Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sub-Zero Blooms



Bloom where you're planted


We've all heard this timeless bit of advice, the idea, being, of course, that we need to shine wherever it is we happen to find ourselves on life's journey.   I'm looking out my window today at the brown earth that is mostly covered in a thick layer of  snow.  Temperatures are way below zero.  It's hard to imagine anything blooming, literally or figuratively.  This is where, as a writer, I should then point out some hardy little plant that has, against all odds, pushed its way through the frozen earth and snow and draw an analogy for my readers.  Be like this fledgling little piece of greenery - beat the odds, defy all obstacles!  Show what you're made of - rah, rah, rah!


Nope.  I don't see a bit of green out there. 


I am in a stage of life right now that feels as cold as the weather outside.  Sudden widowhood has thrust me into a frozen, emotional wasteland.  That sounds very pitiful, but  I can honestly say that not all my days are like this anymore.  Time and the sustaining power of Christ really are great healers.  Still, it's not where I want to be.


Along with widowhood, I have entered the unfamiliar territory of single parenthood.  I definitely don't want to be here, either.  Parenting without a partner is draining, confusing at times, and something that makes me feel like a failure repeatedly.  In addition to stumbling through this rocky and unfamiliar terrain I have six children with fragile hearts that have been broken by their father's death.  The feelings of inadequacy and helplessness are often overwhelming.


In recent months, I have attended a couple of events in our area designed to minister to the single parent.  I've been grateful for these, but at the same time, I have struggled.  My path to single parenthood seems different than most.  I know not all single parents chose this path.  There are ways, besides the death of a spouse, that can result in unwilling single parenthood.  But still...


My pride wars.  I waited to have children until after I was married.  My husband I remained married to each other even during times it would have been easier to walk away.  We chose to follow God's design for the family...and yet, I still ended up as a single mother.  It's not fair!  At one of these events the women at my table were moaning - with good reason - about the various trials they were experiencing that involve lawyers, court dates, visitation hassles, and so on.  One of the women turned to me and commented, "You are so lucky you don't have to deal with any of this!"


 Well, I'm not so sure I'd refer to myself as, "lucky."


But God is nudging my heart.  He reminds me of  what I know already.  My husband's death was a result of the sin-sick world in which we reside.  We all have an eventual date with death.  But more than this, He reminds me that nothing happens in my life without being filtered through His loving hands first.  God has a perfect and good plan for my life and those of my children. 

Right now, that good plan involves single parenthood.  I can fuss about it and complain about my lack of ability, but in the end, it changes nothing.  More than likely, I will be doing this single parenting thing for a long, long time.  All I can choose is my attitude.



I can choose to remember that the God Who held me upright when the sheriff's deputy delivered the terrible news that night my husband died hasn't changed.  I can choose to remember that the God Who gathered me close to Him when I had no more tears and wondered what would happen to all of us still holds me. I can choose to remember that all our needs have been provided for.  I can choose to remember that while single, I will never truly be alone.


I can choose to bloom where I am planted.



Philippians 4:11

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content.



Photo courtesy of nature.deesktopnexus.com

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Right Prescription

All the symptoms were there. Headache. Runny nose. Extreme fatigue. The classic cold. I armed myself as if preparing for a fight. I was determined not to give in to this nasty virus. With vitamin C, echinacea, and acai at the ready, I psyched myself up for the battle.

The strategy


Whenever I feel like I'm coming down with something, I consciously try to eat healthier, get more rest, and just generally take it easy. I eliminate sugar from my diet, and try to eat more vegetables and fruit. I go to bed earlier, and pare down my schedule to include only what has to be done, in order to focus on recuperating.

If I'm fortunate enough to recognize the symptoms of a sickness early on, and make the necessary adjustments, I'm often able to outwit the crafty virus and walk away the victor. Other times, I just ignore the nagging symptoms until it's too late...and I'm in the clutches of a full-blown virus.

Staying alert

Not only does this strategy work when I'm battling those sneaky viruses, but it also allows me to be the victor when temptation comes calling. Do I recognize the tactics of the enemy (click to tweet)? If I stay alert and prepare myself properly, I can meet the attack head on, ready against his wiles. It pays to get a peak at his game plan.

Peter gives us the heads up we need:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8

When I'm sober, I'm characterized by self-control, rather than being out of control. I would be considered 'vigilant,' if I were watchful and alert. My enemy is constantly seeking to derail me. I must be on my guard. What better way to be prepared for battle, than to be intimately acquainted with God's Truth (click to tweet).

Defeating the enemy

When I am wearing the belt of truth,  wielding the sword of the Spirit, and holding up the shield of faith, I can defeat any of the fiery darts Satan shoots at me. It's true that by observation, my enemy is aware of my weaknesses. 

