Thankfulness is Protection

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When we have the spirit of thankfulness we are actually utilizing one of God’s greatest sources of protection from our very own selves.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Be joyful ALWAYS. Pray CONTINUOUSLY; give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s WILL for you in Christ Jesus.

Have you ever wondered why God wants our thanks?  Does He need it? The one thing I have definitely learned through my walk with Jesus and in studying the bible is that everything He tells us in the word is for our benefit and not His.

When we are truly thankful God protects us from anger and bitterness forming in our souls.

When we are truly thankful we are content.  When we are content in relying on God to provide our needs we are not tempted to covet and to steal.

When we are truly thankful in who God created us to be our self-esteem is reliant on God. When our self-esteem is secured by God then we are not tempted toward all the different sexual sins and lusts to feel desired.  We know that it is God that fulfills us.

When we are truly thankful even in the tough times God protects us from turning to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain.  He provides peace and an elated joy even in our darkest times.  His high is greater than any chemical high and is the only “trip” that can truly satisfy.

There is no deeper sorrow I can imagine than losing a child.  Years ago when I worked at Children’s Hospital there was a young family that had touched my heart.  There were many families that I felt a closeness to.  It was quite easy to find myself growing very attached to the patients and parents in my care.  The young patient was the same age as my oldest and only child at that time. The child often reminded me of my own daughter.  Her little heart was extremely weak and growing weaker.  After many weeks there in the intensive care unit her little heart decided it was time to beat its last.  She was not in my care that day, but when the opportune time came I made my way over to her room to express to the parents how very sorry I was for their great loss.  As I entered the room there sat the mother in the rocking chair holding her precious now lifeless child.  As tears streamed down her face she was praising God.  She exclaimed that she was so blessed to have had this child in her life for the time that she did.  She was so thankful to have gotten to be her mother.  She was so thankful for the care they had received.  As this young mother poured out her praise to God I could feel the presence of God pouring in.  As she poured out thanksgiving He was pouring His love, peace, and joy into her.  God was protecting her heart from anger and bitterness.

As I left the room that day having planned to bring comfort for them I left comforted and thankful.

The spirit of thankfulness is God’s protection against the darkness of this world for us.  It is the greatest protection from temptation and falling victim to dark choices.

So much can be accomplished for the good through having a thankful heart.

So much devastation can happen when anger and bitterness is allowed to take over our choices.

 

Peace…

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As a parent there are a lot of “things” that can make us proud of our children.  There are awards and accomplishments that our children may earn through hard work.  Worldly successes are nice, but very short lived.  A friend of mine told me something her daughter had said about my youngest daughter yesterday evening after watching the kids perform in a school musical.  The two girls have gotten more acquainted through the middle school musical this year.  She told me her daughter said that she enjoys being around Cora because she is “peaceful and doesn’t complain”.   Children are usually the most honest and truthful judges of character.  I couldn’t help but feel my heart warm with these words.  To be known as a person of peace is really the greatest compliment I honestly can think of.

The times we live in are so tremulous.  The town of Ferguson and so many parts of this world are in a state of turmoil.  Everyday I hear of middle school drama, high school drama, hear the most ridiculous stories on news media, and see social media drama.  To be known as a person of peace who brings about a calming effect for others is indeed rare.

Where do we find true peace?  True peace comes from having a relationship with Jesus.  The more we focus on the ways of God and not on ourselves the more he fills our souls with peace.  This is a characteristic I have watched grow in my own children and husband after they chose to follow Christ.  It is something that Jesus continues to grow in me daily.  Even in the toughest times Jesus will fill us with an indescribable calming peace.   A peace so rare that it gets noticed.  To be known as a person of peace  as a mother I can think of no greater thing to have my child/children known for. It is something I personally strive for with God’s help every day.

Matthew 5:9 ” Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

John 14:27 “Peace I leave 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.”

Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trust in you.”

Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Romans 14:19 “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

Why do Bad Things Happen?

A few weeks ago during lunch break at work one of my co-workers asked the infamous question we all ponder at some point in our life.  Why does God not strike a person down immediately when they do something incredibly evil?  The example of a person harming a child especially in a nasty perverse way was given.  Why does God not swoop in, save the child, and put and end to the evil doer?  My response was just the three letter word “sin”.  It is hard to summarize the entire Bible and God’s plan in just a few sentences.  It is hard to explain and to understand when we think with the concept of time.  Twenty four hours in a day, seven days in a week, three hundred and sixty five days in a year.  We are so bent on instant gratification.  We want our definition of justice served immediately.   God is very clear in His word that at one point in time we will all face His judgement.  It is coming in His time.

Another word that I failed to mention was “freewill”.  God gave us the opportunity to chose Him.  When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden He provided them with every tree and full run of the garden with the exception of not eating from just one tree.  He did this because He wanted His creation to love Him back.  By not eating of the tree they acted out of trust and love.  A desire to respect God’s request.  It is an obedience that does not come from oppression, threat, or slavery that God desires from us.  An obedience that comes from love.  Once Adam and Eve made the choice with their own freewill to eat of that tree the curse of sin fell on creation.   Mankind from that moment on has had a sinful human nature.  The nature to act in evil, selfish, and prideful ways.

