Sunday, August 20, 2017

Well Running Dry

"...but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."  John 4:14 (NIV)

Summer can certainly be a time of dryness.  Our other three seasons provide ways for our lawns and gardens to receive water, but the summer can be difficult for constant water.  I noticed this about a week ago when parts of our lawn were getting a bit parched.  The green was turning to brown and was very dry.  I even noticed the sign on a local fire department sharing that there was a high risk of fire.  Sure enough, a few days later, black clouds formed overhead and the heavens opened, providing some much needed relief and lots of rain.

The same thing happened to me, personally, last week.  The days were getting more and more difficult with many different situations.  By last Friday, I was parched.  I felt as if I didn't have an ounce of energy left in me.  I woke up dragging and couldn't seem to gain any relief as the day continued.  I was picturing myself in a desert with no water in sight.  To say I was frustrated was an understatement.

This can happen to all of us.  We get so caught up on getting things done, running through our chore list, making sure all the t's are crossed and i's are dotted that we forget that we need to stop to quench our thirst.  We find the items that need to get accomplished take precedent over what is truly important and what truly needs to get done - replenishing our souls.  I am very guilty of this when times get tough - I put aside what needs to get done for my soul for what needs to get done on a list.

I prayed to my Lord, looking for relief.  Just as he provided the black clouds overhead, He also provided for me.  There, in front of me, was our verse for today - one that I keep written on a small piece of paper for "just when I need some help".  God guided my eyes to this verse, helping to remind me that I will never thirst, as long as I go to God's Word for relief.  With that Word, my "today" life was restored and I was reminded that my "eternal" life was in good hands, God's hands.

I encourage all of us to focus on our souls just as much as we focus on the "list" of this world.  In doing so, the words of our Lord will fill our hearts, our minds and our souls - providing the relief we so deeply need.  God wants our eyes to be focused on Him for restoration, not the items of this world.  When we do that, we understand with more clarity that Simple Faith brings us the peace we need in this world, the peace that calms our souls and re-energizes our lives.  

Please, spend time each day in the living water of Jesus.  Let's commit to sharing time with Him who so graciously gave of Himself for us.  When we fill ourselves up with this living water, we will never be parched, and our faith will grow just as a plant who receives water during the summer.

Dearest Jesus, just as you were there for the woman at the well, I ask that you continue to be here for me.  Help me to never be thirsty as long as I immerse myself in Your Word.  Grant me the peace for my soul and the energy of your love to help grow not only me, but those around me.  In your loving name I pray.  Amen!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sweetness on the Inside

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine cloths.  Rather it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.  1 Peter 3:3-4

The simple task of husking corn.  Nothing elegant.  Just sitting on the back stoop and making sure I get all the silk off of the ear of corn before cooking them.  Yet, as I was doing that, it struck a thought with me.  On the outside, corn is pretty much the same.  Taller stalks, silk coming out of the top.  If you look at the outside of corn, you would say they are all very similar.  As you begin husking the corn, the individuality of the corn starts to shine through.  Some may be all yellow with large kernels.  Some may be yellow and white with smaller kernels.  Typically, regardless of what you see as you peel the husk back, you find great sweetness.  As you bite into an ear of corn, it's hard not to smile with delight as those kernels pop in your mouth, so sweet.  Sure, sometimes we see an ear that is not mature or has been chewed by insects, but most of the time, it is good.

It made me think, if we were to peel back the husk of our neighbors, friends, and families, what would we find?  Do we find people who are full of kindness and sweetness?  Do we find people that are fully mature or haven't fully matured yet?  Do we find people who may have been chewed up by the bitterness of their situations?  What is on the outside of people may not be what is on the inside of people.  The elaborate lifestyles or personas may not mirror what is on the inside of people.  As when we open up an ear of corn that is not "sweet", we are disappointed.  When we get to know the "inside of people" and realize they may not be "sweet", we are also disappointed.  Can we change them?  You know the answer to that.

As always, it is important to start with the sole person that you can change, YOURSELF!  As you peel back your own husk, what are people finding?  What are you finding?  Is there a person who is mature and full of sweetness and delight?  Or is there a person who is not mature, eaten up by the bitterness of past mistakes and not forgiving others.  We may share with others that we work hard to live the life that Jesus has asked us to live.  I know I try to do that.  Yet, if I'm going to be truthful, I often fall short.

