Make me an instrument

I had a conversation today with a woman who was very upset about things not working as she planned. I listened to her vent and I acknowledged her feelings, even agreeing that they were valid. As we discussed resolutions for the situation she shared some of her story. She asked what brought me to Nebraska and I said that doors had closed where I was living and my husband and I made the move to our hobby farm. Something I said struck her and she began to ask me about spiritual things.

Why was Jesus called the Lamb of God?

Why did He say, ‘It is finished’ on the Cross?

I answered as simply as I could, explaining how Jesus was our sacrifice, giving of His life for us as gently as a lamb. How the Aramaic words for “It is finished” are the same words used to mark a bill as being “Paid in Full” and that was what Jesus did for us on the Cross. The more questions she asked, the more I answered. I found myself full of wonder and as the time went by I could hear the joy filling her voice as she spoke. It was such a blessing to me. By the time our conversation ended, hours later, she said she felt like she had been to church. She had a peace that was missing when we first began to talk.

She asked how I learned about the things I knew and I told her I studied on my own and with other Biblical teachers. Books and writers were exchanged and in the end she thanked me for taking the time to listen and respond with grace to her. I smiled, I knew her frustration at the beginning of the conversation was not directed at me and in the end it was important for her to know she mattered.

Our introduction was due to faulty processes and in the end, we found ourselves on mutual ground. Holy Ground. As we closed our time together she asked if I listened to God when He talked to me about helping others. I reflected at all the times I heard God speaking through my stories. O told her, “I often remember the words of St. Francis of Assisi, ‘Lord, make me an instrument.’ I am not saying anything because I am wise, but because I am willing to let God speak to someone through me.”

Precious Child of God, are you allowing God to use you to bring Him glory? Are you an instrument or are you trying to be the hand that holds the instrument? The sweetest blessing to me from my conversation today was that it wasn’t what I expected to do. I thought I was going to trouble-shoot a problem and then move on. But instead, God brought together two women who didn’t know each other, never knew the other existed until today, and in the end we were knit together as two sisters in Christ only could be. God moved and we responded. In the end there was a sweetness in the Spirit that hadn’t been present before.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love,

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

~St. Francis of Assisi

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Circles of friends

Yesterday I was talking with a young man in his 20’s and we were discussing life choices. He asked me if it was difficult for me to make friends since my perspective on what was important was so different than common society. I chuckled at first, wanting to say, it was easy for me to build new friendships. In reality, it isn’t easy. I am older than most people I see in my day-to-day activities. In fact, I often find myself talking with people from my grandparents’ generation. I find their stories fascinating and full of wisdom and humor. The older generations have lived through hardships, struggles, loss, and success. They have recognized that trends will change, the pendulum will swing again, and in the end what is enduring are the choices they have made through the years.

My husband has even teased me that I am an old-person magnet because of the way I pass my time. I tend to be knitting or working on a quilt piece when I am waiting for an appointment while others are scrolling social media feeds. I have book, snap, and gram accounts, but I would rather have something to show for my time. So, in answer to the young man I said, “Yes, I do have trouble making new friends who are interested in the same things I am.” I am content with that though. I don’t feel sad that I am not surrounded by crowds, I would rather be surrounded by a few dear faces at any time.

I know I am not someone who is up on the newest whatever it is. I would rather be in a prairie skirt milking my goats and collecting eggs. Working in the garden, planning a cutting garden, canning, freezing, baking and quilting. I want to learn the handiwork skills my great-grandmothers knew. Not because I don’t want to buy something, but because of the pride I have in making it. The simplicity is what I long for in my life and a small, intimate circle of friends helps provide that for me.

I think of Christ as well, when it comes to friends. He had the twelve disciples, Lazarus, Martha and Mary, John, James, and Peter. But Scripture often describes Jesus going off alone to pray. He wasn’t trying to avoid the people who were with Him. He just knew the best way to be encouraged, to gain wisdom, and to even be comforted. Jesus went to His Father.

