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What does it feel like to be a double decker sandwich?

Not so good actually! Blocked in on both sides. Feeling bad about this situation makes you feel bad about yourself. Most days are dark. Most people don’t understand how you feel. Feel taken advantage of! God is the ONLY thing that offers light or hope. And much of that light or hope comes from faithful children.

Caring for an elderly mother and recently an elderly mother in law defines my double decker image. Not a place I ever expected to be but here I am. It’s a day by day of putting one foot in front of the other, or stumbling over my own feet.

Then there are those from whom I need the most help, seem to be clueless as to what that should look like. Thank you’s are meaningless, when really what I need is some empathetic act that will lessen the load, relieve the pressure, or cheer me up. You know like repairing something that’s been broken for way too long. Or completing a task that has been all but forgotten. Oh, and I’m going to be blunt here, doing something nice for me just because they know I like it so much (though they don’t)! Sigh……

While I certainly feel tested during this time (the demands are overwhelming), my grade hovers around a ‘C’ sometimes but a ‘D’ most often. At least, that’s my take on it. Yet Romans 8:1 contradicts those fiery darts of condemnation I am so swift to embrace right now.

I’ll just hang on, though I’m making no great strides. Just can’t muster the strength to handle this like I know I should or like others think I should. So, I’ll just keep getting up in the morning and go through the motions of what is expected of me. God continues to whisper to me that all this will work together for my good.

Well, the only sure thing in all this is God’s truths that apply to my situation. And though the light is dim, I will continue to walk toward that light. Eventually………

Seasons of Contentment

As a 73 year old mother and grandmother, I am finding that the winter season of life is an unbalanced mixture of highs and lows. And, as is too often the case, my perspective is fashioned by the self-centered bent of my fleshly nature. You know, that part of us that we are all born with and until we invite God’s spirit to dwell within us, rules our thinking.

Ever since the last of my 4 fledglings flew from the nest (that was 18 years ago), it’s been an up and down journey for this mom. Contentment was a constant as I was raising my four beloved children. But as one by one they took flight, my contentment began to wane. And was sorely tested when my entire brood moved out and away. Since then while they have moved sometimes closer and sometimes further (even one went to live on the African continent) my contentment ebbed and flowed in concert with their change of addresses . Predictably, the arrival of grandchildren, as wonderful as that has been, contributed to an even greater elusiveness of contentment.

Initially, there were times when I thought, “I just can’t do this.” The reason being, I was brought up on a farm where children grew up and planted their homes not too far away. Therefore, I was predisposed to expect the same future for my growing babes. And even more so since returning to my childhood roots about 40 years ago to establish my forever home.

Yet, the cold reality is that the contentment of my four grown up children is now defined as mine was when we shared the same nest. My presence is no longer necessary to their contentment. Instead,I have become an accessory.

And you know what I am discovering? Being an accessory is as it should be. It’s the way of life. I am learning that only when I allow the lies of fiery darts to interpret my thoughts, will I wander into the valley of despair.

Every season of life is designed for a purpose. God reminds me of this, when I am tempted to allow sadness and my lack of contentment to fashion my attitudes and actions. Plain and simple, my friends, this is nothing but disobedience. Besides, my discontentment will steal the blessings God has for me in this season.

Up until my Winter season there were an abundance of reasons for my seasonal contentments. They were blessings straight from God. And they motivated me in overcoming the hardships I encountered. But in my Winter season the absence of those preferred blessings created a gap in my contentment. That is until I came to terms with the fact that the truest and best contentment can only be found in Christ. This type of God-given contentment opens the door to appreciate a whole new realm of contentments designed to enhance the Winter of my life. Being contented in Christ is the perspective we need to envision all the possibilities for contentment no matter the season of life, but especially in our life’s Winter season.

Dispelling dark clouds!

For the Lord your God is the One who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory. Deuteronomy 20:4

Somedays it seems I just can’t shake this dark cloud that seems to follow me every where I go. Keeping me in the shadows where the warmth and comfort of the Son is diminished. These times occur more often than not when I am alone. When I do not have the helpful and healing distraction of the presence of friends and/or family. Even during my quiet times while enjoying the rural scene and accompanying melodies of the birds from my front porch, the dark cloud can intrude. Casting its shadow over my time alone with God.

