A clear vision

Several years ago, a friend told me about unclaimed money and how to look for it.  And guess what?  I found some that had my name on it!

It wasn’t a lot of money, not like a windfall inheritance from a long lost relative who remembered me in his will.  But it was a nice surprise.  It was like getting a check for free.  Quite exciting.

As I look at the first day’s study of Armor of God, I am reminded of so many spiritual blessings I have already been given through Christ Jesus.  Ephesians 1 lists many of them:

redemption, forgiveness, riches of God’s grace, included in Christ, marked by the seal of the Holy Spirit, God’s incomparable great power for me, and on and on.

But if I forget about them or don’t make the effort to access them or simply don’t believe they are for me, then I am likely to walk in defeat rather than victory.  I’ll be the poorer for it.

I need a clear vision of God’s spiritual blessings, the bounty of His goodness lavished on me as a follower of Jesus.  He has given me so much and I need to open my eyes.  I need to believe what He says.  I need to receive it all.  All!

Open my eyes so I can truly see the marvelous things in your law!   — Psalm 119:18, NET Bible

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I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people . . .    –Ephesians 1:18 NIV

Remember that free money I was talking about?  It took some effort on my part to get it.  I had to fill out forms and mail some things in before the check came to me.

It is the same in our relationship with our Savior.  He takes us just as we are but does not plan on leaving us in that place.

He has given us everything we need, grace abundant, gifts galore, and He wants us to grow in Christ.  He wants us to become disciples so we then can be a discipler, helping others grow.

Is it too much trouble for me to come to Him through prayer and Bible study to learn more and access His power?  Will it require too much energy to gather with fellow believers so we can learn, encourage each other, and challenge one another like iron sharpens iron?  Is it just too much out of my comfort zone to open up and share with a trusted Christian friend when I struggle and when I need prayer?

I don’t think so.  The gifts and blessings are there for the taking.

I need to reach out and take what is already mine.  In Jesus Name.

 

 

 

Sunday grace

And Jesus told them to pray.

This is our Father we are dealing with, and He knows better than us what we need. With a God like this loving us, we can pray very simply. Like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.  Show us Your glory!
Set the world right; do what’s best— as in Heaven, so here on earth where we live.
Give us what we need for today, food, clothing, shelter.
Forgive us again, and help us keep forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and from the devil.
You’re in charge.  You are the King most high.
You can do anything you want.  And we want You to.
You’re ablaze in beauty!
    Yes. Yes. Yes.     And amen.

Sunday grace.

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[from Matthew 6, The Message]

 

 

Something new

Over ten years ago I wrote my first blog post in anticipation of starting a Bible study.  It was the book of Ruth, one of my favorite stories in the Bible.  I learned so much during the weeks we read in our study guides, looked up Scripture, and gathered weekly to talk as only us girls can.

Writing the blog was a way I hoped to connect with the women of the class.  I made friends there, relationships I still cherish today.

God does things like that when we study His Word.  He gives so much more than we expect, so much more than our efforts deserve.

Next week I begin a new Bible study.  And I am just as excited about staring something new.

Since seeing War Room months ago, I’ve been drawn to the books and studies that have emerged from the movie experience.  First it was Fervent by Priscilla Shirer.  I loved the book and did a review about it.

Then I found Armor of God and determined this would be the next study I wanted to lead.

Ms. Shirer opens her book Fervent with this quote from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:

Theoden:  I will not risk open war.

Aragorn:  Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.

The quote sums up life.  There is a war between good and evil.  We can ignore it, stick our heads in the sand, and pretend it does not exist or affect us.  But the truth is this.  War is upon us whether we risk facing it or not.  The question is:  What are we going to do?

We begin our study next week and the battle is before us.  The armor has been provided by God Himself.  It’s His armor, tested and tried and found to be suitable and a perfect fit for me.  For you.

What matters is whether you and I will take it up, put it on, and wield the sword?