I am not trying to say the older generations are on the same level as God, of course. But there is some common sense to it. God gave us those who are older to be people we could speak with for wisdom, insight, and encouragement. Even correction. It would be foolish for us to not seek out their perspectives. It might be a relative, a neighbor down the street, or someone from your church, but seek them out and learn from their stories.

Dear Ones, who is dear to you? Who would you want to continue to build up and build into in your life? It isn’t just the next generation who should be feeding your soul, it’s also about speaking into the hearts and lives of the younger generations. Titus 2 gives simple but beautiful instruction about how to build up and encourage those around you (Titus 2:1-8, 11-13).

We were created for community, something I have written about in the past. No matter my circle, I desire to be intentional about my words, my time, what I give, and what I receive from others. Whether it be generations ahead of me or those coming up after me. What about you, Best Beloved? What are your intentions?

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As it is written

When I am facing a battle and I am unsure of winning, I find comfort in Scripture. Not the kind of comfort from looking for a verse that might be used to support a point of view, whatever it might be. I mean the comfort that comes from knowing that God is faithful, that He isn’t going to change. No matter what is happening in my world, God is not surprised. He is not wondering what is going to happen next or how to solve a problem. God is omniscient, He knows it all- before, during, and after.

One of the ways I see Scripture supporting itself and proving its truth comes when we find the words, as it is written… In other words, “like I said before.” God’s consistency is my life preserver and anchor at the same time. I am buoyed by His love and truth and I can rest in it because it is solid, strong and keeps me from being tossed around.

One of my favorite verses originally comes from Isaiah 64:4, Since ancient time no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Over eight hundred years later, Paul comes back to this very verse to remind the Corinthians (and later, us) of God’s greatness and how it is beyond our ability to understand what He is doing in our lives. However, as it is written: What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no mind has conceived– the things God has prepared for those who love him– (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Paul was trying to show those early believers that God was beyond them and yet, within them by the Holy Spirit, and through the Holy Spirit they would get a glimpse of God’s thoughts, gifts, and plans (1 Corinthians 2:10-12). So for me to find comfort in my struggles, I can call out to God and ask for the Holy Spirit to help me hear and understand God’s purposes. It may not take away what I am facing, but it will prepare me to face it with God at my side.

Best Beloved, how are you finding solace, comfort, and strength to face your days? Are you trying to fit God into what you want? Are you battling something on your own with tired hands and broken weapons? Precious child, it’s time to let go. Put down the things in your hands and hold them out to God. Call out to Him and ask Him to meet you where you are and open your heart and mind to His perfect purposes.

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed–a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17 -Habakkuk 2:4).

Amen.

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A fallow season

Over the years, a farmer plants thousands of crops, often rotating crops to allow the ground to restore the depleted nutrients. Sometimes crop rotation isn’t enough and the farmer must leave the ground to fully rest. In Nebraska, where I live, there are sprawling farms as far as I can see in all directions. Most years, there are rows of corn or soybeans, but every now and then, we will pass an empty field with only low growing, ground cover. The ground cover will prevent erosion and at the same time protect the top soil from being blown away in storms and winds. It is essential for the health of the soil and the health of the seeds which will be planted there in the future. At first it may seem a waste of space to not utilize the ground all the time, but a wise person knows rest is vital for the journey too.

I have been in need of a fallow season lately. My health has not been strong for a while now and the different doctors I have seen have slowly been testing and checking off what I do and don’t have happening. It’s frustrating to not be able to work as long as I would like, to need to stop and rest, or worse to not be able to start at all. I have told God that I am upset and I have also made a point ask Him for help to let it go and allow Him to have control. It may seem small, but giving God control is not easy. A simple word search for rest in Scripture shows it is used over 300 times. But it is not enough to be spoken, it must also be understood and obeyed.