The words that clamor for dominance take the advantage as the cloud hovers. And when I take a look at 2020/21 and the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, along with chaos within our own nation, the suffering in Afghanistan, and my personal failings, I grow weak under the weight of it all. How does one find joy and peace in the midst of such a dark cloud of suffering?

Then yesterday during my quiet time the above verse caught my attention. And today, as I was listening to a podcast that very same verse was highlighted. I’ve been a Christian long enough to recognize when the LORD desires to get my attention. So I began focusing on that verse.

I came to realize the dark cloud was a tool of the enemy. Manipulating my thoughts by having me dwell on the realities of suffering all around me. In that verse, God reminded me that I wasn’t fighting this tool of the enemy on my own. God was fighting with me for me to give me victory over the fiery darts of the enemy (dwelling on the suffering). When I grasp the vision that God is in this battle with me, then His victory becomes my victory! The dark cloud is dispelled!

$/Loaves and Fishes

Loaves in Tabgha Church in Israel, Mosaic: four loaves and two fish,

Recently, my LORD gave me a prompting when I was praying about some personal financial matters. A big bill is coming due, and I do not have enough in my account to pay it. Though I resist the thought to dip into my meager savings, I really have no other recourse.

This choice was disturbing to me. For I would prefer to manage my money without having to depend on my dwindling savings. Yet as scanty as it is, I feel the reassurance of its existence is threatened when I have to use it. The fiery dart of fear edged closer. Attempting to catch me in its trap as it has so often done before. And fear typically brings with it its cohorts of anxiety, and doubting God’s provision, right!

Now that’s the backstory for the prompting I received this morning during my prayer time.

So often during my prayer time, God will remind me of truths that apply to the situations I bring to Him. This morning, He brought to me the story of the loaves and fishes.

When evening came, the disciples approached Him and said, “this place is a wilderness, and it is already late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”

“They don’t need to go away,” Jesus told them. “You give them something to eat.”

“But we only have five loaves and two fish here,” they said to Him.

“Bring them here to Me,” He said.

Then He commanded the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them. He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. Everyone ate and was filled. Then they picked up 12 baskets full of leftover pieces! Now those who ate were about 5,000 men, besides women and children. Matthew 14:15-21 HCSB

It was as if God was having a conversation with me. He directed my thoughts to the 5 loaves and 2 fish. And pointed out to me where I fit in this biblical reference. Like the disciples, I felt my skimpy savings was insufficient. I felt this way, having ruled out God’s provision.

God reinforced my trust level with a couple of truths from His word:

Philippines 4:19, And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 

Philippines 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

(Allow me to interject this tidbit of interesting truth, “there were more than 5,000 people fed that day. Notice the wording “besides women and children!” There is no limit when it comes to what God can provide.)

In addition, thoughts of God’s provision and the peace that would guard my heart and mind was much preferable to the disturbing thoughts of fear, anxiety, and doubt my fleshly sin nature was promoting.

So, this is just an example of the effect of becoming familiar with what God has to say to us in His word, the Bible. By becoming familiar with His truths, in times of need, God will prompt us with what we have stored in our hearts. And my caution to us all, if God’s truths are not stored there, then our fleshly sin nature will get the upper hand. And instead of allowing a difficult situation to teach us more about how to trust God, Satan will use it to steal God’s work in our lives. We do have a choice, you know.

Old Nature/New Nature?

I am convinced that there has been a deliberate effort to downplay this foundational truth by none other than Satan himself. How has he accomplished this? It’s simple really! All he had to do was to design distractions that would prevent Christians from becoming students of the Bible. This in turn would directly affect our prayer life. How, we might ask? Everything, and I mean everything, we need to know to live life and communicate with God is laid out for us within the pages of the Bible.

Too many of us, as Christians, have unknowingly succumbed to this distraction of the enemy. Therefore, we have an uninformed perspective concerning our old nature vs our new nature. Please allow me to share a personal example to illustrate this.

July 18 was my birthday! If you are curious, I turned 73. The day started off rather nicely. My husband gave me a lovely tea mug, which included a cup strainer and lid. After steeping some heather tea, I carried my new tea mug to my front porch to enjoy a few quiet moments sipping on my tea, and listening to the gentle rhythm of a summer rain.

