Graduation

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Ah, May! Such a beautiful time of year, yet moms everywhere are teary and struggling. Their baby is graduating and leaving home!

Graduation is a time of great joy and excitement. It’s a beginning, not an end. The term for the graduation event is a “commencement” ceremony. Commencement means beginning. So why do parents moms everywhere see it as an end, a devastating loss?

It’s interesting that dads (for the most part) don’t have the same emotional reaction that many moms do. Dads grasp the idea of sending that 18-year-old off on a big adventure. They look forward to what’s to come for that young adult and for their own life. Common conversation among dads of graduates includes phrases like “one more off the payroll,” “if I can get this one through college…” or “just me and the bride in the empty nest.”

accomplishment-ceremony-daytime-1036626.jpgAs the emotional heart of the home, many moms get caught up in the feelings of discouragement, sad reminiscence, or finality. While not all moms react so sentimentally, for those that do it can bring on a period of grief and an awareness of loss. Loss of a dear relationship with that child as they move miles away. Loss of an identity as a mom. The loss of one’s own life – time has passed as the child has grown slowly, and now suddenly moms of graduates have a keen awareness of mortality and the shorter amount of time ahead on the timeline in comparison to what has gone before.

Our comfort and instruction for moving on and living is found in Philippians 3:7-14.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

It’s time to put these truths into practice.

  1. Count all things loss for the sake of Christ.
  2. Press on to lay hold of that which Christ has for us.
  3. Forget what lies behind.
  4. Reach forward to what lies ahead.
  5. Press on toward the goal – go after the prize!

Sweet mom of a grown up child, rejoice! Rejoice in this new beginning for your offspring.  Rejoice in the new phase of life Jesus is bringing to you. You are blessed. Shed a sentimental tear or two if you must, then put it behind you and Press On! The best is yet to come!

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Woman! You Are Loved!

woman-1195276_1280.pngFrizzy hair.

Stretch marks.

Overweight.

Lost a job.

No ring on the left hand.

Rebellious kids.

No kids.

Sin.

Financial ruin.

Failure.

We women tend to be hard on ourselves. Most all of us have considered something in our life an Epic Fail.

Oh Sweet One! You are not the sum of your physical flaws, your relational stumbles, your sins and failures, your finances, and your children’s mistakes.

You are created in the image of God! You are a cherished daughter of the Creator of the universe, a unique soul made for a unique purpose here on earth. You are THE ONE Christ died for; if you had been the only one, he would have gone to that cross just for you. You are a rare jewel with unique assets and flaws.

As we celebrate and honor all Mothers today, celebrate yourself as a woman.

God loves you.

He chose you.

He knows you and accepts you despite those things you don’t love yourself for.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

I challenge you to choose something good for today… to relax… to let go… to forgive yourself or another… to talk kindly to yourself as you would speak to a cherished friend… to not compare yourself to a soul on earth… to count your blessings… to immerse yourself in God’s word… to serve someone out of love… to live fully and bask in God’s love… maybe even to stay off social media – give yourself a positive break!

Enjoy something just for yourself for 15 minutes be it music or a bubble bath or a phone call to a friend, a walk or a cupcake or some flowers.

Celebrate your unique life handmade by Jehovah Himself

and loved by the Father!

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A little video to remind you of how to look at yourself!

The Journey: Wheelbarrow Rides

Squeals of fear and delight erupted as my husband pushed our grandkids around the yard in the wheelbarrow. It was a simple, spring Saturday, reminiscent of those I’d had myself as a child – the kind of day that is becoming scarce in the busy-ness of 21st Century life. The smiles were ear-to-ear one moment followed by tight lips, big startled eyes and death grips the next. It was a great day full of fun! After baths, we were all  worn out and settled in to sleep by 8:30pm. Life the way it’s supposed to be.

Isn’t that how life is on this journey with Father God?

One moment were squealing with delight, pure joy, thrilled at the ride Our Lord has taken us on. Then in a heartbeat we’re gripping tightly onto anything around us, caught off guard, feeling as if danger lurks around the next corner, not liking it at all that we are not in control.

We adults need some tips for our wheelbarrow ride with Jesus!

