Christian, Faith, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Snakes and Ghosts

Six years.  That’s the longest period of time I lived in any one house as a child.  We moved a lot.  My sophomore year of high school we moved four times.  My parents moved for the fortieth time on their fortieth wedding anniversary.  One would think that we had experienced a vast exposure to many different places and people, which could have been the case had we ever left Liberty County, Texas. Throughout the many moves, I remained in the same school, except for two years in a neighboring school district.  We joked that we must have gypsy blood.

But the home most remembered is the rough cedar house built by my father in which we stayed the longest.  It was in the country with large oak trees in the yard, much room to play outdoors, and my grandmother living in the house behind us (also built by my father and previously inhabited by our family).   We slept with the doors unlocked and windows open with no worry of intruders.  At least not the human kind.

It was not uncommon for snakes to get in the house.  I remember my mother placing us all on top of the dining table as she ran off with the broom to kill a snake.  You’ve got to be really good to kill a snake with a broom!  But the combination of her protective instincts and a serious hatred of snakes brought great strength and success.  Needless to say, this episode created in me a fear of snakes, especially under my bed.  Nevermore at bedtime did I approach the edge of the bed gently, sit down and pull my feet up to lie down.  No, from that point on, going to bed involved great athletic skill.  I began running from the door and leaping the last few feet, pulling the string to turn off the light while in mid-air, hoping that once my body hit the mattress the string would not still be in my hand.  (Pulling the chain out of the light fixture was a most distressing thing to our father; however, the need to protect myself from being eaten alive by snakes far outweighed any fear of reprimand.)

Nighttime brought a myriad of sounds – the rattle of the attic fan, the rustle of leaves in the wind, the symphony of frogs and crickets.  One of the large oak trees happened to be just outside my bedroom window, and on a bright moonlit night the swaying branches provided the moving shadows that often turned into ghosts.  I don’t think I ever told anyone I was afraid of ghosts.  But I remember the heart-racing fear of the unknown, the inability to move as I was sure it was more than a shadow coming after me, strange, new noises just outside my window….

There were worse things than pulling the chain out of the light fixture.  One of those was to wake my father in the middle of the night.  It just wasn’t an option.  At some point during my prayers to be invisible I would fall asleep, and awaken the next morning relieved to discover that the ghosts had not captured me, or whatever ghosts do to people.  All was well.  Until bedtime came again.

I don’t know exactly when the shadow ghosts left me and the other ghosts moved in.  As my life began to unfold, they slowly and subtly crept in to invade my peace, keeping me awake many nights.  Perhaps they’ve visited you as well – the ghost of past sins, or the ghost of bad choices.  Maybe the snakes under the bed lie waiting for you, too – the snake of shame and regret, or worst of all, the snake of fear.  He was the strongest, cunningly whispering in my ears that I would never truly be loved.  I tried for many years just to shut my eyes and pray to be invisible, or run fast enough to leave them all far behind, but they always found me, and the morning sun no longer chased them away.

Behind the confident smile and the strong personality, the voices of ghosts ruled my life until I began to understand all that God had done for me.  Jesus conquered every ghost and frightful enemy when He died on the cross.  When I finally took my eyes off the ghosts and snakes, and set my gaze steadily on Him, they began to leave me alone.  They had no choice.  Here’s why:

“O Lord, our God, other masters besides You have ruled over us, but we will acknowledge and mention Your name only.  They, the former tyrant masters, are dead, they shall not live and reappear; they are powerless ghosts, they shall not rise and come back. Therefore You have visited and made an end of them and caused every memory of them, every trace of their supremacy, to perish.”  Isaiah 26:13-14

How cool is that??  God is the REAL ghostbuster!

Christian, Faith, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Come to the table!

As a child I was unaware that my family was relatively poor.  There were those much less fortunate than we were, but in the big picture, we didn’t really have much.  If you’ve read previous posts you know that my father was self-employed; his income varied from one week to the next.  My mother was a homemaker and made our clothes.  I remember one of the few store-bought dresses I ever received.  It was yellow with flowers and buttons down the front.  I had evidently outgrown all that I had and there was a funeral to attend, no time for a homemade dress.  It was the most beautiful dress I had ever seen.  (I also got my first pair of panty hose at the same time.  My excitement quickly turned to distress, however, as I was little more than skin and bones, my ankles so small they didn’t stretch the wrinkles out of the hose!  I desperately hoped those attending would be dazzled by my beautiful dress and oblivious to my wrinkled ankles.)

