Taken Down a Notch…Maybe Two

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Tuesday was the last day of my 21-day Daniel Fast.

I confess I finished feeling a little guilty. 

Why? 

Going into the fast my purpose was clear, in that my goal was to become closer to Christ, but as it progressed the purpose began to take on another appearance.  My focus strayed from Christ, and instead settled upon the foods I could and could not eat.  I began to search for recipes as to how I could take the approved foods and weave them together in some fashion as to make them more palatable.  In essence the fast became more about the food and less about Christ. 

How fitting then, as I finished the fast, was I led to this scripture:

 So, then, if with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? “Don’t touch this! Don’t taste that! Don’t go near this!” Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important. (Col. 2:20-23) 

 Ouch…

 Believe me, I did not search out this scripture.  I can’t quite remember my steps to it, but I’m sure it went something like this… I was reading elsewhere, perhaps in the book of James, and noticed another passage scribbled with ink in the margins.  I’ve had this particular Bible almost 40 years so the margins are well marked.  Who knows when I jotted the reference…it could have been 30 years ago.  Regardless, I was somehow, someway, led to the book of Colossians. 

 God has a sense of humor! 

He has a way taking you down a notch or two, if need be, and then pointing you in the right direction.  Sometimes God speaks in a still small voice…this was not one of those times.  It was more like a splash of cold water to the face! 

 It seemed as if God was saying, and I paraphrase… “Yes, you fasted for 21 days…you did well, but get off your high horse!  The fast was not about the rules you didn’t break, but rather about seeking me.”

Colossians continues to say…“So, if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it… See things from his perspective… chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline…. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” (Colossians 3:1-14 Message Bible)

Do I think my fast in vain?  Not even close!  

I thank God for each of those 21 days, and I learned a lot!  But even with all I’ve learned, if I forget to couple it with love, then the knowledge I’ve gained is indeed worthless!  

Through the past 21 days I’ve learned more about the love God has for me, and I’m assured that nothing can ever separate me from his love.  But if I stop there it has all been for naught.  I must live out what I have learned by loving and caring for God’s people. 

James writes, “…faith without works is dead,” and he warns of the dangers of “…being only hearers of the word and not doers…”.  He says, “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God…even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it…that person will find delight and affirmation in the action.” (James 1:22-25)

 Our faith must become active! 

If we say we have faith then what are we doing to prove our faith?  The best proof of our faith is LOVE, and THAT is what I have learned from my fast. 

Now it’s up to me to live it…

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This Is Love

 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

(I Corinthians 13)

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel Fast Day 14

My mom went through many trials during her life on this earth.  She lived years in an abusive marriage.  Her young son, 23 years old, was killed in a logging accident.  One dark night she stood outside and watched her house and almost everything she owned burn to the ground.  She was a single mom who worked hard to make ends meet, and to feed her children. In spite of all these trials my mom was a fighter.  That doesn’t mean she was never knocked down, after all, each of the above horrors would humble even the strongest among us.  No, she hurt, she cried, and she fell many times, but she always got back up. 

As a child I witnessed many of her struggles, and I witnessed the pain she endured through each one.  I remember seeing my mom cry more than she smiled, but the one thing she made sure of was that I knew how much she loved me.  I never doubted my mom’s love.  It was her love that carried me through the trials of my childhood, and even though she has passed, her love still lives within me and carries me every day.  

I am at awe of how she made it through each trial.  Sometimes I try to put myself in her shoes and I wonder how I would’ve handled domestic violence, seeing all that I owned burn to the ground, and the death of a child. I feel confident I would have lost my mind.  

Since I’ve been on this fast, I have been thinking a lot about my mom, and about the testimony she had among those around her.  She was always kind, and always willing to help anyone in need.  Everyone on Wood Street knew if they came to Bessie Hardy with a need that she would do everything within her power to supply that need.  That was just who my momma was.  

