On Wings Like Eagles

We were blessed to have a houseful of family and friends join us for Easter. It was a delightful time of celebrating and visiting.

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And by the end of the day, I was ready to put my feet up for a few minutes after being sure the food was properly stored.

 

On Easter Monday, with a quiet home, and a lovely, sunny day, I began to strip bedding, gather towels and clean the floors. What surprised me most was the negative feelings for all the “work” that was left behind.

 

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WHAT!?!

 

It surprised me to realize that resentment was welling up within my inner being.  I had enjoyed the company. There was plenty of help. I had simplified the menu, largely because of what I have learned through observing Sabbath.

 

As I continued to do the clean-up, I asked God to change my heart. In answer to that, He whispered in my ear, “Pray for those who slept on the sheets, who dried themselves with these towels, who took time and effort to come to your home and shared their time with you.”

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What a difference it made! Soon my heart was singing with thankfulness for having family and friends to celebrate Easter Sunday.

 

Practicing Sabbath gives me space each week to tune into the quiet, gentlemanly voice of God. As I listen each week, I am more sensitive to the gentle whisper and more quickly repent—turn 180 degrees—and return to walking closely with God.

 

Had anyone been watching me that day, they may not have seen any change. But my heart went from weighed down to rising on wings like eagles!

Saving Our Lives

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” Luke 9:23,24

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These words and ideas don’t make any sense, but they are what Jesus did for us.

He sacrificed his comfort, his leadership, his position with the Father, in order to save you and me.

How do we give up our selfish ways?

For many years, I thought that filling my schedule with good deeds, and thoughtful words was giving up my life.

Until I realized that I was trying to draw life from those to whom I “gave” myself. Without a conscious decision, other people had become my idol, my focus, my false god.

It was never enough. People disappointed me. Even when I received the compliments and recognition that I so desperately wanted, the “high” didn’t last long. I even made a “Warm Fuzzy” file to try to refill my empty soul.

I ended up drained, hopeless, with feelings of despair and loneliness mixed in for good measure.

After a long season of pain and the sin of demanding my own way, I asked God to give me a heart that was ready to repent.

 

It took time. More pain. Looking at myself and despising who I was. At the end of my rope, I was willing to submit. Willing to give up everything—reputation, safety, even family, if necessary–to fall under His Lordship.

It wasn’t easy, but it is simple. Lay down my life to follow His leading.

It wasn’t instant, but He is patient. Asking again and again for a fresh start, washed in Jesus’ blood.

It isn’t perfect, but He is faithful, even when I am faithless.

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The Lord wants us to draw our life from Him, to lose ourselves in love and worship.
To breathe in His words, His mercy, His graciousness.
To exhale our own wounded pride and ambition.

Pray that you will learn to let go of your personal agenda and learn to be fully open to His love so that it spills over to the ones around you.

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Reminders of His Promises

When I got to the end of the driveway this morning there were thick gray clouds stacked high in the west. Like a wary dog growling deep within, the rumbling of thunder was distant toward the hills.

So thinking I could beat the rain, and preferring to walk in the fresh air, I set off.

The pink edge of the sun peeked above the horizon at 6:31 and was completely visible two minutes later before sneaking behind bluer and grayer clouds just moments later.

Then raindrops began falling.

But I was nearing my set point, so I walked faster, dodging most of the wetness.

Reaching my spot, I turned to go home. And there, in its silent splendor was a complete rainbow! So high and wide that my phone camera could not capture all of it in one shot.

Praise was my response.

And then, unbidden, almost like the Holy Spirit’s whisper, was the reminder “God put the rainbow in the sky to remind himself of his promise to never again destroy the entire earth with water.” (Genesis 9)

If God the Eternal needs reminders, I certainly do. And I find the best reminder of all his promises to me is to be in his word consistently.

Take time today to read his promises!August 16 2ndAugust 16 2016

Messy Faith

Sun warmed breezes over a calm, clear lake.

