Baaaaaaaaa!!!!

As I have shared with you before, I live in a very large Christian Retirement Village in North Florida…along the Georgia boarder, between Jacksonville and Tallahassee.  We are in a rural area with cattle, horses, sheep, large chicken farms, and the infamous country roads.  It is peaceful and dark at night.  I am such a country girl, I don’t even like to go for a 25 minute drive to Walmart…Ha!

Last week I drove by a sheep farm.  The sheep had just been shorn and were huddled together as if they were embarrassed, or cold. (HeHe…it was 95 degrees that day)

Then, Sunday morning, our Pastor preached on JESUS, THE GOOD SHEPHERD from the book of Ezekiel.  What a joy to be reminded that although we are stinky, “stupid” sheep who wander and go astray, our Good Shepherd seeks us out and covers us with His protection and correction.

Ezekiel 34, portions from vs. 13, 14, 15, 16 “I look after my sheep.  I will rescue them…I will tend them in a good pasture, I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down , declares the Sovereign Lord…I will search for the lost and bring back the strays…I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak…I will shepherd the flock with justice.”

John 10  gives Jesus’ words about His sheep knowing His voice and following Him, and that He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep.

Isaiah 40:11 “He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.”

Now that I know He cares about me I will answer this way…Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.(provision)  He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.(rest)  He guides me in paths of righteousness (right decisions) for His Name’s Sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod and your staff, they comfort me (correction).  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies .(Spiritual warfare)  You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows(healing). Surely goodness and love (mercy) will follow (pursue) me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”(NIV translation and my inserts)

Happy to be one of His stinky sheep…..Baaaaaaaaaa!

To Love


“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

Doesn’t that sound simple? To Love. This is all God has called us to do. Love him, and love others, but why are we making it so difficult?

We let our differences get in the way. We let our opinions get in the way. We let our selfish selves get in the way. If we want to live a life like Jesus we need to look at his model for us. 

Jesus engaged and interacted and sat with those who were “different” from everyone else. He listened to them and gave them his undivided attention. He loved them in a way no one else would. He didn’t let their differences get in the way. He is the Son of God for goodness sake and he came down to our human level to be with us and love and serve us. Why are we not doing this today? 

If you call yourself a Christian, why are you casting judgment on others? If you call yourself a Christ follower, why are you not loving your neighbor? 

He called us to love. That’s it! It’s simple and yet for us we overcomplicate it. 

I am learning what it means to love. To see those who are different than me, who have a different belief than me, who have a difference of opinion than me and sit to gain understanding of who they are and why they believe the things they do. It is not my place to cast judgement. I surely don’t have all the answers, none of us do. So we need to change our judgement to gaining understanding for the person in front of us. 

I have a constant prayer that I will see people the way God sees them. I want to see his children the way he does!

We are all unique and beautiful in our own way. Learn about the uniqueness of your neighbor. They were made in the image of God just like you were. Don’t you forget that!

Think of a person who is different than you and that you have possibly cast judgement on and rode them off. Reach out to them. Tell them you want to learn more about them and just sit and listen. Don’t offer advice. Don’t state your opinion. Just be with them and show them love the way Jesus does by giving them your undivided attention. 

If we all do this, honestly, the world would be a better place! If you call yourself a Christian and a follower of Jesus, do as he did. Love him and love your neighbor. It’s that simple. Get yourself and your selfish motives out of the way and be Jesus to the person in front of you. 

 

God’s Not Afraid of Your Honesty

Have you every pushed God away when you were in a dark season because you felt like you were not “good enough” to be close to Him?

I used to shy away from God during my dark and difficult times. I would retreat, as if I were actually hiding from Him. Finally I know that my authentic self is exactly who He loves and who He wants to come to Him. He’s not surprised by my insecurities, anger or frustration. He’s not surprised by an unsavory word or loss of composure. He knows all of that anyway – even if it’s just inside my head! Instead, He welcomes it. He says, just come into my presence and lay that down. Put all your cards on the table.

Margaret Becker said it well in her song Honesty:

God’s not afraid of your honesty
He can heal your heart if you speak honestly
Humble sorrow and the honest cry
He will not pass by

So many of us spend so much time
Smoothing things over, pretending we’re fine
As if life could ever be so cut and dried…. 

In this age of social media, most of us put on a good face online. Even when we are at our lowest. Most of us are afraid to be too real because we aren’t sure what others will think of us. What if we don’t live up to others’ expectations? One little glimpse into our imperfection might “lose” us a friend! Pure authenticity doesn’t feel like an option.