My mother had seven mouths to feed each meal, and that was if no one was visiting.  Come to think of it, we never had that many visitors for dinner.  I’m sure that had to do with the fact that for many years the grocery budget was $15 per week.  My father was a meat and potatoes man, with pinto beans as a side dish at almost every meal.  Chicken was a common main dish and most often purchased whole.  My mother skillfully cut it into adequate pieces to feed the gang.  In remembering the process, I calculate that she only came up with eleven pieces of chicken, and that’s if you include the neck and the gizzard.  (Did I hear someone gag just now??)  Eleven pieces of chicken for seven people.  My dad, of course, would get the largest pieces and then each child had a particular piece they were served.  I don’t remember ever being asked which piece of chicken I wanted. But happy with the one I was served, it never occurred to me to ask for something different.  When the plates and bowls on the table were empty, the meal was over. There wasn’t anything left.

Although embarrassingly thin in form, my appetite was quite large.  I dearly loved my older siblings, but was happy at their leaving the nest upon realizing that now “seconds” could be served at mealtimes!  I don’t remember “leftovers” before their departure, either.  I dreamt of the day I would be grown and leaving home as well. On my grown up “things to do” list would be:  fry a chicken and a plate of french fries to be shared with no one.  I would be able to eat all I wanted!  (And I did!)

This morning my mind was drawn to a verse in the 23rd Psalm.  This is a very familiar passage to many, often read during difficult times.  I’ve heard many teachings on the Lord as my Shepherd – His guidance and protection.  But I’ve never heard a lot of focus on verse 5:  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  I remember writing in the margin of my bible years ago “What’s on the table?”. So this morning when I asked God that very same question, He answered “Everything you need.”

Have you ever been on a cruise ship?  One of the highlights is the never-ending buffet!  All you can eat, 24 hours a day!

Our Father, Who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, Who is Jehovah Jireh – The Lord Our Provider, has prepared a table for us. On this table our every need is met.  He isn’t lacking in any good thing, and His supply will never run out.  We need not worry that some will receive more than us, it’s ours for the taking.  No enemy can keep us away.  All we have to do is come to the table.

Are you weary and tired?  Come to the table and take the rest He’s provided.

Are you fearful?  Come to the table and take the protection and security He’s serving.

Are you wounded and brokenhearted?  Come to the table and take the love and healing He’s offering.

Are you looking for direction?  Come to the table and let Him show you the way.

Come to the table!  He’s saved you a seat and there’s more than enough!!

Christian, Faith, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Expectations

Did God meet your expectations today?  What did you expect?

Some days my expectations are high – I need to hear from Him or I need His power to accomplish a goal. Other days, I just need to make it to bedtime, to survive.  My expectations are low.  Either way, He’s there.  Before I ever come to Him with my need, He’s waiting.

What is God waiting for?  He’s waiting to be good to us.

Isaiah 30:18 says “And therefore the Lord earnestly waits – expecting, looking, and longing – to be gracious to you…”

Have you ever had something good you wanted to give to someone, but they were so busy all the time that you could never get their attention or their time?  Frustrating.  God has so much to give us if He could only get us to be still and give Him time, our attention.

The rest of that verse in Isaiah says “Blessed happy, fortunate, to be envied – are all those who earnestly wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him – for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship!”

Have you ever loved someone who didn’t really want the love you had for them?  Heartbreaking.  God longs to lavish His love on us.  And if we would allow it, if we would spend time receiving this great love, it would provide the strength we need for every single day of our lives, no matter what comes our way.

Jesus taking up residence in our hearts is how we become rooted deep in, and founded securely on, love. He wanted His followers to have a practical experience of this love, not just knowledge about it.  Opening the door to this love in our lives allows God full access to us.  When He fills us with Himself, His power that is at work in us is able to “carry out His purpose and do super-abundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think – infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes and dreams!” (Ephesians 3:16-20)

Did you long for Him today?  Did you expect to experience His goodness today?  I must admit, my day started with the survival mindset.  Low expectations.  But His love sent me a phone call with just the right words of encouragement, just the right words of love that raised my expectations.  He’s good that way.

Uncategorized

Rose colored glasses

More than a few times in my life I have been accused of viewing the world through rose colored glasses. Per eHow search:  most research done on this phrase dates it back to the 1850’s, from a novel by Thomas Hughes in which a character is said to have viewed a university through “rose-coloured spectacles”.  The Free Dictionary states that it means “being cheerful to an excessive degree, very optimistic about the world; blocking out negative things and seeing only positive.”

Quite honestly, I don’t see the “down” side of having this perspective!

