Independence Day

Happy 4th of July!
Whew! It is 10:00 a.m. and already 84 degrees. The humidity is high, and I have spent the last 45 minutes OUTSIDE and IN THE ATTIC, looking for reasons (with the help of my friends) for why my air conditioner is working overtime. It ran for 10 hours yesterday non-stop, and since it is a relatively new unit, the reasons for it working so hard when the thermostat is set at 76 degrees is a bit of a mystery.

Well, we looked in the attic, and everything looks fine, insulation wise. Then out to the external unit, where it appeared to be running just fine, not straining, and cooling as expected. However, my friends think the coils are too dirty, and so for 20 minutes we cleaned the coils with a hose and sprayer. Amazing how dirty they were! I have no idea if that will help, but I am now safely, coolly, back inside watching the thermometer outside rise.

I don’t really expect it to do anything else. After all, it’s Independence Day! A day of celebrations: picnics, pools, sunshine, hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, baseball and fireworks. In this one day, in the middle of summer, the USA takes the day off and celebrates our independence with a little bit of everything that is America. And in the horrid heat that engulfs the nation this time of year, we play outside and rejoice in our freedom and in one another.

Independence. That’s a pretty sweet word. In fact, it is a word that symbolizes the deepest desire of every living soul. Independence. Autonomy. Liberation. Freedom. Individuality. These words symbolize the United States of America – a nation established by invading immigrants, which has welcomed with open arms anyone from around the world who desired to become part of our free nation. For two centuries, the USA was a melting pot – a stew created from people who were born here and who came here from all over the world. The one thing they all had in common was a desire to be free, and so they came together, united in their belief that we could all live together in freedom and peace, and passionate in their defense of those rights for others.

Over the past thirty years, the heart of the USA has changed. It has become politically incorrect to celebrate individuality, autonomy, freedom and independence. We are no longer a melting pot of individuals striving for a common goal. We are now a salad, made up of immigrants who have come to this nation wanting to partake of our abundance and blessings without assimilating into our society. Each segment (ingredient) wishes to retain its own flavor – its own culture – while trying to change the existing culture of the USA. And they are succeeding.

Gone are the days of free speech. Gone are the days of freedom OF religion (not FROM religion). Going are the days of the right to keep and bear arms. Our freedoms, established by our founding fathers, are being eroded one by one.

This Independence Day, as we reflect on what was created by our founding fathers — on the lives of the men and women who stood against all aggression; the soldiers who fought on this soil and on foreign soil in defense of freedom and liberty; on our proud (if somewhat spotted) heritage — let us reflect with overwhelming gratitude on the greatest freedom of all – the freedom we have in Jesus Christ. No matter what happens to or in this nation, we can have that blessed assurance that we are held in His hands, and that He has prepared a place for us for all eternity – WITH HIM!

May your Independence Day reflect the true freedom you have in Christ Jesus!

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Happy Go Lucky

Happy – go – lucky: that’s a phrase I never hear in these modern times. A sign of the times, I suppose. Everyone appears to be so busy, so stressed, and so focused on planning for their futures and working toward their goals, I suppose there really isn’t time to be happy-go-lucky. According to Merriam-Webster, to be happy go lucky is to have a relaxed and casual manner, exhibiting a carefree freedom from worries about troubles.

I visited a close friend yesterday whom I haven’t seen in a while and when she questioned about how I was doing I could only reply “Wonderful! I feel almost guilty for feeling so good – so happy, so healthy, so content with letting the Lord hold the reins of my life.” In thinking about it now, I truly have become happy go lucky!

How do we attain such a state of carefree unconcern about the troubles of this life? What is the source of such peace and contentment?

I can assure you it is not an absence of trouble, for I have troubles just like everyone else. No, it isn’t an absence of troubles but an absence of WORRY about those troubles. It has taken quite some time and great deal of self-discipline, but I have finally figured out if I simply let go and let God, then I can dwell in peace while I do as He says and then wait for Him to move.

Learning that the outcome of every circumstance is in His hands has given me an amazing perspective on life. It does no good to rant and rail against the circumstance – nothing is accomplished except exasperation and increased stress levels. What works is prayer and listening to God; obeying what He tells us to do; and letting go of our worry beads.

God never moves in the time frame we want, but He is always on time. If we can simply learn to be patient and wait for what He will do rather than taking matters into our frail and incompetent hands, we can experience the best outcome in every situation.

God’s ways are not our ways – they are better! He is far smarter, wiser, kinder, and gentler than we could ever be. His solution for our situations is quite often something we simply never thought of. Our finite minds have very limited views and our selfishness often colors our options. But if we can just let go and let God . . . . Voila! Happy go lucky!

