Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tired and Weary?

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. Isaiah 40:28 

I dozed off the other day. During adult Sunday School. I was sitting quite close to the teacher, too. Not sure if he noticed or not (though I think he might have, since he asked me a question just as I was about to doze off - or maybe it was just as I was waking up. Not sure LOL). My husband did, however, and he tapped me on the side to bring me back from lala land to reality. So I missed a bit of the lesson.

I have a project I've been working on for seven months that I am just about finished with. But I have to admit that, over the last several weeks, I've had some trouble staying motivated. You'd think that, being so close to the end, I'd get that "second wind" and push that last bit out quickly. But it didn't happen that way. To be honest, I'd grown a bit weary, and it took some extra motivation to get those last words written.
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These are normal things for me. They happen all the time. And I'm not alone. (Maybe? Humor me here, eh?) Due to the simple fact that we are human, tiredness and weariness are normal - a part of our normal lives (though, of course, I wish the tiredness would stop hitting me in church :::roll::: ).

It is at times like these when I praise God that He is NOT that way. Our God is everlasting. He never began and will never end. He doesn't dose off when we're chatting with Him. He will not grow weary when we spend months, or years, working on the same issue. He's always there beside us, keeping His eyes on us.

It's such a comfort to know that no matter how often I fall asleep on the job, or grow weary of the tasks the Lord has for me, He neither slumbers nor sleeps. He's always working.


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Monday, October 20, 2014

Moving Forward into 2015: Letting Go of What Lies Behind


One cold December morning in 2013, I laid down my Bible beside me on the bed. Toward the end of each year, I asked God for a focus of the next.While seeking Him, I felt that 2014 was to be the year to move forward. This would help me. Whether life was going really good or really not so good, I could fix my eyes on Jesus and the year’s focus.

The past ten months, whenever I’ve struggled, I would tell myself that this is the year to move forward and thank God for the progress I’d already made. I’ve learned quite a few lessons and for the rest of this year, I’ll share them with you.

This month I’ll discuss letting go of what lies behind. In November, we will see how important it is to replace fear with faith. And learning how to take one step at a time finishes up the year. Please join me as we move further along the path of our journey with God.

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV

To move forward, there are issues, ideas, and even physical items you need to release. Sin, regret, disappointment, excessive grief, and wrong relationships are pieces of baggage that will keep us from becoming all we can be in Christ. We need to repent of any sin and like David in Psalm 51, ask God to search us and uncover any hidden sin within us.

Regret, disappointment, and excessive grief can pull us down into depression and despair. Give these to God and put them under the blood of Jesus. He’s the only one big enough to handle our problems. Wrong relationships can poison our fellowship with God and his people. We love and reach out to everyone, but must be careful who we allow in our inner circle. Any root of bitterness or other issues can affect us, especially if it’s from someone with whom we constantly spend time.

My focuses at the moment are the ideas and physical items that are not wrong, but are no longer God’s best for my life. The mental picture God gave me was of me grasping a door knob and turning it, then pushing the door open. I could not step through, however, because my other hand still grasped the door knob of the last door I’d gone through. One hand on the door to the future and one on the door of the past, unable to go in either direction.

It’s hard to release some of the good things in my life like a blog I post at monthly and another personal blog. I can’t commit to the writing I need to do while doing all the excessive blog work and administration. There just isn’t enough of me to go around. I’ll miss working on and at the blogs, but don’t want to miss God’s best.

I also have to watch how many blogs and books I’m reading and my social media habits. I can easily whittle away hours reading and learning. This isn’t bad in itself unless it takes away from my writing time. The Bible story I read that made this clear to me was in I Kings 17. The prophet Elijah predicts a drought in the land and God sends him to hide by the Brook Cherith. God provides his needs for a season, but finally the brook dries up. God then sends him to Zarephath to a widow’s home where provision will be furnished for the entire household.

If Elijah had stayed by the brook and not moved forward, he would have lost his provision and the opportunity to help the widow and her son. If I don’t let go of what God is finished with, I’ll lose my provision and possibly opportunities to meet others needs.