  1. Hang on tight – You’re not in control! Hanging on is fine as long as we grab onto the right thing. “You, God, are my God,… I cling to you;” (Psalm 63:8) Our job in any of the thrills or chills of life is to cling to the Father. Hang on and trust Him. He’s got it! It doesn’t seem like it sometimes. That wheelbarrow may seem like it’s about to tip over. He may not always take us where we want to go. He’s in control. And he’s got a great ride planned for us, if we can relax and trust him.
  2. Praise the Lord! Squeal out loud! Tell everyone around you in loud, excited tones. Don’t hold back. We adults tend to fret over being too exuberant, sounding arrogant, or looking weird to others. Get over it! Psalm 63:3-4 says, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” The psalmist was unafraid to declare the blessings, joy, and praises of his life. We should be as well.
  3. Remember God’s omnipotent power & majestic glory! Psalm 63:2 “I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.” When we feel we’re about to “tump” over in that wheelbarrow, fear is a natural reaction for a moment. However, that fear should spur us to dig in the Word and pour out the prayer. In His Word we’ll see His power over illness, nature, demons, even death. We serve a powerful God who can do what He says in His word He can do. With Him NOTHING is impossible. As we read and pray and allow ourselves to fully believe, our faith is strengthened, the anxiety subsides. We’ll be able to say through the tears “I really don’t like this Lord. But I love you and trust you. I know you’re strong enough to handle this. I’m just afraid you’re going to allow something painful in my life. I’m yours. Lord. I love you no matter what.”
  4. Enjoy the ride! Be satisfied in what the Father has provided for us! Psalm 63:5-7 “I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” The night after the wheelbarrow ride we had a yummy dinner on the deck. PapaSto grilled hamburgers and hotdogs on the deck. And the boys did go to bed with singing on their lips. (It was the PJ Masks theme song as they lay down watching it before they went to sleep – but still… their was joy in their little hearts.) And we adults can feast on what He provides for us and lay down in joy to sweet sleep as well.
  5. Long for those precious times with Your Father! When “Da Boyz” – my grandkids as my husband calls them – are not with their Granddaddy, they miss him. They miss all he does with them and for them. They miss his love and hugs. They miss his Saturday morning breakfasts and grilling out and ice cream sandwiches. They miss bike rides, mountain climbs, camping trips, and wheelbarrow rides among other things. When we see them during the week and it’s not a night they are coming to spend the night with Gigi, they always beg to come over. They know PapaSto will have something good planned. And we should have that hope and joy in our Heavenly Father! Verse 1 of Psalm 63 says, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” Just as we long for those simple, sweet days of childhood past, a part of us longs for what was lost back in the Garden of Eden through the curse of sin. We long for joy without pain, the knight in shining armor to sweep in and rescue us, and a life of beauty and peace instead of the chaos and the mundane that mark our lives. I sometimes find myself retreating from these thoughts of What if sin had never entered the world? and What if life were beautiful and uncomplicated as when God first created the Garden? Somehow those thoughts seem sad to think. But in reality we need to hope for life the way it was meant to be. We need to dwell on the promise of a New Heaven and New Earth. Hope in a forever with Jesus strengthens us to walk through this life, so spend some time contemplating your future hope. Allow yourself to long to be with your Heavenly Daddy, to long for Paradise Lost to be regained!
  6. Remember that our Father will protect and defend. Psalm 63:9-11 says, “Those who want to kill me will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals. But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God will glory in him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.” When those little munchkins are riding with their Granddaddy, they are never afraid of strangers or robbers or bad guys. They have no doubt that their Papa would defend them, lay down his life for them, and keep them safe. We can rest in our Daddy in the same way. God is on your side.

We often feel we have to push and strive and make our way in this world. But really we are God’s own children riding in that wheelbarrow. He’s the one directing us and doing the work to get us through. So as you ride through the joys and terrors of life, never forget who is pushing the wheelbarrow.

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The Lesson of the Patio Egg

This past year my daughter gave me a lovely little invention called a Patio Egg. It is an egg-shaped ceramic vessel in a cute little macrame netting for hanging it. It is at the same time decorative and useful. It’s functional purpose is to rid my patio of those arch-animal-antenna-biology-169357.jpgenemies of any Southern girl – mosquitos! It is a simple invention really: fill the egg with the correct amount of the oil mixture and hang it up near your outdoor eating area. The porous ceramic absorbs the oils and gives off the aroma which drives away those pesky creatures for weeks to come. A pretty decoration, a light scent, and no villainous bugs!

My analogy today is very straightforward. We are that egg – that earthenware vessel. God saves us and cleans us up. But do we become just a pretty decoration or do we prepare ourselves to be used for the purpose He created us for? That preparation for us, like those oils measured into the egg, is the Word of God pouring into us, Almighty God leading and directing us, the Holy Spirit filling us.