On the inside, I am not always sweet (hey, just ask my family!).  I may try to be mature, but often my responses, both inside and outside, aren't always that of a mature woman.  I can get cranky and bitter and the anxiousness that I feel can many times be revealed in my emotions - the inside stuff.!  Can you relate?  I try to ensure that the sweetness and goodness that God wants me to share is there every day.  Yet, there are some days when that just doesn't happen.  So what's a girl to do?

We go to the word of God.  There, and only there, can I find true redemption for the behavior that may not be the sweetness I want on the inside.  When I ask my Savior for forgiveness and begin the healing, peace enters my heart and sweetness returns.  The simple faith of knowing God can make me sweet is such a rich blessing.  Through His goodness and His love, I know that peace and happiness will return.  That is a guarantee.  

I challenge us.  What are people seeing when they "husk" us?  Are they seeing the sweet love of Jesus or a person that has been chewing on bitterness?  We can change ourselves to grow more sweet on the inside.  We can live in the words of Jesus and have simple faith that through his love our sweetness will grow.  The next time you husk that ear of corn, take a look on the inside for the sweetness that we know only Jesus can give us.

Dearest Jesus, we ask that you help us to self-reflect what is in our hearts.  May we find the sweetness and goodness that we can share with others.  If we find bitterness Lord, we ask that you change our hearts and fill us up with the words of saving grace that only YOU can provide.  In your saving name we pray.  Amen."

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Test of Patience

Then he said, "Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well?  Isaiah 7:13

I want to believe that in my old age I have gotten wiser and my ability to be patient has gotten better.  To be honest, I'm not sure I'm succeeding in either!  This past weekend brought to life the part of the verse above "...try the patience of men".  It started off well,;I had a half day on Friday and I was going to get my car inspected.  

I went.  It failed.  I was appalled.  The car is in great condition.  Yet, the paint was chipping off my plates, so they needed to be replaced.  Oh, and I need two tires in the rear of the car.  WOW - not what I was expecting.  Well, I had the 1/2 day off, so off to Town Hall I went for new plates.  Yep, wrong spot, needed to go to Dept of Motor Vehicles (a 1/2 hour away).  I'm not sure how your Dept of Motor Vehicles works.  Let's just say that ours is a test of patience.  I was glad that my husband joined me for some "quality" time and off we went.  Two hours later, I had two new plates.

Off to the tire store we go.  Got there just as it was closing.  They didn't have my tires in stock.  All could be resolved on Saturday, though.  Saturday at 10:30, the car was dropped off.  By that time I had already completed the normal Saturday chores, so, after making some meatballs and doing a couple of other things, I thought I deserved a pedicure.  I called for a 12:15 appointment.  By 12:17 my toes had dipped in the water.  Someone didn't come over to start my pedicure until 12:55.  Yep - another test of patience.  Didn't they already know what kind of weekend I was having?  I did finally get my toes painted and just in time, my husband called to tell me my car was ready.

Yea, pick up the car, go back to where I had it inspected for a "re-inspect".  I get there, they can't take me for 1.5 hours.  Really?  Are you kidding?  I did what they asked and all they have to do is put on an inspection sticker.  Nope, that was the deal.  Fine.  I went home, did a few more things around the house, and was off to get my sticker 1.5 hours later.  Got there and the guy came out.  "Not sure we will be able to do it today?"  Are you kidding?  While I was gone, two other people came and dropped off their cars, so they got a "spot" in front of me.  

That was it!  My patience, that I tried so hard to keep all day long, was gone.  This was going to be a relaxing, filled with family time, type of weekend.  No, we didn't have any specific plans, just to "be" with each other.  It had turned into a test of patience.  I don't lose my patience often, but when I do, I can be a bit indignant.  My voice was raising and I needed to talk to the technician, the asst. manager and the manager.  Yes, EVERYONE needed to hear my pain.  I was mad.  They can see I have new plates, and the tires are new!!!

That went well for me, until the manager checked and said, "Yes, you have two new tires, but they are on the FRONT!!  The back ones are still bad."  Are you kidding me?  Really?  After a "wonderful"call to my husband, I was on my way back to the tire place.  Meanwhile he called there and found out they had closed.  Done.  All this work and I still won't have my car inspected this weekend.  