Where is your Brook Cherith? Is the water still flowing or is it time to move on to Zarephath? Take some time this month to seek the Lord. List all that you hold onto and ask with an open heart, “God, do I need to carry all this into 2015?”

I haven’t been eager to let go of the blogs, excessive reading, or social media, but since I’ve given it to Him, peace has returned. Let peace rule in your heart.


Father God, today I let go of the door knob of the past and step into a future you have designed for me. Please show me anything that needs to stay in 2014. Give me ears to hear what You are saying. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


http: www.jenniferhallmark.com

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fashion Police

My husband and I spent Labor Day weekend helping my
daughter’s family move into a new home. On the third day of the move, it got to
the point where all of the boxes had been transferred, and it was time to start
unpacking them at the new place. This is something that really had to be done
by my daughter; she knew the contents of each box and where she wanted them to
go. The best thing for me to do was to keep my granddaughter Piper occupied
while her mom and dad worked at putting the house in order.

Happily, this is something that I love to do.

My daughter had already put Piper’s room together—smart
woman. We played with Play Doh and made a pretty layered sand bottle and did
several other princess-y things. Then my daughter suggested that I help Piper
pick out her clothes for the next week of school. Since Piper’s not
particularly a morning person, her mom had learned that it was helpful to have
a week’s worth of clothes set out in advance: one less decision each morning.

“Okay, Piper!” I said. “Let’s pick out some outfits.” Piper chose
a cute little tee-shirt: a pink and white camouflage print with a John Deere
tractor.

“That’s a cute shirt!” I said. I opened the drawer that
holds her shorts. “What shorts do you want to wear with it?”

Piper found a purple flowered pair. “This one!”

“Oh, honey.” I took those from her, and tried to guide her
toward a pink pair, or even a pair of denim shorts.

“How about these?” she said. It was another pair of shorts
with a pattern in colors that didn’t match the shirt.

Now, I’m not a fashionable person—never have been. I’m
always a year or two behind the current styles and several sizes too large, and
I’ve never mastered the arcane secrets of where to shop and how to wear clothes
well. I know one thing: don’t mix patterns. Oh, one other thing: colors should
match, more or less.

Piper and I went a few rounds, and I could tell she was
getting frustrated. Finally, my daughter came in and intervened. “Mom, I don’t
make her match her clothes. It’s fine.”

To my shame, I said, “Really?” and I think I made a face.
It’s not my proudest moment. Piper picked a whole week of outfits that she
loved and that I never would have chosen for her. Shirts and shorts in multiple
colors and patterns, and socks adding a third color or pattern to the mix.
She’s supposed to wear sneakers on gym days; she chose a well-worn pair with
sparkles rather than her cute new gym shoes (no sparkles). I gave up. 
One of the outfits she picked.
Notice the two patterns.
She didn't care at all.

But I’ve been thinking since then about that “Really?” and
its implied judgment of my daughter and my granddaughter. About how that face I
made said, It’s important that you look a
certain, socially acceptable way.

ChurchArtPro
And that was really, really untrue. At
just-barely-turned-five, Piper knows that, and so does her wise mommy. I hope
she holds on to that all her life, and isn’t bothered by any fashion
inadequacies, like her silly grandma. I hope she realizes early the truth of
this verse: 

Besides, I’m reasonably certain that there will be no
Fashion Police in heaven, and that my heavenly garments will be every bit as
fashionable as Cindy Crawford’s or Coco Chanel’s. The last verse of this grand old hymn expresses that thought pretty well:

When He shall come
with trumpet sound
Oh, may I then in
Him be found
Dressed in His
righteousness alone
Faultless to stand
before the throne


Friday, October 10, 2014

The Formula

Please welcome guest poster Susan LeDoux to Jewels of Encouragement!  