John 14:27   Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight

As We Think, So Are We

Every moment of every day, from the moment we wake until we fall asleep at night, we make decisions. Some of those decisions we aren’t even aware of. We decide what to eat, what to wear, what to do, who to talk with, where to go, and even how to feel. Sometimes these are deliberate decisions, and sometimes they are a result of our inner ‘self-talk’.

People often tell us ‘we are what we eat’ or ‘what we think determines how we act’. Well, I made an interesting discovery today. How I feel is a direct product of what I think about. I discovered what is meant in Scripture by the phrase ‘taking every thought captive’.

Early this morning as I was out taking my morning walk, enjoying the delights of a beautiful cool summer morning, I realized that my mind had wandered, thinking thoughts that were absolutely false! There was no truth in the thoughts and their very fabric was designed to make me dissatisfied, discontent, disgruntled, and thoroughly unhappy! And it was working!

Idle thoughts run through our minds all day long. Some we discard. Some we entertain, and even let them control our actions. But entertaining idle thoughts is unhealthy, emotionally. Those random thoughts can control us, if we let them. With a conscious effort to allow only healthy or ‘good’ thoughts to remain in our conscious, we can discipline our minds to dwell on what is good, pure, and holy. And with that comes a peace that passes all understanding.

Well, that’s what I did. I took control of those thoughts, casting them out of my mind and deliberating focused on something edifying and uplifting. I decided what I would think about.  What followed was true peace, true contentment, true happiness. In the midst of horrendous trials and what could be overwhelming circumstances, I am standing in perfect peace. I know that I cannot change people by thinking about them. I cannot change circumstances by thinking about them. I CAN change ME by what I think.

Today is a good day.

So. I ask you. What are you thinking about?

Words Have Power

Words. Words spoken in haste or anger can produce lasting, detrimental effects. The wounds from some words can last a lifetime. Words spoken in love can produce lasting, positive effects. Sometimes those same words are passed down from generation to generation, passing the love and encouragement on. These are the natural consequences to words people speak. There can be much stronger, much more powerful consequences if the person speaking the words is filled with the Holy Spirit of God. The words of believers have such power to change lives and bring healing to the broken because the Holy Spirit dwells within. Yet I wonder how many of us actually consider what we say and how we say it?

The natural realm that we live in has a spiritual side and when we are spiritually receptive we can see how what is happening in the natural is being mirrored in the spiritual. I am sometimes amazed at Pastors in churches who ‘spiritualize’ the Word of God and do not give heed to the fact that the Word of God is true just as it is written. Yes it has a spiritual side, or context, if you will, and it is ALSO true in the natural. When the Word of God says He spoke through the mouth of an ass, that actually occurred. (And yes, He still uses jackasses today!  🙂   )

Quite often our words, spoken in haste or anger, bring pain to someone who isn’t even present. Gossips often stab someone in the back when they are not around, not understanding that their words are carrying arrows to the victim. We step all over people, metaphorically speaking, and those same people can suffer spiritually and physically.

The words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts have the power to direct our path and the paths of others.  Proverbs 18:21 tells us that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Death and life – cursing and blessing — exist in the mouth of believers and it is up to each person to decide how they intend to use their mouths – whether for good or for evil.

I believe that only someone who has suffered the ravages of verbal and physical abuse can truly comprehend the life-giving power of words of love, acceptance, and encouragement. Sometimes all a victim needs in order to give them the strength to fight to gain back stolen ground is to know that someone is listening: that someone hears and cares about what they are saying and acknowledges that what happened was not right, nor was it their fault. In order to lift a person from victim to victor we must enter into their arena with them, standing back-to-back, standing in the battle with them, and through empathy and compassion teaching them how to become the victor, leading them to higher ground with words. Words of life. Words of love. Words of encouragement. Words of compassion. Words of constructive advice. Words of hope.

Our words have the ability to give life, to restore health to mind and body, or to destroy. We get to choose. I confess that there have been times when my words did not bring honor to the Father nor did they give life or hope to the hearer. I am determined that will not be the case again.

Choose this day whom you will serve…..as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Each One Reach One

Sometimes I’m certain that I will never be whole until I meet Jesus. So this week, in a moment of needing to connect in the middle of the night, I went in search of a PTSD support group. Let’s face it – I’m basically a selfish person and I wanted someone to validate me at 3:00 a.m.! But I didn’t want to burden (again) those who so selflessly have given of themselves for so long to keep me going. So I went online. After all, you can find anything on the internet. What I found is breaking my heart.