As I was driving to dinner with my family, in a car that had yet to be inspected, I started chatting with my best friend, God.  "Really God, all of this and nothing?  My patience is being tested beyond belief.  What are you trying to tell me?"  I realized, He was sharing much with me.  
  • Maybe my patience wasn't as good as I thought.  I obviously have some work to do in this area and ensuring I don't take out my frustrations on others.
  • Check and re-check.  There are many times throughout this scenario I could have checked something to ensure it would be smooth - like checking to make sure the new tires were on the back!
  • Be in the moment.  As my husband and I left the Dept of Motor Vehicles on Friday, we laughed that although we waited two hours, we were together.  We laughed and chatted during that time.  Maybe God wanted that for us.  While I waited for my toes, I was sitting in a wonderful massage chair.  
  • Deal with the deck.  Just deal with the cards you have been given.  Maybe the "cards" I had this weekend weren't a winning hand, but I got to play.  I was here, among family, enjoying some rainy days with them.
Yet, all of this made me think of how patient God has to be with me.  With all the sins I commit, the lack of initiative to share His word, the times when I don't do HIS will, He is still patient with me.  He still loves me.  He still embraces me in His wonderful arms.  He NEVER takes away my eternal life.  Now THAT is patience.  For as much as we try to endure in situations that don't go perfectly (a crying child in a grocery store, a friend/family member who lashes out, best laid plans going array), our Heavenly Father has endured so much more, and we still come out on the winning side.  

So, the next time our patience is tested, remember.  God's patience is tested every day, and He still loves us.  When our patience is being tested, let's check and re-check our behavior.  Be in the moment, is there something good that can come of this?  After all that, we just need to deal the cards we've been given.  With God on our side we will always come out with a winning hand!!

Dearest Lord, how our patience runs thin sometimes!  With the day to day frustrations, our patience to handle situations can be difficult.  Let us remember that when those times arise, you are there with us.  Provide us with the patience we need and may we show our Christian hearts in the process.  Your patience of us is immeasurable.  Thank you for always loving us and never leaving us.  In your name I pray.  Amen.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Pictures of Love



I don't know about you, but I find it difficult to listen to the news.  To be honest, I typically don't turn on the TV unless it is on the HGTV channel (and Juan can share just how much HE enjoys THAT)!  The radio in my car either listens to devotions or music.  So, you can see, I am probably not the person you want to reach out to on current events.  Why?  I find that my newsworthy moments are usually right in front of me.  This week was no exception.  I received special blessings this week. 

The funny part is, of all the blessings that I received, those people that gave me the greatest blessings probably didn't even realize it.  I think that's the best part when we receive blessings.  It's the ones that sneak up on us that make us have "newsworthy moments".  This week's newsworthy moments showed up as wonderful pictures of love.  How did that happen?  Please let me share.

Monday morning, I watched a dad send his son off to his first naval duty.  The last few months were filled with boot camp and learning.  Now, the real work begins.  With tears in their eyes, love was shared with very few words.  Love was shared through hugs, through smiles, through pats on the back, and through tears.  It was a beautiful picture of love between a father and his son.

Fast forward a few days as I watched a number of wonderful people set up for a baby shower that they were giving for their supervisor.  The beautiful decorations, the aroma of wonderful food and the gifts that were overflowing were all performed with hands of love.  I watch this supervisor on many days reach out to her associates with care and humility.  Now, the love was returned.  It was another beautiful picture between work associates and supervisor - so unique.

The next day I was walking out of work with a woman who was filled with joy.  May I preface that she typically is a happy person, but as we continued to chat, you could see her radiant face just shine.  She spoke about how the cancer that had plagued her husband has started to retreat.  The treatments are working and there is much hope for their future.  As we discussed how wonderful prayer is, I saw how blessed she felt.  Although in this case, the other person wasn't there, I could see the picture of love that this woman has for her husband.  I pray that their future is filled with happiness and good health.

Each of these "newsworthy moments" were brought to me by God himself, not by any national news channel.  These wonderful people had no idea how their moments were going to impact me.  Yet, God knew.  During a week when I was exposed to many relationships that didn't seem to be working, God blessed me with pictures of love that were all around me.  Those moments were far greater than any news that could have been shared.  For in those pictures of love, I saw God.  I saw Him through people who had no idea how their moments were impacting me.