But it is with God. He wants us in our most authentic posture always. He wants our honesty. He can work with that!

Look who Jesus hung out with! He hung out with the real folks who admitted they were broken. He didn’t preach AT the people. He simply sat down with them. His mere presence was life-changing. It still is. He wants to sit with you, but he is a gentleman and allows us to turn to him in our own time.

What He wants is ME. In all my broken beauty. And He wants YOU too.

God’s love for us never waivers for a second. He is a God of endless chances and “do overs.” He never falters like humans do. He knows our hearts. He knows how difficult this life can be, and He is always right there working all things together for our good in the big picture we cannot see. All the while the Holy Spirit is there to show us compassion and wrap us in peace as we journey on.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. James 3:17

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

It is Finished.

We are just a week out from Easter when we joyfully celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, and I sometimes think we’ve forgotten already.

Forgotten why he came.

Forgotten why he died.

Forgotten that he rose from the dead.

It is finished.

We don’t have to carry our burdens into our daily life.

It is finished.

Jesus took our pain on himself and left it nailed to the cross.

Why do we keep taking it back from him? We needlessly carry so much extra weight, when Jesus is asking us to lay it down.

Surrender it to him.

What do you need to lay down?

On Good Friday, I took part in a remembrance of Jesus’ death on the cross. As part of that service, we were encouraged to write down whatever we were struggling to let go of and nail it to the cross.

Disappointment.

Pain.

Unmet expectations.

Need to control a situation.

All surrendered and physically nailed to the cross.

What a sound that was! With each hammer strike, we remembered just why he came. With each surrender, came a new lightness, a new joy, a new intention to let God take those burdens and heal our broken places.

What will it take for you to let him heal your broken places and take the burden from you? Are you hanging on so tightly you don’t know how to let go? If you need to, physically write them down and nail them to a cross or any piece of wood to go through the motions of surrender.

It is finished.

Jesus died so you could be free. Living in anything less than the freedom of surrender is a tragedy.

What do you need to nail to the cross? Let Jesus finish this for you.

It is finished.

If the Door is Open, Walk Through It

I am drawn to doors.

I notice them when I look at a home.

I photograph them when I am on vacation.

I envision in my mind the most lovely doors whenever there is a reference to them in someone’s speech. Sometimes they are polished and perfect.

Other times they are a bit rough, but beautiful in their own way.

The Bible uses DOORs as a reference, too. I counted 235 this morning. Of course, most of those are referring to a physical door. Building the temple. You can’t come in, the door is shut. etc.

But many are talking about doorways into our soul or opportunities.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.   (Revelation 3:20 NKJV)

If you are like me, this is the image that came to mind when you read that verse –

Yes, doors are everywhere in scripture. Where are the doors in your life? Are you facing doors of opportunity? Do you see many doors to choose from and have to make a decision?

I’ve always thought this was such a difficult process – then just the other day I heard one of my favorite Bible teachers, Havilah Cunnington, say this:

I think we spend too much time in doorways and we never walk through the door.” 

I was agreeing, yes, YES!

She went on to say that God is really good at shutting doors to places where we are not supposed to go. If the door is just too hard to open, pass it up. (And I would add, DO NOT, as the old song goes, “look for a window.” No! That room is off limits.)

But if a door is open to you and you are standing in the doorway, pondering, crying, wondering, whether you should walk through it. The answer is YES. Remember, God is really good at shutting doors to things you are not supposed to be involved with. Ask Him to show you.

Your opportunity is on the other side of that open door. Take that step of faith and believe that God will direct your next steps.

Photo by Arno Smit on Unsplash

Lost in the Woods

When you think you are lost and don’t know where to go, keep going because you never know what you will find.

This is what I was telling myself as I was running along the paths on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. If you don’t know about this place you need to look it up. There are 8,000 acres of land with which now has 2 hotels, a small village of shops and restaurants, a farm, horses, and a mansion called the Biltmore house. This home was completed on Christmas Eve in 1895 after 6 years of construction. This home has 100 rooms, 43 bathrooms, and 6 floors! HUGE! And the man who built it was named George Vanderbilt in which he and his wife and their daughter lived in this massive place. Now this land is a national forest and the home is a high demand for tourists.