There’s one verse in the Bible that I heard her recite over and over again, and I will always attribute it to her.  Ephesians 6:13-14 “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.  Stand therefore…”  I remember my mom saying that one day when she was ready to give in to all the pain God lead her to this scripture.  Verse 14 continues, but on that particular day, God gave her a different perspective and she read it as “Having done all to stand, stand.”  God was telling her to just keep standing, and He would be her strength.  And that is what my mom did her whole life.

While on the Daniel Fast, I’m reading a book that coincides called…of all things…The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory.  Each day, of the 21 days, has its own devotional that is filled with the promises of God.  One being Isaiah 40:31, “…They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” 

On this fast, over and over I am led to the idea that God is working in my life, even if I don’t see it, or feel it.  God has given assurance that He is with me, and that He has plan for me, but I must be patient to wait for his perfect timing.  In the midst of financial insecurity, I feel him whisper, “…having done all to stand…stand.”   Another portion of scripture that has cropped up over and over is James 1:3-4, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”  

I have a week left of eating a restrictive vegan diet.  That part of my journey has gone well…and I confess my body feels better.  I have lost about 7 pounds which is a nice added benefit.  I’m planning on continuing some of the good habits I’ve learned such as eating more “real” food and less processed food…no artificial sweeteners, to go easy on the sugar…and to nurture the spirit as much as I nurture the body.  

However, I can visualize that first cup of coffee and of it I can’t wait to indulge.

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FOWC-Visualize

Litmus Test for True Christianity

I’m astounded with those who think they have the “scoop” on God’s word.  Many of whom believe God’s word is cut and dry…black and white with no grays in between.  Most are raised in Christian homes and have been taught the scriptures as a child.  Sunday school classes, Sunday morning services, and Wednesday prayer meetings were the staples of their life.  They were spoon fed not only the word but also the perceived meaning of the word, and the sad thing is is that many have never questioned what they’ve been taught. 

As a small girl I sat on the second pew from the pastor and like a sponge soaked up all the words that fell from his voice.  Sunday after Sunday, week after week, and year after year I was fed the truths of God’s word in accordance with an Independent Fundamental Baptist point of view.

Sitting here typing I can look back and see the wide-eyed girl sitting on the pew…so small my feet barely passing the edge of the pew.  I literally believed it was God’s word I was hearing and of this I should never doubt.

But I did doubt, and guilt became a part of my life at an early age.  

My inner struggle went something like this…. if I have this doubt, how then can I have faith, and if I have no faith how then can I be a child of God, and if not a child of God…how then could I ever be “saved”?  This inner battle possessed me my whole childhood, into my teens, and well into my 20’s and 30’s.  For the most part I kept this secret…never to be told, after all if I admitted to doubt then I was virtually admitting I had little to no faith.    

I’m saddened for the little girl who silently lived in fear day after day.  Sometimes I take her in my arms and hold her until her trembling subsides.  Now, as a 54-year-old, I realize this doubt was not the monster I thought it to be.  My doubt should have been the stepping stone to an even greater faith.  

I believe it is wise and healthy to question your beliefs.  First of all are they really your beliefs or are they your mother and father’s beliefs.  Perhaps it goes even deeper maybe they’re the pastor’s beliefs and maybe mom and dad just took his words at face value…. Even deeper:  maybe it’s the churches fodder handed down from generation to generation, century after century from organized religion?  

As a Christian I want my beliefs to be just that…mine.  I want my faith to be given to me from God himself.  I don’t want to blindly believe something because that’s what mama, daddy, and the preacher said. 

Jesus himself admonishes us to “…search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life.”  The Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and the religious elite felt confident they had the scoop on God’s word.  Why?  They felt this way because they followed the word to a tee.  They like many Christians today, took God’s word literal and failed to see the nuances of grays woven there-in.  They were always questioning Jesus because Jesus refused to take a literal approach to the law established in the old testament.  They were so busy trying not to break the rules that they missed the whole premise of Christianity which is to love the Lord God with all your heart, and to love those around you (everyone) as you love yourself.  Jesus says that the whole law of Moses rests upon these two principals.  Loving God is the greatest commandment and the second greatest is loving your neighbor, and, my friend, for the most part you cannot pick and choose your neighbor. 