Who prepares that egg for us? We do. We prepare ourselves. Everyday.

We immerse ourselves in the Word each morning. We continue constantly in prayer daily to seek to obediently follow the leading and directing the Father gives. We open our hearts to the filling of the spirit and allow it to seep through us saturate us, and change us as we absorb the scent of the Holy Trinity. We are then able to give off the aroma of Christ to all those around and to fulfill the purpose we were created for. But the filling, the aromatic essence, and the purpose are achieved only when we prepare our clay pot. Scripture tells us:

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:5-10

We carry this treasure in jars of clay. When we know Christ, He infiltrates every bit of us, He consumes us. We carry Him around with us everywhere. He fills us with His light and in turn we give off that light, that sweet aroma of Jesus, revealing the Gospel of His death, resurrection, and life in the very way we live out our lives. Even in those times we are in despair. When we’re crushed and devastated. When we feel abandoned and beat down. Our hope in Christ bears witness to a hungry world even when we are at our lowest points.

What is your jar of clay, your Patio Egg, like? Is it dusty sitting in a long-forgotten corner? Is it chipped and broken and feeling useless? Is it polished and shiny and beautiful, just sitting on a shelf offering no real value? Is it unfilled, offering up only a pretty decoration with no effect on its environment? Or is it full of healing oil, filled with the Word, shedding the light of Christ wherever you go, offering hope and grace and mercy to a dark and desperate world? Sit in His presence and allow Him to fill you and saturate every pour of your being! Then go! Be light!

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The Journey: Staying in Your Lane

Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.’ ” John 14:23-24

Driving to church on a random week day recently, spiritual inspiration struck me as clearly as the light and Jesus’ voice from heaven had flashed around Saul and struck him blind on the road to Damascus.

Running late to a meeting that day and being fairly sure that no cars would be coming down the winding, hilly drive from the church at 8:15am, I allowed myself 45 seconds to slap on a couple of dots of cover stick, some powder, lipstick, and blush as I drove. As I came around the big curve of the drive I was straddling the yellow line and speeding as well. To my shock a truck was coming towards me in one of my lanes. I dropped the blush, jerked the wheel back to my right, and let off the gas. I easily avoided him and corrected my lax driving; it was not a near miss. We were both safe. But that’s when the light dawned.

As we drive through life, we know the rules of the road. We pretty much follow them on the asphalt as well as on that Christian drive down the narrow path. But there are those times when situations set us up to choose failure, both literally and metaphorically. We allow thought patterns to begin that try to justify or excuse breaking the law.

I’m really late for work. I have to speed or I’ll get in trouble with the boss.
 

I’ll have time to make it through that yellow light – even if it changes red – before the cross street can start up.

OR… maybe I’m not even making a conscious choice, but veering out of my lane because I’m texting or otherwise distracted, maybe putting on make-up…

 

The same thing happens on the road with Christ too. We veer out of our lane of faithful obedience to Christ and excuse it as a little thing. Just a distraction. Just this once. Everyone else does. God will understand.

Times when the truth would sound better if we embellished it a little. (Lying.)

Saying all the holy, godly things around our church friends when we just had a horrible fight with our spouse or when we haven’t spent time in the Word or prayer in 2 weeks. (Seeking to please men more than God.) 
 
Allowing ourselves that one secret sin because we’re feeling discouraged or lonely. (Manipulation, spending, cheating, consuming alcohol or drugs, shopping, indulging…)
 
Bursting out in anger because our thought patterns have convinced us that we have a right to. (Selfishness.)
 

Staying in our lane requires focus – on Christ – not on the things around us. It requires vigilance of our sinful hearts and thought patterns. It requires humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God. It requires self-control.

As you drive through your day, literally and metaphorically, stay in your lane, Girls. We honor Jesus and show Him our love through faithful obedience. Let’s not veer to the right or the left. When we live above reproach as scripture commands, we become the light of Christ to the world. The secular world is looking for us to fail, to give them cause to discount the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s be vigilant and focused so that we do not cause a devastating wreck that leaves an unsaved life hanging in the balance.

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” Philippians 2:14-15

 

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
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Perspective on This Romantic Holiday

Happy Valentine’s Day to each of you!

No matter your romantic connections or lack thereof, may you know today in your heart of hearts how deeply you are loved by the Father !