But when I, too, am aware of my weaknesses, I can stock up on the truth in God's word to replace the lies I've believed. I can recognize the difference between a lie and the truth. I am equipped to hold up my shield of faith and put out the enemy's fiery darts of deception.

Experiencing victory

We all face temptations. Being aware of the schemes of the enemy is important. But even more important, is knowing the Truth of God's Word that allows us to refute the lies of Satan. 

Don't give in to temptation only to find yourself trapped by sin. Allow the Lord to help you. Know your weaknesses, remain watchful and alert, and come out of your next 'battle' victorious. The right 'prescription' makes all the difference! 

Your turn

Are you making good use of the weapons God has given you to defeat your spiritual enemy, Satan? What step will you take to prepare for battle today?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me all the weapons necessary to overcome temptation. Help me stay alert and aware of the strategy of the enemy. Help me memorize Your Word and use it when temptation comes calling. Thank You for Your grace. In Jesus' name, Amen.



Maria I. Morgan is passionate about sharing the truths of God’s Word with today’s generation. Originally an inspirational author and speaker for adults, Maria has widened her circle to include kids. She lives in the muggy South with her husband, two retrievers, and two Maine coon kitties – the perfect mix to fuel her creativity for years to come!

(You can purchase a copy of her children’s book, “Louie’s BIG day!” on Amazon. You can also find her devotionals and download a free copy of her eBook, God Speaking, at www.mariaimorgan.com)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Good Dirt



            My son grew up to become a farmer. I have no idea why or how. He certainly didn’t get it from me, the Queen of Dead Plants, or his father either. The closest hubby came to plant life was analyzing marijuana in the crime lab.

            And our son is not just any farmer. No— everything he grows is done naturally, with no pesticides. He uses raised beds and nurtures his soil, rotates his crops, and does stuff God told farmers to do way back in Old Testament days. He prepares his soil so seeds will flourish.          



            Jesus talked about the farmer going out to sow his seed, with some falling on rocky soil, some amid thorns, and some on good dirt. He compared how different people responded to God’s Word with how well the seeds flourished, depending on where they landed.  

“But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”  (Luke 8:15 NKJV)

             I have no idea exactly what my son puts into his ground to produce his crops, but I know much comes from his compost heap which is full of old clippings and garbage.

 There’s a lot of garbage in my life, too. There are crosses that I don’t want to carry; there are lost loved ones, difficulties, sins I regret; and there are habits I need to leave behind.

 Yet I believe God turns all things to his good purposes and I believe he can make my personal compost heap a source of nourishment for my spirit, so that his Word will take root.

 Because I have sinned, I can understand Peter’s remorse when he realized he let his Lord down by denying him three times. And I can share Peter’s joy when he, like me, was forgiven.

Life has a way of making me humble and that humility opens my heart to God’s wisdom. Through faith, Jesus can turn the “dirt” of my life into rich soil that produces good fruit.

St. Paul seemed to think so in his letter to the Romans.

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5 NKJV)


Website: Ecclesia! found at  www.susanledoux.net along with blog Road to Emmaus
My "fun" blog "Wordspinner" at www.susan-wordspinner.blogspot.com 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Adopted


           Congratulations are in order to the winner of the Best of Show at the 139th Westminster Dog Show, Miss P. A precious Beagle who will be stealing many new hearts in the days to come. My blue ribbon babies are winners in a much smaller domain. Allow me to introduce them to you:
Candy
         
           If you had visited our home on any day since 1988, you would have been greeted by at least one Shih Tzu. We’ve recently added our fourth. The first one, Candy, lived to be almost 18 years old. The second one, Abby, left us this year after 10 ½ years of sweet companionship. Our current furry residents are Bailee and Maggie.
         
Abby
          These little gals all came from different places. They are members of the same breed, but the resemblance ends there. One thing they do have in common: Each one was adopted. Maggie is our most recent addition - a rescue dog who had to be shaved almost to the skin to free her from mattes, grass and other assorted tangles. One ear was accidentally “shortened” in the attempt to rid her of the misery. Their gratitude for a safe home and having their needs met each day has been obvious in each one of them. They look forward to their semi-weekly visits to the groomer to be pampered by skilled hands and a nurturing touch.
Maggie and Bailee

          We live with the inconveniences, and “mishaps” because they are now part of our family and because we love them unconditionally. They remind me that I, too, have been adopted, rescued from a dangerous and doomed future and received into a place of safety and hope for the future:




“So also we, while we were children, were held in
 bondage under the elemental things of the world. 
But when the fullness of the time came, 
God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, 
born under the Law, so that He might 
redeem those who were under the Law, 
that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
(Galatians 4:3-7, NASB)

          And, like our four little orphans I, too, am loved unconditionally, being groomed each day by the loving hands of Abba, Father. And...I am eternally grateful!

