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Friends

Proverbs 18:24 – “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

Yesterday, our youth group completed our annual pizza date and collection of items for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. We had several teenagers join us on this excursion. And man, did they ever have fun!

I loved looking down the table at lunch and seeing all those glasses of soda hovering around plates of pizza. I enjoyed listening to them laugh and poke each other. I was grateful for their kindness and respect to those around them.

And then when we got to the store to collect our items, I was touched by their heart in gathering so many different items for their individual shoebox. They were concerned about this child’s hygiene, eating utensils, toys/entertainment items and other things that they could use around their home. 

And after the needs of the shoebox were met, that is when the laughing started. I could hear my son and several other boys just giggling and having a grand ole time. I went to search them out and what did I find? They had found the masks and was trying several on. It didn’t matter that the masks were too small. It didn’t matter that they were being stared at. All that mattered is that they were having a great time.

Then they went to the church house. After practicing for a puppet show and working on some music, they began playing spoons. It’s a card game that can get very intense, but they love it. It is a tradition for them. They laughed. They yelled. They were reaching over one another and knocking down chairs. They were having a great time. It was spectacular!

I tell you all of this to remind you of this – friends are important. Godly friends are even more important. It is needful for you to have fun with your friends. It is needful for you to serve with your friends. God has given us the opportunity for friendship and He wants us to enjoy it. Schedules are busy and life gets hectic, I know. I am right there with you. I wish I had more time for friends. I miss girls night out. It seems like I am so caught up with all the activities my kids are involved in that I forget to make time for my friends. 

So this week, let’s do something about it. Even if it is just sending a text or an email, reach out to a friend. Let them know that you are thinking of them. Let them know you are praying for them. 

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Love, true love

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a – “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth…”

My husband and I have been married for 22 years, 4 months and 13 days. It’s always the years that gets me. I have been married over half of my life. 

Our 22 years have been far from perfect but they have probably been as close as one can get this side of eternity. God has been good to us, not because of anything we have done or deserve. No, God has been good to us because He loves us and we each loved Him before we loved each other. 

Society has a warped view of love these days. They have no clue what it is or what it means. They see the things that Hollywood tells us should be love and attempt to base their thoughts and feeling on that. And that just does not work. The ideas and actions we see on our television and movie screen are far from the long lasting love spoken of here in 1 Corinthians 13. 

I mean look at it – “suffereth long” – long suffering is not a quality I would say that most people have. “Envieth not” – really, you don’t want me to be jealous of my special someone? The world teaches that jealousy is something that is a positive quality; it drives a person. “Vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” – pride. Need I say more? “Doth not behave itself unseemly” – inappropriate behavior toward another person is everywhere. “Seeketh not her own” – self-centered behavior, the hallmark of our modern world. “Not easily provoked” – wearing your heart on your shirt sleeve – political correctness? “Thinketh no evil” – “get them before they get you” kind of an attitude. 

See, it is really tough to see true love in our world. That is why we are encouraged to find all the answers in Christ. When we look to the world, we have to remember that the devil has his grubby little hands in everything in the world. If he can get us to warp our view of love and see it as the world sees it, he can bring us down to the depths of his misery. And we all know that misery loves company. 

Jesus is our perfect example of love. His life, His ministry, His death and resurrection all show us how, when and why we should love. And the love that is spoken of here isn’t just for the people choosing marriage. No, this love should be blanketed over everyone in every situation and saught after in every circumstance. 

So let me encourage you today, to love. Read these verses and let them sink in and let them change the way you do things today. Put on love and let it guide you today.  

There is a time…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 – “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

I don’t know about you, but I get impatient sometimes. I like for things to happen when I want them to happen. I want things and events to follow my schedule. And when they don’t, it frustrates me. I feel that I am so busy in my life that my calendar becomes the all controlling factor in my life. If it isn’t on my calendar, then it will not happen, or so I think. Rarely do I give myself the opportunity to be spontaneous. But every now and again, I will clear the day and let happen what may. Those days are fun.

In this passage, Solomon is trying to teach us that there is a time for every thing. And he doesn’t just state the fact and move on, no, he has to elaborate and leave no thought untouched. The items listed here pretty much sum up a life in general. A time for every thing. 

