The Most Valuable Residence

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Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

1 Corinthians 3:16

A few short months ago, it became very clear to me that some changes were in order. In fact, quite urgently. I was feeling achy, tired and discouraged with my lack of energy. Walking up and down stairs should not be comparable to a marathon at my age. Stepping on the scale; I was shocked by the number! I don’t know why. When you eat whatever you want, whenever you want, you are bound for a reality check. I glanced behind me to see if someone else had stepped on the scale to trick me. Darn it…just me. How did this happen? If my body is a temple, it was in danger of toppling.

shutterstock_269371220Since this was not my first weight battle, the pressure was on. My competition was formidable…it was me. This time, I could not give in to my semi-gluttonous cravings; the consequences would lead me right back where I started from, a place of constant sweat pants, spanx from head to toe, big shirts and x-rays that reveal…nothin’.

Minus thirty-two pounds later, it appears that I have been successful! With the help of daily prayer, a well-rounded nutrition program, and people encouraging me, I am feeling like I did 25 years ago. The reason I say, it appears like I have been successful is because I am profoundly aware of my weaknesses. No matter how much weight I have lost or how much I have learned in the process, there is still that tempting little voice saying, “Have that s’more cheesecake for dessert, you deserve it. It won’t spike your blood sugar and make you want more sugar.” Or “Just have a few Cheetos, no one is watching.” “Enjoy all the food at the graduation party, it’s a party after-all!”shutterstock_372789184

Here’s the deal. If we get caught in this downward spiral and our bodies and minds are not functioning at their best, we are easy prey. Don’t think there is not evil out there wanting you to fail. The evil one wants you to concentrate on your weaknesses and take your mind off your value.

One of my Pinterest “pins” reads: “The devil knows your name but calls you by your sin. God knows your sin but calls you by your name.” Amen?

shutterstock_323777063This week, take an honest look at your health…body, mind and soul. God wants you to be healthy, strong and bearing fruit. Remember that your body is a temple and that the Spirit of God dwells in you. You are His residence! Ask God to help you focus on building up a strong “temple”. It’s time to get your physical health off the back burner. Once you do this, you can expect to see improvements in your spiritual, emotional and mental health as well. Trust in God’s power to help you change. Call on a friend to help you be accountable. Pray. Give God your weakness and He’ll give you His strength.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14

 

“God has never made a person he didn’t love. If you want to know how valuable your life is to God, just look at the cross. With his arms outstretched, nailed to the cross, Jesus was saying, “This is how valuable you are to me. I love you this much! I’d rather die than live without you.” You are priceless.” Rick Warren ~ excerpt from “The Daniel Plan”

 

One reasonpeople resist change is because they focus more on what they have to give up instead of what they have to gain.” Body Tech; Rockville, MD

 

“It’s all fun and games until you can’t zip your pants up.” Body Tech; Rockville, MD

Around the Bend

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The woods that my Labrador and I walk in on a daily basis just threw us our annual curveball. Throughout the winter and early spring, we have been able to see far ahead through the leafless trees. Being able to know exactly what was ahead gave us a sense of security, comfort, and control. In the last couple of days, the leaves have matured to full capacity and have blinded us to whom or what might be around the next bend on our winding path.

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These newly flaunted leaves bring a touch of the unknown to our morning ritual and the unknown brings a bit of anxiousness. My dog likes to run ahead to make sure that the coast is clear. Lately, she has been giving me this look like “Oh my gosh something big is ahead of us… Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” (Yes, we are one of those families where the dogs are almost considered people.) With our sight impaired, we walk more cautiously. If we sense danger, do we retreat, change direction or proceed ahead?

Our path is traveled by hikers, cyclists, runners and dogs of all shapes, sizes and temperaments. (Note: the temperament of the dog often matches that of their owner) and the woods are inhabited by all sorts of creatures great and small. Only occasionally is there any kind of strange animal threat. A few years ago a bear was spotted around our neighbor’s bird feeder. (Very rare) Last year we had a coyote that stalked and attacked one of our sweet neighborhood dogs (He’s ok, in case you are worried). This morning, in broad daylight I heard an oddly, screeching fox sound getting louder and louder. I had to make a choice. Do we remain on course or do we retreat? I chose retreat, sensing that dealing with a rabid fox could put a damper on our day. I’m grateful the little fox gave us a warning.

shutterstock_111819521.jpgIn addition to the people and animal adventures, nature often delivers the unforeseen as well. Have you ever heard the old riddle: “When a tree falls in the woods when no one is around does it make a sound?” I’d say, quite confidently, yes! When walking with my kids on this same path an enormous tree suddenly toppled…BOOM! Its tippy top was about five feet in front of us. After the wow factor and thanking God for keeping us out of harm’s way, I thought… Phew! No warning. If we were ten paces further….