I joined an online support group after looking at several. Most of the groups looked like bashing sites and I’m not into that so I kept searching until I ran across one that really is about supporting one another and making positive steps forward. I submitted a request to join the group and, after being accepted I have spent some time reading and re-reading some of the stories and looking at the faces. And I cry out to Jesus for these people.

In an instant my woes became as dust as I looked into these sad, lifeless eyes and read the horrible truths of their daily survival. More than anything I want to see them all healed. I want to see life in those eyes and smiles on those faces. I want to read about victories and picnics and vacations and happy lives. I want the Lord to give them their lives back and I cry out for mercy for them.

After reading some of the stories I no longer felt the need for validation – I felt the need for war! I perceive the broken lives I am looking at are the result of the work of demons – and I want revenge for their lives! I guess you could say I’m on the warpath. LOOK OUT DEVIL!

Some of the stories inspired me to speak directly with the authors and offer words of encouragement and to even share a bit of my victories. Just little things that might help them over a rough patch but with each message I left behind a little piece of my heart.

And now I am angry – angry at the devil and even more angry at the church! Where are you church people who claim to believe in Jesus Christ? Where are you and why aren’t you in here pitching with these people to get them set free from the bondage within which they are trapped? Why aren’t you coming alongside one of these and setting them free? Why are these people so lonely? WHERE IS THE CHURCH???

I wouldn’t presume to speak for Christ but I can tell you that if I were in HIS shoes I’d be fighting mad. A full one third of the earth’s population belongs to Jesus Christ, and if we belong to Christ then we are supposed to have His love and compassion operating in us. If that were so then there wouldn’t be a need for these kinds of web-sites. We’d be in the trenches with people that are hurting and they would have a person to go to who would stand with them and help them through their trials. But they don’t. They have PAID PROFESSIONALS who give them drugs for anxiety and depression and sleeping pills and offer no hope for healing. NO HOPE! How well I know that feeling.

Maybe these people, like me, simply didn’t want to burden those they know, but I don’t think so. What I was reading was desperation from people whose friends and family have told them to just get over it. Get over it. Well, they would if they knew how but there is no one helping them find a way out. So I am jumping into the fray and offering a way of escape through the Great Physician. I pray at least one will find hope and healing. If we would each reach just one . . . .

(Thank you, Sue, for reaching me!)

Monday, Monday

It’s been a busy day…a busy week, in fact, and somehow it has rolled around to Monday again when I wasn’t paying attention!  I’ve taken down window screens and washed them; completed two loads of laundry; designed, crafted and hung new window treatments in the breakfast area; bagged up two lawn-size trash bags of items to donate; and just finished lunch.  There are a host of other chores that need doing but I’m feeling a little lazy right this minute.

Today is a special day.  Not only is it Monday, it is also a holiday AND, shocker, the weather is absolutely perfect!

Days like this really bring out the gratitude in me.  I am so grateful to God for these sparkling days, full of sunshine and blue skies.  I suppose if we had them all the time around here, I’d get rather blasé about them.  But we don’t, and I am grateful for a day of moderate temperatures, low humidity, and sunshine, sunshine, SUNSHINE!!!

It’s a funny thing about gratitude – at least, for me.  Take this one little thing – a beautiful day.  I am so grateful for it that the gratitude seems to be growing in me and spilling over into other areas of my life.  Having expressed thanks for the beautiful day, my thoughts turned to other things I am grateful for, and I began thanking God for those, too.  Soon, simply saying thanks wasn’t enough.  I had to turn on the worship music and begin thanking Him in earnest for His goodness.

Those few minutes of worship have made my day perfect.  The attitude of gratitude brings with it a peace that passes all understanding and I am spiritually resting in His arms even as I physically complete my daily tasks.  I am so peaceful as I work around the house completing little chores and making room for whatever may be coming next.  It’s kind of an early Spring cleaning – of the house and of me!

I’ve discovered something else:  it doesn’t matter how bad my circumstances look (and believe me, I have been in and am in the midst of horrendous circumstances), the peace that passes all understanding is readily available to me whenever I turn my eyes and my heart on the peace-giver.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me!

Why Did God Create Mankind?

This is a question that has perplexed me for many years. Oh, I’ve heard the answers of laymen and theologians, but none of them answered the question so that it satisfied my curiosity. Some say God created mankind for fellowship. That didn’t fly with me because He already has fellowship – perfect fellowship in Father, Son and Spirit and a host of angels. Others say so that He would have worship. That answer also left me unsatisfied – He has the ultimate worship in the heavenly choir. And our worship is imperfect at its best. No, I reasoned, that couldn’t be right.