Too soon the rain ceased, and my husband left for the day to make a hospital visit. After waving goodbye, I opened the front door. Only to be assaulted by the aftermath of the recent three week stay of two of my children and their families. Someone had to start cleaning up that mess, even if it was her birthday!!!

The thoughts born by my bonny porch moment slowly began to deteriorate. Supplanted by, “No one should have to spend their birthday alone. And cleaning up this gigantic mess left by others is no way to celebrate!”

Even though I know better, I was permitting my old nature to rule my thoughts and shape my perspective. My old nature is aggravatingly self-centered. Always promoting my will over God’s will. As the day wore on my self-centered old nature grew sadder and sadder. In spite of all my efforts to redirect my thoughts, my perspective stubbornly remained the same.

The next day dawned finding me entrenched in negativity. Somehow I sensed relief would come only if I thoroughly disconnected from my negative focus. Picking up a historical fiction book I had been reading, I lost myself in the cares and challenges faced by its characters. By the time I concluded the book, the transformation of my perspective had been accomplished.

Once again my new nature set me on a healing course. The clarity I received was this, “I had been allowing my self-centered old nature to speak louder than my Christ-centered new nature.”

That illumination empowered me to shut down the voice bent on my destruction and listen to the voice intent my restoration.

It’s the ongoing battle between the old nature (our flesh) and the new nature (our spirit.) And here’s the secret. Before we became a Christian we were ruled by a nature set in rebellion against God. On becoming a Christian we received the nature of Christ. From that point on the growth process begins. We learn how to deal with the ups and downs of an earthly life from God’s word, the Bible. The new nature is fed and empowered by what we learn there. Without the nurturing of of God’s truths, our spirit will grow weak and the old nature will gain strength.

With or Without?

Without the Holy Spirit we don’t have a check on our attitudes, actions, choices. What influences our lives is determined by the predominate philosophy of our culture, and that is always changing. Without the Holy Spirit we won’t be able to understand and/or apply the truths of Scripture. We won’t even be interested in God and His Word. Therefore, we will be ignorant of the manipulation and deception of the enemy. Finally, the main thing we will be without is the promise of Heaven.

Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

With the Holy Spirit we have a check on our attitudes, actions, and choices. What will influence our lives is determined by the never changing truths of God’s word, the Bible. We will have a desire to dig into God’s word so we will grow spiritually strong and be equipped to handle the trials of life. We will learn from God’s word about the enemy and how to resist his manipulation and deception. Finally, with the Holy Spirit we will be assured of the promise of Heaven. 

Where are we headed?

Jesus will return for His church before His 2nd coming. The Rapture, as it is called, is when Jesus will miraculously take to heaven all those who have come to know Jesus as their Savior. This is an event that could happen at any time. Will we be ready?

Or if our departure from this world takes place before Jesus comes for His church, what will be our destination?

In the meantime, what are we to do while we wait?

In the physical world we know that by exercising our muscles to do hard things, we grow stronger. It’s the same in the spiritual world. Life in this world is fraught with problems, things that are hard to deal with. And for those who have been through tough times, because of what we’ve learned from God’s word, we will endure.

It is having to depend upon God and what He teaches us in His word, that keeps us from being overwhelmed by the troubles of this world. It is in God’s word where our enemy, Satan, is exposed. It’s where we learn how to wage war against him.

Spending time with God in His word and in prayer, teaches us how to live life and develop endurance for the trials that come our way. It teaches us the perspective we should have about things like the pandemic and the political turmoil our country finds herself in. It helps us make sense out of the personal and family problems we endure and lights our way to move forward, without destroying the relationships around us. Satan would use those same trials to alienate us from friends and family. God’s plan is to work it out for our good and then some.

Why would we go to any other source when God’s ways bring peace, strength, restoration, joy and, yes. even long-lasting happiness.

From Jesus’s teachings we learn this earth is not our permanent home, heaven is. Earth is where we make preparation to get there. There is a question that must not be left unanswered. Where will we go when we leave this earth?

Love in its purest form!

4Love is patient, love is kind.

Love does not envy,

is not boastful, is not conceited,

does not act improperly,

is not selfish, is not provoked,

and does not keep a record of wrongs.