We don’t like to be caught “blind-sided”, we prefer to be “bright-sided”. (Good news only please!) How about an early warning system for life to give us a heads up when something scary is coming our way? But that’s not how it works, does it? When life’s toughest challenges sneak up from around the corners on your path, (poor health, death of a loved one, addiction, depression, chronic pain, divorce, wayward child, loss of a job, etc.) are you prepared? While there never is a perfect picture, a perfect life or a perfect person, there is a perfect God. It is during these precarious times in life that we most need to know and understand our faith. God’s word tells us that He will never leave us or forsake us. A friend said to me the other day, there is no better news than the “Good News”. (Amen!) When you are steeped in God’s word, the Holy Spirit is able to fill you with that lovely peace that surpasses all understanding and gives us power to endure.

This week is a good time to meditate on scripture that grounds you in your faith. No matter how dark or how bright your path seems to be, the God of love is right there with you. (Note: You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to do this.)

Write your favorite verse(s) on an index card and put it in a place where you can see it. (I will put one on my dog’s collar.)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“It is so strange. Everything can be going along just great, and then one day, WHACK, you’re blindsided – a lousy, crummy blow you didn’t see coming.” James Patterson, Author

“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Thirsty?

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“These flowers are not from the hot house.” said Miss Marianne of Willoughby’s gift of wildflowers.

“Ahh, I see that my offering is not as grand as the one you already have. I’m afraid I obtained these from an obliging field.”

“Beaming with delight, Marianne replies, “I have always preferred wild flowers.”

Sense and Sensibility

Ever think you were meant for a different century? Being a Jane Austen fan, I say… “Yes, yes, a thousand times YES!” Minus all that spinster talk and women not being able to have a profession or inherit the family fortune, I would love to jump into an Austen novel. She knows how to bring us in with her dynamic and quirky characters, the poetic English language, and breathtaking landscapes. She sweeps us up and into a world of Saturday afternoon picnics on your front lawn, reed gathering for basket weaving, spying on siblings from tree houses, chasing the sunshine and, my personal favorite, picking wildflowers.

shutterstock_439136608What intrigues us about all of this? Why do I have a thirst for a time without a laptop computer and a smart phone? Could it be the raw beauty and simplicity of the picture Austen is painting? Even though most of her characters and their predicaments are anything but simple, something about it all makes me want to move to the English country side, start buying up sheep and write a thesis on why wildflowers are indeed, the superior choice in floral arrangements.

Snapping back into reality; it’s spring here in the Nation’s Capital. Native wildflowers are dotting our non-English landscape with their little hopeful spring-forward faces. My Mom and I are indulging ourselves with fresh bouquets of spring beauties, violets, and buttercup related species. We like to put them in little bud vases to cheer up our homes after winters chill. Recently, I was in a hurry and popped my two little bouquets into their vases and went on with my day. When I came back, one vase was completely wilted while the other one was perfectly beautiful. “Oh, no! I didn’t put water in that vase.” While I have had worse problems in life, I felt guilty. Sort of like Charlie Brown when he brought back the Christmas tree and, it too, wilted. “I killed it!” shutterstock_403780948After administering water and CPR, I waited. Sure enough, their thirst was quenched by the one thing necessary for their survival…water.

We all know that water is crucial for our survival as well; making up anywhere from 55% to 65% of our bodies. Without it, we will die. If we follow health guidelines, we are supposed to be drinking (8) eight-ounce glasses per day. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Sometimes when you feel hungry, the truth is you are really just thirsty. Paying attention to our physical thirst is very much like paying attention to our spiritual thirst. Our spiritual well can run dry when too often distracted by, as Austen would say, diversions.

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There is not a day that goes by when I am not thirsty for God’s wisdom on any given subject in my life. Somedays insights flow like waterfalls; while others, radical dehydration. (Note: The parched days tend to be when I am not centered in prayer or scripture.) Are you thirsty to know God?  Good news…He is all around you!

 

In one of Jane Austen’s surviving prayers, she writes. “Thou art everywhere present, from thee no secret can be hidden. May the knowledge of this, teach us to fix our thoughts on thee, with reverence and devotion that we pray not in vain.”

