Posts Tagged With: inspiration

Sonlight

Molly soaking up the sun!My old cat Molly loves to soak up the sun. In the summer months she can be found on the patio, in a flowerbed or on a lounge chair for hours at a time letting the warmth of the sun penetrate her fur. When the cold north winds begin to usher in the below freezing temps of winter she tucks her tail and runs for the warmth of her bed inside. She is a great weather forecaster!

With the slightest rise in temperature, she cautiously pulls herself from the confines of her princess pad and ventures to a spot where the sun is shining. It may only be a small beam on a spot just big enough for her, but she takes full advantage of it. She will stretch out her paws and purr, warming her weary bones until she gets her fill. I notice she never misses an opportunity to get into the light and capture its luxurious warmth.

When the sunbeam fades into dusk, Molly is content to return to her bed indoors until the next opportunity to relish in the light of the sun. During winter’s short days she will be content to grab hold of any ray of light she can, and when summer comes again and she can rejoice in the heat from dawn ‘til dusk every day. She didn’t need lessons for finding sun beams, she instinctively knows to go where the light is.

Winter months can be a difficult time to get through because of the long dark nights and short days. This gloomy atmosphere after the hectic holiday season can pull many into a pit of despair. An excellent remedy for those suffering from the dreary days of winter is to find your own sun beam, and get into the light! Bask in its goodness and enjoy its warmth on your skin. Even in the dead of winter, the sun will find a way to warm its captor, and is a necessary component to good emotional health.

Another element to great emotional wellness is following the SON! John 8:12 says “Then Jesus again spoke to them. Saying, I Am the Light of the world, he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness but will have the Light of life.”

Jesus seems to be saying, “I’m throwing out a beam of light so you can see! Follow me!” It tells me we will have dark and difficult times in life. We need to look for the Light of the world and follow Him so we won’t lose our way!

The Light of the World will never grow dim or burn out, God sent His Son to illuminate our path all the way to eternity. If you’ve grown cold, it could be because you stopped walking! Following Jesus means we are always pursuing Him, and we need to be moving towards the Light! Come on get up and get going, travel into the warmth of the Son, bask in His goodness, enjoy His presence and feel His warmth penetrate your soul.

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Sufferin’ Succotash

 

My 2 ½ year old grandson came to stay with us when his newborn sister was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) one hour and forty five minutes away from home.  His mom would stay by her newborn’s bedside for the next 21 days while his daddy went to work and school in between his trips back and forth to the hospital.  It was a trying time for all of us.

This was not the first time we had been to this NICU and as unfortunate as it was we already knew all the staff in this specialized care facility for newborns.  You see, the little guy that was smiling up at me every day asking for “a bite of” was in this same facility during his first month of life as well.

Even though our time together was unexpected we made the best of it, and like any good “Meme” we got caught up on our Looney Toons episodes!  One day, as I watched these old familiar cartoons, Sylvester the cat said “sufferin’ succotash.”  I thought, “That’s it!  This suffering is for a reason, it is meant to help me understand how much Jesus suffered for me.”  In this light bulb moment I realized I had wanted my salvation and all the goodness that comes with that, but I wasn’t willing to suffer like my Savior had.  I wanted my cake and to eat it too!

Reality set in and I began to question my faith, my belief in God, and I think even lost my hope for a time.  God began to show me some things I didn’t really want to read or hear about.  We must be willing to suffer like His Son did.  Jesus was lonely, hungry and tired. He had no home or income.  Once it was discovered he could heal people Jesus was hounded and called upon until it made it very difficult for him to spend time alone with his Father.  He was persecuted, ridiculed and laughed at before he ever got to the cross.

I began to ask myself: could I trust God even when I couldn’t see?  Did I really believe He was the God of all comfort?  Was my faith strong or weak?  I honestly was not very proud of some of my answers.

1 Peter 4: 12-13 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.

“The Good News” comes with a price.  Jesus suffered and died for our sins so we could have access to the Throne Room.  We must be willing to partake in the sufferings of Christ to really know and experience the glory of God.  Let me ask you today – are you willing to share in the sufferings of Christ? Can you trust when you cannot see?  Will you hold onto your hope in Christ when things look bleak?