You can have neighbors you like and neighbors you dislike…neighbors who believe as you or those who believe differently, neighbors who believe that “this and that” is a sin and neighbors who believe it is not.  This whole idea of loving the sinner and hating the sin is bull malarkey.  Their “sin” is none of your business, it is between them and God.  Your job as a Christian is to love them…period.  

How can I love them?  You love them by treating them the way you want to be treated, and by letting God take care of the rest.  

Our relationship with our God is no one’s business, and when “well-meaning” Christians make it theirs it’s time to shut them down or as Barny Fife says, “Nip it!  Nip it in the bud!”  Jesus says, “Judge not least ye be judged,” and “He that is without sin cast the first stone.”  

Christianity is alive and vibrant.  

Christianity is “your” personal relationship with God.  

Christianity is defined by what you do rather than what you don’t do.  

Christianity is love because God is love.  

As Christians God asks us to feed his sheep.  Three times by a campfire Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”  Three times Peter said, “Lord, you know I love you,” and three times Jesus replies, “Feed my sheep.”  

Jesus was saying to Peter… If you truly love me then you will take care of my people.  You will take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.  You will be like the Good Samaritan and cast aside your opinion, in order to lift up the down trodden.

Friends, love is not always a feeling.  It’s wonderful when it is, because it makes loving others easy.  But, the love God calls us to goes way beyond a feeling.  The love God calls us to is active.  Jesus wanted Peter to realize that true love is more than words, for if you love only with words then the object of your love is never really touched…never changed.  True love reaches out, and true love changes lives.   

Christian, are you truly Christian?  

If so then take care of his sheep…the stranger, the hungry, the homeless, the unloved, the immigrant, the addict, the dirty, the poor,  the sick, the refugee, the naked, the prisoner,…the least of these…

Jesus’ litmus for true Christianity:  

[Jesus replied] “For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”

Rivers of Water

I was on my way home from the hospital and my first born was lying in an incubator at Pitt Memorial. The last thing I wanted to do was leave her, but circumstances prevailed, and it became something unavoidable. As I lay in bed that night my heart and mind, extremely distressed, I could not sleep. I kept thinking of all the things that could go wrong, and thinking that my 3-pound 10 ounce little-one wouldn’t make it through the night. This night was dark and terrifying and I was afraid. But then my mind remembered the stars…those little dots of light sprinkled throughout the blackened sky. I realized these same stars were also watching over my baby, and that their creator was also her creator. Through prayer I placed my baby girl in God’s hands and I slept.

Prayer and meditation can bring us to peace within the storm. For the Christian it’s the fuel that keeps us going. I often neglect this spiritual sustenance and find myself running on empty, however, the stars of that night, thirty-two years ago, reminded me of a power ready for the taking. This power source is not some old grey-bearded deity somewhere beyond our universe. No, this power source is the God within us, the Holy Spirit who has taken up abode within our souls. 

A necessary element to prayer and meditation is time. Without this element meditation of course is fruitless in our lives. Thankfully with our busy lives’ meditation can occur in small increments of time…a few moments with your morning coffee, seconds waiting at the red light, the minutes between the next meeting, quiet moments before you drift off to sleep. All of these snippets can become moments of mindfulness…moments of tapping into the power source within.

I love the picture painted in Psalms 1:3 which likens the one who meditates as a tree planted by the water…

“…we shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth fruit in [its] season…” 

We are the tree, meditation the roots, and the rivers of waters the Holy Spirit within us. 

Prayer: Lord, throughout this holiday season let our minds habitually visit the babe in a manger…the very one who bled and died, rose again, and now takes his abode within our hearts. Amen. 