 

Jesus says in Matthew 6, “Consider the lilies of the field. See how they grow. They do not labor or spin. How much more will God take care of you?”

Hold onto that this week as you tend to your spiritual well. Now go pick some wildflowers.

“And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11

 

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John 6:35

 

“The key to Christian living is a thirst and hunger for God. And one of the main reasons people do not understand or experience the sovereignty of grace and the way it works through the awakening of joy is that their hunger and thirst for God is so small.” John Piper

Eye See Now

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I was reading in my favorite chair, looking for some inspiration, when, unbeknownst to me, it was delivered in the form of an itch. A desperate need to scratch my eye lid and BAM, it happened! I poked myself smack dab in the middle of my right eye as if it were a purposeful target.

The sudden pain was so intense that I took my glasses and threw them across the room ~ crashing into the wall. The last time I did something like that was during labor and delivery when I threw a wet wash cloth at my nurse. (Sorry nurse, I wasn’t aiming at you, I was aiming at my husband.)

shutterstock_514763635.jpgI said to myself, “Don’t panic! You couldn’t possibly have injured yourself just sitting and reading.” About five minutes later, the pain seemed to subside a bit. “Good,” I thought, “I won’t have to go to a doctor. “As the day went on, the pain began to slowly creep back. I decided to disregard it…be a “tough girl”. Yup, grin and bear it. Stupid!

At nine p.m. it was clear that a rough night was ahead. An hour later … “I wonder if I should go to the hospital? I can’t even close my eyes!” By three a.m., I was shoddily folding laundry. Four a.m., unloading the dishwasher, five a.m, reorganizing drawers. My survival strategy ~ to keep busy and distract my mind from what felt like glass shards penetrating my eyeball.

At eight a.m., I was first in line at the doctor’s office. A kindhearted nurse escorted me to the exam room. Boy, did I look pathetic.(Definition of!) I sat in the exam chair and began to quietly weep. I’m not sure if it was because of the pain or because I knew someone was about to help me.

As expected, there were a few patients (with appointments) ahead of me. I caught a glimpse of the doctor as she zipped past my wailing room. I think she saw pathetic me because she stopped in her tracks. I overheard her ask the nurse what my situation was. Before you could say the words “Final Destination”, the nurse was administering numbing drops in my eye. Eureka! I felt healed…or at least temporarily.
shutterstock_597166418When the doctor came in she was calm and thoroughly empathetic to what I was experiencing. Just the kind of doctor we all hope for. She looked through her impressive, yet intimidating, “Slit Lamp” and said, “Oh, yes…deep” pause… “deep”…pause…“deep scratch in your cornea.”

Hmm, a worrisome comment indeed. But, she went on to share with me that even though the cut was deep, she knew exactly what to do to heal my eye and that the pain portion of this injury was over. I looked at her as though she were my personal angel of mercy! “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

She then explained that she was putting in a temporary contact lens coated with a healing medicine. This would act as a protective shield between my eye and eye lid where the friction was occurring and causing tremendous discomfort. (Tree-men-dous!)

Like the professional she was, she simply popped that lens in my eye and thank you Jesus, thank you doctor – I was a new woman! Tired but relieved, I had to wait a few more minutes before heading home. We had to make sure that when the numbing drops had worn off that the lens was doing its job. We didn’t want any false sense of relief. (No, we didn’t!) So, the gel did wear off, and, the pain… still gone! Before leaving, I sheepishly asked for some numbing drops “to-go” for fear of a relapse. Which I never needed. Why? Because the real cure had worked! The temporary cure was just that.

Do you ever look for temporary cures for life’s pains or sorrows? There are all sorts of numbing drops available. We live in a world full of short-lived cures and band-aids. Many of them shoved in our faces. There is no amount of distraction that can sustain you for long.shutterstock_561552367

Maybe you have never known the awesome healing power and love of God OR Maybe you have known this love but it feels like it has worn off over the years.
Remember this week as we ease closer to Easter, God’s love is the real thing. Being fooled by the quick fixes is just more time not spent getting to know God. The Great Physician knows exactly what to do to cure you. Won’t you open your eyes to Him?

 

“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them and health to their flesh.” Proverbs 4:20-22

 

Listen to God with a broken heart. He is not only the doctor who mends it, but also the father who wipes away the tears.” Criss Jami

 

“Oh Lord my God, I cried out to You. And You healed me.” Psalms 30:2

 

“I think the reason we sometimes have the false sense that God is so far away is because that is where we have put him. We have kept him at a distance, and then when we are in need and call on him in prayer, we wonder where he is. He is exactly where we left him.” Ravi Zacharias, “Has Christianity Failed You?