“Because you are sons, God has sent forth the 
Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 
“Abba! Father!”
(Galatians 4:8, NASB)


Photobucket

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Giving Up My Humility Points

A few days ago, at the grocery store, I saw that in the next line over, a local family had come up short in paying for their groceries. I stepped over to their line and asked if they needed some money. They said yes, so I paid for their groceries and then, since it was a cold day and they’d walked half a mile to the store, I gave them a ride home. Afterward, I considered making a Facebook status about the incident, but decided not to, since it felt braggy.

Now that you’ve read that version of what happened (totally true), let me give you the other totally true version, in which I’m not seen in a particularly good light.

There’s a family living across the street from me—a mother and two adult daughters—who I avoid whenever I can. They’re difficult people—not very clean, with some hormonal condition that has given the unfortunate daughters beards and hoarse, slurred speech.  All three are disabled, and they spend much of their time on their porch, watching people go by and sometimes calling out to them.  They don’t drive, so when they need something they walk to the grocery or the pharmacy, always dressed identically in ill-fitting clothing. If you run into them on one of their shopping excursions, they want to stop and chat about the weather, giggling and touching your arm.

A few days ago, at the grocery store, I saw that the sisters were shopping in the next aisle over from me. I really didn’t feel like speaking to them, so I hung back a bit, thinking that I’d give them time to finish with their shopping several minutes before I was ready to check out. But while I was working on avoiding them, God was working on me. You should offer them a ride home, He said.

I sighed. Fine. If they’re still here when I check out, I’ll offer them a ride home.  I slowed down my shopping even more, lingering over apples and going back to pick up butter that I didn’t really need.

But when it was time to check out, there they were, struggling to put their groceries into cloth bags in the next checkout lane. I watched them while my food was being bagged, and it became apparent that there was a problem; one sister was holding out her money, and it wasn’t enough. The cashier was trying to explain it to her and she just wasn’t getting it—but the other sister understood, and started to pull food out of the bags, knowing that they couldn’t take everything home.

God kicked me in the behind.

I pulled my cart, now packed with bags, over to the next lane, and said, “Do you need some money?”

Free Images

“Hi, Jan!” said sister #1.

“Yes!” said sister #2, giggling through her beard.

“How much do they need?” I asked the cashier.

“Thirty dollars.”

While I wrote out a check, I asked the sisters, “Do you want a ride home?”

“Yes!” More giggling.

I had my husband’s car that day—a tiny Honda Fit. We loaded it up with six large cloth bags, two full backpacks, the sisters’ handcart, all of my groceries, and the three of us. It took a long time to load up, and it was cold outside—the sisters had conflicting ideas about what bag should go where, and there was considerable shifting and relocating of the bags until they were satisfied. My sighing muscles were getting quite a workout.

It’s a very short drive from the grocery store to the block where we live—less than a mile—and one of the sisters said I should drop them off at the corner because their driveway hadn’t been shoveled. So I did, three houses away, and they loaded up their handcart and headed toward their house—but not without hugging me first.

I’m not a hugging kind of person.

When I got home, I really wanted to post it on Facebook, but I knew I’d be doing it to get “good Jan” points. It was killing me to have done this wonderful, selfless, generous, kind, spiritual, fantastic, charitable, gracious, thoughtful, neighborly, altruistic, Christian deed and to go totally unacknowledged for it. Because I was awesome for doing all that when I didn’t want to, wasn't I?

So I pouted about that for a while, too.

When I started thinking about what to write for this month’s blog post, this incident came back to me. I realize that by writing about it here, I’m giving up any humility points I gained when I didn’t post it to Facebook. It’s worth it to me if I can use the incident to encourage you thus:

Do good—even when you don’t feel like doing good.

Be kind—even when you don’t feel like being kind.


Say loving words—even when you don’t feel loving.

Reach out--even when you feel as if your arms are too short.

Hold things loosely--even when you want to hold on tight.



Church Art


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Thoughts

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD."As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9 

Not a bit of sense. I couldn't understand the absolutely backward logic. It couldn't be right.

I had always been taught to try to do things the easy way. I hated conflict of any kind, and would do just about anything to avoid it.

One of the most important things to me was to be liked and appreciated. I would go out of my way to make myself well liked--to be accepted by others.

And then I opened His Word.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. (James 1:2)

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:10)

But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. (Matthew 19:30)

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23)

Who in their right mind would accept this backward logic? Who celebrates in trials? Who believes a persecuted person is blessed?