As I dig into the Word of God, my deep desire is to know my Savoir more, to understand His heart, to hear His voice, and thus to follow Him wherever He goes.  I pray that also for those who will study with me.

Over the next few weeks we will do our homework and then gather together to discuss truths that will begin to take root in our hearts and will begin to bear fruit in our lives.  We will share our thoughts and reflect on what God is teaching us about fighting the good fight of faith.

It’s the way we do life together.  It’s the way we grow.  It’s the way we become armed and dangerous women of God.

Expect to hear more about this later.  It’s gonna be good!

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It happened on Thursday

I’d seen him there before, the tall young man with the arm that hung by his side.  The hand that would not work like the other one.  He bagged groceries one-handed doing a fair job of it.

Today he was manning the check-out counter.

It was early morning at the grocery story because I had lots to do today.   Trying to get the shopping done first, I found myself in his check-out line.  There was only one person ahead of me, but it was obvious that things were moving slowly.  Too slowly for my busy day.  The young man had to pick up vegetables, look at code numbers and then type them in with only one good arm and hand.

I looked above and around to see if any other check-out lights were on so I could quietly move somewhere else.  Get on with my day.  Then something spoke to me.  I think it was the Spirit.  “Just be patient.  Stay in this line.  Let him check you out.  Give him a chance.”

So I did.  Before long, it was my food being transported down the conveyor belt, scanned and sent along to the bagger.  The young man and I spoke to each other, passing the time of day.  I thanked him and went on my way home, glad I stayed in his line and thankful that my Kroger offers jobs to all people.

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As I rolled the baskart to my car, I understood the lesson.

We are all handicapped in one way or another.  We all have special needs.  While many are apparent, the result of birth defect or chromosomes gone awry, some of us carry our handicap invisibly, inside where no one else can see.  It may be the result of an alcoholic parent, an abusive relative, a hurtful playmate, an unfriendly world.  We bear the marks of sin upon us.  At times things are thrust in our direction causing the disability we carry through our lives.  Other times we disable ourselves by the decisions we make.

We are all struggling to make it, do our job, keep at it, trying our best to overcome this handicap, this crippling ailment.  It is the sin that so easily besets us and hinders us, keeping us from being all we could be.  All we were meant to be.

There is One who gives us a chance every single time.  He is patient and kind.  He offers His full assistance and forever love.  He tells us we can make it, we can do it, but not on our own.  We need Him to make our lives full and rich and abundant.

It matters not if all our limbs work correctly or our vision is impaired, if we walk with a limp or need a scooter to get around.  It’s not about our struggle with depression, or if we have messed up over and over.  It’s about God loving us just the way we are, right here, right now, in the mess of our fragile lives, in the mess we have made of them.

He gives us Himself and gives us a chance.  He offers His love and we learn to love in return.  He makes us better than we could ever be on our own.  He is our peace, our strength, our sound mind, and our help.

He is all we need for life, for joy, for a future.

The lesson was what I needed today.  A burst of joy on an otherwise ordinary busy day.

He is strong.  He is good.  He is kind.  He is exactly what my heart cries out for.

 

Sunday grace

The house is dark, one small lamp burning by the chair where I sit and read, write, think.

I watch the light begin to appear through the front window facing east, and I see the moon setting slowly in the west horizon.  God causes the universe to continue in it’s swirling.  He hung each planet and star and set them in their order.  He planned this place called earth for mankind.

I read the Psalms and pray them in a whisper, feeling faith rise in my heart because these are His words.  He gave them.  He is the One who will be faithful to complete them.

Let all those who take refuge in and put their trust in the one and only God rejoice.

Let them sing and shout for joy because God makes a covering over them and defends them.

Let those who love His name be joyful in Him and be in high spirits.

He is a shield.  He is a hiding place.  He is a shelter.

He is a warrior.  And He calls me to do battle with Him.  He provides the armor for my protection.  He has worn it and proven it strong enough for me.