In my line of work, I have the opportunity to speak with people often about different chapters in their life. It is the only way I know to get across to them that it is okay to be scared and frustrated and mad. They are writing a new chapter of their life. They don’t know how to write it. They don’t understand why they have to write it. They don’t comprehend why their chapter had to change. And they don’t like where this chapter is leading. They don’t like that they are in a different time. 

But if I can ever get them to understand that it is okay to be mad and frustrated and confused about the why, I can help them to write this chapter beautifully. I can’t write it for them but I can show them how to write it more efficiently and more safely. A time for every thing.

I don’t know what chapter you are writing in your life. I have no idea what problems or issues or celebrations you have going on right now. But I can tell you this, you do not walk or write this chapter alone. Every event listed above is an opportunity to love and trust God. It is a time in your life to show others that He is the Author and Perfector of your faith. He is the One who brought you to it, and He is the One who will bring you through it. Happy Monday.

Baby Believer

1 Peter 2:2 – “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”

My daughter has a good friend that accepted Jesus as her Savior this school year. Since that time, she and my daughter have been reading and discussing the Bible together. It’s really cute, if one forgets to read a chapter, they have to give the other one a dollar.  If they neglect to read more than one chapter, they have to buy a spirit ribbon on Friday and the other one gets to decide where they wear it, like on their forehead. Not something I would do, but it is the way they hold one another accountable.

Last night, they were face timing and discussing what they had read the night before. My daughter’s friend had made a list of questions to talk to her about. She is a new Believer who is hungry and thirsty for the Word. She has been taught so many different things from so many different people that she just wants to know what Jesus says about everything. And what better place to find it than the Bible.

When was the last time you and some close friend of yours had that sort of discussion? When was the last time you were hungry for the Word of God? When was the last time you made a list of questions to discuss with someone about what you read in the Bible?

Heart pricking, isn’t it?

The older we get, the less likely we are to ask questions. We don’t want to look foolish. But this young lady doesn’t care what she looks like to others. She wants to know God more and more. And her questions are thought provoking. They make you stop and consider what was going on, who Jesus was talking to and why. It’s a great way to learn. 

I also think that we ebb and flow when it comes to reading God’s word. We have times when we are really diligent about it and other times when “stuff” gets in the way. Maybe we all need some sort of accountability partner to keep us reading. I think it would be good for us. Maybe it would get us to sincerely desire the Word of God in a whole new way. 

So this week, I want to challenge you to read His Word diligently. Let His words so seep into you that you are contemplating long after you close the Book. And ask questions. Teachers always tell their students at the beginning of the year that there is no such thing as a stupid question. And it is so true. More than likely, someone else is thinking the same thing. Go, learn and grow.

Just like me…

Romans 12:3 – “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

I’ve been struggling with this concept the last couple of days – What if everyone acted just like me – in regards to family, church, work and community?

It’s what we want, isn’t it? We wish that everyone around us was as smart as we are, made similar choices that we make, and were as dedicated as we are. We see ourself without flaw, without blemish. 

But deep down, we know that’s not true. We know that deep down we get upset when someone does something different that we think that they should. We get frustrated when we have a plan and someone steps in and changes that plan all together. We want to throw a fit and yell at someone when their decision to stay out of things is not the option we would have chosen. We get all flustered when people don’t perform like we know we would in that situation. 

Pride. It’s pride that makes us feel that way. You see, whether it is at work, church or at home, the devil is doing his best to drive a wedge in our heart between us and God. If he can get us to look more at ourself and see only the worst in people and their decisions instead of seeing the beauty of variety, then he can get us to walk further and further from our Savior. 

And it’s so easy to do. It is easy to get frustrated when we don’t understand what is going on. It is easy to get mad when things don’t go the way we think they should. It is easy to want to yell at someone when their choices are wrong in our eyes. 

But here is the thing – we can’t control others; we can only control ourself. We have to trust that God has whatever thing we are dealing with under control. Staying awake all night worrying about it won’t make a difference. Getting mad and yelling at someone will not help the cause of Christ. Not doing your best as a punishment to those who are making what you see as a bad decision will get nothing accomplished. 

Jesus has given us all different gifts and talents. I’m not responsible for my husband using his gifts. That is his can of worms. I need to be focused on whether I’m using my gifts. But I can’t let my focus shift from me doing my best for His glory to me doing my best because I know I’m right. 

