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Are You Drawn to What Can Easily Drown You?

IMG_0315Last night as I walked along the sidewalk to our patio, I noticed the gross amount of slugs leaving their shiny traces all over everything and a few getting smashed on the bottom of my shoes. Nasty! Supposedly a beer poured into a pan will attract them to drown themselves. I did just that and this morning: TAH-DAH!! A gross amount of slugs have drowned themselves in beer.

When I look at that, I see myself. Not drowning in beer…I don’t like beer at all. Yet, I am so easily lured by the temptations and distractions of this world. Especially when I am overscheduled.

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.”

John 17:15-16 (NIV)

There are temptations in every direction. A lack of focus for me. Constant thought interruptions. The path to be forged IS NOT EASY. The evil one can use anything to come at us. We become restless and tossed to and fro just like infants as scripture tells us.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Ephesians 4: 14-15

Evil will not win. I will saturate myself in Jesus! Starting with music. It really helps me draw nearer to the Lord and I have realized that I haven’t been listening to as much music lately. Distractions have drowned it out: household tasks, celebrations, writing lessons for the upcoming Honduras mission trip, wedding preparations, and departure for mission camp all within a few days. It is all good, but it is just too much.

Jesus music woos the power of the Holy Spirit in me. And in you. A playlist that is just perfect:

Snowbird ’17 Spotify Playlist

The song that plays first is one I learned at Passion 2017: Build My Life by Housefires III. And the lyrics are exactly what I need to sing on repeat.

I will build my life upon Your love
It is a firm foundation
I will put my trust in You alone
And I will not be shaken

Songwriters: Pat Barrett / Kirby Kaple / Karl Martin / Matt Redman / Brett Younker

Build My Life (Live) lyrics Copyright Capitol Christian Music Group

Lord, help me fortify the foundation that you have given me. Guide me in saturating myself in your love, your word, and yours ways. Order my life SO THAT I can continually operate in the victory you provide through King Jesus!

Do you see a little bit of yourself in that pan of drowned slugs? Drawn to something that can easily drown you? Know that I am praying for you in hopes that the truth in this song and the wooing of the Holy Spirit will settle you and give you renewed direction needed for today.

Who Can Take a Pic at a Time Like This?

Because I work with middle and high school students, there are frequent opportunities to sow seeds in these young lives. A trusted volunteer in our youth ministry advised me a long time ago to keep this perspective: I am a seed planter.

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Because I work with middle and high school students, there are frequent opportunities to sow seeds in these young lives. A trusted volunteer in our youth ministry advised me a long time ago to keep this perspective: I am a seed planter.

And he {Jesus} told them many things in parables saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately the sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

Matthew 13:1-9 ESV

A couple of weeks ago, a young lady asked for prayer and of course we prayed together. In the follow-up texts, she shared a few challenges and I shared a few ways to fight the challenges. One way is to number our gifts in each day. Of course this isn’t my original idea, but it has served me well since 2012 and I LOVED reading One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp which covers this very subject.

Some of my numbered gifts from today:
#888 Teaching a student the SOAP Bible study method and numbering gifts before her high school day began.
#889 The entire YCI Club coming forward to lay hands on the seniors in prayer.
#890 A beautiful orange sunshine in the sky early this morning.
#891 Forgiveness.
#892 Solid endings and the promise of new beginnings.

My recent days included a flooded kitchen floor, no wi-fi for 3 days, and our clothes washer breaking down for the last time while loaded with laundry. The kitchen table and chairs are heaped with the daughter’s wedding preparations and cards for a record number of high school graduation parties clutter the bar. At times like this, we need numbered gifts! A lot of them actually.

O give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the people! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!

Psalm 105:1-2

As I reflect on all that is entrusted to me, I can’t help but be thankful:
#893 Available funds to pay for a new washer.
#894 My husband will attempt to fix anything and is successful nearly every time.
#895 The customer service rep who finally fixed the wi-fi.
#896 Realizing my first-world problems are really no problem at all.
#897 Knowing God made us for much more than this!

So today, I think about those kids at our high school this morning. Some may have never even been to a church. They were invited to come up if they wanted to pray over the graduating seniors. And every single one did. Isn’t that amazing? Our God is a great big God. {Afterward I wished I had a pic of all of them praying, but who can take a pic at a time like this?}

God allows us opportunities to plant seeds. He makes the seeds grow. Let’s grab our watering can and go encourage the planted seeds or nourish the soil of the ones we are about to plant! You are a seed planter, too.

 

Looking for Progress in the Process

When there is a solution to be found, we can’t view our attempts as mistakes. Let’s change our perspective. If our feet hurt, we change shoes. It doesn’t mean our feet are bad. It means those shoes are better suited for another person’s feet.

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Patio and plants. Just two of many things in my life that teach me to look for progress in the process.

