Monday, April 21, 2014

MY BIRTHDAY CAKE IS GONNA EXPLODE


OK, sometime in the next few weeks, I am having a birthday.

Before you stand up and give me a *TA DA* – might I just ask you to take into consideration the number of candles on my birthday cake – (and then, please call the local fire department…)

I am turning 60.

Yup, I'm pretty sure that cake is going to explode.

How on earth did I ever get to be this age??

I can remember when I was in my teens, I would calculate how old I'd be if I lived to see the turn of the millennium.  Ooo, I would utter with googly-wide eyes – I'll be 46.

Sigh, 46 sounds so young right now.

I gotta be honest – 30 didn't really bother me.  And 40 was really OK – not so bad.  Hitting 50 didn't faze me too much.  I was a lot thinner, in much better shape, full of energy, and falling in love with "The Hub."

Turning 55 made me pause.  

That number no longer meant just an advisory speed limit, it represented *turning the corner* for me.  Now I was heading down "the other side" of the slippery slope into those middle-aged years.

What kind of a dumb phrase is that anyway?  Middle-aged?  I'm not liking it on principle alone – because if you look carefully, it has the word "aged" in it.


I'm not sure how I really feel about this milestone birthday.  

Usually I'm a big fan of my birthday.  I'm the sort of person that likes a lot of fanfare, a lot of attention.  Cards and gifts and flowers – bring 'em on!! I actually wouldn't mind telling the server at a restaurant that it was my birthday.  Beyond the free dessert, I like the extra attention.

There's this particular seafood restaurant where my sons live that actually makes you put on some sort of outfit and dance around the room acting silly.  Again, I don't think I'd mind doing that.  I did mention that I like attention, right?!

But, this year, I'm not so sure.

Maybe this year I'd like to crawl into a quiet corner and count wrinkles or pluck chin hairs.  Maybe I'd just like to toast this birthday with a glass of Geritol(remember that stuff?)

Hey, let me tell you that the father of lies is already starting his party early. He's been whispering a lot lately.  Telling me all sorts of negative stuff.  He's brought to mind my aching joints and sometimes-faulty memory.  He's pointed out the age spots and the sagging jowls and turkey neck.  Oh, and it's been really enjoyable being reminded of all the cute little clothes I can't wear anymore (emphasis on *little*).

And most of all, he's tried to convince me that I am past my prime.  Useless and purposeless.  That my dreams are unattainable now, that my goals will never be achieved, that the Lord will pass me over for more vital disciples.

You know, I've almost bought into it all.

But, with greater age I have also gained some greater wisdom.

And he's full of baloney.


At the end of this post, I am including some wonderful words from Scripture about growing older.  And as I read these verses, I was overcome with a renewed sense of God's message and purpose for me at just such a time as this!

Here's what I learned:

Growing old represents gaining a crown of glory as we live a righteous life.

Experience brings a certain splendor to us – and we should share it with others.

We have a responsibility to proclaim the Truth about God to future generations.

God never leaves us, and He will carry us along when our bodies and spirits grow tired.

God remains our hope for a future in His presence – an eternity guaranteed by Jesus Christ.


OK, that sounds pretty awesome, doesn't it?!

The Lord loves His people, and perhaps never more than when they start to slow down a bit (or a lot!).  For in our weakness, He can become more. His strength can shine brighter in bodies that are aging – for His Holy Spirit can renew our inner souls until we glow!

As prayer warriors, our achy knees can still storm the gates of Heaven.  We can use every ounce of our abilities to intercede on the behalf of others.

We can strive to live like Jesus.  Sometimes growing older affords us the ability to let go of the false enticements of outer beauty, enabling us to cultivate that inner quiet and gentle spirit that the Lord finds so attractive.

And we can pass on Truth.

I like that idea best of all.

For it truly doesn't matter how many years have flipped over on that calendar called life, I'm still needed for Kingdom work!  In some ways, my testimony and witness to the faithfulness of God holds more weightfor I can tell about decades (!!) of His great love and unchanging character.

This world, and perhaps more than ever, the younger generation, needs to hear about Jesus.  They need to hear from the ranks of gray-haired Christian soldiers.  We have a duty to speak.


And so, my birthday this year comes with a mandate to re-focus on what's important.

And what's important is that I have walked with the Lord for almost 57 years. I have stories to tell, and I have a Savior to share.

I still have purpose – and I am still needed.