 

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalms 147:3

 

“As many have learned and later taught, you don’t realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods

 

“And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.” Luke 6:19

 

Monday’s Must See Video – Lauren Daigle – “Come Alive”

 

Sharon Jaynes ~ “Take Hold, Move Forward, Live Bold!”

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Does your faith walk feel a bit stagnant? When scripting your daily priorities, does tending to your relationship with God make the list? Maybe it makes that list but is not the first item and often gets cut when time is running low. Do you find yourself asking, “God, why aren’t you answering my prayers? Are you listening?”

Maybe you are just getting by with a mediocre faith. For some, that is just fine, thank you very much. If you are content in just getting by with what Sharon calls “cul-de-sac Christianity”, then the book I am about to share may be a little too exciting for you.

But women of faith and seekers of Gods truth, if you are ready to become more adventurous… listen up, draw close and be inspired to take hold of the tremendous heights and depths that the Creator of the universe intends for you specifically!

TakeHoldOfTheFaithYouLongFor-300x464In Sharon Jaynes’ latest book, “Take Hold of the Faith You Long For”, you will be excited to learn how to break free from that which has been holding you back from a deeper faith. Sharon digs in and uncovers the most common reasons why we “get stuck” in our faith and mired down by discouragement. She takes her reader on a journey from Moses’ desert experience with his Israelite “grumblers” into a “Promised Land” flowing with milk and honey. You, my friends, after reading this book, will walk away with a knowledge of how to live a bold and adventurous faith leaving the stagnant, grumbling and mundane in the dust!

For over 25 years, author, speaker, and blogger Sharon Jaynes has been doing what she was meant to do. “Encourage and empower women to walk in courage and confidence as they grasp their true identity as a child of God and a co-heir with Christ.” *

Through her ministries, she has provided thousands of women (Over 500,000 on her popular blog “Girlfriends in God”.) with insights on how to live “fully and freely”.

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For 10 years Sharon served as Vice President of Proverbs 31 Ministries and Co-Hosted their daily radio program. She has authored 20 books, written numerous magazine articles, is a frequent guest on radio and TV programs. In case that is not enough, she is also a popular conference speaker! I had the pleasure of interviewing Sharon about her latest book, “Take Hold of the Faith You Long For”, and I’m so excited to share it with you on Christian Bling’s E- Community – Living it Up!

Here are my questions with Sharon.

Why is the message of “Take Hold” so important to you?

 For so long in my life, I felt stuck in between things that happened in my past and moving on and taking hold of God’s promises and what He wanted for me to experience. In my book I use the example of a flying trapeze artist where the aerialist grabs the trapeze bar, jumps off a platform, and swings through the air. She swings out once, swings back above the platform, and swings out again. The fun begins for those below during the peak of the third swing. The performer releases the bar midair and grabs hold of another bar or the hands of a second performer hanging from his knees who swings toward her. When she grabs hold, the crowd shutterstock_365942696can breathe. Somersaults, backflips, and triple twists wow the crowd. Each move requires the performer to let go and grab hold – let go of one bar or pair of hands and grab hold of another. Without faith to do so, the trapeze artist would simply swing back and forth until the pumping momentum gave way to dangling or hang stuck in between two platforms with hands clinging to both bars. Not the greatest show on earth.

In your faith, when you take hold, grasp, and make your own all of what Jesus has already taken hold of for you, you begin to experience life to the full – the faith you’ve always longed for. If we would do this, our lives will look very different. Release what is behind and take hold of what is ahead… That is the greatest show on earth and you can experience this in your own life!

 

Please share your background story and what your life was like during your growing up years.

I grew up with a lot of dysfunction in my home. Particularly a lot of alcohol, arguing and fighting amongst my parents. I was basically left to raise myself. I began to think that nobody wanted me and no one cared. As a kid, my mother would say “You’re ugly” and “What’s wrong with you?” I would say back, “I don’t know but I know there is something.” I would always compare myself to others and how I measured up. Inferiority, insecurity and inadequacy scorned me.

MeetSharonJaynes-200x300When I was 14 years old I became a believer in Christ. While my life changed for the better, my feelings of insecurity persisted and the comparison game continued. “I’m not a good Christian, I don’t know how to pray as well as that person, I don’t memorize scripture as well as that person, I’m not worthy. How come I’m not Iike that person?”