One interesting side note:  When I googled suffering succotash I found the following information on the term:

In the mid-1800s, during the Victorian era, there was a rejection of all profanity and so the common people developed a wide variety of malapropisms to avoid swearing on Holy names. Soon, one could hear “cripes” and “crikey” replace “Christ” and “dangnabit” replace “G*d damn it”; and “cheese ‘n’ rice” replace “Jesus Christ.” The phrase “suffering succotash” replaced “suffering Savior.”

 

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Reveal, Repent and Renew

Psalm 51:10 – Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. David wrote this after his good friend; Nathan told him what he needed to hear. David was sinning against God but had rationalized it in a way that didn’t “seem so bad”. His friend, Nathan pointed it out and then David realized he was not walking with God. He repented and asked God to forgive him so he could renew his close relationship with His Creator.

We all need to bury this scripture in our hearts so that each time we struggle with temptation or rationalizing something that is against God we can immediately repent and return to our Father.

As simple as this topic seems it can be the one thing that trips all of us up. We can get in a rut and not realize we are sinning because what we are doing has been rationalized either by us or by our family and friends. We all need good friends to tell us the truth from time to time. This is something we don’t usually like but sometimes necessary to get us back on the right track.

Could you be a good friend and tell someone the truth of their sin? Could you be on the receiving end of this and accept a gentle criticism or rebuke? A good friend will not intentionally hurt your feelings but want to cautiously correct your wrong.

We are meant to help each other along in our faith. Pointing out a sin can be part of that. I’m thankful for Nathan’s story in scripture but I am equally thankful for David’s response to the correction. He didn’t take it out on Nathan he went immediately to God for restoration.

A great example for all of us!

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Cleanup Project

We have a trash transfer station or dump in our city where items that no longer have a use are disposed of. It is smelly, loud and filthy. The refuse is dumped and a steel plate immediately comes down and begins to compress the garbage, smashing it again and again to be certain it is compacted with as little air space left as possible. More and more unwanted items are spilled and crushed until it is no longer possible to identify anything in this disgusting mess.

This is the vision I get when I think about our human nature and how we handle our own personal battles with our flesh. Our hurt can be so intense and gut wrenching that we find it difficult to cope. We try our best to hide, crush or beat down the memory until it disappears. Much like that trash compactor we push the garbage down trying without success to press it into submission leaving it to rot.

This interesting scenario is really masquerading as unforgiveness. Some of you are probably sitting there saying “I don’t have a problem with forgiveness! I have been wronged and my feelings are hurt. I have a right to feel like this.” While it is true that you may have convinced yourself of the right to feel this way it doesn’t line up with God’s sovereign order of things.

Unforgiveness can be a lifelong spiritual illness that seems to have no remedy. Families tend to teach each other how to do it with perfection. It will take faith and complete trust in your Savior to break free of this vicious way of life. It can become our mission work if we are not careful.

Let’s get this cleanup project started, spring is on the way and God is waiting!

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Set your captive free

Jesus GAVE himself up FOR you. If Jesus wanted to be selfish he could have denied the road to the cross; instead he freely traveled the road to death. He was willing to trust His Father even when things did not look good. He could have gotten defiant like children sometimes do. He could have stomped his foot and said “No, I will go this far but no further!”

This picture of my Savior walking the road to certain doom convicts me when I am tempted to withhold forgiveness from a fellow Christian, co-worker or any person who has wronged me. Jesus held on to what he knew about his Father even when he was tempted, beaten and ridiculed. He decided not to look at the environment around him allowing his emotions to take over. Jesus decided to trust His Father.

Jesus GAVE himself FOR you and for me. God’s Son endured the cross of Calvary where they hung him up to die! He experienced separation from his beloved Father in heaven for us. He GAVE himself FOR us. He FORGAVE us then GAVE his life FOR us.

Doesn’t it seem like a small thing to erase a transgression in light of all we have been offered? Next time you are tempted to hold a person hostage for their sin towards you, won’t you think about Jesus? Release your captive, let them go, you will be glad you did.