Oh Lord, may You empower me to do the things that You purposed for me since before the time of creation.  May You grant me the wisdom of experience, and the opportunity to counsel others with the Truth I know about You.  May others see in me the many years that You have walked with me and shaped me.  May I never forget to tell others about Your faithfulness, and the mighty wonders You have done in my life.  May I reflect You more clearly, and glow from within.  May I serve You ever more faithfully.

Oh, and one more thing…

Could you maybe give me enough breath to blow out all those candles???




Put another candle on my birthday cake,
I'm another year old... 



"Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life." 
(Proverbs 16:31, ESV)

"The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old." (Proverbs 20:29, NLT)

"I will be your God throughout your lifetime--until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you.  I will carry you along and save you." (Isaiah 46:4, NLT)

"O Lord, you alone are my hope.
I've trusted you, O LORD, from childhood.
Yes, you have been with me from birth;
from my mother's womb you have cared for me.
No wonder I am always praising you!
My life is an example to many,
because you have been my strength and protection.
That is why I can never stop praising you;
I declare your glory all day long.
And now, in my old age, don't set me aside.
Don't abandon me when my strength is failing…
God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood,
and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do.
Now that I am old and gray,
do not abandon me, O God.
Let me proclaim your power to this new generation,
your mighty miracles to all who come after me."

(From Psalm 71, NLT)


"So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong." (Hebrews 12:12-13, NLT)

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NIV)



Are you *buying the lie* and thinking you're "over the hill"?  Or will you grab on to God's purposes for some much-needed gray-haired warriors to serve in His Kingdom?!



(True confession: My gray hairs are dyed, but I still think I'm wearing a crown!!)


Linked today with:

Joan at SHARING HIS BEAUTY
Michelle at HEAR IT ON SUNDAY, USE IT ON MONDAY
Laura at PLAYDATES WITH GOD
Jen at UNITE
Hazel at TELL ME A TRUE STORY
Jen at SOLI DEO GLORIA
Kathy at TITUS 2 TUESDAYS
Rachel at WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS
Judith at WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAY
Rosilind at A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS
Beth at THREE WORD WEDNESDAY
Tracy at WINSOME WEDNESDAY
Jenifer at WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY
Kasey at WALKING REDEEMED


BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, April 14, 2014

EASTER WEEK - SAME OLD STORY??


So, yes, here we are at the beginning of Easter week.

And I am sitting in front of my laptop wondering what I can say about these most miraculous events.

What can I say that might be new and fresh and exciting?

And then I realize something – what on earth has happened to make me think the story needs a facelift?

Wow.

But really, isn't this part of the enemy's grand plan?  If he wasn't able to stop the crucifixion in the first place, then let's just spend the next 2,000 years trying to minimize it.

Let's face it, there's not much room in our culture for a Savior anymore.  Most people are too busy chasing the almighty dollar, or seeking their 15 minutes of fame, or doing their best to run faster than old age…

Most people don't have time for Easter week.

I'm not trying to point fingers here – because I know that sometimes I am guilty of this mindset, too.

I can be guilty of sidelining Jesus because He just doesn’t *fit in* sometimes.

This year is different, though.

This year I am pondering it all in a different light.  And I've come up with three lessons, and some questions I want you to ponder along with me.


The first thing that fascinates me about Easter week is how quickly Jesus went from being a hero to a zero.

Today (Palm Sunday) Jerusalem is feting Him as the King.  There is noise and praise and oh-so-much-attention.

And yet, in less than a week, Jesus will spend a lonely vigil in a garden, sobbing with soul-wrenched tears, frightened and exhausted and humbled to death.

What happened?

Well, Jesus became unpopular.  Jesus offended the "powers that be."  Jesus acted like Jesus, instead of conforming to the expectations of the crowd.


Lesson One:

Jesus does not fit into a neat little package.  He doesn't "perform."  He will not be at our beck and call to execute our wishes.  He is no genie.  No, He is the great I AM – and that one fact, that He is God, makes Him unpredictable.

So this is my first question:

Are we guilty of re-making Jesus into our own image – of wanting a comfortable God? 


OK, so here's the second thing that fascinates me about Easter week.  

Jesus didn't have to die.

Oh sure, our sins would not have been forgiven if He didn't.  But think about it – in reality, our sins didn't need to be forgiven.  Oh sure, if our sins weren't forgiven, we could never be reconciled to God and have a relationship with Him.  But think about it – in reality, God didn't need a relationship with us.  He wasn't incomplete without us.

Do you see the theme?

