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Leftover Thoughts after Vacation

Genesis

When I explore new places, I see so much beauty in the Earth that God created.  When I am still and submerge myself in these natural surroundings, I cannot help but be in awe of the subtle differences in landscapes and waterways.  I have always found peace in quieting myself and wondering about our creative Father ever since I was a child and ventured into the woods or the farm I lived by.  This world is beautiful underneath all the ugliness that man has created by his own fleshly nature.  My quiet place is anywhere that I can be still and notice the clear brooks, green hills, or feel the soil between my toes…..soil.  Just thinking of that alone, the gritty odor of soil and the way that it shifts and molds under my feet, whether it’s sand, clay, or peat.   The feeling of coolness from shaded soil or the hot sand that you quickly walk on that is exposed by the blazing sun.  How God took something filthy and created humans to have relationships with.  Yes, by our very nature we are dirty, yet God sees each of us sprouting, growing, and blooming to the potential He created us with individually.  Distinctive differences on numerous levels, each with different markings, characteristics and traits, yet similar enough to know that our origin is dirt.  Only God can take something so grimy and shape it into something pleasing and necessary to its environment.

Revelation

When I sit on the ground, whether it’s a mountaintop overlooking a valley or on a beach with my feet in the sand, I want to remain there forever.  My soul is quiet and I feel God’s presence around me.  Remain….that’s a word that I don’t think of often, but to remain means several things, look it up in the dictionary and think about each meaning. Synonyms of remain are abide, stay, wait, tarry, rest, or endure.  That word also makes me think of this scripture “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” John 15:4.  My filthy self, needs to remain in Christ if I want to be productive and fruitful….if I want to live to the fullest potential of what I was created for.  I can’t do that on my own, severed from Christ.  I’ve tried before and it doesn’t work, I wither and become dry dust without Christ. Ashes to ashes, we all fall down.    abide

I wonder, as I view turquoise skies, emerald seas, and chocolate mountains, how much greater the eternal kingdom will be with a remaining known presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  I used to be scared of thinking about life outside of this world, but when you remain in Him, it’s a paradise we cannot truly fathom.  It has to be a stillness we’ve never even come close to feeling even on our highest moments on Earth.  A place where time doesn’t matter, harmonies float in the air like the wind, and worries are non-existent.  Paradise….if I remember the vine and stay attached to it.

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Posted by on July 6, 2018 in Spiritual Reflections

 

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More than I can count

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. Martin Luther King, Jr

Some days I just feel the need to write.  There’s some kind of healing that happens, I believe when you can just throw the words out of your mind and onto paper or a screen.  I’ve been gnawing on some things that have been going on in my life with certain people who are causing discourse either with those around me or myself and at the same time I’m reading a book that is reminding me to love the unlovable, people different from myself, those I mostly don’t acknowledge or even see.  But, to do this is hard, especially when you encounter those who are ready to run you over and take anything that is left of you or accuse you of not caring when you care more than they understand.

These feelings are minor compared to what Jesus must have felt when those closest to him abandoned him.  That’s what I have to remind myself of.  Jesus felt all the heaviness of all types of problems, sins, hurts, regrets, guilt, accusations but still loved the world enough to bear them.  What amazing love that is.  Yet, how many times have I felt disappointed in God for not doing what I expected him to do?  How many times have I tried to manipulate God to get what I want?  How many times have I shut the door in his face because He’s telling me something that I don’t want to hear?  How many times have I been selfish?  How many times have I been cruel?  How many times have I blamed Him for something I caused myself?  How many times have I hurt him?  How often have I pushed him away?  How many times have I run over him?  How many times have I lied to him?  All these questions remind me of the scripture where Peter asked Jesus how many times do I forgive someone who sins against me? Is 7 times enough?  Jesus replied to Peter and said, no seventy times seven.  Now me, my math skills are terrible, so I would just know that number is more than I can count on my hands.  But, after I figure it up with a calculator, the number is 490.  I don’t think Jesus intended for Peter to keep score to 491 and then write them off as unforgiven.  I think he just gave a high number to show that to forgive isn’t something you should keep score with.  You just need to do it, even when it hurts.    Even when you haven’t done anything wrong but the other person thinks you have.  Forgiveness is never easy.  But forgiveness is necessary.  Why?  Look at how many times Jesus has forgiven you and me and not kept score.    He doesn’t look at you and me and say well, remember the time when you messed up and so on.  Nope, he just forgives and loves.  That’s what we are commanded to do as well.  Is it easy?  Not at all, but it is possible with God.  Trust me, I don’t have it all together and I know I have a long ways to go.  I’m just reminded recently that to be Christlike can hurt and not be comfortable.  But, this is how we show others who He is.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2018 in Spiritual Reflections

