest connection of all – Your Holy Spirit! Help me invest in that strong connection, an intimate relationship with You, to ensure a constant flow of eternal encouragement!

1 Thessalonians 3:11, John 3:16, 1 John 4:9-10, 1 Peter 1:5-8

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Love+Obedience=Joy

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“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.” Psalm 5:11 NIV

The more time I spend in prayer and the more I read the Bible, the more I realize how it all boils down to our heart. It is dependent on how authentic we are in our communication with God. There are days that my heart can feel like a filthy rag. I’m not walking where I want or need to be.  I need help. I feel off so I ask Father God to simply bear with me. And I give thanks.

I am not perfect. I am so not perfect that a lot of times I don’t even realize when I’m in the middle of it. Sometimes I am reflecting after something has happened and I have the insight of, “Wow, I could have done that differently. That could have gone better.” I’m getting more comfortable with owning that feeling. I’m trying to own it without the shame and guilt hangover. Shame and guilt do a lot of damage – but that is another topic!

Owning and accepting my imperfection helps me reorient more quickly. Daily. It shifts my perspective. It embraces the gift of Jesus. It diffuses performance. It invites grace and mercy. It gives me Peace. It reminds me that God’s ways are really different from mine. In order to be open to God’s ways, I have to let go of mine. I have to stop hesitating because something doesn’t make sense to me. I have to TRUST.

Father, thank you for being my fortress. You fill me with such love and peace and joy that I want to follow Your every Word.  It is in Your arms that I take refuge and sing with joy.  My great Jehovah!

Proverbs 3:5-6, John 14:16-17, 26-27, 30-31

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Seasons

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“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV

Have you ever sensed a change of seasons? I do not mean like moving from Summer to Fall. I mean a change of season in your life.  When life seasons happen to coincide with nature’s seasons, it seems to have a magnifying effect. It intensifies the savoring of the change.  One Fall I was experiencing a change of life season. The leaves were dropping. The temperatures were dipping. The produce was changing. More pumpkins, squash and gourds. It was becoming darker earlier and later. I even realized that every Fall before this one there had been a sense of grieving for me. I would grieve the loss of Summer. Its long days.  The warmth of the sun on my skin. The ease of throwing on tennis shoes and taking a long walk.  Open windows with night sounds and a gentle breeze.  That was all going away.

I felt the change of season coming for myself.  I was nervous and excited at the same time. I had a weird combination of anticipation, dread, and excitement.  It felt like it was going to be a time of transformation. Growth.  Was there going to be pain with growth? How long would it hurt?  Was I ready?

After pondering all those feelings, I made a choice. A choice to be thankful. A choice to embrace the change even though I had no idea what it was. The growth, the transformation; even if it hurt. I landed in a place of gratitude. I sensed a new alertness was going to be required.  It was going to be a time of listening carefully to God’s voice and following it. A time to keep up and pay attention to His requests. A time to be still when called for. A time to take stock of all He had done, like Moses and Joshua.  A time to give thanks and embrace what is to come without knowing.

As ominous as this all sounds, you’ll laugh.  I couldn’t help but go to a StarTrek reference in my mind! “To boldly go where no man has gone before.” Thankfully, that’s not true!  The Bible is full of stories of many people who boldly went where God wanted them to go.  Some were more graceful than others.  Some arrived quickly, while others ended up taking the long way. But they ended up where God intended: Moses, Abraham, Noah, Jonah, Jacob, Joseph, David, Elijah, Gideon, Esther, Ruth, Rahab, the twelve disciples, Zaccheus, Jesus.   We have a rich history to refer to whenever it gets tough.  And we have each other to encourage and support.  Not to go through change on behalf of each other; that is simply God’s work in each one of us.  We each have our own path.  But we can pray.  We can encourage. We can give and receive grace and mercy to one another. We can love. It makes the season of change and growth much sweeter. More tender. Like Jesus.

Father God, as I go through change I pray I do not lose sight of being tender and gentle with others.  While I may need it, others do too. I pray that You will help me give grace and mercy to others even when I feel like I need it myself.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

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Lessons From A King Snake


“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”  Matthew 3:7 NIV

I was looking at the scripture references for vipers and the one thing that I learned very clearly is this: Don’t be religious about anything!

Religious: 1.Pious and extreme conformity with outward observances. 2. Sham or hypocrisy. 3. Devoted, unswerving, meticulous. 4. Reverent.

Again, it all boils down to our heart. God does not tell us to be religious always, but to rejoice always!  Rejoicing in God is not a journey of conformity.  It is a walk of freedom. Take Jesus for example. His power from within was not always obvious from the outside.  He did not tread heavily, make demands or put on a show. He simply did what His Father asked Him to do. No show. No fanfare.  He just delivered. He knew when to be quiet and when to move forward.  He knew when to take time for the things He needed: prayer, celebration, listening, speaking, redirecting.  All because He listened so well and was obedient. He stayed focused. He was not distracted by little things.  He didn’t spread Himself too thin.

When I thought of a viper, I thought of something to be afraid of. But of course Jesus was not afraid. Neither was John the Baptist.  They saw the Pharisees and Sadducees were missing the point. They were off base. Focused on the wrong thing and REALLY distracted by the little details.

I went online to take a look at vipers because I didn’t want this lingering feeling of fear.  I found the most interesting video.  It is not for anyone squeamish about snakes! I found it so fascinating.  I had always thought of vipers as one of the most deadly snakes.  The image of one brought an element of terror to mind.  In the video I found (see below), it is a battle between a viper and a hungry king snake.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I had downplayed the power of the king snake.  In the video, you watch a king snake literally hunt down a viper, strike, and devour it.  It happens so fast and so skillfully! The viper doesn’t have a chance.

When I looked into the king snake further, I was even more intrigued! Here is what I found. The king snake was dubbed “king” for being a snake that will devour other snakes. It kills by constriction and is known to be immune from the venom of other snakes.

As I reflected on the video and my new education about the king snake, I had a few thoughts.  The viper has a very fierce, showy way in its movements and posture (kind of like the Pharisees and Sadducees).  It has a reputation to be feared and revered.  The king snake (especially the hungry one in this video) is much more subtle in its movements and approach.  But it is focused and fast! It is quick to strangle its enemy and is not daunted by its foe.  It proceeds with a quiet confidence, the confidence of a victor (like Jesus).

This really put the viper in perspective for me. I can equate Jesus to the king snake. His strength is quiet and strong. Focused. He is not deterred by the enemy.  He was always on task to be about His Father’s business. He knew how to go in for the kill whether it was demons, sickness, brokenness, poverty or death. He killed what was harmful and replaced it with something new. He was immune to the venom of others, even on the cross. He was a victor. A conqueror.  He knew how to put the vipers in their place and was not intimidated.

Father, thank you for showing me Your might and strength!  I pray I will stay focused on you and not be caught up in religious fanfare or practices. Let me not be distracted by the little things. Give me the strength, courage, focus, speed and boldness to always deliver according to Your word, even if it means going up against a viper!

Philippians 4:4, Matthew 12:33-35, 23:32-34; Luke 3:6-8

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