Isn't that the wonder of God?  That He can give us those moments just when we need them.  He does know exactly what we need when we need it.  He blesses us richly through pictures of love.  I'm sure all of you have experienced pictures of love lately.  They are all around us.  Those pictures can be in so many places; a person holding another's hand in prayer, a grandchild helping a grandparent to walk, a smile that brings peace to our hearts.  Have your eyes take another look around you for those pictures of love.  They are there - and they will be a blessing for you I am sure.

Dearest God, we thank you for the pictures of love you give us every day.  When our faith in our fellow human beings wears thin, we know that you will provide.  Open our eyes and our hearts to see these pictures you give to us.  May we cherish them in our hearts and may our souls find the peace that comes with such love.  God, may we also be the picture of love to others.  May our words and actions be that "newsworthy moment" to those around us.  In your name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hard Working Hands

"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

I was about to start typing today on another subject as I looked down at my hands.  Oh my, the wrinkles were starting to show.  Yes, there are other parts of my body that ache and remind me that I am not a spring chicken anymore.  Yet, my hands seemed to show my age today.

I thought about my hands for a long time.  What they have seen over the years.  My hands learned how to take shorthand while I was in high school.  They learned how to type (yes, on an old typewriter).  My hands played piano on my parent's baby grand.  As I entered adulthood, they took exams in college and applied for new jobs.  They adorn a wedding ring and hold my husband's hand with love.  They have also tended to a garden rich in vegetables.  Hands have a way of serving us when we least expect it. My hands have served me well.

Yes, there have been many other things my hands have done.  They have stroked foreheads of others that were in pain.  My hands have also held others' hands in support and grabbed tissues for many tears (mine and others).  They have rubbed feet that were aching and have changed many diapers. My hands have been lifted up to God in joy and have been folded in prayer.  Hands have a way of serving others when we least expect it.  My hands have served others.

Can we serve others better with our hands and hard work?  As we go through our days, see how we might be able to serve someone else with our hands.  Maybe we can make a meal for someone home bound.  Perhaps we can do yard work for others or hold their hands in support.  I truly believe the greatest way we can serve others with our hands is to have them folded in prayer.  There is always someone we can lift up to God in prayer.

Have our hands served in the way Jesus has served us?  When I think of hands, I can't help but think of Jesus' pierced hands on the cross.  Reflect on how many hands he held in his life on earth, how many times His hands touched others in healing, how many times they were folded in prayer.  Jesus' hands are truly hands of a servant and are a wonderful example of the hard work our hands can see.  

Take a look at your hands.  Think about the things your hands have done over the years.  What joys have they embraced?  What tears of sorrow they have wiped away.  What prayers they have lifted to our Heavenly Father.  I'm sure when you reflect upon your hands you will also see that they have served us and others well.  Continue the hard work of your hands, for as Jesus says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."  Here are to the blessings of hard-working hands!!

Dearest Jesus, your hands are certainly the shining example of hard-working hands.  May we reflect upon the good works your hands have done and all that they have given us.  May we take that example and use it to drive us to have hard-working hands for others, for we know the blessings that can be received.  Into your hands we give our lives, Amen!"

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Shining Star

"Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever."  Daniel 12:3 (NIV)

One of my favorite memories as a child was when my dad would take us outside at night and we would look to the heavens.  He taught us how to find the Big Dipper and how to appreciate the wonder of the nighttime sky.  I remember looking up into the sky and thinking that those stars were shining just for me.  The other evening, I had that same feeling.  I looked up to the sky and saw stars that were flickering and those that shined brightly.

That moment made me reflect on the type of star "I" am.  Am I a star that flickers or do I shine brightly?  There are many references in the Bible that compare our Christian behavior to that of a bright star.  I want to be the star that shines brightly among the heavens, but I have to admit that many times, I am a flickering star.  

Each day I wake up with the determination that my light will shine brightly for my Savior, Jesus.  Yet, by the end of the day, my greatest determinations fall short.   There are opportunities for me to say more about Jesus than I do.  There are moments for prayer that I miss.  There are times for repentance that I gloss over.  Yes, although I want my star to shine, it many times flickers.  Can you relate?  Do you have moments that go from shining star to flickering star?  What are we to do?

We begin at the place where we shine brightest, in the word of God.  May we turn to God's word to find out how we can become like "those who are wise will shine like the brightness of heaven."  When we find ourselves in God's word, we fully understand the greatness of God's love, His divine Holy Spirit, and the forgiveness that Jesus provides.  Deeply immersing ourselves in the richness of God's word will create a shining star in us so great that it won't have time to flicker.  