Choosing to look at the bright side doesn’t mean ignorance of the dark.  It means believing that in spite of the dark, there still IS a bright side.  It’s hope.

Hope:  The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

The world says “don’t get your hopes up” out of fear of disappointment.  But hope can only disappoint if it is misplaced.  Our hope is supposed to be in God and the bible says that hope in Him NEVER disappoints!!  Romans 5:5

The apostle Paul instructs us to “set our minds on the things above”  (Colossians 3:2), and to “not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer with thanksgiving, make your wants known to God….”.  He goes on to say “think on these things: whatever is true, honest, just,pure, lovely, of good report, any virtue, any praise…” (Philippians 4:6, 8)  God wants us to get a new perspective, a new view.  He wants our minds filled with good because our hope is in Him in every circumstance, and He is good.

Reading those scriptures is a good reminder to adjust our view of world issues and the bigger problems around us.  But what about people?  How do we get the right view of those who just get on our nerves?

1 Corinthians 13:7 says “Love…is ever ready to believe the best of every person…”  EVERY person.

God has lavished His love on us.  Through Jesus, God looks at us and sees only good.  He chose to love us and pour out His love into our hearts.  We are to be vessels filled with only Him, His love overflowing to EVERY person we see.  We have no right to withhold it!  We choose to look for the best in everyone and everything, because of Him, because of His love.

I don’t know about you, but I rather like my shades.   🙂

Christian, Faith, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Love who???

Many years ago as a young woman in a church that was amazingly alive and hungry for God, I heard a sermon about “ministering to others”.  I had been attending for a while, learning and growing with much enthusiasm.  I wanted to be zealous for God!  I wanted to be used!  This particular sermon stirred me so, that I can remember this day quite clearly.

Service over, lunch consumed, I take my bible and sit outside in a lawn chair, wanting to hear God.  I read and pray and I just know that God has someone I can minister to, that He actually wants to use me.  I envision another young mother like myself that would come over for coffee and we would have bible study in my home, we would pray together and see miracles happen!  Our children could play together while we studied, it would be lovely!

The day progresses with the regular responsibilities of a life with small children, and finally winds down with them tucked away in bed, and me ready to do the same.  It’s a very cold night and our little mobile home was quite chilly.  I was ready for the warmth of the blankets and the dreams of my “ministry” opportunity.

I hear a knock at the door.  Who could be here at this time of night?  As soon as I open the door, God says “Here she is!”.  I spoke to her, she asked me a question, I said “wait here”, and I shut the door.  I left her out on the steps.  In the cold.  I quickly ran to my room for an emergency chat with God!

“Surely, God, you don’t mean her?”

“Yes”

“But God, you know what she’s done, you know how she is, you know how I feel about her!”

“This is the one I want you to minister to.”

“But I can’t, I just can’t…..”

“Didn’t you ask Me for someone who needed Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Someone that you could truly pour My love on?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“She needs Me more than you can imagine.  Will you obey?”

“Yes, Lord.”

I rush back to the door, humbled and ashamed, and ask her in.  We talk for a few minutes and I discover that she has walked several miles in the cold to reach our house.  We make arrangements for her to get to her family.  But I know.  God has spoken.  He has opened my eyes to see a need in her that I had never seen before, and this is my turn to reach out.  My turn to give grace.  My turn to show mercy.  My turn to bestow undeserved favor.  My turn to love.  Really love, expecting nothing in return.

It wasn’t easy for either of us!  It was a relationship that required a great deal of time and effort, and produced a multitude of smiles and tears along the way.  It didn’t turn out to be a lifelong friendship as I had hoped, but God taught me so much about loving the unlovely at that time.  (He also revealed to me very quickly that I had been the unlovely one when I left her standing in the cold!)

1 John 2:9-10 says “Whoever says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother (Christian, born-again child of God his Father) is in darkness even until now.  Whoever loves his brother believer abides in the Light, and in It there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin.”

This young woman was a believer.  She believed that Jesus Christ is the risen Son of God, and had asked Him into her life before I ever met her.  Her life was messy and to bring her into my life meant messing up my life a bit as well.  Not with sin, but it would mess up my plans, my ideas of how my life should be.  So I had to choose:  life in darkness or walk in the Light.  I chose Light.  It was a good choice.  I made a lot of mistakes in learning how to “minister”, but I did a lot of things just as He wanted.  I have no regrets.