Love finds no joy in unrighteousness

but rejoices in the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things,

hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Paul’s purpose in writing the above verses was to illustrate what true love looked like. It would do us all well to study this chapter and in particular verses 4-7, in order to possess a clear picture of true love. And if we desire to have a visual of something on earth that comes the closest in comparison, we need look no further than a Mother’s love.

Consider a Mother’s love as it compares to the above description. Does it express the heart of this biblical description? Anytime, pleasing self take priority above the object of our love, we are not loving with a pure love.

But thanks for the unchangeable word of God, we will always have sources to go to when our vision of true love becomes blurred. That clear source of a Mother whose love for their children reflects the love God has for them as defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 will always reflect love in its purest form here on earth.

The Salvation of Deep Roots

This is an old Cottonwood tree precariously perched on the bank of a creek near our house. While its roots are somewhat exposed on the creek side, it must have deep roots on the opposite side accounting for its tenacity. Otherwise, it would be going the way of many of its friends.

As I stood there on the bank opposite of this massive tree, a thought came to me. Though the creek’s water was seemingly insignificant compared to the giant perched on its bank, it contained a deceptive power to fell that tree. Lying within the deep ravine cut by that stubborn little creek were the Cottonwood’s friends. Friends who had been overcome by the deceptive and manipulative motion of water cutting away at the soil around them. Eventually, the day came when their roots had nothing solid to cling to. That small unrelenting rush of water held by the creek had claimed another victim.

There are forces at work in our lives today that take on the character of the deceptive water’s of that creek. We hardly notice the destruction they cause until after the damage is done. For some this realization comes too late. For others only the mightier hand of God can prevail against it.

It’s time we wake up! Take notice of those who have fallen. Seek God’s wisdom that exposes their folly. Call upon our Creator to sink the roots of our faith so deep that the forces seeking to destroy us will have to turn in another direction. Setting an example for those who would take notice of God’s power that prevents the waters from overwhelming us!

GOD’S REASSURING VOICE

Recently God walked me through a time of crises. A coup, in the country where my son and his family lived, had created a threatening environment for them. When the coup started it was uncertain as to whether they were going to leave or ride it out. The day I talked to my son, I could hear the uncertainty in his voice. As his mom, I found this very unsettling. But when the demonstrations began and the gun shots could be heard all around, my son’s advisors urged him to leave as soon as possible. Because they were to fly out on a commercial flight they had to first be tested for covid. Only if their tests were negative, would they be allowed to board the plane. But after this decision was made and he called to tell us of their plan, hearing the determination in his voice settled my mind. Now they had a plan, now they could move forward. They finally were able to board a plane and arrived several hours later, with basic necessities packed, to a safer place.

Worry and fear stood hand in hand poised and ready to defeat me. Therefore, I had a choice to make. I was either going to call upon what I knew to be true about God and His ways or I was going to suffer defeat.

Over time God had been preparing and equipping me for such a time as this. Struggle by struggle over the years, God has been training me to distinguish between His voice, the voice of my sinful nature, and the manipulation and deception of the enemy.

You wouldn’t believe, then maybe you would, how many times the temptation to fear and worry reached out to take control of my thoughts. Yet because of what I had earlier learned, God reminded me that He had not given me the spirit of fear but of power, love, and a strong mind. He whispered to my mind that I was not to worry about anything but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, I was to make my requests made known to Him. Then the peace that passes all understanding would guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. These truths formed the prayer request I sent out to family and friends.

  • -Pray for safety in getting to the airport (Prov. 29:25)
  • -Pray for freedom from fear so their actions and attitudes proceed from a sound mine. (2 Tim 1:7)
  • -Pray for wisdom for my son and daughter in law as they parent through this ordeal (1 Corinthians 16:13)
  • -Pray no weapon formed against them will prosper. Isaiah 54:17 
  • -Pray for complete trust in the Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6

That’s just a sampling of the weapons with which God supplied me as I rejected the thoughts of fear and worry. The choice I had to make was to either believe God or be victimized by the enemy. While I didn’t know the details of God’s plan, I did know that because I was praying (as well as thousands of prayer warriors from all over the world) God was working on it.

I am no super saint, but through years of training on how to connect God’s word to the struggles I faced, His familiar voice was loud and clear as He guided me through this recent crises. There was no fear. There was no worry. Just a sober calmness as I listened to God’s reassuring voice.