Being still is a way to rest in God’s timing and His plan, which often go together. I think that is why the verses in Proverbs 3:5-6 bug me so much. Trust in the Lord, with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.

There are four directives in these two verses:

  • trust God
  • don’t focus on your own understanding
  • acknowledge [look to, recognize His position as God]
  • follow God where He leads you.

The fallow season is because He knows best what I need. It’s not what I want, it’s what I need. Like a toddler who wants to continue to play, but the parent knows the child needs a nap. God may be preparing me for something else in the future, but if I cannot obey Him to rest and refresh myself for this season, how will I be able to have the energy, the ability, or the stamina to go forward with Him?

So as this new month begins and the ground around me is frozen and covered in snow, I am praying for God to reach me in my struggles and doubts and help me put down the burdens I carry and find rest in Him alone (Psalm 62:5). Dear Ones, where are you struggling? Are you finding doubles where there should be peace? Maybe it’s time to let God take control. If there is no joy left for your journey that is a definite sign. Ask Him to meet you where you are and help you loosen your grip and relax in His presence. He will give you all you need.

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Reset buttons

Today I realized the month of January was almost over. The month which seems caught between two worlds, winter and a new year. I tend to think of January as a rough draft for the rest of the year. What happens in this month may or may not impact the rest of the year. If I don’t like what happened, I can try again in February since most people won’t remember January anyway. That’s the idea of the reset buttons we have on our technology. If we make a mess of something we can just reset the site, the page, whatever, and try again.

When I went away to work in another state in 1990, I was looking for a reset button. I didn’t like me- who I had become, how I had been acting, what had been happening around me. I realized that no one knew me, what I said I was, who I was, what I believed or did was completely unknown in my new setting. Like a package still in the wrapping. I could be anything.

At first I tried to pretend, but I couldn’t keep up the charade for long. Eventually, my past found my heart and mind and I struggled with people being disappointed in the “real” me . But it wasn’t that way at all. A new friend and I sat in my tent one day and I poured out all the messes I had made, the brokenness I carried inside. The feeling that I would never be good enough for anyone again. He listened, asked a couple questions, but never once did he say he was repulsed or disgusted by me. My friend accepted me just as I was that day.

Weeks later, I accepted Christ.

I didn’t have to try to be good anymore. I was good, I was precious, I was new, I was priceless. The day Jesus came into my life, I was reset. Nothing of my past remained. No mistake, no brokenness, no heart ache remained. All the lies I told, all the pain I felt. Gone. God took the sins I had committed and threw them away. Psalm 103:12 describes our sins being as far from us as the east is from the west. I was reset. Over the years I have asked God for help to reset parts of me that have fallen out of order from His purposes. I know that I am not perfected on this side of Heaven, so I pray for small resets during my faith journey.

I also pray for those who are still trying to reset themselves. The people I love who have yet to accept the offer of Christ’s grace, love, and forgiveness. I pray for God to reach them in their pain and open their eyes to see that His love is enough. His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). I pray for them to stop trying to measure up to Heaven’s standards. We are such fools to imagine that we can meet God’s expectations. He knew we couldn’t all the way back before He made Adam and Eve. He knew they would fail and He made them anyway. He created the whole world, even when it would hurt Him when mankind turned on itself. He still loved us.

So the question comes: if God loved us, knowing we would fail, and He still created the universe and mankind, doesn’t it come that God would have put into plan a reset button of Heavenly proportion? That’s why Jesus came. That’s why we celebrate Christmas and Easter. He came, lived suffered, died for us, and then Jesus was resurrected. Jesus is the reset button for all of us. It’s just a decision we have to make- will we or won’t we decide to ask God to reset our hearts, our minds, or souls, our eternity?

Best Beloved, I have come so far because of the reset button I selected in 1990. I can only pray that you have asked Jesus to do the same in your life. To know the joy of freedom, of the ultimate Mulligan. To be free to embrace joy, mercy, grace. To hold fast to love as it was created to be. This is the hope and prayer I have for you. For those in my life who are in pain. For your loved ones.