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Don’t give up!

Has there ever been a time that you wondered if God was giving up on you? Philippians 1:6 says: For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. In other words, if you are a believer in Christ, He will not let you down. He will continue to refine that good work He has started in you until the day of Christ Jesus. His intention will be to stir in you the desire to discipline yourself to follow after Christ, no matter the cost.

Will you have days of despair, discouragement and depression? Yes, of course! It is necessary to feel the pressure, and the natural inclination for most humans will be to give up, throw in the towel or return to the old habits. Don’t despair, He is only showing you how helpless you are without Him. What a joy to know that He won’t let any of us down and will come to our rescue right when we think all is lost. He is faithful. If God is for us who can be against us? He will finish what He starts!

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Fashion Statement

Each prison population has a designated color assigned to them. Each uniform for that prison is exactly the same color and style. Even their undergarments are all the same. Once a person is incarcerated they will wear the same outfit every day. The only personal item that is different among the population is their shoes.

As I stand in front of the prison population each week I am often struck by this sea of color. Females, as you might imagine, are not at all happy about this fashion trend. They desire to be individuals and work hard to create their own sense of style with these shapeless cotton garments that are assigned to them. It can be amusing to see what they can do to create a fashion statement with so little to work with. No matter how hard they try they are still swallowed up in the sea of sameness when they are assembled together.

Even though they hate the lack of individuality this provides it gives me great comfort and encouragement. When I look out over them and their uniformity I am reminded that the very thing they despise is what I love. Their uniform reminds me that God sees us all the same. He doesn’t look down from heaven and say “Oh there is my upper class citizen, and there are my poor pitiful poverty stricken people.” God’s people all look the same to Him, He loves us all the same!!! It is not a beauty contest. What we would consider our flaws are actually beauty marks from our creator. We are all individual to God and yet all the same. We have a wonderful loving God who has created us in His image. So, you see we all look like Him if we are truly His child. He then gives His children individual talents and traits that set us apart from others (tennis shoes). God is an amazing complex God who hasn’t neglected a single detail.

I am praying the next time you look into the mirror you will see God’s creativity smiling back at you instead of the perceived inadequacies you have convinced yourself of. Then put your shoes on and see where He leads.

 

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I just can’t forgive myself!

Do you have trouble forgiving yourself? Have you done something that you believe is so terrible that you can’t stop condemning yourself for it? Do you consistently bring it up to God? What if I told you that what you are trying to do is a sin?

God gave the Son of Man the authority on earth to forgive sins. (Mathew 9:6) Jesus hung on the cross, endured a horrible death to redeem you from your sin. Once you have accepted Jesus Christ as your savior you are saved. Your sins are forgiven because He took them on himself. You cannot forgive yourself because you do not have the authority from heaven to do so.

This issue if you will? is a classic female malady. Women consistently tell me “I just can’t forgive myself.” I say “No you cannot, you do not have the authority to do that.” God gave the authority to our Savior, His Son, to do that. By expressing your inability to be unable to forgive yourself you are in effect saying you are suffering from the sin of unbelief or lack of faith or both. In truth, pride is probably the biggest demon here.

Since the beginning of time Satan has been twisting God’s Word just a little to trip us up or keep us hand cuffed to our past. By doing so, we become ineffective for Christ, we can’t walk in freedom. If you are suffering from this chronic problem can I offer you some relief? May I gently remind you that you are not in control? Take your burden to the cross for the last time. Ask the Great I AM to forgive you for your sin of pride, unbelief or lack of faith and step into the Promised Land with no baggage. Learn to embrace the new creation you are in Christ. Accept this free gift and wear it every day from now on.

Just imagine with me if all those reading this were able to let go of the past and walk in freedom from this day forward how much work would get done for the Kingdom? Go ahead, take the key God has given you and unlock the handcuffs.

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Joshua or not

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9) Ok, if God needs to say “DO NOT be afraid or dismayed” then there must have been a good reason to believe that Joshua was going to feel that way very soon! As I read this scripture and meditated on it I wondered “Am I sure what dismayed means?” Definitely not a word I hear often. I also noticed that different words that we get use to reading or saying in scripture are no longer considered everyday words in the 21st century.