A texting exchange this week says “Sorry we failed.”
The reply “You didn’t fail. You just learned that the time isn’t right for that group of people.”

Like a plant sitting in a sunny spot when it prefers shade, this isn’t a failure.  It is a learning process for the plant owner to discover the best location.

Think about the way the furniture is arranged in your home. Did you get it right on the first try? Probably not unless your den allows only one arrangement. After a while you may have tried something else. We can arrange and rearrange. Add. Eliminate. Working, enduring the process until it is a right fit for the desires of those who use the space. Did your Christmas tree require a temporary change-up in the furniture and then you LIKED IT? Yay! This is the discovery of what works. For you. For your situation. For what is best for the gifts, talents, schedules and families of the people involved.

When there is a solution to be found, we can’t view our attempts as mistakes. Let’s change our perspective. If our feet hurt, we change shoes. It doesn’t mean our feet are bad. It means those shoes are better suited for another person’s feet.

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We don’t just stop trying when our baby doesn’t like to eat food. We keep trying other foods. We endure. We persist. {to continue firmly in a course of action in spite of difficulty, opposition or failure} It is like the gift of modern medicine. One must eliminate what doesn’t work in order to find out what does work when there isn’t an obvious diagnosis.

What do we call it when we stop trying to find solutions to a given problem?

QUITTING?

Is there something that you have been trying and can’t find a workable solution? Have you already asked several close friends for ideas? Try asking someone outside your circle. Ask someone 10-15 years older than you. Seek a local expert or the recommendations of a reputable author on that subject.

Look for progress in the process.

Celebrate the number of possibilities that haven’t worked. You are one step nearer to the answer that does work. Don’t lose heart when “the world’s” recommendations don’t work for your personal situation.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

Look for what can IMPROVE your circumstances. That may not change the situation completely, but it will help in the process of enduring and persisting through the situation. Where are you in the learning process?

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

Lord, help us to see with new eyes all the possible solutions you have set before us. Give us a fresh view and inspire us with resources by your hand. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

An Invitation to Life. And Death.

Summertime, sunshine, and all that the end of the school year brings about can work us into a frenzy. Add to that the illness of a loved one, the beeps and alarms of hospital settings, and the prayers and tears shed by loving caregivers.

There is a full circle always at work. Life. Death. Healing. Disease. Laughter. Tears. Joy. Mourning.

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5 NIV

A practice around our family dinner table {and often shared in a Sunday School class or small group} are the highs and lows of our day. It is good family communication and can draw out a conversation where one would otherwise be silent or stick to “surface-level” talk.

Share your high of the day: Maybe it is simply that you made it to school or work on time. Did you get a much needed nap? Or something so physically small: a Killdeer bird laid an egg in our driveway.

Share your low of the day: Did you run out of gas while mowing the yard? Did you feel helpless while hugging a crying friend? Was a stranger so rude that you remember it hours later?  And the sadness of the loss of the Killdeer egg only a few short days after discovering it.

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When we acknowledge the highs and lows of our day, we share the celebration and the heartache. We learn what is on the minds of those around our table. {Or in our car if dinner is on the go.} We open up topics that could have been left closed. We cast light, His light, in dark places.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5 NIV

In your family, your circle of friends, your people, where are the highs and lows? Is someone managing the caregiving all alone and in need of rallying support? Is there hurt that we need to know? There is always some good to celebrate no matter how small.

Invite others in. In life. In death. Better. Worse. Richer. Poorer. Let others, including those around your table, your friends, your co-workers into your circle. Let them share the lows of life along with your JOYFUL highs.

May summertime show us afresh, the circle of life set before us SO THAT we may fully extend loving care to those around us. Help us to be faithful in this, Lord.

5 Questions to Ask as You Stand at the Shore

Huntington Beach

Family Vacation at Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina

(pretty good pic from a little ‘ole iPhone)


As I gaze out at the sea, I feel the embrace of Christ all around me. There is POWER in His creation. We are like the earth and He is the ocean. He is lapping at our shores. Ever powerful and only overtaking as is necessary so that we may see our own weaknesses and need for Him. He is the sustaining WATER of life. His currents are gently wooing us. Encouraging us to come deeper and farther from the shore (the ways of the world) to His ways. Inviting us to follow His rising and lowering tides day by day. Enjoying His presence and all that His peace offers.

We have the opportunity. But will we take it?

  1. Will we wade in completely?
  2. Will we go under and allow Him to uphold us in all that he has made us to be?
  3. Or will we be content to simply stick in a toe? Check to see if the temperature is right for us for that day. Assuming we know best which temperature is good or the direction the tide will take.
  4. Will we only surrender to the predictable?
  5. Or will we go all in and let Him surround us?

Lord, hold us close and lead us in the way everlasting. I want to be all in.

Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it. -Andy Warhol

What about you? Take a deep breath and jump in.