This Repost seemed like a useful thing to share today! Hope you enjoy and find encouragement!

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:7-11

Step up and show love to those around you today! Make someone’s day!

Exposed!

(By the Hair of My Chinny-Chin-Chin!)

Exposed.

Not a word we want to have used to define us. I’m thinking of the those cold sweat dreams where you believe you’ve arrived at work without your pants on – exposed! Or of politicians and power brokers – so many exposed for so much lately! Or of the word exposé – an article that gives shockingly lurid details about someone we never dreamed would’ve behaved in such a way.

forest-fog-sunny-nature-615348But sometimes being exposed is good. Don’t believe it? How about photographs? If film was not exposed to light it would never retain the image we cherish and reminisce over so fondly. And plants. If plants were not exposed to sunlight they couldn’t feed themselves or grow or bear fruit. And our bodies. Lack of exposure to sunlight can lead to a Vitamin D deficiency. Being exposed to the light can be very beneficial.

This was proven to me in an instant one bright sunny afternoon.

Driving to Wal-Mart I got stopped by a red light. As I glanced in my review mirror at the car behind me, the sunlight struck my chin perfectly and shocked me into distraction! lighted-makeup-magnifying-mirror-1003There on MY chin were a half-dozen hairs clearly visible in the illuminating sunlight. Now I am not that old and was not prepared for what I saw. Time seemed to stand still as I tried unsuccessfully to remove those hairs with my bare fingers. My moment ended with the car behind me honking to break me out of my distractedness. I made my way to the store and beelined it straight to the lighted, magnifying, make-up mirrors! I didn’t have the money that day, but put it on my wish list and am now the owner of a well-used lighted make-up mirror.

My point here? I was going happily along in life feeling I was doing just fine. But when my world was illuminated, I could suddenly see what all those around me were seeing each time we chatted. Light had exposed my flaw. Now I could, and do regularly, correct it. Scripture actually talks about this! Not my hairy chin, but how light exposes things and helps us.

“You were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.” Ephesians 5:8-13

 

We were once darkness. But we are commanded here to walk as children of Light. We’re told we’ll bear good fruit if we stay in the light just like those green plants do. We’re challenged to separate ourselves from dark deeds and to allow The Light (notice it was capitalized in scripture!) to expose the flaws within us. Yikes! That can be so painful. BTDT! But it is so necessary.

I encourage you today to take your heart and mind and attitudes and will and emotions before the Light. Allow the Lord to use Scripture to divinely illuminate those areas that need a little plucking done!

“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.” 1 John 1:7.

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“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

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Raise the White Flag

Surrender.

Not the word I wanted when I started praying and seeking God for my “word for the year.”

For the last few years our pastor has encouraged us to pray through December and January and seek a word the Lord was laying on our heart that would be our focus for that year.

My first year was Life. I was struggling with an unseen health issue and felt I was dying. Literally and truly. As I claimed the word Life for that year and sought to walk in faith, the Lord brought me to a healing answer in April, and I spent the rest of the year building strength and fully living again.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Then there was my word Grace. Specifically the Lord impressed upon my heart that I was to show grace to my husband! That may not sound hard, but I must confess I was more eager to show grace to strangers than to my husband. He was a Christian, he knew me, he was committed to me,… I held him to a standard no human being could meet. I was unjust, unkind, and completely lacking in grace toward him that January. But throughout that year of God working grace in my heart, and me intentionally seeking to show grace to my husband, our life has taken a sweet turn. Grace offers sweetness to those around us. In this tough world we each need all the grace we can get.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

So here I sit this year looking at a hateful word. But it’s my word. Surrender. I know it’s my word. I knew it before 2017 struck midnight for the last time. And the Lord has reconfirmed it several times. Most unmistakably through my devotional reading for the year. As I read My Utmost for His Highest on January 1st, in the last sentence of the day, my dear friend Oswald said, “…surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably.” Then today, once again, God spoke directly to me through Mr. Chambers on this last day of the first month. “God cannot deliver me while my interest is merely in my own character. Paul [the apostle] was not conscious of himself. He was recklessly abandoned, totally surrendered, and separated by God for one purpose – to proclaim the gospel of God.”