 

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Recognizing Him

salmonbread

Do we recognize Jesus in our day to day walk through life?  I know that I usually don’t.  I’ve really been reflecting on that thought for the past week in reading about Jesus’ resurrection and those he encountered after he arose.  He met the men on the road to Emmaus and asked them what they were talking about.  They couldn’t believe that he hadn’t heard what happened to Jesus.  They suspected that he was new in town.  I think Jesus enjoyed being a little rascally in this situation.  He asks them what things happened.  They tell about Jesus being a prophet and being crucified three days ago.  They tell him the rumors they heard about the tomb being empty.  Jesus shares with them the scriptures and what the prophets had said in the Old Testament.  They listen to Jesus share and begin to approach the village.  Jesus continues on ahead like he’s going past the village and the men immediately invite him to stay with them because it’s getting late.  Jesus accepts their invitation. When it was time to eat, Jesus takes the bread, gives thanks, breaks the bread and hands it to the men.  The men suddenly have an aha moment and then Jesus disappears.  Can you imagine, not recognizing Jesus for that length of time and then when you finally do, He’s gone?  But, they can’t keep this discovery to themselves.  They return back to Jerusalem immediately to find the eleven disciples that were gathered together to tell who they saw.

The disciples are discussing the possibility of Jesus being alive when suddenly he shows up.  They are startled, but Jesus tries to calm them down and says, “I’m real, touch my scars.  Does a ghost have flesh and bones as I do?”  After they see that he is real, he asks them for food.  They give him some fish and he ate it in front of them.  He then explains to them how He fulfilled the scriptures through his death and resurrection.  Their minds are opened and they begin to understand.  He tells them that they are his witnesses and they will spread the good news when the time arrives.  He speaks of a helper that would give them power and that they would have to wait on that before they could spread the gospel.

The last passage I looked at was when the disciples are fishing in John 21.  They aren’t catching anything; their day isn’t going so well.  Someone from the shore gives them advice to cast their net on the other side, they follow his advice and they caught more than they could haul. Suddenly, one of the disciples realizes who it is and tells Peter, “It’s our Lord!” Peter gets excited and jumps off the boat, swims toward the shore and to Jesus.  The other disciples bring the boat to shore and go to Jesus.  Jesus is cooking fish and bread for them.  He tells them to bring some of the fresh meat they just caught to add to the breakfast.  After they eat, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him more than the others.  Peter says, “Yes, you know that I do.”  Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.”  And then asks again, “Do you really love me?”    Peter says, “Yes, I do, you know I do.”  Jesus replies “Take care of my sheep.”  Jesus asks a third time, “Do you love me?”  Peter’s feelings are a little hurt from the repetitive questioning, he says “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” Jesus tells him again to feed his sheep and to follow him.

So, the few things that I noticed that were constant in each of these passages are that Jesus wasn’t recognized immediately.  The men traveling alongside him didn’t realize who he was until he broke bread with them.  It was in that intimate setting where they wound down after a day of traveling that they realized who he was.  I find myself realizing that I’ve had instances in my life where Jesus has walked alongside me on some long roads where I didn’t recognize Him until after that journey was over.  The disciples that were gathered together didn’t understand how it could be Jesus there with them.  They saw him crucified, they saw him die and yet he appeared to them.  They were afraid, but Jesus explained to them why it happened and they had their aha moment with scripture coming alive to them.  There are times in my life when I don’t recognize Jesus. I question him and doubt, but then I find him revealed once again to me in scripture.  Lastly the disciples were working; they were busy and didn’t recognize Jesus at the shoreline.  They were frustrated with the way their day was going, not catching any fish.  They heard advice from the shore and listened to it, not realizing who was saying it until they obeyed.  Suddenly their bad day changed and they caught a ton of fish and they recognized the source…..Jesus.  I can absolutely attest to this happening a lot in my life.  I have days where I’m frustrated at work because nothing is coming in, I’m grumpy, I’m worried, but then I’ll hear a voice that either instructs or reminds me that He’s there with me.  The tide changes, something comes in and I’m reminded that Jesus will supply my need.