I woke up one morning while staying at the Inn on this Estate and decided to go for a run to see what I would find. It was raining and as I was passing the front desk the concierge called out, “Have fun and try to stay dry.” I turned back to him with a huge smile on my face and said, “I will get wet, but I’m ok with that!” And he smiled back and said he would have a water ready for me when I return. So sweet!

I headed out on the estate. I didn’t truly know where I was going or where I would end up, but I had a plan to run about 4 miles along the river, I just had to figure out how to get there. I found a road that went right past the majestic horses and in the distance saw this road paralleled the river so I headed there. I ran along on a muddy path next to a river as rain was falling. I continued until this muddy trail turned into a paved path and continued on. I followed the path and it crossed the road and then turned into another dirt trail. There were signs for hiking so I decided to follow them. I got to a point while I was running I realized I didn’t see the signs anymore. I was still on some sort of path, though it was covered with leaves. Maybe it was a maintenance path or horse trail, I wasn’t quite sure. I continued on and got to the point I had no idea where I was. It was raining and fog was rolling in, and no person in sight. I was in the middle of the trees, no clue where I was until I looked up to my right and there through the trees was the Biltmore House. I laughed to myself at first because I couldn’t believe how far I had actually ran. Way past the 4 mile mark I set out to do.

In that moment I felt a sense of comfort and peace and joy! I felt Jesus was with me. Tears came to my eyes and I couldn’t stop smiling. I wasn’t really lost after all! The path wasn’t distinct, and yet I kept taking step after step. I kept in mind to keep going because I didn’t know what I would find. And in turn I ended up seeing a side of this mansion the general public doesn’t see. It was incredible!

I thought about this moment and related it to life. We may not know what we are doing or where we will end up, but if we trust God and keep going we will see something spectacular. And sometimes the path doesn’t look like much of a path at all, but if we put our fears to the side and keep our curiosity in front great things will happen and God will show up!

Keep going!

(the trail looked a bit like this except less leaves on the trees and some fog)

(A portion of the front of the Biltmore House)

OUR Hope

Mary is a former pastor’s wife who served the Lord and people for decades. She is in her 80’s now and is a resident in the Good Samaritan Center nursing home in the memory care unit. Because this nursing home is part of the retirement village where I now live, I have the opportunity to visit the dear ones who have been placed there.

When I enter the memory care unit behind locked doors, I notice Mary among others whom I greet. She has a beautiful, soft countenance (unless she is in pain~then a frown shows). Our greeting of one another usually begins with a song! Mary has a strong alto voice and an extensive repertoire of hymns. When I begin to sing the following hymn she joins in with perfect harmony:

“Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life.
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words
of life! Words so freely given, wooing us to heaven,
beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.”
(Philip Bliss 1874)

Although Mary’s brain is being ravaged by a terrible, debilitating disease, she still knows her God, her Savior, and the Holy Spirit’s comfort.  I don’t mean to single Mary out because most of the dear ones who are spending their evening years in this nursing home have a relationship with Christ.  As we sing together she is ministering to me, to the other residents, to the nurses, CNA’s and housekeeping workers; that there is HOPE for our future if we are secure in Christ our Savior.

One evening as I was leaving, most of the residents were already in bed for the night; I heard a strong voice coming from a darkened room down the hall.  I peeked in and saw Mary on her bed with both arms raised high and singing, Blessed Assurance………”This is my story, this is my song…..Praising my savior all the day long.   This is my story, this is my song….Praising my Savior……all the day long!” (Fanny Crosby 1873)

Oh God, help me to never forget the HOPE I have in You.  No matter what comes my way, I know, that I know….that You are  real, You are alive; You care.  You sent your Only Son to die and shed His blood for me for the covering of my sins.  One day You will come again to this earth and take me home to be with you forever.

hope

This is the HOPE that changes everything that I think, feel, say and do. I pray you have this HOPE as well, because it surely makes life fulfilling.

Titus 3:4-7  “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His Mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the HOPE of eternal life.”

Re-post from July 2014

Quitting Too Soon?

We’ve all done it at some point. Given up on something just short of a breakthrough. Is there something difficult, but good and big in your life that you are considering walking away from?

My Pastor made a point in his Resurrection Sunday sermon last weekend that stood out to me. The story was from Luke chapter 24 about Cleopus walking back home on the road to Emmaus. He walked with another, and their heads were hung low in defeat. They had believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but Jesus had died on a cross Friday night, and they were headed back home early on Sunday.