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV

Many years ago, my husband and I were involved with the Sports Car Club of America and we attended many a race in Watkins Glen, NY. One afternoon, I found myself standing next to the track where the formula cars were primed for the race to begin. When their engines simultaneously roared to life at the command, “Gentlemen, start your engines,” it felt like the earth shook. I was awestruck at the sudden release of raw power as they screamed onto the track.

Photo Source
A negative comment someone recently made about the way some Christians behave made me think of those cars. Christianity, as it was designed by Jesus, is an all powerful vehicle to salvation. It goes far beyond every day, pedestrian “be a nice guy” philosophies. Established by God, this is the only way to win the race; the reason we exist in the first place.

But it seems we Christians are crashing our race cars, causing huge pileups and wreaking havoc in some situations. Makes you wonder about Christianity. Maybe it doesn’t work any better than anything else. But before we ditch the car, let’s consider something.

Photo Source
A person doesn’t just climb into a formula car and take off without training. There are classes and learning resources to turn a sedan driver into a race car driver. This vehicle needs a specific blend of oil and gas as well as a skilled pit crew.

Perhaps our cars (Christianity) are crashing because the drivers (we Christians) do not study well. We don’t do our homework or practice our techniques (read the Bible and apply it to our lives). Then we put in any old oil and whatever gas is available and expect the thing to run.

I would suggest that the only fuel for a Christian is God’s grace. Anything else, like my own efforts and merits or self help determination, will only clog an engine made to run on grace alone. On top of that, we race by the pit crew (our church family) that has the expertise to care for our cars and instead head for the local gas station where worldly philosophies flow through the pumps.

Like speedway racers, we Christians need to turn to our driver’s manual (Bible) regularly; we need to use only the right fuel and be a part of and rely on, our pit crew. Even then, we have trouble keeping our car on track but at least we won’t crash and create mayhem.

But for a really breathtaking race, place the Designer in the driver’s seat and ride shotgun.

**
Susan LeDoux is a freelance Christian writer and reporter. She writes on assignment and also for The Good News newspaper which covers church and ministry events in western, central, and upstate New York. Her blog "Road to Emmaus" is found at her website, Ecclesia! at www.susanledoux.net and her other "just for fun" blog is at www.susan-wordspinner.blogspot.com. She is currently working on her first Christian novel. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

It Just Takes Practice




My husband draws a square in the air.

“TV show” I call out.

Fingers up.

“Two words.”

He makes the “time out” sign.

“First word, ‘The!’”

Second word, he tugs his ear.

“Sounds like…”

Then he pantomimes a violinist.

Our daughters stare blankly at him.

“Fiddle?” I suggest.

“Sounds like “fiddle” we say, coaching the girls. “And it’s a TV show...”

“Little House on the Prairie!”

“Violin player?”

“No.  It’s a TV show with a name that sounds like “fiddle”…..”

Waiting. Waiting.

I’m in pain. In my head I’m screaming.

“Middle?” she asks sheepishly.

YES! We cry.  “The Middle!”

“Ohhhhhh,” they say.

This, despite the fact that we have watched dozens of episodes of this show since we first discovered it in reruns last month. (Yeah, we’re kind of slow.)

Ah, the joy of playing charades with tweens. They just don’t get it. At least ours don’t. It seems so obvious. Categories. Sounds like. 2 words. First word. 3 syllables.  

Why is it so hard?

Research tells us that teenagers’ brains aren’t fully developed. Therefore, by extension, neither are the brains of our tween daughters. It’s a painful process, watching those new gears start to turn and engage with new knowledge, making new connections between things. It’s like watching glaciers move, motionless until suddenly a huge cliff of ice breaks loose and falls to the ocean with a crashing “Aha!”

I’m convinced that God understands the frustrations I feel trying to teach my daughters something because He experiences the same thing. With me.

My middle-aged brain is fully developed—most of the time. But my faith? That still has some growing up to do.

I imagine the heavenly conversation going something like this: “She still hasn’t figured it out? OK, here we go again.”

Patience and Trust. These are the lessons God keeps teaching me:  

The adoption delays that resulted in not one, but two beautiful daughters.