Yes, God did set up a system of sacrifice in the Old Testament – a way to atone for sins.  But, He didn't have to follow that up with a Savior.  Not really.

The plain fact of the matter is that Jesus didn't HAVE to die…

He wanted to.

And God chose to have Him die.

This is what stops me – there is an almighty choice in this matter of the crucifixion.  God didn't have to do anything to restore the relationship that we broke in the Garden of Eden.  He wasn't obligated to clean up our mess.

He wanted to.

Because of a love that we can barely conceive of – a love that wants relationship.  A love that cost Jesus His very life.

You know, if I never do anything else in my entire life except sit at the feet of the Lord and thank Him for this unspeakable gift, I would be complete.


Lesson Two:

Jesus didn't have to die, but He chose to because of His tremendous love for us.  His love cost Him His life.  It was a choice that He made.  Though He could have stopped it at any point by calling down a host of angels, He didn't.  Why?  Because He wanted a relationship with us, though we didn't deserve it.

So these are my second questions:

Why do we lose sight of the tremendous, all-fulfilling love of God? Why do we look for anything else to fill us up?


Finally, this Easter week is holding a new meaning for me as I contemplate it in view of my dad's recent death.

How many years have I gone through all the Easter services and been tremendously blessed by what I hear?   (Don't answer that – you might need a calculator).

But this year, as I look forward to Easter Sunday, I am thinking about the Resurrection in a new light.

The simple statement that resounds in my mind is this:

Jesus didn't STAY dead!

Actually, Jesus tells us that we never really die if we believe in Him.   Our bodies, these paltry earthly tents, will cease – but the real person, the whatever-it-is that makes us *us* – well, that never dies.

My dad died in January.  And after we received the call from the rehab facility that he had passed away, my brother went over.  He said that he got one last look at Dad's face.

I asked him what it was like.  Words like "surreal" and "eerie" came to mind. But he also said something to the effect that though Dad's face looked peaceful, you could tell that he was gone.

That's it, isn't it?  HE was gone – the spirit that was the real Dad was with Jesus.

Does this make sense?

Let me tell you, the whole experience with my dad was, indeed, surreal and eerie.  It's the closest death I've ever known.  And I've spent a lot of time trying desperately to comprehend it all.  But here's the conclusion that I've come to…

Death cannot be understood.

And that is why it's scary – it's the biggest unknown we'll ever face.

But, is it really??

This Easter, I'm finally beginning to understand that it isn't unknown – it's just un-experienced by me.

Jesus told the thief on the cross, "Today you will be with Me."

And I truly believe that is what He says to me, right now, on this side of eternity –

"Sharon, don't be afraid.  I died and I am alive!  One day, the same thing will happen to you.  One moment you will be in your body, and the next moment you will be with Me.  There will be no limbo, no black unconsciousness, no moment that I will EVER leave you alone.  

And because My life-giving Spirit lives within you, you are now living a resurrected life.  You, the real you, will never, ever die.  In life, in death, you are held by Me."


Lesson Three:

Jesus didn't really die, and neither will we.  Dying might be surreal and eerie because we don't understand it.  But it doesn't have to be the big and feared unknown.  Death is only the doorway that will transport us to the Lord's Presence.  

So these are my last questions:

Why do we let our enemy fool us into thinking that death is an ending?  Why do we allow him to torture us with fear about the moment we meet Jesus face-to-face?


Friends, as I enter this week of Easter, I am more fascinated than ever by the person of Jesus Christ.  He is a gold mine of wonder than can never be fully explored.  But oh, the joy in the journey of getting to know Him more and more!

Jesus, the King who doesn't conform to our expectations.  The One who is always an unpredictable surprise.  

Jesus, the Savior who didn't have to die, but chose this way because of Love.  The One who sacrificed everything because He wanted a relationship with us.  

Jesus, the Victor who didn't stay dead.  The One who proved that death isn't a scary ending, but a thrilling beginning to eternity in His presence!


Jesus, the Risen Lord.

Jesus, Only You!





 "Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?
He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!" 



"But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.  So they went in, but they didn't find the body of the Lord Jesus."  (Luke 24:1-3, NLT)

"They said to each other, 'Didn't our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?'" (Luke 24:32, NLT) 

"And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them.  'Peace be with you,' he said.  But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!  'Why are you frightened?' he asked.  'Why are your hearts filled with doubt?  Look at my hands. Look at my feet.  You can see that it's really me.  Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don't have bodies, as you see that I do.'  As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet." 
(Luke 24:36-40, NLT)

"And he said, 'Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day.  It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: 'There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.'  You are witnesses of all these things.'" (Luke 24:46-48, NLT)

"'Don't let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father's home.  If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.'