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Settled Within

The Ultimate Misfit


One Christmas morning I was up before the birds and all in the house was quiet as a mouse. I was sad, rejected, a misfit because there were certain relationships within my family strained and almost nonexistent. My children and I were were separated by many American miles. As I sat in the silence of that Christmas morn I read God’s word from John 1:11… and this is what God said, “He came to his own and his own received him not.” As I finished that verse I felt Jesus whisper to my heart, “I know how you feel.” Jesus, I realized was the ultimate misfit and I knew I would never be alone.

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His voice when you least expect it.

Yes, I am in a Relationship

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…”  Hebrews 12:2

Growing up I was so afraid of hell, that I actually wished I’d never been born. Daily, I was tormented with the thought of the rapture, and being left behind.  

I knew God’s promises but for some reason they didn’t apply to me.  It was none of God’s fault but all of mine.  I knew and believed what God said about salvation, and about his promise of eternal life. 

And yet, I felt sure I would, somehow and some way, mess up my part of receiving His free gift.  What if I believed too hard thus turning my faith into work?  For God says, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith…NOT by works…” 

So, what if I put my trust in my faith instead of Jesus?

What would happen then?

Would I be saved?

I was religiously taught the Roman’s Road to Salvation.  This step by step process is found in the book of Romans (of course).  This Road begins with chapter 3 and verse 10 and continues as follows:  Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9-10, and Romans 10:13.  After each step has been faithfully taken, the sinner, saved by grace, is taken to I John 5:13 to seal the deal. 

I was so afraid I’d screw up one of the steps, and if I did would I be condemned to hell?  

I’m not saying the Roman’s Road is wrong, and if you have come know Christ through this path, I say a hearty Amen!   But for people like myself there is a danger in teaching the Roman’s Road. 

For us salvation does not equate to, “take these steps and get a ‘Get out of Hell Free’ card.”

For those like me there is no wrong or right way to salvation.  We come to know Christ through many paths, and for us salvation is a relationship, and any faith that we have is given to us by Christ.  Therefore, in essence, our salvation depends upon nothing we do but all in what Christ has done.  

So, the question could be asked… “At what point does salvation actually occur?”

To that I say, “I don’t know, and not knowing is okay.”  

I don’t have to know if I’ve dotted all my I’s or crossed all my T’s because I have nothing to do with my salvation…it belongs to God.  

And in that I rest. 

receive love. give love. repeat. 

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Indulge yourself in Peace.

My Story…

A question was posed at church yesterday: Where and when have you experienced the movement of the Spirit?

My Story…

It was Christmas morning and I was sad.

I was sad because I felt alone.

Yes, I was the only one up…Corinne, the puppies, and the kitties were snuggled in their beds with visions of sugar plums still in their heads. But this is not the kind of “alone” I mean. This “alone” is good. I love this “alone.” I drink coffee, read, and pray to this kind of “alone.” This alone makes me happy. My introverted self has fallen in love with this “alone.”

The aloneness I’m talking about hurts deep in your spirit, and its name is rejection.

Rejected?

I was sad because I felt rejected by those who were supposed to love me.

They use to love me and welcome me into their life. We shared tears and laughter, and get-togethers…dinners and movies… We were partakers of time together. My time was their time and their time was my time.

But on this particular Christmas morning I was alone and the chasm was deep.

Seated on my sofa I began to cry.

I noticed the Bible on the table beside me. I reached for it with the intent of reading the Christmas story…after-all it was Christmas morning.

Matthew? Mark? Luke? John? What version should I read? I chose John.

John’s version of Christmas opens at the time of creation, and I envisioned Jesus’ Spirit moving within the mist among His heavens.

John speaks of Christ and how the words of His mouth created all we see. He paints Jesus as light and life, and how his light shown in the darkness and how the darkness comprehended it not…and how this light physically came into the world as a babe lying in a manger.