The buyer’s offer on our house that came just as the movers were carrying our sofa out the front door. 

The job offer 6 months after the initial interview, a job that kept us above water in a sinking economy and had much-needed health benefits.



Kissing my daughter goodnight, she asks me, “Can we play charades again tomorrow?”

I look at her skeptically.

She reads my face. “I’m serious!” she explains.  “I’ll be better at it tomorrow. It just takes practice.”

Yeah. That’s how life works. And faith. 


Saturday, October 4, 2014

You Gotta Have Faith

I have a lot of habits I'm not proud of, but one habit I'm glad I picked up is daily Bible reading. After multiple trips through the Word, I'm still amazed at how God never stops talking to me through Scripture. He encourages, promises, and gives hope, but He also warns, condemns, and laments. Often He does both at once.

Every time I read through the Old Testament I shake my head at the Israelite's lack of faith. That is until I start comparing them with myself. Then I cringe at my own lack of faith in the God I call Father and Friend.

Can I get an AMEN if you are as thankful for Grace and Mercy as I am? It's comfortable here in the bosom of those blessings isn't it? But God didn't birth us into new life without expectations that we would grow up and learn to walk.

The descendants of Isaac, God's chosen people, the Israelites, were freed from centuries of slavery by awesome and terrifyingly miraculous acts of God. They were guided and protected by the Spirit of the Almighty to the edge of a great sea whose waters fled at his command, then at the same Voice, collapsed upon and destroyed the pursuing army. He led them across a barren dessert where bread rained from Heaven and water flowed from a dry rock at His Word, to the shores of the River Jordan. On the other side: the Promised Land, their destination. All they had to do was cross the river and claim it. God promised to deliver it to them.

But they blew it.

After everything God had brought them through, after they had seen and experienced first hand His almighty power and loving provision, the Israelites cowered in fear at the size of the final step into the abundant new home God was waiting to give them.

When all but two of the Israelites refused to trust God and step forward in faith, He essentially said, "Fine, then. It's your choice." Their choice caused that generation to miss out on the glorious and fruitful future God wanted them to have.

However, their bad decision did not derail God's good plan. The two faithful, Joshua and Caleb, led the next generation across the Jordan to claim the promised land. The remaining 23,998 wandered in the desert until they all perished.
(c) Helene Souza

What promises and blessings might you be missing out on because of a giant-sized fear?

Whatever it is that might be stopping you from moving forward --- God is bigger. He is stronger. He is wiser.

Trust Him - He's got this.

So go ahead... put that "thing" (whatever it is) in His hands Lighten your load and take that next step into the river of faith.


(c) Chris Cockram


"Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the LORD your God
will be with you
wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9










Images from http://www.freeimages.com/

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sweetness of Freedom

Once again a cartoon caught my eye. It depicted a man relaxing in a chair reading his paper, while nearby on a table sat a birdcage. Inside the cage, sitting on a perch, two birds were discussing a third smaller bird, which resided within a cage of its own … a cage within a cage.

“You’re sentenced to six months in there. Use that time to ponder your wrongdoings while we enjoy the sweetness of freedom.”

I grew up in that cage within a cage.

The adults in my life may have been sincerely concerned about my wrongdoings. But it’s all relative. In their eyes, wearing a dress with a hem that barely covered my knees was cause for alarm. There was a long list of possible infractions. Those folks had no idea they were living in a birdcage. Their limited vision and understanding of the freedom of God kept them imprisoned in a legal system with invisible bars.

I had never known anything different, so the restrictions seemed normal. Unknown to me was the fact there was a way out of my confinement, so the thought of escape never entered my mind.

But one day my brother revealed to me I had a choice. What a moment. As I timidly peeked outside my cage, the world seemed frightening. I had never flown, so tested my wings. Soon the fluttering turned into flapping and before I knew it – with God’s help – I was soaring high above my cage.

Oh the sweetness of freedom.



“But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.” Romans 7:6 (MSG)



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