The next thing that ties all three of these passages together is food.  With the travelers, Jesus is invited for dinner.  When he shows up to the disciples, he asks for food and when he’s on the shore, he cooks and serves food to the disciples.  I love to eat and I’m glad Jesus does too!  We need food to live, to sustain us, to fill us up.  Jesus is the bread of life.  Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.  John 6: 32-35.  I need Jesus to truly life to the fullest, he sustains me and he fills me up, he satisfies me better than a snickers bar! And, I love snickers!  But, Jesus is truly the only one who can satisfy this hunger within me.

The last theme in these passages is to share who Jesus is with others.  The travelers immediately went to tell the other disciples when they figured out they had spent the day with Jesus.  The disciples were told that they were Jesus witnesses and that they were to tell others about Him once the Holy Spirit gave them power to do so.  The disciples, especially Peter were asked to feed His sheep.  We are supposed to share Jesus with others.  I honestly don’t do it enough. So, that makes me question myself….do I really love him?  Am I more concerned with what others think, whether I will offend them, instead of being concerned about where they are spiritually?  Yes, often times I am.  Other times, I know that I allow myself to be so busy with life that others I pass are just a blur to me.  I have recognized that I miss Jesus a lot and so I am reminded to look for Him, to spend time with Him, to be directed by him and to share him with others around me.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2018 in Spiritual Reflections

 

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Pointing Fingers

“Who are you to judge the life I live?  I know I’m not perfect -and I don’t live to be-but before you start pointing fingers…make sure your hands are clean!”   Bob Marley

I have been slowly reading a book called “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made,” it is an interesting read that is causing me to reflect on different things about the Christian life.  It is written about the physical body in scientific terms and speaks about the body of Christ in a metaphorical way.  In turn, this morning I read about fingers and so I decided to explore the Bible and see what it said about fingers.  The first reference that popped up was the magicians referring to the plagues of Egypt as the finger of God.  The next reference was God’s finger writing on the tablets for the Ten Commandments, then later on in the New Testament, it led me to Jesus’ finger writing in the dirt in John 8.  I love this picture of Jesus.  The teachers of the law and Pharisees bring this woman accused of adultery in front of Christ.  They are pointing fingers at this lady for what she has done and Jesus in turn kneels down and starts writing on the ground.  I wonder what he wrote, the Bible doesn’t say.  It just says that he writes on the ground.  Perhaps, he wrote down the Ten Commandments, since the teachers and Pharisees brought up the law.  Maybe he was drawing a picture or maybe he was just doodling.  We really don’t know.  But we know how He reacts.  He draws or writes something, I picture him doing it quietly and then he stands up and says whoever is without sin, be my guest at throwing the first stone.  He then goes back to the ground and writes in the dirt some more.  Imagine how angry the accusers are.  Imagine how ashamed the accused is.  But also, imagine the looks of the crowd, wondering exactly what Jesus is up to.  Slowly, the crowd and accusers leave the scene and only Jesus and the woman are left.  After all the accusers and crowd have left, Jesus stands back up and looks at the woman.  He says, “Where are your accusers?  Has anyone condemned you?”  She replies and says, “No one has.”  Then Jesus counters with “Then I don’t either, now go and sin no more.”

I started thinking about how often Christians and really just humans in general are quick to point the finger at someone.  We are quick at judging and placing blame elsewhere instead of looking at ourselves in the mirror and letting God work on ourselves.  Typically others respond to finger pointing by giving the finger back to the one pointing it.  Pointing fingers only causes the other person to feel anger, shame, and annoyance with the pointer.  It doesn’t change whatever they have done or are doing.  It more than likely just fuels the sin instead of putting the sin out.  I know that times in my life when I’ve been accused by someone for something, I’ve just rebelled even more.  That’s not Jesus’ response.  The thing is, God wrote the law…He made the rules.  He saw that man couldn’t keep the rules perfectly, so Jesus came in the flesh to be save us.  When Jesus bent down and wrote in the dirt, then talked to the woman, he told her not to sin anymore.  In other words, he was extending forgiveness to her, he offered salvation.  But, the ball was in her court whether she accepted his forgiveness and mercy and changed.