Will you join me in praying for them?

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Break on through

Like a swimmer coming up for air breaks through the surface, I feel like I am getting fresh oxygen for my spirit. Dear friends and family have been praying for me. I have been finding quiet time in different places during the day. God is re-entering my life and reminding me that waiting is part of growing too.

Cousin CA- OWS- OR 2013

In the past few days I was given a devotional written by Louie Giglio focusing on Lamentations 3:26, It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. The content reminded me that God is still moving around me and in me, even if I can’t feel it or see Him moving. He is always moving within the world, for His purposes and His glory. It is our finite selves which cannot recognize Him as it happens. So, it is time to reassess my perspective of this time of waiting. Waiting to have the home renovations/ restoration completed. For the changes in my heart toward my current schedules and responsibilities, I need to trust that God is working everything for good (Ephesians 8:28).

Instead of whining that I don’t have what I want I am praying for me to see that God has provided for everything I need. I will see that God is enough. He doesn’t change and hasn’t changed. That’s the thing. No matter what is happening in my fickle self God has not changed – He cannot change. God is ever faithful. He loves me and that cannot be changed by my whiny attitude, my exhaustion, my doubt.

Ephesians 2:10 says that I am a masterpiece, created by God Himself. Believing that to be true, then I am also believing that He will not just discard me when I get dusty from skipping time in prayer. He will not let my self-inflicted doubts and blemishes remain, but instead He will clean me and restore me to new – every day (Lamentations 3:22-23). If I read on to the next verse, I will see the very answer to the conundrum I have been wrestling with for weeks. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Just as God provided manna in the wilderness, God is providing my daily portion. My only responsibility is to receive it. That’s it. Just like the Grace I received when I first started my Faith journey, I am to receive the very thing I need to go through the day. Not for yesterday and not for tomorrow– but for today.That is what is enough. As it says in the beautiful hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness, God gives us the strength we need for today and the hope we hold to for tomorrow. Ephesians 1:18-20 is the prayer my mom often prays over all of her children and grandchildren– this is my prayer for me and for you, Best Beloved.

I pray that the eyes of your heart will be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. He demonstrated this power in the Messiah by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens– (HCSB).

May we remember to trust Him for what we cannot see, thank Him for what we can see, and praise Him for where we are right now. Then we will break on through…

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Something’s happening here

I have been trying to think of things to write about all week. Sometimes a thought will come to mind and I will tuck it away for later, only when later comes the idea is gone. I have been feeling out of sorts physically as well, which makes for a less than great combination. I am still trying to figure out what has been making me feel this way. I miss being a lighthearted Pollyanna.

Years ago, my pastor said, “We will embrace change when it becomes too painful to remain where we are now.” I am beginning to see the truth in that, again. It seems like I have to keep coming back around to the same place every once in a while, to remind my heart why it is a bad place to stay. I keep telling myself that I will not return here again. Then just like a person who’s lost in the forest, I find myself circling back.

It’s during these times when I realize I am silently yelling at God. I want Him to fix it, to give me the yellow brick road so I can find my way out. But rarely does God work that way in my life. I am a slow learner, a hard headed individualist who would love nothing more than to reach the end and announce that I had done it, “All by myself.” However, I have never heard of a believer remaining a follower of Christ and still remaining an individualist.

When I asked Christ to come into my life and my heart that day in 1990, I knew it was because I needed Him. I needed Him in my heart, in my decisions, in my relationships, in my future, and to lead me forward. Now it would seem, that I have forgotten the way I was back then. I have been getting into a rut at work and especially at home with the daily chores and tasks. I have allowed my soul to become brittle and tired. I am like a plant that has had no water and no sunshine for a long time. It is a withered leftover of what it once was, when care and nurturing had been a day-to-day task.