Jesus actually caught up to them and asked them what they were talking about. They told Jesus, whom they did not recognize, that they had seen Jesus die and they were disappointed that he was gone and that all they had believed was not true. HA! Their messiah and their hope was right there beside them, but they didn’t even recognize him!

Jesus had told them all that he would die and that he would resurrect, numerous times. Cleopus still gave up and started walking back home to his old familiar place TOO SOON! Shouldn’t he have waited around on Sunday to see Jesus resurrected as he had promised?

Cleopus gave up just short of the breakthrough and headed back to his comfort zone! Thankfully for him, Jesus pursued him on his wrong path anyway! He ALMOST MISSED the most important moment that could have ever happened to him!

Whatever you are doing in life that is worth doing and biblical – whether it be a challenging job, building and staying with a relationship, getting in shape, eating healthier – that you feel like giving up on because you are not “seeing results,” STICK WITH IT! KEEP GOING! You have been promised the results, and they will come if you keep on. They say 80% of the progress comes in the last 20% of the time spent on a project. Push forward and don’t turn back to your comfort zone and quit! As Dory would say in Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming!”

DON’T QUIT TOO SOON OR YOU WILL MISS YOUR BREAKTHROUGH!

runner

Have you found the perfect gift yet?

I get amused with the Christmas shoppers in the Riverside Gift Shop I am managing at the retirement village.  They will come in and say they’re looking for the “perfect gift” for someone and they’ll “know it when they see it.”

gift

This month of Christmas music, programs, parties and shopping can become stressful to some people.  We have been made to feel guilty if we don’t give extra to the needs of those less fortunate.  There are the lonely people who actually hate this time of year.

But wait…..what is it really all about?  And I mean more than remembering a miraculous virgin birth of a baby 2000+ years ago.

The miracle of Jesus the Christ…..the Anointed One, is that He is fully God and fully human!!!    The doctrinal word for that is Incarnation……….and I don’t mean a flower!!!

This is one of the mysteries of Almighty God.   In His Son, Jesus, God became a human man to save us ultimately by shedding His blood on the cross, dying and arising from the dead, without ceasing to be God.

Philippians 2:5-11    Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

WOW!!!  That’s quite a bit to comprehend.  It’s so “far out there” our human minds cannot figure it out……not possible….don’t go there!!!

It is child-like FAITH which is a GIFT from God to receive THE TRUTH.

If you are struggling with the reality of who Jesus is, and that He is more than a baby in a manger, ask God to give you the faith to believe.  Be honest with God, He knows the thoughts and intents of your heart anyway.  Don’t try to figure it out…..just know that God loves you with unconditional love.  Once you realize that great love through Jesus Christ you will never be the same again!

The celebration of Jesus’ birth this week will give you JOY and an INNER PEACE that is unexplainable.

JESUS CHRIST IS INDEED THE MOST PERFECT GIFT TO YOU!!!

Romans 6:23  The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

THE King of kings is Greater than any president

In just a few hours we will find out who will be the next President of the United States of America. This campaigning has been insanity and the country is divided in a way that I have never personally witnessed. People are fighting, calling one another names, and cutting off relationships due to this polarization in opinion and thought in a fight to join one band wagon or the other.

This is what I know:

– The God I serve is bigger than any person or election process.

– Life will continue no matter who sits in the White House for the next four years, and it is my duty to live a life that Christ would approve of by loving all people as much as myself, practicing gratitude and giving of my time and resources to make the world a better place.

– Many people are now at least using their right to vote in what appears to be record numbers. This means more people are paying attention to the issues, which is great news. When life rolls along “well enough” we become complacent and lazy. I see a new spark.

If you read through the Old Testament you will see a roller coaster ride of good and bad kings. God would give the people a good king and there would be wealth and prosperity in the land. Then, the people would rebel in some way and beg for a different king. Then, God would allow the people to have what they wanted so that the new generation would learn and come back to Him. It is a definite pattern.

Perhaps this is happening now. We can see in the candidates a culmination of the collective views and values that citizens in the U.S. share. We will reap what we sow, always. This election has put a lot of topics in the spotlight that need to be there. Regardless of the outcome, we will push forward. The sun will come up every day and will shine on the righteous and the wicked and eventually we will finally come to that most glorious day when we see Christ return.

We shall not fear or waver because our God is King of kings and Lord of lords.

flag

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome….” Deuteronomy 10:17

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith…. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus….I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time – God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:11-16

“On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 19:16

Note: Do yourself a favor and go back and re-read the last post by my Aunt Tami as well: “Which ‘One Another’ Are You?”