'No, we don't know, Lord,' Thomas said.  'We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?'

Jesus told him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life.'" (John 14:1-6, NLT)



As you begin Easter week - what is one new thing you can ponder this year?


Linked today with:

Joan at SHARING HIS BEAUTY
Michelle at HEAR IT ON SUNDAY, USE IT ON MONDAY
Laura at PLAYDATES WITH GOD
Jen at UNITE
Hazel at TELL ME A TRUE STORY
Jen at SOLI DEO GLORIA
Kathy at TITUS 2 TUESDAYS
Rachel at WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS
Kasey at WALKING REDEEMED
Rosilind at A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS
Judith at WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAY
Beth at THREE WORD WEDNESDAY
Jenifer at WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY
Tracy at WINSOME WEDNESDAY
Lyli at THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY
Crystal at THRIVING THURSDAY
Bonnie at FAITH BARISTA JAM
Julie at FELLOWSHIP FRIDAYS
Laura at FAITH FILLED FRIDAY
Charlotte at SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS
Mel at ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS
Wanda at THE FRIDAY FIVE
Sandy at STILL SATURDAY
Barbie at THE WEEKEND BREW
Janis at SUNDAY STILLNESS


BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, April 7, 2014

THE POWER OF ONE WORD


Do you have a guess?

It's not what you might think.  Today I'm going to talk about the mighty *yet*...

No, "The Mighty Yet" is not the nickname for the Abominable Snowman, Yeti – that big hairy beast that lives in the Himalayas.

The mighty *yet* is something else entirely…

I am going to talk about a verse that leaped off the page for me just the other day.  (I love when that happens, don't you?!)


A little backstory first.

My mom has decided to put this phrase on my father's headstone:

"Great Is God's Faithfulness"

We all agreed that it would be a wonderful testimony to what we believe.

Yes, God has always been so faithful to our family, and never more so than in the last few days of my father's life.  How we were guided, and comforted, by a God who never lets go.

So, of course, we wanted to also put the Bible reference.  Most of you probably know that this verse is found in the book of Lamentations.

Though no one knows for sure who wrote the book, traditional thought has it penned by the prophet, Jeremiah.  Good ol' Jeremiah, also know as "The Weeping Prophet."

And indeed, the book of Lamentations is a collection of poetic laments for the destruction of Jerusalem.  I thought it might be interesting to look up the definition of lament:

Lament – a passionate expression of grief or sorrow, deep and mournful regret

To me, the word lament means something much deeper, much stronger than mere sadness.  To me it is soul-deep, heart-ravaging sadness.  The kind that is almost a physical presence.

As I thought about this verse, I became more and more intrigued about its placement in the middle of a book about destruction.

I thought more about it when my mom asked me to read it out loud to her.  I told her that I wanted to put it into context, so I read the verses in Lamentations 3 that preceded it (all of these verses are from the New Living Translation).

Lo and behold, that's when it leaped out…

The wonder of a simple word: YET

Here's the words right before verse 21:

"I cry out, 'My splendor is gone!
Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!'
The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss."

It would be a good exercise to read the entire first part of chapter 3.  It's a gut-wrenching litany of deep pain, deep sorrow, deep despair.

It's gritty, it's real.

And then, like a beam of light shining brightly in the middle of a dark, dark night, verse 21 arises:

"YET I still dare to hope…"


One simple word, one seemingly innocuous word – YETbut a word that is so much more.

It is a battle cry of faith.  A shout of victory to all the junk that life would bring our way.  A retaliation against the enemy's tactics to beat us down.

A holy *NO* to the temptation to give in and give up.

Yes, *YET* sends the crazy, bold message that IN SPITE of everything to the contrary, DESPITE evidence of hopelessness, INSTEAD of giving in to despair…

I am going to do something wild and unpredictablesomething beyond my natural tendenciesI am still going to DARE to hope.

I looked up the word dare:

Dare to have enough courage or confidence to do something

Yeah, that's what this verse is saying.  Not just that I'm going to hope, but I'm going to still dare to hope.  I'm going to go out on a limb and take a leap of faith, I'm going to risk it all on a moment of trust…

*YET* is a victor's cry!


But is this phrase some na├»ve, misinformed, foolish rebel's yell?  Does it have any basis for its daring message?

Yup, sure does.

And that's found in the second half of verse 21:

"…when I remember this."