When I was in my 30’s a woman in my church took me in and lovingly mentored me. I learned so much from her and that bad things happen to everyone, just not the same bad things. The real tragedy is being stuck there. My faith began to mature and so did I.

 

 Why do you think so many Christians “get stuck” in their faith?

Well, I think many of them may not know why. Like I mentioned above, they may not be letting go of that first bar on the trapeze. Holding onto the past and not moving on; not completely grasping the power that is theirs in Christ.

 

 

 Tell us more about what it is to “live free” in our faith

To live free and move forward in our faith is to experience all that God has for us this side of heaven. We must relinquish disappointments to God and allow Him to fill the expectation gap with more of Himself. We stop saying “Why me?” and start saying “What now?” 

 

I love your story in chapter 10 about the brave and bold David in the Bible. What should we understand about “living bold”?

shutterstock_282976718When it comes to living bold, you need to learn to turn away from the doubters, the joy stealers and the confidence crushers. When you start living bold and saying YES to God, you will be criticized. You need to learn to turn away from the naysayers and toward the God who says you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength! (Phil. 4:13)

David had absolute confidence; not that he could kill the giant but that God would kill the giant through him. Never let anyone tell you that you are not able. You are a child of God who has been equipped by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit and enveloped in Jesus Christ.

 

Many of us know the story of Moses but after reading this book, I have a new awareness of how similar we are today to the Israelites back in the days of the burning bush. Tell us about the choice we have in “taking hold of our own Promised land.”

God led the children of Israel into the wilderness, but they were never meant to stay there – to die there. The same fate can happen to you and to me if we settle comfortably into the mediocre land of in-between rather than move courageously and expectantly into the land of milk and honey – life to the full, replete with precious promises and mighty miracles. AND, the choice is up to you.

 

You talk about grumbling, gratitude and grace. Please define these and tell us. How does gratitude help us move forward?

 “If complaining creates a crisis, grumbling creates an atmosphere” Grumbling is an outward expression of an inward attitude of ingratitude. It squeezes eyes shut to God’s goodness and keeps life small. Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation for a kindness or favor received. The word gratitude comes from the word grace. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. Gratitude is being thankful for it. Gratitude is the antibiotic of the soul to cure a variety of the world’s ills and restore a sense of intimacy with God.

Gratitude changes the lens through which you see your circumstances and frames them in the sovereignty of God. When we look at life through the lens of gratitude, God comes into view. We see Him. We hear Him. We detect His fingerprints on the darkest days and the brightest nights. It disconnects discouragement from its power source and gives us the impetus to move forward.

 

What do you want your reader to take away from “Take Hold of the Faith You Long For?”

 I want the reader to know that where they are weak, God is strong. The great “I AM” will fill in the gaps in their lives. It’s time to take action and leave the past behind, reach forward to all that lies ahead and stop comparing yourself to others.

When you know, who are in God’s eyes, you can revel in the uniqueness of you. When you believe, God will work through you, for you, and in you, there will be no stopping you. Let go of all that hinders you or holds you hostage to a mediocre faith. Take hold of all that Jesus has taken hold of for you. Move forward with the promises of God blowing your sails. Live bold with Jesus at the helm.

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Amen and thank you Sharon!

 

http://sharonjaynes.com/

http://girlfriendsingod.com/

Break It Up!

Is March Madness about basketball or the bizarre weather patterns this end of winter month seems to bring us? This particular March began like a lamb with pleasant spring-like sunshine. Then it briefly dipped into winter cold; back to lamb-like temps with flowers blooming ; and then, just to keep us on our toes… the lion awoke to deliver us cold, wet snow.

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The 3 inches of snow that covered our driveway was nothing we couldn’t handle but let me tell you about madness in March. My home team of more than capable shovel-meisters thought it was a good idea not to thoroughly shovel the snow off our driveway on day one of the storm. A slight shoveling around the cars would be sufficient. As Julia Roberts says in “Pretty Woman”…big mistake, BIG!

 

Overnight the leftover snow transformed into an all-out arctic shelf of solid ice.

(Question: Can three inches of snow turn into 4 inches of ice?)

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Observing the spotty job and knowing the forecast of frigid for day two and more frigid for day three, my initial reaction was to give my fellas the verbal once over. Thankfully, I made a rare choice not to complain for two good reasons.

(1) They did a beautiful job on our friend’s house who happens to be a widow and appreciated the surprise of a shoveled driveway and front walkway.