As I grow older, I don’t want to call on the God I used to know. But if these are only words and I don’t put feet to them, walking it out, then it’s just wasted air. I am coming very close to the days when my house will just hold my husband and me. Just like I must give him my attention, my time, and my love, I must do the same thing with God if I am to have a healthy, growing relationship.

So I am starting again. With the radio off in the car, time spent talking with God about what is on my heart. Not trying to make it a prayerful time, something that is supposed to look righteous. I have been missing the best friend of my heart and soul and it’s time for me to make time again,

Best Beloved, how are you doing? Really? Are you starting 2018 with the same empty tank you finished with in 2017? Are you making more work for yourself by trying to have the right kind of Bible study, the right kind of quiet time? Stop. Please, stop. God isn’t going to be impressed with your fancy Bible, expensive journal, or special worship music. He wants you. Right where you are. Right now. Nothing else, nothing less. So put down the things that only shine in your hands and give God your heart again. Let Him shine through it, the way He was meant to shine through us all.

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The funk in the room

As I have been writing these past weeks I have been wrestling with a sense of depression and hopelessness. Not over a particular thing or event, just an overall gloomy cloud that seems to follow me wherever I go. Work, home, even with the goats and ducks- which usually bring me joy- I have felt a funk. My mom used to struggle with a blue funk that came around Christmas. She didn’t want to decorate, bake, or watch Christmas movies with us. I didn’t understand what the big deal was, after all Christmas is a time to celebrate, right?

Fast forward many years and this Christmas I sensed the funk trying to creep into my life. I would try to fight it by watching Christmas movies or play Christmas music on my lunch breaks at work. Whatever I could do to keep the funk at bay. These past few weeks I couldn’t see it, but the funk was sneaking into my heart again.

Until now.

I was sitting with my family in the living room, knowing I had a sink of dishes to do, and preparations for tomorrow to accomplish before bed. I had decided I could make a loaf of bread from scratch too. So when I would have gone to bed, I had to stay up until it was done rising and baking. What a fool I was, I thought.

As I closed my eyes to muster more energy from an already depleted tank, I heard a whisper in my heart. I’ve got the sweet, sweet victory. At first only a word or two came to mind, then when I realized it was a song, I got up and went to the kitchen with a new sense of hope. I tried to find the song on Spotify, then I went to YouTube where I found the video of Yolanda Adams’ song Victory. And word by word I found myself filing up again. My tank was being restored with the truth of the Holy Spirit. My God has already claimed the victory. I just need to step into it.

I found myself praising God with every dirty dish I washed, every clean dish I put away. As I kneaded the bread for the last time, the kitchen became a holy place. The funk in the room was replaced by the sweet, sweet Spirit of Heaven itself. As I let the song list on YouTube play I found Truth after Truth in the lyrics about God’s goodness, His perfect timing, the joy that can come in the midst of the storms. I was kneeling on the floor and praising His name for the Victory He claimed on Calvary for me, for you. For everyone.

My situation hasn’t changed. My perspective has changed. I have been reminded that God- God- God- isn’t surprised by what is happening in my life. He isn’t throwing His hands up saying He can’t find a solution. NO. Not my God. He is lifting me up and placing me in His sweet, tender embrace. I am His child. I am the Beloved of God. Nothing is going to prevent this Truth from lasting into eternity. He will never leave me or forsake me. He is for me. He loves me with an everlasting love. I don’t have to know the solutions for my problems, my worries, even my doubts. God has the answers, the peace, the faith to meet me right where I am.

Precious child of the One True King, what does your battlefield look like today? Are you seeing the size of your opponent and feeling defeated before you step on the field? Are you thinking, What’s the point in trying? Please, Dear One, don’t give up. God is there. He may not be visible, but He is there. In the touch of a friend, a text, a call, a smile. Jesus isn’t ever going to walk away from you. So take a deep breath with me and reach up to take the hand of our Heavenly Father who loves you. Let the Holy Spirit come in and fill your place, heart, mind, and soul with the sweet fragrance of Heaven.