What is "this"?

Verses 22 and 23:

"The faithful love of the LORD never ends!  His mercies never cease.  Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning."

Yeah, that's the foundation for this ridiculously brave statement.

Not the crummy, scary, overwhelming circumstances.  Not the barren landscape of a winter season of the soul.  Not the blight of daily living in a sin-fallen world.

No.

It's not even a matter of MY faithfulness.

The rock-solid foundation is the faith-full-ness of our eternally faithful LORD!  The One who was, who is, and is to come.  The great and glorious and almighty I AM.

It is HIS faithfulness, HIS love, and HIS mercy that gives us the righteous audacity to hope…


I'm paraphrasing these verses like this:

"The thought of my suffering
and sense of loneliness
is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
this wilderness season
through which I am passing,
as I grieve over the things I've lost –
my health, my loved ones, my peace of mind.

(But, take this, oh enemy of mine!!)

YET I still dare to hope
(beyond evidence to the contrary).
No, I will not give in or give up.
Why?
Because I remember this,
(and it is more than enough):

The Lord is faithful,
and His love never ends.
His merciful ways
and His gracious treatment of me
never ceases.

His faithfulness is GREAT, just as He is!
Every morning
I get a new chance to love Him,
to follow Him, to obey Him,
to be washed in the mercy
of His redeeming forgiveness,
and freed from the penalty
of my sins.

Life might strive to ruin me,
YET I will hang on to hope
in my faith-full God!"


Yeah, it's a war cry.

And today, though downtrodden and weak and fearful and tired…

I'm feeling like a warrior.

Today, I will still dare to hold on to hope…

For faith is found in the word – YET

(I'm raising my fist high as I shout it!!)

Will you join me?





You will be secure, because there is hope.
You will look about you and take your rest in safety.
You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid.






"I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
    the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
    and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
God's loyal love couldn't have run out,
    his merciful love couldn't have dried up.
They're created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He's all I've got left.
God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
    to the woman who diligently seeks."

(From Lamentations 3, MSG)


"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
YET I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!"

(Habakkuk 3:17-18, NLT)



Fill in the blank with your tough struggle, your suffering, your despair, your loss (your "whatever-it-is" that brings you down)…and then claim the victory!

Though I _________, YET I will still dare to hope.



(Loved this definition of FAITH:  "The leaning of your entire personality on God in Christ in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness..." 2 Timothy 1:5

From The Amplified Bible, latest copyright, 1987)


Linked today with:

Joan at SHARING HIS BEAUTY
Michelle at HEAR IT ON SUNDAY, USE IT ON MONDAY
Laura at PLAYDATES WITH GOD
Hazel at TELL ME A TRUE STORY
Jen at SOLI DEO GLORIA
Jen at UNITE
Kasey at WALKING REDEEMED
Rachel at WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAY
Rosilind at A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS
Judith at WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAY
Beth at THREE WORD WEDNESDAY
Jenifer at WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY
Tracy at WINSOME WEDNESDAY
Lyli at THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY
Bonnie at FAITH BARISTA JAM
Crystal at THRIVING THURSDAY
Julie at FELLOWSHIP FRIDAY
Laura at FAITH FILLED FRIDAY
Mel at ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS
Wanda at THE FRIDAY FIVE
Charlotte at SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS
Sandy at STILL SATURDAY
Barbie at WEEKEND BREW
Janis at SUNDAY STILLNESS


BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, March 31, 2014

POUTING IS RIDICULOUS


And so am I.

Here's how I know…

Sometimes I find myself stuck in a *place* – stuck as the hostess at a big ol' Pity Party, where plenty of whine is served.

Yeah, it's all-too-easy for me to get stuck in a negative place.

I might have explanations for it, but these rarely make good excuses. 

So, here I was last week, fighting a cold, doing the taxes, thinking on life, and feeling sorry for myself.  (By the way, I have found that if you look for the clouds, the silver lining rarely appears – just sayin')

"The Hub" and I decided one day to head down the hill to do some *city things* we needed to do – the banking, the pharmacy, the car insurance, etc.  And, on this trip, we added this to our list – a visit to the BIG supermarket chain.

There is a wonderful little grocery store here in town, and we usually do our shopping up here.  It's convenient, and we like to support the local community.  But, once in awhile, we like to do a "big shopping", stocking up on non-refrigerated items, and it's good to get the savings down the hill.

On this day, we were also on a mission for church. 