“No thanks, this lunch is good.”

Am I the only one who looks into the eyes of a homeless person begging on the street and sends up a prayer, yet drive off feeling guilty? I picture a time in my future when the Lord will say “you did to me like you did to the least of these”. And I drove PAST him as he held a sign, “hungry, food or anything will help”. Is that all I can do? Look into his eyes and pray?

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, for whatever you did for one of the least of these brother and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

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The daughter and I had just went to get a tanning package {hold the judgment, please} for heaven’s sake! It isn’t like we aren’t able to help. “You know, I really feel convicted about driving past not one, but two homeless people”. “Yea mom, there are a lot of them here.” Together we wonder why and about 200 feet down the road I ask if it is okay with her if we turn around. I just can’t know that these people represent Jesus and I am driving past them. So really, is it them I am concerned about or my own stinking self?

Turning left, there’s a safe place to hop out of the car long enough to survey what we have with us. My car is often fondly referred to as the oversized purse so I find a green bag and I am in luck. I have several items that were awaiting my next trip to Salvation Army: a nearly new pair of athletic shoes, a pair of jeans, and a t-shirt. Our recent grocery-store trip left behind a box of protein bars and two unopened bottles of water. We are feeling good because this is shaping into a pretty nice care package. That’s a God-moment in itself. Next stop on the list is my wallet. How much cash do I have? $8 so we add that to the bag.

Now heading back to the intersection where the homeless are gazing into the eyes of every passerby, I miss the turn and it takes us right past a really crowded Chick-fil-A. We whip into a parking spot and I run inside for two combo meals packaged separately. Jogging in and out of traffic, I make my way back to the car and see that the man has moved. Probably the woman would have greater needs if she has children elsewhere, so let’s give the bag of stuff to her. We are able to drive right up to the man and I ask if they are together. No, they aren’t. “Here’s a bag of lunch. I hope you enjoy it.” “God bless you” he says with a broad, but tired smile. “And you too.”

We navigate our way back into all the traffic so we will be positioned nearest the woman as we exit. While I ease forward in traffic, Miriam offers the lunch and the lady quickly accepts. Cars are honking and we tell her we have a bag of things that may be helpful…offering for her to take it. She peers in to see. Miriam opens the bag to show her and she politely says “no thanks, lunch is good.” So we both drive off, dumbfounded.

All the thoughts running through my head which we discuss are: Wow! Her sign said “anything will help”. And then we realize oh gosh, the $8 was unintentionally hidden from sight in the bag, surely she could use that. But it is too late, our opportunity has passed. We look at each other and think we really can’t believe she turned down our gift. I mean nothing in the bag was dirty or worn out. It just didn’t fit any longer. But she missed the $8 which I am sure she could use. We rode on down the road pondering what just happened.

How many times has there been a needed gift right in front of us, but our human nature, our flesh takes over and we say “No thanks, this lunch will be good?” We pray and we seek God, but the gift and the giver are right before our nose and we just roll on. Are we on the look out? Do we slow ourselves enough to see the hidden gifts in the small, unexpected places of life?

I thank God for this opportunity for two reasons:

  1. It helps me to realize that my obedience to the Lord is still my obedience whether or not others receive the gift I am offering. This includes the gift of faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
  2. It helps me to know that there are probably gifts in the small of life that I have dismissed because it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

What about you? Have you received the gift of faith in Jesus Christ? Are you being faithfully obedient to Him and His commands? What gifts are you, like me, dismissing because you have something else in mind?

Lord, forgive us when our motivations are impure. Help us to be more like you. Help us to love like you love and to love others the way you want us to love them. Give us discipline to find you in the small of life, uncovering the gifts you have tucked away that simply await us. Praying in Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Pain of Pruning

Recently dear hubby was working in our yard pulling weeds. After I recovered from the surprise, I thought of how the work in a yard sometimes leaves the plants looking a bit shaken. You know, like they have just been separated from their best friends and one of their sides is bare. Or, they look downcast for a few days, weeks, or months, depending on the plant and the season. We are like that. When God prunes, there is pain and suffering and we are left looking a bit shaken for a season.

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Reading John 15:1-17 and thinking of the pruning that God describes, I wonder what He thought on the day or the moment or however it transpired when He knew what was needed in order to save the people He had created. In our humanness we think of the way it feels for us to suffer or for our children to suffer. God CHOSE it for himself. He CHOSE the suffering of sacrificing His Son for us. He did so that we would be able to know how much He loves us and wants us to have a real relationship with Him. Pruning is painful.

Are you a bit shaken today? Has your best friend been ripped away and you’re left feeling bare? This week particularly seems to be a week of pruning. If the garden of your life is undergoing some changes that you didn’t ask for and is ripping your heart to shreds, remember that God went there first. He gave His Son on our behalf in order to give us eternal life. The humanness in each of us thinks that this world is the most of our time, but eternity awaits and it will be forever and ever and we will dance and sing and be free of the trappings here. Oh what a glorious day that will be!