I guess the reason I’ve reflected so much on this is because I come across people a lot who clearly aren’t living a sinless life, but I don’t see where if I scream at and accuse them or remind them that they are in need of judgement where that would help anything. Instead, it would only cause them to flip me the bird and tell me to get the heck away from them.

Galatians 3:13 says, “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”   Jesus saves; he extends his hand of forgiveness to all of mankind.  He does so with this amazing love that is hard to run from if you clearly see it.  When Jesus turned to look at the lady who was standing there and he asked those questions….I’m sure she never felt so much love in her entire life, just by his actions and grace.  So tell me, which way is better at encountering those who are lost?  I’d rather do it Jesus’ way.

 
 

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Give in, Get rest

fightingsleep

This morning when I got up, I kept hearing Chris Tomlin’s song “Lay me down,” in my spirit.  I like the song, it’s upbeat and catchy.  But, I really started thinking about the lyrics and what it actually says.  Often I can hear something, but not really listen to what its saying.  I hear the sound, but don’t listen to the message of it or just don’t really think about it.  While I was thinking about it, I started visualizing a kid who fights a nap.  I’ve seen kids do everything possible to fight sleep and avoid rest.  Kids can do some really silly things to stay awake.  They wiggle, ask for food or drink, go to the bathroom a million times, cry, sneak and play after the parents leave the room.  But, after a long fight, usually sleep just overtakes them or they skip the nap and become unbearable the rest of the day.

If I don’t get enough rest, I know that I can be hard to live with.  I try to medicate myself with enormous doses of coffee, but that’s just a quick fix to the problem.  Anyway, after thinking those few thoughts, God spoke the verse “Be still and know that I am God.”  The thing is, if you are still and not fighting rest, you find it pretty quick.  Your eyes get heavy and the next thing you know, you’re in dreamland.  After thinking about that verse, I wrote down some key words that I felt went along with my whole visualization that I know God gave me, for at least my own personal life.  The four words I wrote down were lay, listen, rest and know.   I started digging in the word and wrote down some verses to look up later when I had more time to examine what God may be trying to show me.

First, for lay, I read about Jesus laying down his life for his sheep….for me and you.  (John 10:11)  Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice.  Next, I read 1 John 3:16 and it says that Jesus is our example of love because He laid down his life for us and that we should do the same for our brothers.  Sacrifice involves laying down things that are hard to lie down; otherwise it wouldn’t be a sacrifice.  The thing about sacrifice is that God isn’t going to force us to lay that sacrifice down, he wants us to be obedient and willing to do so (John 10:18) Jesus became willing to go to the cross.  So, back to the thought of a kid taking a nap, in order for the kid to receive rest, he has to first decide to lie down.

Second, listen.  Listen is an action word.  I cannot hear well, I wear hearing aids and often I have to really focus on the person speaking to hear them.  Other noises that are louder will distract me from actually hearing someone who is speaking soft.  When I was a kid myself and couldn’t go to sleep, my Dad would tell me to just close my eyes and think of good things.  I would most of the time listen to his advice and do that and fall asleep.  But if I listened to the worries of the day or the fears that lingered in the shadows, I’d toss and turn and have trouble falling asleep.   So, the first thought is that to find rest, I need to listen to my Father (Heavenly one).  John 10:27 says “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  Proverbs 1 says that those who are wise listen yet fools despise wisdom and discipline.  I don’t think I want to be a fool, but I know that I have been and sometimes I’m foolish and stubborn because I don’t listen.   1 Samuel 3:9, “So Eli told Samuel, Go and lie down, and if he calls you say, speak Lord, for your servant is listening.  So Samuel went and lay down in his place.”   In this verse, the word servant stands out to me and the word Lord.  The Lord is lord of my life, He reigns over me and I need to be willing to be submissive to hearing what He wants to tell me.