Young voices expressing the joy of warm water on their sun kissed limbs.

A small gray cloud bank on the northwest horizon as waterfront time closes.

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Campfire inside as the cloud bank billows.

Weather alerts on adult cell phones.

The difficult, but prudent decision to move all the campers and staff to the retreat center right at bedtime.

Once there, the only hint of a storm was the light show out the distant window. In our shelter we could not hear the thunder, the howling winds, or the twisting and cracking of branches and entire trees.

When we returned to our cabins, it was pitch dark and raining, so it was morning before the damage was seen.

What a mess it was!

Branches, some large, most small, were strewn across the playing field like all the plastic tags from the day’s game time.after the stormtree down 1

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One large, ancient tree finally gave in to this final storm—for the tree—of  hundreds of storms.

Rather than my normal morning walk, I began to pick up branches.  As I worked my way across the parking lot and sidewalks, I noticed that my new walking shoes were getting soiled.

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It reminded me that getting involved in the disarray of the world rubs off on me. While I don’t choose the dirt, it is unavoidable.

And when I come away from it, I need to rest.

To submit to having my feet washed.

The gospel of John relates Peter’s response to the Lord’s final act of service before his great sacrifice.

“so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”  (John 13:4-9)

 

Life is full of storms.

Storms make messes.

We need to help remove the debris, even if some of the dirt gets on us.

After helping getting rid of the rubble, we need to go to our Savior.

Allow him to minister to your need, refreshing you to go back out for more clean up of the wreckage all around us.

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I Will Pour Out

I have always loved the miracle in 2 Kings 4. A widow, whose husband had served Elijah, was threatened by a creditor and she had no resources. She and her sons fell through the cracks of the culture.

So God stepped in with a miracle.

But she and her sons did the hard work.
They humbled themselves to ask their neighbors for any empty containers.
They did the hard work of transporting those containers to their home.

Even as a child, I wondered how crowded their little home was with containers.
Did they have a table covered with jars?
Did they collect larger pots that sat on the floor?
What did they expect would happen?
Did they wish that they had collected more containers?
Did the neighbors give their empty containers cheerfully or with questions?

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The containers, and their work in collecting them, were the limiting factor on the oil.

Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, used in consecrating priests (Exodus 29:7) and used to comfort the sheep (Psalm 23).

Honestly, I’d never made the connection between this miracle and my own life.
What do I do to leave space (empty containers) in my life for the Holy Spirit?
Am I willing to do the hard work of making this space for the Holy Spirit?
Do I ever shut the door and block out all the cares of the world, focusing on the work the Holy Spirit wants to pour into my life?

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While the widow’s oil stopped pouring out when the last container was full, God promises to pour out His Spirit on all flesh. “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17)

One of the things on my bucket list is a spiritual retreat. While I should be able to do that in my lovely, quiet, country home, I find too many distractions. The weeds in my gardens, the ever-present laundry and dirty dishes, the stacks of returned piano music that hasn’t yet been filed, the books that are on my “read ME” stacks, even the daily delivery from the postal service.

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Part of me longs for taking 24 hours away, and part of me is a bit frightened by what the Holy Spirit will show me.

And today, as I think about the widow and her sons, I have more respect for her and fewer questions about how much more oil she might have had if they had collected more jars.

 

Elijah said “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and your and your sons can live on what is left over.” (2 Kings 4:7)

It was enough.

And whatever the Holy Spirit reveals, He empowers us to be obedient.

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Renew Your Mind

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1,2

The first time I read through the entire Bible systematically was during my year at Bible college as a class assignment.

Though there was a great sense of accomplishment for reading the entire Bible, it wasn’t enough. For multiple years I fell behind after the book of Exodus when the readings were mostly lists of families or rules for sacrifices. Even when I tried plans that mixed up Old and New Testament readings, I’d miss a few days, and give up.