It’s hard, but you can’t let people have power over your decision to do things for His glory. Focusing solely upon Jesus will have far different reaches that focusing solely on you and what you do. Pride is an ugly beast that too often rears its head in my life. Pride is what makes you think your way is the best way. Pride is what makes you fail to see your flaws. Pride is what makes us want everyone to act like just like us. 

Sleeping through the storm

Luke 8:22-25 – “Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.”

We just went through a hurricane. Not my idea of a good time, I’ll tell you. As we laid in the closet under the stairs while the front and back of the eye of the storm went over our house, my kids slept. The electricity had gone out which caused the fan to go off which woke me up to the raging wind. It howled and screamed and thrashed against the front of our house. I’m laying in the closet praying, “Please God, keep the roof on my house and my friends and family safe” while my children are sleeping. Sleeping! I was glad though. I was in a state enough without having to deal with them freaking out.

While I was out and about yesterday working, I heard the same thing from many of my clients – they slept through the hurricane! What?! How can that be? They went to bed Sunday night and knew nothing had happened until they woke up Monday morning. 

My grandma always said, “The Good Lord’s gonna gitcha when He wants ya whether you’re hidin’ or not.” Faith. Faith that He is in control and we have nothing to fear. I experienced a great deal of fear last week, especially Friday. Friday was tough for me. I believe the majority of it was the uncertainty. We had no idea where the hurricane would hit and how bad it would be. The Holy Spirit had to keep whispering to me – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) He had to say it multiple times because I was having a hard time getting my heart and mind to listen. Faith.  Faith that He is in control.

Now, I’m not certain that all of my clients have that sort of faith in their lives. I’m working on that. But I do know that God used their…faith, or lack of hearing, to remind me that I have nothing to fear, even in a hurricane. It is about letting go and letting God. And that, my friend, is tough. I like to be in control of things going on in my life. I like to know when, where and how things are going to go before I step into it. But faith reminds me that sometimes I won’t know all the details. Faith reminds me that sometimes I need to sleep during the storm. I can’t control it. I can’t affect the outcome of it. I can only prepare and pray. 

Prepare and pray. Maybe that should be my new motto. Isn’t that all God really wants us to do? Second Timothy says He gave us a “sound mind” – the ability to know when to prepare and how to prepare. We know that “power” is from God alone. And we know that “love” should cover everything we do. And when we have that power, love and sound mind, we can sleep through the storm. Isn’t that why Jesus slept in the boat during the storm? He had all those things in abundance. 

So the next time you find yourself in a storm, whether figuratively or literally, have faith. Prepare and pray. Allow God to take the fear the devil attempts to plant in your heart and turn it into power, love and a sound mind. And sleep through the storm.

This Psalm…

Psalm 147:1-11 – “Praise ye the LORD: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground. Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God: Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry. He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.”

I have a lot on my heart this morning. I found out yesterday that a girl I know, who is younger than me, suddenly lost her husband. She is now a widow. There is a massive storm hitting tiny islands with many people living on them that will face terrible devastation in the next few hours and days. And here I am preparing as well for an unseen force that I am uncertain of it’s path. 

As my day goes on from hour to hour and I continue to see my clients as if nothing different is going on, I have in the back of my mind a list a mile long of things that need to be done and items that would benefit my family, if I can find them. I am grateful for advanced warning but the waiting can be a challenge. 

And then I can’t stop thinking about the girl I know that lost her husband. It breaks my heart to think about her having to do life without her husband. I can’t even imagine.

Yet, this psalm brings me peace today. It reminds me to sing. You see, as much as I desire to help out my friend, I really can do nothing more than pray for her. I’m too far away to be very effective in a physical sense. But I know the One that can heal her broken heart and mend her family’s spirit. And as much as I think on and pray for those in the path of the storm, there is really nothing I can do for them right now except pray – because I know the One that named the stars and prepared the earth for the rain He is sending. And as much as I fret and scurry trying to prepare for the storm coming my way, I need to sing more. He wants me to trust Him through this thing. He wants to show me that He can provide for me in a way that my legs and hands would never be able to. 

This psalm reminds me to trust in Him because He has “the whole world in His hands”. Yes, I need to prepare. Yes, I need to pray. Yes, I need to remember others and the challenges they face in the different aspects of their life. Yes, I need to do what I can for my family and for those around me. But I need to do it with a song in my heart that reminds me to “praise You in the storm”.