Third key word is rest.  My first key scripture took me to Job 3:17.  Job is upset and he’s tired, he wishes to never have lived and wants death because he sees that as the quickest answer to his problems.  He wants to find rest and he thinks that death is it.  I’ll admit that I’ve had those thoughts myself in the past.  What I can take from this verse or the whole passage is that when I look inward, I’ll only find wrong answers.  I’ll hear the wrong voices that want me to quickly destroy what God’s answer is instead.  But, Psalm 62:1 says my soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.   I don’t have the answers to my problems; I can’t save myself or others, my rest and salvation come from God alone.  How do I find that rest?  Matthew 11:28 says “come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  So, I have to go to Him to find rest.  I know when I was a kid and if just thinking good thoughts wasn’t enough for me to fall asleep and find rest, then the next thing I needed to do was seek my Dad and have him hold me.  It was easy to fall asleep in my Dad’s arms.  I was safe there.

Lastly, know; when I rest what do I know? I know that He’s God (Psalm 46:10). I have to know that God is above all, He is in control, not I.  John 14:17 reminds us that the world doesn’t recognize God because they don’t know Him.  As His child, I know Him and I know His voice.  I can trust Him, because I know Him and know that He loves me.  Romans 7:18 reminds me that apart from Him, nothing good lives in me.  I am sinful by nature.  Romans 8:28 reminds me that I know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.  God is working in all situations, even when I can’t see it.  I have to rely on this love and because I see and know this love, I’m supposed to show the fruit of love to others (1 John 4:16).  Finally, 1 John 5:14 – 15 says “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”

So, in conclusion, I lay me down, I’m not my own.  I belong to you alone…….

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2017 in Spiritual Reflections

 

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Unconditonal

amazinglovePeople are so fickle.  I was thinking about how easily others get upset with people on social media because they aren’t getting enough attention or likes. They threaten cleaning out their friends list because people don’t talk to them enough or God forbid they vote differently from you or have an opposing viewpoint. It seems more often than not, that we attach many conditions to friendship.  Why do so many people not allow for others to think for themselves or have their own opinion about something?  What happened with listening to each other and agreeing to disagree on certain matters?

Since Easter is this weekend, it makes me realize how wonderful it is to have a savior who loves mankind unconditionally.  We all can be punks sometimes.  I wonder how often Jesus feels neglected by mankind, even by Christians. I know personally that in busyness, I often push through life and neglect to give Jesus the attention or credit He deserves.  When Jesus walked the Earth, he taught radical living, opposite from what our flesh wants to do.  He ticked people off because His teachings didn’t line up with theirs.  Many walked away from Him. But, he didn’t move.  He wasn’t afraid of the lepers.  He touched them.  He didn’t care to be seen with a questionable woman.  He breathed real love upon her. For those who had questions,  He sat and answered the questions.  He spoke truth, but didn’t force it on the audience. He endured betrayal, physical lashings, ridicule, anger, and still forgave.  He knew He would be denied by Peter, yet sought him out afterwards for breakfast, after the Resurrection.

Explaining how extreme Jesus’ love for mankind is really unfathomable.  But, once you realize it and come in full contact with it, it’s overwhelming to know you are loved without condition.  When you are smacked with that kind of love, how can you not follow Him?  His love is a magnet.  It moves me out of myself and draws me to Him.  If you haven’t met Him, I hope that you will soon.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2016 in Spiritual Reflections

 

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A Beautiful Mess

mess

Tear stained face with a bruised heart,
Sitting between walls of solitude
Falsely reasoning within herself
That no one understands.
She’s a complete mess
Who’s waiting to be mopped off the floor of her despair.

She listens to inner lies that have lingered from harsh words
That was spoken in quick temper or without thought.
The accusations, disappointments, the inability to achieve acceptance
Have created this complete mess
That is tangled in her mind.

Interwoven and pulsating from her veins
A need to be seen, heard, and most importantly loved.
He sees her and knows her.
He hears her questions and doubts.
Her heart is naked before Him, but she thinks He doesn’t see.
He knows that she isn’t a complete mess.
He knows how to mop her tears and untangle her mind.
He sees that she is a beautiful mess waiting to be cleaned up.
He’s awaiting the word from her to help.
He can’t help without her asking.
He watches and waits with a heart ready to gush out love.
His arms are ready to grab hold of her and untangle her mess,
He’s ready to recreate the pieces of her that is broken
Into His original masterpiece.

 

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