For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race. Romans 9:3

Am I willing? Willing to surrender? To surrender myself, surrender my will, surrender my hands-1139098_640image, surrender my inclusion in Christ if that’s what it takes for the redemption of another? I must truthfully say, No. Not at this point. The Lord is beginning this work of surrender in me. But I’m not a completed pot of clay in His hand. I’m the lump being molded and shaped upon the Potter’s wheel, and squashed down and built up again until I reach the shape of surrender. What is the shape of surrender, I wonder? Is it flat? Prone? Facedown?

I have a feeling it will be a hard year but a good one. It is always hard for us when we have to die to self. To surrender self. To lay self on the altar to be burned up in sacrifice. I’m like the ram caught in the thicket that was sacrificed in the place of Isaac. I don’t by nature willingly or eagerly surrender; God has to catch me in the branches to prepare me to die to myself. I imagine I’m not alone. I assume this is the human, fleshly reaction. But the apostle Paul had been so transformed into the image of Christ that His reaction was not the fleshly one. His specific statement from his heart was:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21.

 

That is surrender. Will I reach that point of surrender? Will you?

Find your word from the Lord for this year, be it a single word or verse. Seek the point of focus God has for you this year.

Make it your aim to allow Him to work it out in you this year and to live it out at every opportunity. Lay yourself out before the Father daily as you hear from Him in His word. Allow His shaping process in your life.

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Forfeit your queen at the feet of The King!

I Need a Do-Over

My oldest grandson had a habit as a pre-schooler of asking for a “do-over.” When little brother was put in the car first, but Jackson wanted to be first; he would want us to get Ryan out and let him go first. When I started down the stairs to go outside before he was ready, he wanted me to come back upstairs and let him go first. When Papa cut his sandwich in half horizontally, and Jackson wanted it cut diagonally, he would ask Papa to make another one and cut it “the right way.” When someone got the toy from the play room but he wanted to get it, once again he wanted it put back where he could go do it. As you can tell, some of these issues were easy to “fix,” while others weren’t. We didn’t always have the time or inclination to “fix” every situation. Since these situations were so common during that stage of his little life, and since our sweet preschooler needed help learning to handle these disappointments, we took to using the term “rewind.”

“I want a rewind” became a repeated refrain around this Gigi’s house! Sometimes we accommodated his requests, sometimes not. Jackson would even walk in reverse to re-set when we allowed these do-overs. As I observed him during those months of frustration, I couldn’t help but think how many times I have wished I could “rewind” a situation and do something differently as it played out the next time. Even grown-ups can use a “do-over” option. Mistakes happen. Tempers flare unintentionally. Words get misinterpreted. Possessions get lost or damaged. Hearts get wounded. Then comes the embarrassment, regret, broken relationships, and the question of how to “fix” the situation. We all long for help with these “if only” situations. The bad news: we can’t really rewind the clock.

But, I have good news! As with any part of life, scripture offers insight into handling these difficulties! So let’s take a look. Warning: You may not like what God’s word recommends, but that doesn’t make it wrong. That just makes you have to choose to do the right-hard-thing instead of the wrong-easy-thing; it makes you put your big girl pants on! Let’s take a look.

Forgive.

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:12-15

 

1. Our willingness to forgive shows the condition of our heart. A heart sold out to God forgives and receives forgiveness in return. A heart sold out to self reacts, acts sinfully, and chooses NOT to forgive, and therefore comes face to face with the unforgiving judgment of God. This is made clear in the story from Matthew 18 where the servant who has been forgiven much would not forgive the one who owed him little.

“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35

2. As we forgive, we reflect to the world the unconditional forgiveness and mercy that God has to offer. When we act like the rest of the world Satan wins and the world never sees that glimpse of God’s forgiveness and mercy.

3. If we think we can come to God through religious rituals while carrying unforgiveness and bitterness in our hearts, we’re mistaken. We must first lay down these offenses and forgive from the heart before offering our prayers and acts of worship.

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Matthew 11:25

 

4. It’s a command.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.” Colossians 3:12-15

 

Humble yourself.

1. Once again, it’s a command.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord” James 4:10

 

2. It follows Jesus’ example.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:3-8

 

3. Turn the other cheek. It takes mega amounts of humility to turn the other cheek when someone has wronged you. Responding appropriately, with godly behaviors when we feel wronged and mistreated will not happen if we are puffed up with pride.

“You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38-42

 

Use gentle words.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

 

Don’t react to someone else’s bad behavior with bad behavior yourself. In today’s society we often have what my grandma would call a “tit for tat” mentality; we reason that since they behaved badly we are justified in responding to them with what we would otherwise consider bad behavior. Let me set the record straight, nothing justifies our bad behavior. Nothing justifies our sinful choice. We are responsible for every choice we make, including our choice of how to respond when people sin against us.