Nobody - in THEIR right mind, anyway. Only those with the mind of Christ can begin to understand and grasp the thoughts of God - and even they won't fully grasp it this side of heaven.

Why does my husband have a brain tumor?

Why does my son struggle?

Why can't I talk to some of my relatives about the Thing that matters most to me?

Why do dear friends suffer with diseases, prodigals, life-altering decisions, and despair?

Why are so many suffering for what appears to be no good reason?

These questions - these thoughts - plague me. Sometimes I think I have part of an answer, and that definitely encourages me. But even when I don't, I have the faith and trust to know that there IS an answer, and it actually makes sense- not to my mind, but to the higher mind of my Lord.

Here on earth, it may not make a lick of sense, but God can see the whole picture. His thoughts are NOT mine, nor are His ways.  His ways are higher - and from "up there," He can see the whole picture. And that picture is marvelous and 100% in line with His perfect will.

And that is enough for me.

 *

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I Will Sing

This devotion from a fellow Faithwriter member resonated with me, and I hope it does with you too. Not only has singing always brought me comfort, peace and joy, I'm also enamored with the story of how King Jehoshaphat's choir and praise team brought his army victory in battle. I WILL sing! (And you can't stop me!) 
Many blessings,
Cat



I Will Sing
By Deborah Brunt

Ever read something that drew back and slapped you?

Recently, I ran across three little words that slapped me, sent me sprawling and jumped up and down on top of me - in a helpful sort of way.

You may have guessed these words, since I divulged them in the title.

"I will sing."

That's it. "I will sing."

Seems like a pretty tame phrase to you? Well, notice that it doesn't say, "I feel like singing." This little phrase involves choice. In saying it, I announce that my will is going to overrule my emotions. Regardless how I feel, I will sing.

Notice, too that it doesn't say, "I may sing," or "I will consider singing," or even, "I will make melody in my heart." These three words involve action. To carry them out, I have to open mouth, exert breath and make sounds that at least somewhat resemble notes and melodies. Lyrics are helpful, too.

The day I read these words, I determined to adopt them - for the very reason that I didn't feel like singing. Driving home from an out-of-town appointment after dark, I started tentatively at first. Frankly, it took great effort both to sing and to listen to myself.

"In a cavern, in a canyon, excavating for a mine, dwelt a miner, forty-niner, and his daughter Clementine."

Proceeding through all the verses I could remember, I decided that "Clementine" is both silly and sad. "Drove she ducklings to the water every morning just at nine. Struck her foot upon a splinter, fell into the foaming brine."

And the real tear-jerker: "Ruby lips above the water" (in childhood, one of my sisters thought that was "groovy lips," which tells you the era in which we grew up) "blowing bubbles soft and fine. Alas for me I was no swimmer, so I lost my Clementine."

By the end of the song, I was - no, not sobbing - singing with gusto. Assorted other songs followed, many of them dredged up from childhood. Alongside ditties like, "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" (sung after 9:00 p.m.), I found myself belting out hymns and choruses.



"Jesus wants me for a sunbeam to shine for him each day." "Climb, climb up sunshine mountain, heavenly breezes blow." "I will sing of the goodness of the Lord forever; I will sing; I will sing."

Launching into that last chorus, I recalled the whole sentence that contains my adopted phrase. It's Psalm 101:1, and it says, "I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise" (NIV).

"I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise" (NIV).

That verse reminded me of one of the strangest battle strategies of all time. The good king in this battle was named Jehoshaphat. His country faced attack by three enemy nations whose combined forces far outnumbered Jehoshaphat's troops.

Jehoshaphat drew up his battle plans this way: He called a day of prayer in which he and the people cried out to God. After praying, Jehoshaphat took the counsel, not of a general, but of a prophet. Marshaling his troops, he instructed singers - yes, singers - to lead the charge.

While marching toward the enemy armed with nothing we would consider a weapon, the singers, of course, did not sing "Clementine." They sang praises to God. While they sang, the Lord ambushed the attacking armies so that they destroyed each other. The last army standing won - the army that decided, "We will sing."

Even silly songs can brighten my mood. And if my attitude toward God matches the humility, faith and obedience of King Jehoshaphat, songs that confess God's character and name will summon him into the battle in my behalf.

So, hey, I will sing - especially when I do not feel like it.



(c) 2001, 2005 by Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved. For more help to thrive in hard times, see her e-books, “The Esther Blessing” and “The Elijah Blessing.”

Deborah Brunt explores key truths for living life. The author of eight books and more than 1,500 published articles, she writes courageously, prophetically, redemptively. Visit her at http://www.keytruths.com and at http://keytruthsblog.wordpress.com.

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.com-CHRISTIAN WRITER

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