I am a fan of the Webster’s dictionary in the hard copy if you know what I mean. I love to look up words and ponder their meanings. We can all expand our vocabulary every day if we want to. It just seems that we no longer have the want to. We just read over words thinking we grasp their meaning without really knowing how to define it completely. (Youngest daughter are you listening?)

So, let’s see what this word “dismayed” really means or meant in context to this scripture. Dismay implies that one is at a loss as to how to deal about something. Specifically for this passage it means, a sudden disappointment or sudden loss of courage. At the beginning of the passage God asks Joshua a question. “Have I not commanded you?” My paraphrase would be “Haven’t I already told you this?” I am giving you a warning that what you are about to see or experience is not exactly what you were thinking and it might cause you to suddenly lose your courage and become afraid and disappointed.” God was letting Joshua know in advance that he might be coming up against something that would create a deep despair and a sudden urge to give up! Joshua would need to remain strong and hold onto his courage.

Well, I can’t imagine why Joshua would be afraid; I mean becoming the leader of 2 million people and then crossing the Jordan River with them to the long awaited Promised Land. No problem, right? This new job was going to require great faith and Joshua was going to want to quit. The good news is that God says He will be with Joshua wherever he sends him.

I love this scripture; I keep it close so I can remind myself that God is with me and I can’t do any of this without HIM and I don’t need to be afraid. Life is a series of sudden disappointments, fears and frustrations that can really make us wonder what we are doing here. What I believe God was really trying to do was build a trust relationship between Himself and Joshua. If Joshua could learn to rely on God completely during those moments of extreme fear or when he became dismayed they could be great companions. Joshua would then become a vessel through which God could do great works for His kingdom. Joshua did learn it but God had to remind him a few more times to be strong and hold onto his courage. I think I have been Joshua a time or two how about you?

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Love letters

My administrative assistant has a daughter preparing for college. This young lady has made it her business to see how many scholarship offers she can get. She has recently been waiting for a letter from a certain university to arrive by the old fashioned snail mail. This university doesn’t know it but they are in the running for the number one spot. She is excited and so are her parents for obvious reasons. The family made a pact that she would not open this precious piece of mail until they could all be together. The university has added some hype by sending their target an electronic temptation. They let her know the letter was on the way.

Now I know letters by the US postal service aren’t the norm anymore. We enjoy quick communication and have come to expect it, even demand it. But… consider the anticipation of this young woman as she stares at her envelope wondering what is inside. She is about to find out what God has in store for her future. She is anxious and fearful all at the same time. The best part about the letter will be that she can keep it forever. No accidental delete button to destroy this message.

For twelve years, I have been receiving different types of encouragements from the female inmates I minister to. These letters have been collected and stored neatly in a file for years and years. Each time I receive one of these prayers, drawings or poems I read it and carefully then placed it among the others. Over time I have grown so accustomed to this practice that I admit I haven’t enjoyed them as I should have.

Not long ago a voice on the answering machine at the ministry office was asking for a poem they had written for me over a year ago. The paper copy had been given to me and the owner had lost her original copy. She was asking if we could locate the copy she had given me and return it to her. The staff looked at me bewildered.

I smiled knowing exactly where that precious piece of paper was. The file was removed from its comfortable perch on the rails of the file drawer. I was amazed at how thick it had become. So bulky it needed two hands to protect the contents from scattering. Some were long and descriptive. Most filled with scripture. God was speaking to me through those forgotten notes. HE was reminding me of the mission He has called me to. The women professed their love to God and to me. I found the missing poem in a matter of minutes but I took my time browsing through the rest of the folder savoring the musty smell of the prison paper knowing how much God loves those women.

How incredibly loving of Our God to send not one but hundreds of love letters to a tired missionary. These letters were very near me every day but I was so busy with day to day tasks I didn’t bother to look at them. I am not ready to return the folder to its home just yet. I plan to post some of the notes or phrases in the next few weeks. I pray you will receive a blessing from them.

A copy of the young woman’s paper was returned by the US postal service for her to keep forever.

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