We can also worship with each other in grand fellowship.  Sharing our gaps with each other and building each other up can send us into the world with great brightness.  Let us not forget the power of prayer.  Talking to Jesus can send my heart soaring - knowing that He is listening just to me!!  Can't help but be excited when I know I have his total attention (and He has MY attention).  Together, we ignite a shining star so bright it's hard to flicker.

So when we feel like our star isn't shining as brightly as it could, help us to dive into the Word, link arms in fellowship and fold hands in prayer.  When we pursue the immense power of God and His love, our star won't flicker and fade.  It will persevere and grow stronger in light.  Remember, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine; Let it Shine, Let it Shine, Let it Shine."

Heavenly Father, so many times I want to be the Shining Star for you.  Yet, I know my thoughts and deeds fall short to a small flickering star.  Please guide me to gain the light that only YOU can give to me.  Fill me up, Jesus, so my star shines brighter than ever before - each and every day.  Provide to me your everlasting love.  In your glorious name I pray, Amen!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What I Deserve


I try to go through life living it in a way that is deserving of God's love.  I try to treat people with respect and love.  I try to give more than I sometimes have, both in energy, time and possessions.  I try to love and be kind regardless of the circumstances.  I try . . . .  I typically feel that I do my very best and that is what God asks of me, until I read this verse this past week.

I've read this verse before, so why did it home for me this time?  Maybe it was the circumstances during the week, the people I met and the situations I was in.  Maybe it was my frame of mind.  Maybe it was the condition of my heart.  Quite frankly, it didn't matter WHY as much as it matters NOW.  Whatever the reason for this to touch my heart, God wanted me to see this in a different light.  And It Worked!!

I don't know about you, but I have taken how I handle my life, my conduct and my thoughts, as though God was okay with my daily activities.  Yet, this verse, at this time, made me realize the important thought, "Am I REALLY trying?"  Am I really having the thoughts that God wants me to have?  Am I really conducting myself in the manner that He chooses?  The most important thought, "Can I do better?"  Before last week, I might have said, "I do pretty well".  After evaluating myself, as God asks us to do, I can truthfully say, "I Can Do Better"!  What does better look like?  For me, it was in a variety of areas:
  • Words - the words that came out of my mouth were not always words of encouragement or love.  Sometimes, the bitterness of sarcasm came out.  Sometimes, it was the chastising words of criticism.  Sometimes, the words that were spoken were said without a lot of thought, and could cause heartache.  My words can be better.
  • Thoughts - the thoughts that run through my mind aren't always nice.  I used to tell myself, "At least those thoughts didn't come out of my mouth", but we all know that God doesn't see it that way.  My thoughts could lead to a negative change in my behavior and in my actions.  My thoughts could be better.
  • Deeds - the actions I take aren't always selfless.   Many times, my actions can be selfish - because it is what "I" want the way "I" want it.  I can try to justify those actions as "I know best", but do I?  Could my actions be driving people away versus inviting them in?  My deeds could be better.
Yes, the bottom line is that I could be better.  With self reflection, I realized that my words, thoughts, and deeds were not necessarily always pleasing to God.  I might have felt as if I deserved more, but in turn, God was truly giving me what I deserved.  A sight of self reflection, although truthful and difficult at times, is the sight that God wants us to have.  In the sight of self reflection comes the richest gift and what we so deeply deserve, God's forgiveness.

I may try, and I can do better, but the bottom line is that I will never reach God's expectations.  I will never be that person He may want me to be.  Yet, he loves me so much, that He is willing to look past all my flaws, all my hopeless attempts or even my lack of attempts, to say to me, "Susan, I love you.  Your hard work and belief in me will continue to yield a home in heaven."  I don't know about you, but I need to hear those words.  I need to know He will always be there for me. 

My deeds may not always be rewarded the way I think they should be rewarded.  Yet, I do believe that with some self-reflection and attempts to do better, God will give me the greatest reward - a place with Him in heaven.  Therefore, I will continue to strive to be better and live with His promise of forgiveness and love.   Care to join me?

Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the words of the Bible that help us to reflect on the person you want me to be.  Help me to continue to work on being better, in my thoughts, words and deeds.  When I falter, I ask for your forgiveness.  Remind me that your grace, mercy and love will always be with me.  In your gracious name I pray.  Amen."

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.