So, next time the person who’s “messy”, or the ones of a different color, different denomination, different look show up at our door, what will we choose?  They’ve probably been knocking for a while and we haven’t heard.  Many times the door they’re knocking on is at the front of our church.  Often, it’s just the door of our lives.  Jesus came knocking and we let Him in.  “And the King will reply to them, Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least of these My brethren, you did it for Me.”  Matthew 25:40

As I mentioned, it didn’t turn out like I expected.  I know He has not forgotten her, although our lives parted.  I still pray for her. I’ve turned it all over to Him – it was His idea anyways!!

Christian, Faith, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Queen for a day

Yesterday I was a Queen.  IMG_0322_edited-1

“Oh, Sweet Princess?”  “Yes, Your Majesty?”

“Would you like to slice the royal bananas?”  “Oh yes, Your Majesty!  Where do I put them?”  “In the royal ziploc, Princess.”

“Your Majesty, how shall I reward the good heart?”  “Princess, what about a jewel?”  “OH YES, Your Majesty!”

What fun!  We make construction paper hearts with wiggley eyes, and scepters that sparkled.  We laugh and wave our scepters with all the grace that is expected of royalty.  The best part for the Queen is watching the Princess, knowing that this little heart has no fear in the presence of the Queen.  Even when the Queen needs to correct, it is borne of love and easy to bear.  So this Princess is completely herself, innocent, loving, and has no doubt that she is eternally loved by the Queen.  She knows.

Even with my qualms about what princess movies suggest to our little girls, I can use these times to teach this precious one about the real King.  To lay the foundation now before the world has a chance to bring doubt, that she is the daughter of the King of kings, eternally loved, free to be herself.

And I wonder, how many of us have forgotten that we are children of royalty?  That God Almighty has chosen us for His own, adopted us, made us His heir and seated us next to Him on His throne.  The best part for Him is when He sees us before Him with no fear.  Understanding that if He corrects, it’s borne of love and easy to bear.   He delights when we are completely ourselves in His presence because we’ve taken the innocence He’s purchased for us, and we have no doubt that we are eternally loved by our King. Because we know.

The joy of yesterday’s moments linger into today, and my Father the King whispers to me…..do you know?

Christian, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Taste and see

A couple of years ago I radically changed my diet.  I bought a book, formed my new grocery list (including some items I’d never even heard of before), and headed shopping.  Once at the store I am diligently examining every label, comparing sodium content between brands, looking for those hidden ingredients and pesky chemicals.  THREE HOURS later I am at the checkout.

Now once I set my mind to do something, I can get really focused.  I felt very satisfied that I had done a thorough job shopping, had purchased nothing unhealthy, and was excited to get started with the new recipes.  Eating healthy is really quite easy for me.  I like a lot of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains. The hard part came in turning away from foods that I liked because of unhealthy ingredients or being overly processed.  Can I really live without Ruffles potato chips or Dr Pepper??

But an amazing thing happened.  Several weeks after removing all the refined sugar and processed foods from my diet, everything ELSE tasted better!  All the processing and negative ingredients had been hiding the very best of the flavors.  I was enjoying this new, healthy food plan much better than I had anticipated.  And of course, I began to lose weight and feel better as well.  It was a win!

However, as we humans tend to do, I got my eyes off the goal.  It was extremely hard to stick to my plan when eating at a restaurant, or when invited to another’s home.  Work became more demanding, so drive-thru fast food meals began to be a habit again.  My body was feeling weary so the caffeine intake increased.  I still really loved eating healthy, but there just didn’t seem to be time to regroup.  It was just too hard.

This is such an example of how I’ve been in my spiritual life so many times.  I would get focused. Determine what bible reading plan I would use.  Shop around for books that would encourage me, tapes that would motivate me, groups to join where we could share this awesome experience with God together. But then I would struggle with the things I had to let go of.  Could I turn away from my thoughts that had been processed by the world, or the hidden ingredients of my life, like the sin of a critical spirit?  Could I really live without judging everyone, even if it was just in my mind??  Life’s demands would call and my focus would shift.  I still loved God.  I would try to regroup, but I had let the old ways back in, and it was just too hard.

2 Timothy 2:21 says “Whoever cleanses himself from what is unclean and separates himself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences will then himself be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work.”

Psalm 34:8 says “O taste and see that the Lord is good!”

We long to be vessels of honor, our lives spent in noble purposes.  But it requires that we turn away from those things that contaminate us, the corrupting influences of the world that cloud our thinking and hinder our spiritual progress.  We must be diligent and pay attention that these things don’t creep back into our lives when life gets busy and the pressure’s on.  When we are willing to turn from these things, He promises to help us do exactly that.  We can get excited about spending time with Him, and His word becomes so much more enjoyable.  We can taste God like never before, and see how truly good He is!!