There is a group that believes God created mankind to obey Him, as if God needs someone to bolster His ego.

“Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him” (Isaiah 43:7)

“Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11) 

According to http://kirkcameron.com/articles/god-create-man-knowing-sin:

The Purpose of Man

Man was created for God’s pleasure and for His glory. That was true for Adam and Eve, and is true for all mankind throughout the centuries. Our purpose in life is to please God by living in a way that honors and glorifies Him, by being His steward and His ambassador on earth and by living in right relationship with Him. Borrowing from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

That sounded pretty good to me: it’s short, sweet, and supported by Scripture verses. I like it. In fact, of all the answers I have seen, this one is ‘correct’. But it still didn’t satisfy my “WHY?” And how do we bring Him glory and pleasure when we are so ugly? He doesn’t need us – for anything!

As I have pondered this question, I have finally come up with an answer that satisfies me. It probably won’t satisfy anyone else, but it has shined the light of understanding in such a way that I can now understand how mankind brings Him glory and pleasure.

Everyone knows, I assume, the story of the fall of Lucifer and how God cast Lucifer out of heaven because of his pride and rebellion. (Isaiah 14:12-14, Ezekiel 28:12-19)

I had this thought: suppose, as God was casting Lucifer and his minions out, that Lucifer taunted God with something like “No one would serve you willingly. No one, not even one you created just for that purpose, would choose you!”

I can just see the Mona Lisa smile on God’s lips, and hear His voice thunder “Watch and learn!”

And God created mankind. And God gets glory every time someone chooses good over evil. And the angels in heaven laugh and rejoice when someone believes in the finished work of Jesus Christ and becomes a member of the Kingdom of God.

And the devils get madder and madder, hotter and hotter, tormenting and terrorizing those who have proven them wrong: we have chosen to serve God willingly – in deed, in worship, in words. And one day, this great cloud of witnesses will stand by at Lucifer’s final judgement and watch as he is cast out one last time – into the lake of fire that burns eternally! Hallelujah!

Love Your Enemies

I don’t know about you, but I am a champion of social media. Of course, like everything else, it needs to be enjoyed in moderation. But I love being instantly connected to the day-to-day lives of family and friends all around the globe. A sweet friend in Romania was recently engaged! I was overjoyed to share in the pictures of that momentous occasion.

I also get to enjoy pictures of birthday parties and anniversaries that I would never be able to attend, as well as news of reports cards (good and bad), babies’ first teeth, graduations, marriages, and sometimes, deaths of a dear friend’s loved one. I can play Scrabble with my sisters who live in different states hundreds of miles apart, and giggle as my nephew gloats over passing me in a silly minefield game.

Yes, I like social media, even with all of its faults. And today I was able to observe firsthand one of the effects of social media and ‘instant’ response time.

There was a ‘news’ posting that my cousin shared (I don’t subscribe to any of them – but sometimes they are shared). This one purported to come out of Seattle and was a report of 16 anti-Trump protesters who had linked arms across a busy freeway, blocking traffic as they chanted ‘dump Trump’. The article went on to say that after a few minutes they separated and let traffic pass and when the roadway was running smoothly again, they linked arms again and spread themselves across the freeway again. Only this time, tragedy struck as a trucker could not stop in time and hit six of the protestors, killing four instantly while the other two died later at the hospital.

This was a very sad story and I haven’t even researched to find out if it is true. Because that isn’t the point of this posting. What I noticed was that about two dozen people had commented on the post and not one of them had ANY compassion for those who had (reported to have) been killed. NOT ONE.

My heart is breaking for this nation. What has happened to us that makes us so unconcerned with those who hold different opinions than we do? When did we become so calloused as to think someone deserves to die if they don’t share our political views (or social views)?

Wake up, Americans. No one, not even me, is promised tomorrow. We could step off a curb today into eternity. Do we really want to stand before the God who created the BIG BANG that created the universe and try to justify ourselves for the things that we are allowing to take place in this country? I don’t. I encourage you to stand up and fight for the downtrodden, the lost, the hurting, the orphans, the widows, and all those who disagree with you. Fight FOR them, not with them! It is our only hope….

Matthew 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you,

Making Plans and Changing Lives

That’s what I started out intending to do today – make plans and change lives. I confess to not being very adept at it. You see, my personality type is one that is concerned more for what others want than what I want and consequently, whenever I try to make plans I am driven by my concern about the impact of MY plan on the lives of family members, friends, my church, the DOG! If I were a younger woman with family still at home or a job to consider then I think my general reticence to make a plan without taking into account its impact on everyone else would be a reasonable thing. The issue is that I have no family at home. It is just me and my little red wagon. That’s all. So why am I so concerned about the impact of MY plan on THEIR lives? I just don’t know. Anyway, I back-burnered the idea in favor of puttering around the house taking care of little things and generally relaxing.