Let God arise and His enemies be scattered.  He is victorious!

And so I will rejoice.

Sunday grace.

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Saturday thoughts

On a snowy day when thoughts of staying warm and safe are primary, I have extra time to sit quietly and peruse some of my favorite books.

Let me share a good read with you this morning.

“We are not citizens of this world trying to make our way to Heaven; we are citizens of Heaven trying to make our way through this world.

That radical Christian insight can be life-changing.  We are not to live so as to earn God’s love, inherit Heaven, and purchase our salvation.

All those are given to us as gifts; gifts bought by Jesus on the cross and handed over to us. We are to live as God’s redeemed, as heirs of Heaven, and as citizens of another land; the Kingom of God . . .

We live as those who are on a journey home; a home we know will have the lights on and the door open and our Father waiting for us when we arrive.  That means in all adversity our worship of God is joyful, our life is hopeful, our future is secure.  There is nothing we can lose on earth that can rob us of the treasures God has given us and will give us.”

— The Landisfarne, via The Anglican Digest (from Patches of Godlight by Jan Karon)

This world is not our home friends.  No wonder we don’t feel comfortable here.  We look for a city not built by hands, but we look for one prepared for us by God our Father himself.

Travel on.  Be strong and courageous.  Walk with your eyes looking heavenward.  The end will be better than the beginning.

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Photos by Elena Walls

 

 

 

 

Still together

It’s our wedding anniversary, Sweet William’s and mine.

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I’ve watched so many young couples stand at the altar of covenant, pledging their love to each other, promising the impossible task of loving completely until death parts them. It is a goal too lofty for any of us to do on our own.  Because love does not originate from our own flawed hearts.  It comes from God.

Our loving feelings usually last as long as things go our way.  Then we become frustrated, disillusioned by the unmet expectations of the happily-ever-after wedding vows and joyful celebrations.  The newly-wed season begins to fade into everyday hard work.

Marriage is not for the faint of heart.  It takes guts to pledge and promise and then walk it out day after day.  Sometimes we think it will be easier to just walk away when it gets too hard.  Many have and I am in no position to judge them at all.  Because we were once on the verge ourselves.

But can one ever just “walk away” when hearts and minds and bodies have been joined together in ways meant for marriage, with a vow to stay in the good and the bad, to hold on when it’s the last thing we want to do?  Walking away is not the easy solution it would seem.  For hearts joined are only parted when they get ripped asunder.

Sweet William and I stood at the altar of covenant a long time ago.  We meant what we said in those promises but had no idea how they would be tested.  The road has been rocky now and again, and yet there is great joy as we travel together.

It is by grace that we celebrate today.  God’s unmerited favor on two broken people joined in holy matrimony.  And it is a holy thing.  Marriage communicates God’s loving covenant to a world in desperate need of seeing it lived out in the every day rough and tumble of life.

I’m sure some people didn’t think we would last.  They were almost right.  But God . . . those two words hinged together make all the difference.  His mercy resurrected us when our hope was gone.  The One who is Love gave us Himself and healed our brokenness.

Today we walk together though our steps may falter a bit.  We smile through tears at times.  We are a little bent over, and we hold each other up often.  We walk hand in hand realizing what a precious thing God has done for us.  He provided His love to us when we had run out of our own.

Steven Curtis Chapman penned a song I sing today.

Here we stand, here we are with all our wounds and battle scars
From all the storms and all the wars we’ve weathered together.
We had no way of knowing when we started way back there and then
How the road would twist and turn and bend.
We just knew we belonged together.

And if it wasn’t for God’s mercy and His grace,
There’s no way we would be standing in this place.
But because He has been faithful every step along the way
Here we are together.

If it had not been for God’s grace, where would we be today?  Not here.  Not together.

But we are.  The merciful and loving God we serve blessed us with love fresh from His hand.  And it is to the praise of His glorious grace that We. Are. Together. Still.

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