You see, we have a local Help Center, a sort of thrift shop in town.  But it's also a place where the less-than-fortunate can get much-needed necessities – like food.  And once a year our church has a food drive to help them re-stock the shelves.

So, this is the setting in which I found myself – a big supermarket down the hill – the setting in which I found out how silly it is to pout.

As "The Hub" and I filled up the cart, I was pondering.  But when we started filling up the cart with food items that were obviously meant for children's lunch boxes, I started tearing up.  All I could picture was the faces of those kids.  How grateful they would be to have a juice box, or a peach cup, or a fruit roll-up.

It brought back so many memories of packing sack lunches for my boys.  The thoughts and feelings that I had when I did it – the love I had for them, the warm sense of being able to care for them, and provide nourishment for their day.

That's when it came to me – in some small way, we were giving other parents the ability to provide for their children.  Something they just might not be able to do on their own.

I'm not kidding, it brought me to near sobs right there in the aisle.

"The Hub" caught my eye – wondering and worrying about why I was on the verge of a melt-down.

All I could get out was something to the effect of how very foolish I had been lately.  How self-absorbed.  How short-sighted.

How my pouting had been so ridiculous.

I had been whining about superfluous things, when people were worried about enough food to eat.

I prayed right there in the aisle, asking the Lord to forgive me for being so shallow.  For losing sight of what's important.  For forgetting to thank Him for all the blessings that He bestows on my family…and me.

And I thanked Him for the privilege of being His hands and feet to those who are needy.

Though it's greatly uncomfortable when the Holy Spirit brings me to a moment of conviction, I am grateful that He does.

Because sometimes I really, really need it.  I need that moment of pause.  I need to be reminded of how *alive and well* that sinful nature is inside of me.

I need to be shown, once again, that all I have is His.  It all belongs to Him, and I am only the blessed receiver of gifts given to me by The Gracious Giver.  And, because of that, I also have the solemn responsibility to share His gifts with others…

I am blessed to be a blessing.

You are, too.

Pass it on…




Make us, we beseech thee, faithful stewards of thy great bounty. 



"And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded." (Matthew 10:42, NLT)

"Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done." (Proverbs 19:17, NIV)

"And the angel replied, 'Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering!'" (Acts 10:4, NLT)

"You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:35, NLT)

"When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required." (Luke 12:48, NLT)

"Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full--pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap." (Luke 6:38, NLT)

"Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too...Do everything without complaining and arguing...shining like bright lights..." (Philippians 2:4, 14-15, NLT)



What can you do today to bless someone else?



(SIDENOTE:  Might I just add that this post had absolutely nothing to do with any commentary about our generosity - but it is all about my attitude, and my conviction that God calls me to something bigger and better than complaining.  Besides, pouting causes wrinkles!!)


BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, March 24, 2014

I ALMOST MISSED CHURCH...ON PURPOSE


Yeah, I admit it.

I came oh-this-close to not attending church this morning.

Why?

Because I didn't feel like it, because I didn't want to go.  (Confession is good for the soul, right?!)

OK, so here's how it went down.

I usually set my alarm well ahead of time, because I am not a morning person.  So, awakened out of a deep sleep this morning, I began my dance with Mr. Snooze Alarm.

I must have been really tired - because I kept falling asleep in the 9-minute intervals.

When I wasn't sleeping, I was arguing - (with myself?  with God?)

"I can't go.  I don't fit into my clothes right anymore - even my *fat jeans* are snug (ish)."

("Jesus doesn't care about appearances.")

"I have a huge pimple." (I do...)

("Really??  That's an excuse??  See above.")

"I'll have to go alone.  "The Hub" doesn't want to go."

("This is between you and God...only.")

"I don't feel like going."

("Did Jesus feel like going to the cross?")

"I don't want to go."

(SILENCE)


I turned off my alarm.

A few minutes passed.  My guilt finally overcame me, so I reset my alarm, just so I could put off the wrestling until it was time to get up for the second service.

Of course, this time I could not fall asleep.  And so, I got up...less than 1/2 hour before church was supposed to start.

I went through the motions of getting ready.

At each step, I was battling.

I almost gave up.

Finally, as I checked my hair and makeup (and makeup-disguised pimple) in the mirror, I had one last thought...

"You know, it would be rude if I walked in late..."

And so I checked the time.

It had only taken 20 minutes to get ready...even dragging my feet...even hiding a pimple.

I wasn't late.

Grabbing a protein bar and the keys on my way out the door, I sighed.  I'm chagrined to tell you that I actually went so far as to sit in the car in the parking lot for several minutes...still almost not venturing in.