This afternoon I was busily applying vinyl lettering to a wall in my den. The phrase I was placing there is one that I love so well and really reflects who I am. Plus, I had a blank space that was crying for some attention so I thought, why not? Well, let me tell you why not……

My son showed up just as I was finishing the task. And like all grown children, he thinks he has to comment on whatever his parent is doing. And for whatever reason, the comment was not encouraging or congratulatory. No, his concern was for his mother who has started “writing” on her walls. Perhaps she needs to talk to someone about her desire to mark up the walls? Perhaps the time had come to consider some sort of ‘community’ living arrangement. Was I lonely? Too much time on my hands? Do I need a hobby? I wasn’t amused.

Thankfully, I also wasn’t upset. I didn’t expect praise for what I was doing so his comments did not come as a shock nor did they upset the peaceful emotional balance in which I have come to dwell (thank you Jesus). I also didn’t feel the need to respond or defend myself – that, my friend, is a REAL milestone (again, thank you, Jesus!)

So there I was, busily rubbing the vinyl lettering on and chatting away with my son just as if he hadn’t said anything negative or rude or condescending. His words seemed to roll off of me like water off of the back of a duck.  And as we chatted I became even more aware of my desire to ‘hit the road’ so to speak.

Anyway, back to my point – I want to spend what remains of my time on this green earth doing something that brings me joy and draws others into the circle of love of the Master. I really am not particular about what that might be. I just want to get on with it. So today’s encounter with my son revealed that I have grown quite a bit and maybe, just maybe, this time I CAN make a plan without being concerned about what the rest of the family thinks or how it will impact their lives. Because the fact is, it won’t really affect their lives at all except that I may not be available all of the time to them whenever the fancy strikes them. And that’s probably a good thing – everybody has to stand on their own some time.

 

Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Life Happened While I Was Making Plans

Have you ever run across people who seem to know every step they are going to take in their lives? They seem to have goals and milestones set and they work their plan, striving to attain those goals and quite often they do, seemingly effortlessly. They have struggles and set-backs but those things never seem to change the outcome of the plan. They work the plan and plan the work and meet their goals. Period.

Today I am contemplating such people and I’m not sure I believe it any longer. I began wondering if someone who never deviates from their plan has either (1) never had an unexpected, life-changing event, or (2) they are lying, or (3) they are miserable, letting their life plan dictate their decisions. And then I realized that I have never actually had an intimate discussion with anyone about their life plans and how they got to where they are and just, exactly, where are they going. I’ve had talks with people who generally are on track with where they want to be in their lives, but never actually any in-depth discussion about the mishaps they may have encountered along the way. So, now I’m on a mission: what was your life plan at 20? At 30? At 40? At 50? At 60? Are the plans different?  Did they change significantly or are they basically the same? Were there hiccups in the road that caused major milestone shifts or are the major milestones intact?

It would be easy to gather the statistical information to analyze the what’s and wherefore’s of life-plan-deviation. Yet I am interested in something much more meaningful: I want to understand the emotional stressors that impact life plans. For instance, just how much stress has to be applied for the milestone “Medical School” to be changed to “Law School” or to be dropped entirely? Conversely, what events or emotions cause someone to add a milestone “Graduate School” to their life plan after they have already passed the “Thirtieth Birthday” milestone?

I think it would make for a very interesting study, and there is a facet of the study that really interests me the most, probably because I’ve been there. There are those people among us who have suffered such catastrophic life events that their life plans have been totally scrapped. Some pick up the pieces and try to devise new live plans, and others simply don’t even try – the devastation has rocked their world and they see no point in trying to direct anything any longer – it is enough to get through today.

These are the people I want to find. I want to embrace them, and cry with them – or hold their hands and commiserate with them. I want them to know they are not alone – that they are not the only people in the world whose life has turned upside down or has lost all meaning. I want to express the love of Christ to them, and let them know that He sees it all and He cries with them or rejoices with them. I want to let them know that it is all okay: God has a plan for their lives and He will bring it to pass. God is able to bypass and overcome all of the obstacles the enemy of their souls has placed in their paths. God loves them and wants them to live the life of an abundant spirit – drinking in the goodness of each day and rejoicing in the smallest victories.

That’s my mission today – seeking out those for whom life has happened while they were making plans!