Control yourself in the first place.

Then you won’t need a rewind! Galatians chapter 5 says it all on this subject:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”  Galatians 5:22-26

I really don’t like this lesson. It reminds me NOT to live in the flesh, when that is exactly what I want to do in the moment. It gives me a higher standard than the world does, and it doesn’t offer an easy out for any of us. If these were just my words, you could ignore them. If these were just noble, wise sayings I could ignore them and get that revenge I really want to dish out. But these are Our Father’s words. Your Creator’s words. And while I grit my teeth as I bend my knee to obey sometimes, I also realize that His plan is far greater than I comprehend. Living life His way will have long-term good effects on my life that I can’t anticipate, and will make us less apt to need a do-over and more willing to walk through the after effects of those “if only” moments with forgiveness, humility, gentleness, and self-control.

Have some fruit – the fruit of the Spirit that is!

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My Favorite Things

My Favorite Things
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things.
Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells
And schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things.
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver-white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things.
When the dog bites, When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things

And then I don’t feel so bad.

The Christmas season rings with the chords of this uplifting song. Although it’s not really a Christmas themed song, we regularly hear it each December. Perhaps it’s because of an old habit TV stations had back in the day of airing The Sound of Music each Christmas Eve. Or maybe it’s because at this season we make out our Christmas wish lists like little children and we think of all the things we wish we had. Or it could be just a carry over from the Thanksgiving holiday of thinking about our blessings. Whatever the reason I love it! It reminds me to focus on the beautiful things, the small things, the ordinary overlooked blessings in our lives.

As I sat at breakfast today in a beautiful hotel restaurant while accompanying my husband on a business trip, my mind flooded with thoughts. The Eggs Benedict, that I got to enjoy in a leisurely manner, is something that I only eat once a year when I’m on this business trip with him and have a chef to prepare it for me. It propelled me into thoughts of my favorite things:

  • Eggs Benedict for breakfast (of course)
  • Christmas – celebrating the Christ child’s birth with family.
  • My oldest grandchild’s first snowy, peaceful Christmas with us.
  • High school football games.
  • Twinkling lights.
  • Coffee conversations with friends.
  • The Pinesol and candle scent of my clean house.
  • A walk in the autumn leaves.
  • Snow.
  • Any book that grabs me so that I can’t put it down.

Those are a few of my favorite things.

What about you? Why don’t you make a list and check it twice of all your favorite things.

There’s something about that exercise that makes a heart light and joyful rather than gloomy. This time of year with its lack of sunlight many folks find themselves depressed or discouraged. So a thorough examination of the blessings and beauty and love that God has put in our lives is like a dose of good medicine. In fact Proverbs reminds us that “a joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” (17:22)

So think of the song above. Examine the pictures or the suggestion list. Or just let your emotions roll with the beauty, wonder, joy, delight, excitement, love, relationships, blessings, and every positive thing you can dwell on today! Remember, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

Things of Beauty and Wonder…

pexels-photo-83761…music that stirs the soul

…artwork that speaks to you

…kisses on the cheek

…holding the fragile hand of a frail mother or father who has lived a long life

hand-2906458_640…the lisping wisdom of a 4-year-old

…the smell of a baby

…floating on gentle waves

hot-chocolate-winter-chocolate-hot…gazing into the innocent eyes of a child

…snuggling with your grown children reminiscing times past

…hot cocoa with marshmallows on a frigid day

…a crackling fire in the fireplace

blaze-2178749_640…jumping in piles of leaves

…swimming in the lake on a hot summer’s day

…hearing the words “I Love You”

…climbing to the top of a lighthouse or mountain and soaking in the view as your reward

pexels-photo-266011…dancing in the rain

…kissing tender baby feet

…making cookies with a friend

…decorating the Christmas tree

…a sweet breeze scattering the white blossoms of a cherry tree in the spring

cherry-blossom-white-sky-bloom-48133…strolling down a tree-lined lane

…candlelit evenings

…dipping your toes in a cool, babbling brook

…the crash of waves

…that sudden insight from the Word of God.

At this season of celebrating the Savior’s birth, take time to follow the example of Mary the mother of Jesus. Ponder your treasured things and be blessed!

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

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The Sound of Music – “My Favorite Things”