But, like a robot, I finally walked slowly to the door.

The singing had already started.

It was at this moment that I realized one of the reasons that I didn't want to go to church was because I did not feel like talking to anyone.  I dreaded the question, "How are you?"

How could I possibly answer?

The token, "Good, real good."

Or the truth, "Feeling pretty depressed and fighting the enemy.  But thanks for asking."


I'd like to tell you that the message completely turned my heart around, and that I left the sanctuary singing and rejoicing.  No commentary on the sermon, but I did not leave feeling that way at all.  I still felt incredibly blah.

But I learned something.

I learned that sometimes obedience isn't pretty.  It isn't natural. Sometimes it doesn't feel good.

I learned that sometimes obedience is a war zone, a battleground, a contentious battle between our feelings and our faith.

Sometimes obedience wears a bandaid over deep wounds.

Sometimes we have to obey even if we're bleeding.

Obedience is willful.


Do I think that the heavens broke out into cheers when I took my place in church?  A mighty victory won?

No, but I think maybe God smiled.

For in some small way, I had made a choice for Him.

A choice against myself.

(Might I just add that my phone alarm went off right in the middle of the message?  I'd forgotten to turn it off!  As I embarrassingly silenced it, I had this thought: "Ha, chalk one up to me and God!  I'm here!!")


As I sit here reflecting upon my morning, I am not celebrating or patting myself on the back.

But I do have a smile.

For, once again, the Lord proved to me that He has a tight hold on my heart...

And He won't let go.

These thoughts from John 17 (what the sermon was based on):

"...they belong to You..."

"...You have given them to Me..."

"...protect them by the power of Your name..."

"...keep them safe from the evil one..."

"...not one was lost..."


Yes, I am held by Jesus.

The Savior who will not let go - 

The One who draws me to Himself...

...in spite of myself.





And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers...
He will certainly care for you.


(The view from the parking lot this morning)



"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV)

"This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus." (Revelation 14:12, NIV)

"...blessed are those who hear God's word and obey it." (Luke 11:28, NIRV)

"You are my friends if you do what I command you." (John 15:14, ESV)



Are you having any trouble with obedience lately?



Linked today with:

Joan at SHARING HIS BEAUTY
Michelle at HEAR IT ON SUNDAY, USE IT ON MONDAY
Laura at PLAYDATES WITH GOD
Hazel at TELL ME A TRUE STORY
Jen at SOLI DEO GLORIA
Jen at UNITE
Tracy at WINSOME WEDNESDAY
Kathy at ALL THINGS BRIGHT & BEAUTIFUL
Rosilind at A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS
Judith at WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAYS
Kasey at WALKING REDEEMED
Beth at THREE WORD WEDNESDAY
Rachel at WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAY
Jenifer at WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY
Bonnie at FAITH BARISTA JAM
Lyli at THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY
Crystal at THRIVING THURSDAY
Laura at FAITH FILLED FRIDAY
Wanda at THE FRIDAY FIVE
Mel at ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS
Charlotte at SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS
Sandy at STILL SATURDAY
Barbie at WEEKEND BREW
Janis at SUNDAY STILLNESS


BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, March 17, 2014

SOLITUDE CAN BE A PRISON


Silence is golden.

If that is the case, then sometimes I live in a cage made out of gold.

I live on a mountain, up a winding road, on the outskirts of town.  It's beautiful, yes, but sometimes incredibly lonely.

Yes, sometimes I feel trapped by the peace and quiet that surrounds me - for it often brings neither quiet nor peace.

OK, I am grateful that I don't have to work.  But retirement can be a mixed blessing.  Having time on your hands is a gift, until you find yourself unable to fill the hours with any meaningful goal or activity.

Have you ever questioned your place and purpose in the world?

It seems that my father's death has triggered a sadness that has lingered deep within my soul.  Like a hidden leak in the pipes that goes unnoticed until the ceiling caves in.

Watch out, Chicken Little.

Lately, my solitude has felt like a weight on my shoulders...

Now, don't get me wrong.  "The Hub" is a great companion.  Easy to get along with, kind and thoughtful - he is an easy conversationalist.  So it's not his fault.

It's not him.

It's some other grief that seems to have invaded and gripped my heart.


What am I mourning?

I miss my dad.  Not how he was the last few years, but just for the fact that I had a dad.  I keep feeling like I should have said more or done more.  I remember too many memories, and long for the chance to re-do some things. Now it's too late.