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la voce

Ursula the Sea Witch was a wonderful villianess in Disney’s Little Mermaid (1989). Even though she was evil, I could imagine she had been a beautiful witch at one point. As she began to fade in beauty and grow in other areas, she still craved the attention she once had. I believe this is one of the reasons she demanded payment for Ariel’s human qualities to be paid with Ariel’s voice. Ariel, so smitten with Eric, agreed to the terms.

Ursula is seen as treacherous and manipulative for her actions, but I also see Ariel as culpable. Each woman was dissatisfied with what they had and they were willing to go to great lengths, even dangerous ones, to get what they wanted. I wonder if this is what we do in life.

Do you have something that you feel you cannot live without, a job, a house, a car, clothing, a relationship? Is it something you are willing to trade for a piece of you that may be gone forever? Are you caught believing that your life will not be complete without it? Are you willing to give up the good you have for the thing you think will make your life great?

Dear Ones, do not be tempted by the enemy to become discontent with what God has given you. It doesn’t have to be the perfect house, spouse, job, children, car, whatever. It just requires you to thank God for the blessings you have in front of you. No looking over the fence at the other person’s life, just celebrate what you have, where you are at this moment.

If the thing has grown to be overwhelming, filling your mind and thoughts all the time, then call it what it is- a temptation. Then when you name the issue, ask God immediately to help you. Scripture even gives you hope regarding temptations.

 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

My prayer, Best Beloved, is that you will not let the idea of something overtake the joy that can be found right around you. If you would only use your eyes and your heart to see it.

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Presumed strength

Years ago, my mom was hosting an extended family meal and needed serving tongs for a couple dishes. As the meal progressed and the dishes were passed around the table, the plastic tongs cracked or broke, one by one, under the pressure of the user. Taking it all in stride, my mom joked, “I guess we don’t know our own strength.” While it might not take much to snap a pair of plastic tongs, if we believe we have great strength because we can break them, we put ourselves in peril.

God is the only one Who is truly strong and capable of doing all things. Philippians 4:10-19 contains Paul’s “confession” of weakness and inability. He explains how he has needs and yet has learned contentment in the middle of his lack, knowing that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (vs.13). In other words, Paul knows who can and does hold the power to accomplish whatever is needed. And it isn’t him. And it isn’t me, either.

The battles and processes I have been going through over the past couple of weeks have been difficult and uncomfortable. As I have previously mentioned, I was brought up to be independent and strong. I was taught by family members to not rely on someone else and to make things happen on my own. This kind of thinking does not bode well for marriage. During my first engagement I nearly ran over my fiancé when it came to decisions. He was too slow to make decisions I used to think. When he did make them, they weren’t the way I would make them. Looking back, it is no surprise that he broke up with me three weeks before the wedding. It would have been disastrous had we married.

Fast forward twenty-plus years later and one would expect the lesson to have been learned. Sadly, it has not been. I still battle my old thoughts and voices which tell me not to trust, that I can do this all by myself. But, let’s be honest, a marriage of one isn’t a marriage. It requires two parties who are willing to come together as one.

When two people agree to come together as one, they are agreeing to a life time of adjustments, all out corrections, apologies, grace, mercy, lessons to learn, and love to fight for each day. Presuming the strength and stamina of your spouse is a guarantee of failure. Just as the husband should not presume the wife knows he loves her, she should not presume that he is able to take on all responsibilities. Each person has his or her strengths, and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. I like household chores, but my husband is the better cook. He likes to be outside with the farm animals and set up the garden, but I like to do yard work and maintain the garden once it’s planted.

Best Beloved, we are not giving the best support, love, and encouragement to our spouses, family, or friends, when we presume another’s strength. It can lead to disasters that may not be reparable.

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