As I read I began to feel his presence.

I felt his Spirit urging me to read on. As if He whispered “Read on my child…I have something else to tell you…” And so I did, and as I did I saw the words…”He came unto his own and his own received him not.”

In that moment his gentle voice spoke to my heart…”I know how you feel…”

Again I cried, but I was not alone.

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Word for the day: Mist

Cooking The Goose!

Is it possible that mean people are a blessing in disguise?

I’m not talking about evil people…certainly those that abuse and hurt others are never a blessing! I’m making reference to those people who “rub us the wrong way” or “get under our skin.” You know the ones…forthright, and tactless. Their words are sharp and hurtful, and they never use their tongue to uplift and edify, instead they use it to tear down and debase.

No one likes to be around someone like this. In fact, we go out of our way to avoid them.

But… Perhaps we shouldn’t.

You see, our patience is put on trial every time they grace us with their presence. Our patience literally gets a “work out” just as our muscles do when we exercise.

The apostle James writes in his book, chapter 1, verses 3 and 4, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Trials are never fun, but sometimes they can be beneficial in the growth to become a better person. I love the way Joyce Meyer puts it:

“Learning to walk in love with unlovely people and learning to be patient in trials are probably the two most important tools God uses to develop our spiritual maturity. Believe it or not, difficult people in our lives help us.”

Yes, mean people suck, but let’s “cook their goose” by allowing them to make us better!.

FYI:

Idiom- “Cook Your Goose”

Just for fun: “Use Your Noodle”

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FOWC Forthright

Word of the day: Noodle

Good Friday, Is it Really Good?

In less than a week, another year of my life will have been spent…gone forever, never again to relive. Re-do’s are just impossible with time.

The older I get the closer to dependency I become, and that frightens me.

As a caregiver, I work with elderly seniors, and their level of dependency varies greatly. I love caring for them. I think of my mom and my grandmother, who have passed. I think of the quality of care I would want for them, the kind of care I hope they received.

In some ways I wonder if I’m trying to make up for all the times I was not there for my mom. As I care for these dear ones, I think of myself and the kind of care I hope I will receive one day. I have faith that if I show great patience, kindness, and compassion I will in return receive the same when my time has come.

I realize I have lived longer than the years I have yet to live. In the span of ten years the quality of my life could drastically change. At my age, ten years seem but a whisper upon the wind. It’ll come and go quickly.

The older I get the more I think about dying.

I think of my mom in the last days of her life. I think about sitting by her bedside, holding her hand, and wondering if she were aware of my presence. I desperately wanted to be there when she took her last breath, but I wasn’t. For that I do great guilt. Don’t we all hope when it’s our time to go we will be surrounded by those we love? My heart breaks when I think of her dying alone.

I wonder if one day I too will die alone.

Today is Good Friday, and once again I find myself thinking of death. I read about Jesus’ death on the cross. I think of his last hours…his thirst, his pain, and the blood streaming down his body. I think of him when his Father turned his back, and in great despair Jesus cried out, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me!” In that moment Jesus, as man, was utterly alone. He experienced the total blackness of loneliness…the nothingness…an utter void of everything and everyone.

This is bad, but also it is good.

Reading this scripture I hear Jesus whisper within my heart, “Lisa, your mom was never alone…I was there, just as I’ll be there for you. I died alone so you wouldn’t have to.”

Today, His forever presence is what I will choose to dwell upon.

Good Friday truly is good.

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Lingering

Anything we give to help hurting people, God will always return many times over. Not only will He meet our needs, but our joy will increase as a result of giving in love. Joyce Meyer

Starburst

Lord, open my eyes that I may see, open my heart that I may love, and open my hands that I may give to those that are lonely, poor, and hurting. Let me walk through this day with eyes wide-open, and when I am my busiest remind me to pause to linger among the least of these. Amen

Word of the Day Challenge: Lingering