(2) I was inside warm by a fire reading a book while they were out braving the cold.

shutterstock_335642450Unfortunately, the next day the driveway became my problem. I had one helper, and my 87- year-old father who was climbing the walls after being iced in for two days. I looked at the clock and had one hour to free his car before a conference call I had to be on. I thought, No problem!

We grabbed our snow shovels and headed out. The plastic shovels proved utterly useless. Next line of attack was gardening shovels and even a pitchfork. “Nope.” They were all pain and no progress. Then I noticed a dusty, heavy axe nesting in a dark corner of our garage. “Aha, that’ll do it!” I grabbed it and went to work. (What a pity I wasn’t wearing my favorite flannel shirt to have that true lumberjack vibe going on.)

I barely had to put any pressure on the down swing of my tool slash weapon. Its sheer weight and sturdiness practically did the job for me. This new beloved axe not only broke through the ice, but it created instant large chunks that we could grab and toss away. It took some serious work but this axe was the answer to ice debacle.

The next time you experience a storm in your life and ‘good enough’ seems to be the easy choice … think again.  While it may seem easier to ignore or delay confronting a challenge, often a burden not handled at the onset can become the difference between a relatively easy clean up with plastic shovels and the hard labor of breaking hardened ice.

shutterstock_527921620The good news is God wants us to give our storms over to Him. He is the strong axe that breaks up our ice patches and frees us to move forward into the ice melting light and warmth of His love. The result? A freedom to live life fully and joyfully. This week, call on God in prayer to free yourself from the burdens of grudges or sin that have built up in your life. Make a check list of who you may need to forgive for something. Maybe it involves forgiving yourself for poor choices? As pastor and author Rick Warren says, ““We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:7-9

 

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” 1 John 5:4

 

“If man’s self is not kept clean and bright, his glimpse of God will be blurred. Like the moon seen through a dirty telescope.” C.S. Lewis

 

“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” Albert Schweitzer

 

Monday Must see Video: Frozen – Ice Workers Song

How Little it Takes

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I spend a lot of time waiting in line at the local pharmacy which is challenging because it might be my least favorite task on the planet. Between both of my parent’s, I am responsible for picking up a long list of medications and vitamins. I am a familiar face to the staff and often joke about having an apartment above the store because of the time I spend there. It’s safe to say I am no stranger to line waiting.

shutterstock_515934664The pharmacy line is filled with people on a mission…to take care of business and that’s about it. Taking a closer look, you see people staring at phones or into space until it’s time to shuffle closer to the “promised land” of the counter. One day, I snapped out of my pharmacy fog long enough to compliment a pharmacy assistant on her beautiful cross necklace. It was sweet how much it made her smile.

As a line-dweller I’ve witnessed her efficiently taking on a sea of tasks. Searching for misplaced prescriptions, putting out customer insurance fires, searching the computer while simultaneously, handling what could be construed as verbal abuse from frustrated, often germ riddled customers. The least I could do was pay her an honest compliment.

The other day, I was mindlessly waiting in that same line sorting through my emails on my phone until it was my turn to pick-up. When I got up to the cash register, the pharmacy assistant surprised me by having my prescription shutterstock_518537248ready and waiting. I said, “What?! Could this be mine? I haven’t even given you my name?” She said, “I saw you waiting in line so I pulled it right away for you.” You would have thought she told me I won the lottery!
My sudden joy wasn’t simply that she had my prescription ready. It was because she happily went above and beyond the call of duty. She made an effort that I have never experienced before in that dreaded line. Instead of just going through the motions of taking care of business – which is what I was doing in that line – she took care of me because she remembered me. (I’m pretty sure it had to do with that simple compliment I had paid her the week prior.)

shutterstock_485045233I’ve got to say, this small gesture made my day! I was inspired! After making a fuss over her, I spent the rest of the day smiling more and noticing the people I encountered… even starting conversations with them. (Note: In the DC area, that can actually scare people.) This little incident made me hyper-aware of the indifference that was trying to overtake me and smother the joy that I have in my heart. An indifference that would like to see me turn into some sort of a pharmacy-dwelling, void of emotion, zombie.

When we lose focus on the important and we run around trying to get our “to-do lists” over with – we miss the big picture of what God has put us on this earth to do in the first place… Bring Him glory by showing His love to others! As servants of Christ, this is where we are called to be a light. As simple as noticing someone, understanding they have burdens too, offering a smile or word of encouragement, perhaps even a compliment can have impact beyond what we intend.