My earliest teachings were that I should begin the day with a quiet time, starting my day with God.

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It was a set-up for failure when I had to get my family and myself out of the house by 7:30 a.m. Returning after long, taxing days, feeding the family, and often attending an evening activity seemed to absorb every minute. Some days I barely managed to offer a nutritious tidbit and keep the clothes clean, dry, and wearable.

My quiet times were sporadic at best, and most often neglected.

Nearly three years ago, a new friend invited me to read through the New Testament in a chronological Bible. It seemed more do-able.

  1. I discovered that the format of Bible readings for each day were grace-filled, allowing me to jump in on the date rather than feeling I had to catch up on a missed reading.
  2. I broke through my expectation of reading first thing in the morning.
  3. On-line discussion drew me to the reading whenever I had a chance.

After successfully-more or less, as I missed a day here and there-completing the New Testament, I accepted the challenge to read through the entire Bible in 2014. And I invited members of our church to join me.

The format of the printed Bible and accountability of a group have helped me continue to read God’s Word consistently.

Team 365 at retreat center

The second year, it was fun to make connections or comparisons of Scripture that I’d not seen or heard a teaching on before.

Nearly three years later, I’m discovering that my mind is being renewed. Last week, at training sessions in which I have a leadership position, my mind went to an example in the Bible to help illustrate the situation we faced.

The first year I read through the Bible, I was probably a bit legalistic about it. But it is becoming a necessary part of my day.

We don’t do the renewing, we simply subject ourselves to it. We submit our mind to God and let Him fill it with His truth. He is the guardian of our makeover.” From “Indeed: Exploring the Heart of God” from Walk Thru the Bible

In my garden, I can provide healthy plants, enriched soil, in a location with sunlight and water when the rains don’t come often enough, and keep the weeds out of the space. However, I cannot do anything to make the plants grow and produce fruit.

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Likewise, I expose myself to God’s Word, eliminate the negative inputs around me, but the Holy Spirit is the one remaking me to be more like Christ.

If you want your mind renewed and transformed, join me in the Bible reading adventure. It will help you learn to walk by faith!

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Bringing Courage and Hope

Ruth 1 through 4:12
The book of Ruth is one of my favorites. Even though it has a lot of grief and sorrow, it reveals the responsibilities of the kinsman redeemer. Most often I have focused on Ruth, her loyalty to her mother-in-law’s God and her submissive response to what Naomi tells her to do.

Yet today, Ruth 1:19 caught my attention. “….When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked.”

While we don’t know exactly how long Naomi lived in Moab, it was more than ten years.

Her little boys grew up into young men.

Her husband died,.

Her sons took wives from Moab.

Her sons died, bonding her with these young Moabite women in the sisterhood of widowhood.

In our modern era of instant communication, it is difficult to imagine that the women of Bethlehem hadn’t heard about the tragedies in Naomi’s life. It appears that they didn’t know of her devastating losses.

But they remembered Naomi. For all the many years that Naomi was in Moab, the women of Bethlehem still spoke of Naomi, who went with her husband and young sons when the famine was intense.

They remembered Naomi with joy. They celebrated her return, happy to have her in their neighborhood again.

But Naomi’s experience had changed her from a joyous, fun-loving young bride and mother, to a bitter, cynical widow.  She had given up on life and had come home to die. Or a place to stay bitter and withdrawn.

But bitterness cannot last long when it meets the impact of genuine love and compassion. Before long, Naomi is orchestrating a way to introduce Boaz to her daughter-in-law, Ruth.

Perhaps it would have gone like this anyway. But the women of Bethlehem, with their warm encompassing welcome, “greased the wheels”. Their love and attention gave Naomi the willingness to take a chance again.

 

After life’s difficult, painful journey, looking to the future with hope takes a transformation. God is love, but we are his hands and his feet, his ambassadors of love.

In what ways are you extending a warm, compassionate welcome to people that come into your life?

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