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In your suffering know that God cares for you and will bring you peace, perfect peace as we present each portion of our lives to Him. This morning in prayer as I did just that, He gave me peace in a way I haven’t felt before. I surrendered to Him long ago, but the revelation of experiencing His peace in a new and refreshing way today is a vivid reminder that He wants to do a NEW work in us each day. So ponder that as you experience pruning.
In a Spirit of Hope from Christ,
Bonnie

Jesus at the Center

Today is a day for celebration! I have finally got this blog off the ground. That may seem like no particular challenge to many people. And I have been prompted repeatedly to get on it since December, 2013. One of my spirit-filled friends, Pam Rimer, even told me in a message delivered while we were at Levine Children’s Hospital:

“Prayers continuing for Matthew and all of you. Hope you are journaling thru all of this. God impressed something on my heart to tell you when you are on the other side of this. We will talk soon. Take care of your boy as only a mom can do. Claiming total and complete healing. To God. be the glory. When you don’t know what else to do….. stand.”

Reading Pam’s words and reflecting on all God is doing in the life of His children, I do STAND… continually amazed. A resonating message may speak to you too. It isn’t about every roadblock the devil placed in my life to keep me from blogging, but then again, it may be.

A sermon about the 7 Deadly Sins (Proverbs 6:16) fell on my ears and my notes of repentance at the end say this: “The only way to address our sin is to put Jesus at the center”. We cannot save ourselves. Abandon our sin and follow Him! Follow Jesus. Accept His gift. Allow him to cleanse whatever acts of denial that exist in our lives.

With those thoughts percolating over days, Psalm 51:17 draws me deeper:
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart O God. (NLT)

God wants us when things go wrong. I want to look to Him and commit every day to Him, but He desires us in the brokenness to become closer to Him. He will not reject us when we are truly repentant. Move anything that becomes the center except Jesus. Actually protect the center. Whatever would threaten the center (Jesus’) place in my life, have nothing to do with it. And I list a few things that I need to eradicate from my life. I pray: Lord, help me to protect my relationship with you and turn away from anything that would endanger it or take away from it. Well that up strong in me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Listen in here:

Jesus at the Center – Israel & New Breed

My road to the start this blog went on a 3 YEAR DELAY. There were crazy, unexplainable roadblocks, obstacles and just plain disobedience to overcome. The last series of these mini-battles were waded through with the help of good friends. And the question hangs: What things is God asking you to rearrange, minimize or eradicate to keep Him at the center of your life? What obstacles are in your way and which of your God-given friends may help?

Is Living on a Houseboat Reasonable?

IMG_9507This morning I received an encouraging message from a friend who visited my church last Sunday. The sermon had been especially encouraging and we marveled at God’s power to intertwine our lives through personal Bible study & the seemingly unrelated sermon that often packs just the punch we needed. Only God can have that window in our world.

As I pondered the blessing of her message to me and the joy we share in Christ, I began my own Bible study for the day: Philippians 4:5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. (ESV) Reasonableness: not a word I use often. It means a gentle forbearance with others. Forbearance: a holding back, restrain or tolerance. It is the opposite of being contentious. Contentious: tending to argument or strife; quarrelsome; causing, involving, or characterized by argument or controversy.

In order to let our reasonableness be known to everyone, we have to have some in the first place! This is to be displayed through graciousness and a gentle spirit with those inside and outside the church. Can I give up my own preferences in order to show grace to others? Do I desire that?

While reading The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines, I was struck by the fact that the television producers were not instantly drawn to the Gaines’ story. In fact, from Joanna’s perspective, they were going to be disappointed by following the couple on their normal day…until their normal day {that is normal for them, but not normal for the rest of us} turned into a day with a disagreement over whether or not they were going to LIVE in a houseboat Chip had purchased sight unseen. Who purchases a boat online anyway? {Chip does!}IMG_9748

“There was something about Chip’s impulsiveness, his riskiness, combined with my reaction to his riskiness and the way we worked it out as a couple, that landed us the show.”
-Joanna Gaines,
The Magnolia Story

I imagine that “something” is like reasonableness, forbearance, not tending to argue or be quarrelsome, but being opposite of that. Their reasonableness was on display for all to see. Joanna was being reasonable by agreeing to live on a houseboat. It was evident to all the cameramen anyway…..and then the rest of the world through Fixer Upper.

Lord, help us today to DESIRE to give up our own preferences so that we can extend grace to others. Especially in settings where we are most challenged with our family, our workplace, church, or among friends. Give us abundant grace and let it be known to everyone. Let your power be evident in our lives as you are our strength, our joy and our King. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.