This week, take the drudgery out of errands by taking yourself out of the equation and putting God front and center. Ask Him to “raise your thoughts a little higher and use your words to inspire.” (See Toby Mac song below.)

 

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6

 

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24

 

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

 

“In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” Mohandas Gandhi

 

“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night and a smooth road all the way to your door.” Irish Blessing.

 

Monday Must see Video: Toby Mac – Speak Life

 

 

Stuck in the Muck!

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On my daily walk past our local beaver dam, I noticed a creepy addition to our little nature blockade. It was a yellow ball with a clown-like emoji face stuck in the dam. As I continued to walk on, I couldn’t get that ball out of my mind. It reminded me of one of those games… “Now what doesn’t belong in this picture? The logs? The leaves? The creepy clown face? The twigs?” Oh my, what kind of kid would play with that in the first place? Maybe that kid threw it down stream because it was so darn disturbing?

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Needless to say, that ball, not able to float downstream to the Potomac river, is still stuck and has slowly shriveled up bit by bit each day. Surprised the beavers haven’t nixed the ball, I considered suiting up in my son’s fishing waders to take care of the eye sore. But… I wimped out because I really didn’t want to touch it or go through the trouble of dressing up like a fisher-woman. (Can you say lazy?) Besides, what if I ticked off the beavers and they decided to play out some sort of a “Jaws” scenario? Nope, it would stay there.

 

Being stuck is not a desirable position to be in. I remember when I was a young kid and my family went on a cross country drive from Michigan to Colorado. My brother, sister and I must have been driving our parents ballistic because in order to shut us up my father chose a rather unconventional tactic. He picked up a disheveled looking hitch-hiker who was plopped right in between us in the back seats. He could have been a serial killer for all we knew. (And we weren’t even wearing seat belts in those days!) Let’s just say, you could hear a pin drop in that car. We were stuck with that guy through some place near Lincoln, Nebraska. Way to go dad! It worked and I have never forgotten it!

 

Have you ever found yourself struggling to break free from a “dam” in your life? Stuck in a place of fear or shrivel? Something is wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on it? In an immediate response to get free do you reach for the latest trends that the self-help industry prominently places at perfect eye level while you are stuck in the grocery store line?

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Or maybe you are going through the motions of what society thinks you should be doing but not deeply connecting to what it is that gives your life true meaning and purpose? Sometimes we settle for the masquerade. We have bought into the “fixes” that can only hold so much water… they fail you because they are temporary and not eternal.

 

This week, make a list of those things that are holding you back from being who God created you to be. Whole heartedly ask Him to show you His abundance. This is a calling to dust off your Bible. Get yourself into a Bible Study so actual understanding follows reading. Maybe you have chains of your past that need breaking and have kept you stuck? Keep the below verses at eyeball level on your desk and ask God to reveal himself to you like never before!

 

He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.” Psalm 107:14

 

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

 

“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

 

“I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.” John 10:10

 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

 

“When you take hold, grasp, and make your own all of what Jesus has already taken hold of for you, you begin to experience life to the full – the faith you’ve always longed for.” Sharon James: Author “Take Hold of the Faith You Long For.”

 

“The first step toward getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” Unknown.

 

Monday’s Must See Video: “Remember Your Chains” Steven Curtis Chapman

The Art of Waking

shutterstock_570908494The music starts out softly like leaves gently falling to the ground or the waters of a brook delicately babbling through its destined carved-out path. Slowly that gentle sound graduates with a bit more intensity but never, ever gets loud to the point of startle. That’s how I like to wake up.

Waking my mother each morning is quite another story altogether. Pulling up the blinds and telling her what day it is and finding something positive to say about the weather outside wasn’t working. And by the way, this winter, it’s been tough to come up with “half-full” scenarios about the weather. I’ve been saying… “Well Mom, it’s a great day too, um, stay inside and sew or work on your puzzle.” I can’t blame her for wanting to stay in her cozy bed!

shutterstock_522124174I’ll leave thinking I had inspired her to join the world of non-slumber only to come back with breakfast and see she is still bundled up and dreaming about a cruise she took to South American in the late 40’s. (Another blog post on that one, for sure.) I try again… “Dad’s breakfast is getting cold because he is waiting for you to join him.” “Oh, I promise, I’ll be right there.” (I’ve learned that with dementia, promises are not always kept. Ya think?)