I miss my mom.  Because she doesn't want to be alone, we are shuttling her between my brother, sister, and cousin to take care of her.  I spend time with her when I'm in town, but if I was still living there, she'd be staying with me. And we don't talk as much as we used to.

I miss my sons.  Yeah, they're off on their own lives, as they should be, but still.  After 9 years, I have not completely settled in my empty nest.  My *mom feathers* are still ruffled.  I can't quite get comfortable.  Sometimes I still miss the old days.

I miss my grandbeagle, Marty.  Sometimes he's the only one who can bring me comfort.  His fur is healing.

I miss my old house, my friends, my familiar routine.  After almost two years, I am still not *at home* in my new home.

And, I miss me.

Truth be told, I'm not even sure who *me* is supposed to be anymore.  I'm almost 60, and I'm having an adolescent "identity crisis."  Wondering why I'm here, and who even cares.

But you know something?

Somehow, this doesn't feel like a physical depression, it feels spiritual.

Yeah, it feels like an attack.

I've prayed.  Oh boy, have I prayed.  Late night prayers, middle-of-the-night prayers, first-thing-in-the-morning prayers.

To sum them up, it goes something like this:

"Lord, I hurt."


I'm not sure how He's going to solve this one.  Maybe He won't.  Maybe He has a purpose for this ongoing thorn.  Evidently, He still has a purpose for me, 'cuz I still keep waking up!

But I'm not living abundantly, at least not like I define it.

This current *wilderness* is made so much more difficult because of "The Hub."  He serves as a stark contrast to my weary.  He is thriving up here. He loves the isolation, the stillness, the solitude.

Sometimes I starve.


So, what to do?

I'm not sure if I'm going to post this or not.  It's pretty raw.  But if you're reading this, something inside me (the Holy Spirit, no doubt), prompted me to take a courageous leap of vulnerability and hit the publish button.

Why, I wonder.

Perhaps for this reason.

To let you know, if you are struggling, or suffering, or just feeling lost and lonely and sad, you're not alone.

I get it, and I'm with you.

And I am not the only one.

One of our deepest needs as human beings is to know that we're not alone in the universe.  Think of all the technology involved in searching for intelligent life on other planets.

How silly we are.

We need only search for intelligent design.  And we need look no further than a bookshelf to find the Intelligent Designer.  He is there, permeating every word in His Word.

Maybe I've lost sight of that.

Maybe the solitude has fooled me.

Maybe it's not a prison after all, but rather an opportunity to seek the Presence.  A chance not to focus on the stillness, but on the still, small voice.

Maybe there are no bars, but only an illusion created by the enemy so that I will stop seeking The One.

Maybe the solitude, the sadness is a gift, an invitation to find the Man of Sorrows, the One well-acquainted with grief.

The One who experienced separation from the Father, so we would never have to.

Maybe only by feeling so terribly lonely can I ever hope to understand that I am truly never alone.

Maybe, just maybe...He is more than enough.


I have written this post, sitting in a parking lot in town, rather terrified to go back home and face the quiet.

But in the writing and the reflecting, a Voice has been speaking.  

Over and over, His Truth has overwhelmed me:

"Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

OK, Jesus, let's go home.





Come unto Me... 



"Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go...for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." (Genesis 28:15, NASB)


"Do not let your heart be troubled...I will not leave you as [an orphan]; I will come to you." (John 14:1, 18, NASB)

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)

"They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you..." (Jeremiah 1:19, NIV)

"One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him..." (Psalm 27:4, NIV)



What lonely battle are you facing today?


Linked today with:

Joan at SHARING HIS BEAUTY
Michelle at HEAR IT ON SUNDAY, USE IT ON MONDAY
Laura at PLAYDATES WITH GOD
Tracy at WINSOME WEDNESDAY
Hazel at TELL ME A TRUE STORY
Jen at SOLI DEO GLORIA
Jen at UNITE
Kasey at WALKING REDEEMED
Rachel at WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS
Judith at WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAY
Rosilind at A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS
Jenifer at WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY
Beth at THREE WORD WEDNESDAY
Lyli at THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY
Crystal at THRIVING THURSDAY
Bonnie at FAITH BARISTA JAM
Laura at FAITH FILLED FRIDAY
Wanda at THE FRIDAY FIVE
Charlotte at SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS
Mel at ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS
Sandy at STILL SATURDAY
Barbie at WEEKEND BREW
Salina at HEART REFLECTED
Janis at SUNDAY STILLNESS


BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"