I had to figure out a way to wake her that didn’t require constant needling. So, I decided that if I couldn’t softly get her out of bed, I would have to “startle” her out. I know that sounds harsh but before you decide to boycott this blog, remain calm and bear with me. You see when someone is afflicted with dementia; too much sleep can actually hamper their brain function.

shutterstock_149488397I needed to be creative… “Hmm.. what does she love?” Dogs came to mind. Aha! I’ve got it! Enter labrador retriever, Lucy, the “kissiest” dog I’ve ever known. I’ll get Lucy to hop on her bed and kiss Mom awake. (Dad wanted the job but I told him that would be gross. Ha!)

Lucy has taken to her new job as “Nana-waker” with flying colors. Now, Mom wakes up each morning laughing and instantly invigorated. Her question every morning now is “How does anyone not love dogs?” This new ritual has brought joy for mom, joy for me to witness, and Lucy gets in her service dog hours. A blessing all around.

All this talk about sleep makes me a little tired which reminds me of how important it is for us to be awake and aware of all that God has in store for us. While the outside weather may be dark and dingy; the love of God is warm and sunny. However, it won’t come in through your windows unless you open the shades and ask.shutterstock_552618301

When choosing to solve difficult dilemmas in your life, Go to God first and dig in. His voice only gets louder. He wants to “love you” awake each and every day! Remember that this week and remember this verse.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“I love you, LORD, my strength.” Psalm 18:1

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:18-19

“Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” Mother Teresa

“This was, I decided, my purpose as a dog, to comfort the boy whenever he needed me.” W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose.

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” Charles M. Schulz

Monday Must see Video: “Brandon Heath – Your Love / Christian Music”

 

Breaking Dawn

 

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What is it with these furry creatures that inhabit my household? They always seem to be teaching me valuable life lessons. Last week our blind black pug, Penny, handed me yet shutterstock_118566679another one when she disappeared for over an hour in the wee dark hours of the morning. (Hence the title ~ maybe I’ll pick up a few “Twilight” followers?

Our adventure began on an uneventful morning. Like every morning, my husband let Penny out to take care of her morning ritual. As she headed off into the darkness of the woods on the side of our house, he briefly left to grab a sweat shirt and when he returned… no dog in sight … or sound.

Even though you cannot see a blind black pug in the darkness, you can usually hear walking through the leaves. But he heard nothing. She had disappeared. He called out to her and looked around for over an hour. (He mentioned later that he couldn’t find our flashlight. Someone hadn’t put the it back where it was supposed to be. Sound familiar?)

Plan B, wake-up Christy. She finds everything. Upon alert, I jumped up, threw on my sweats and boots, grabbed my flashlight and was outside in mere moments. I called and called while I slowly paced our street and circled our property… but no Penny.

shutterstock_553635145Now the sun was coming up – usually my favorite time of day. I was starting to get frantic which always makes my brain wander and give way to fears…Was she eaten by a coyote? Did a fox mistake her for a chunky black squirrel? Did she feel it was her time and decide to wander out into the woods to die alone under a bush?

As the sun started to light up the horizon, I wearily asked myself… “Why is this my favorite time of day anyway, I’m exhausted?” I looked around and it became clear to me. It’s because this is when all is calm. It’s when God shows me His first light. And it’s when I pray about the day ahead. This day though, I went straight from waking in panic mode and skipping my prayer time completely.

So I took a moment; centered myself and prayed… “Dear Lord, please lead me to Penny. Please let her be ok. Forgive me for not turning directly to you. “
shutterstock_315518993Thirty seconds later I caught a glimpse of what looked like a blackened tree stump. It was Penny. (That was fast God!) She was just sitting there. My guess is that she realized that she was getting herself into deeper and deeper trouble the more she blindly navigated her unknown surroundings. The more she wandered on her own, without sight, the further she was from being home and safe.

As I most gratefully scooped her up into my arms, her gray, cloudy eyes looked up at me as if saying “Geez, what took you so long, I’m freezin’ out here!” I quipped right back at her… “Why the heck didn’t you bark to let me know where you were? You had to have heard me calling!” As I held her, her shaking gave way to a deep, sweet sigh of relief. “I’m safe.”

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Penny’s lesson: “When you are lost and alone; stay put, your master loves you and will find you… always. Trust.

My lesson: If you feel lost, cry out to Jesus in prayer. He hears you, loves you and will rescue you from a cold, dark world. In the dark your fears fester. In the light, they dissipate.

This week, Meditate on Psalm 46:5. “God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.”

 

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” Helen Keller

 

The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:4-5 

 

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Monday Must see Video: “Lighthouse” by Anthem Lights