If you study the Bible from cover to cover you will see how instead of just wiping out creation He has given chance after chance for people to come to Him.  Ultimately He came to this earth to become a human, to live a perfect sinless life, and to be the ultimate sacrifice and covering for our sins.  We are all lost to the evil ways of our hearts with the only hope of healing and being saved (literally from our own selves) is through Jesus Christ.   The evil that is in each person’s heart is pretty darn scary.

Our pastor in a recent sermon stated that there are three types of people.   There are people that think and act on a hellish level.  The example he gave was these terrorist groups that will behead a person just because they believe differently.  To go with my friend’s question a person that would steal the innocence of a child for their own sick, perverse, selfish gratification is evil it is a hellish mindset.  Then there is the human way of thinking and acting.  If you are good to me I will be good to you.  If you do me wrong I am going to do wrong right back to you.   The final way of thinking and acting is on a heavenly level.  To only do good even when severely wronged.   That means praying for our enemies and actually giving of ourselves even when the person receiving our gift has done evil to us or others.

The only possible way to truly act on the heavenly level is through the strength and power of God.  It is impossible for us on our own.

I fully believe that God calls us to Him first to be His friend then next to spread His love to a dark and fallen world.   Once a believer, allowing Him to change us into a heavenly thinking and acting person allows us to have the opportunity to protect the innocent.  To care for children, orphans, and widows.  Those who physically and mentally can not care for or protect themselves.  To protect others from those who think and act on the hellish level.

There is a lot of injustice in this world, but there is no greater injustice than that which Jesus faced in His death on the cross.  He was absolutely pure with no fault and faced the most gruesome death.  All for us.  The heavenly level came down and gave it all for those who do not deserve anything, but judgment and death. I am one who deserves nothing but death.  I do not deserve this gift of grace and love.  My God also did not stay dead.  He overcame evil and death by rising again and is alive.

An example of how soon our sin starts (which is immediately actually).  I know that even as a two year old I was a little sinner.  I ran into a pad of freshly poured concrete my dad had just finished.  I hid from my mother in clothes racks when shopping.  I climbed on our kitchen cabinets to steal candy and accidently turned the stove on.  This sinful little act ended up starting a pan of grease to catch fire and I, little two year old Anita, burnt our kitchen.  I bit people at the babysitters.  My mom finally had to bite me back to get me to realize that what I was doing was hurting other people.

Bad things happen because of evil.  God has given us the remedy to this evil in our hearts, Jesus.  Not everyone will choose to follow Him.  Not everyone is willing to turn to a heavenly way of thinking.  It is not easy to think heavenly.  God is giving us the opportunity to make this world a little better, to shine His light and love.  Ultimately God will bring judgement.  He will conquer evil once and for all.  He wants people to choose to be on His winning team.  He tells us in this world we will have trouble.  It is an evil fallen world.  God’s ways are eternal and we only understand the concept of time.  In His time He will make all things new and there will be no more of the injustices and sorrows.

Matthew 25:31-46 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,  I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’  Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.””

 

Where can we Find Some Rest?

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“One who runs in front of car gets TIRED, one who runs behind gets exhausted.”

It may be my age or the non-stop multi-tasking as a nurse and a mother, whatever the reason I am dog gone tired so much of the time it seems. Please say there are other mommas out there who know what I am talking about!!! Can I get an amen sister!!??? As soon as my rear end stops moving my eyes close and I am down for the count. Lets not even start on how many things I forget in a day. Falling victim to self induced perfectionism heaps further fatigue I am quite sure. When I forget things like snack for choir practice, paying for an advertisement for the school musical “playbill” to cheer on my kid, to wash soccer uniforms, schedule a dentist appointment when there are already schedule conflicts, etc… it tends to leave me feeling like a failure as a mother. Cheering for the successes of all that was actually remembered for the entire family is never the case. It seems I turn into Rocky Balboa during the times he is getting the tar beat out of him most days. The continuous calendar and timer revolving around in my brain has led me to think about the word “rest”. What is rest? Why is it sometimes when I do sleep I wake up feeling unrested? When do I feel the most at “rest” in my day to day life?

Rest and peace seem to only truly come when I am in complete surrender to God. When I sit at this computer and ask God to empty me of all my thoughts and for Him to fill me with His thoughts. When I sit and study the Bible. Each time I sit in the church pew and listen to the Word of God being preached unashamedly by my pastor. When teaching middle school girls or my girls in Awana and they respond with deeply searching questions. As the Holy Spirit works through me with the answers giving me the words and wisdom needed in that moment that is when I feel truly at rest. From the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation the concept of rest is continuously brought up. After God spent six days creating the earth on the seventh day “He rested”. The biblical word “Sabbath” means a day of resting or abstaining from work. Keeping the Sabbath day Holy (set apart for time with God) is actually one of the ten commandments.
Matthew 11:28-30 says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Psalm 62:1-2 “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

When we are truly resting in God’s love and His presence we are also under His full protection. When our focus is on Him we aren’t tempted to put anything and everything else above Him. We aren’t distracted by all the busy things in this life. We are no longer depressed over our imperfections because we are in the presence of God’s perfection. Hebrews chapter four really jumped out at me the other day as I was having my “rest” time with God. It talks about how God has promised us rest when we truly put our faith and trust in His Son Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest. Those who hear about the good news of how God sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins and do not accept it with faith will never enter God’s rest. I would like to quote the whole chapter, but here are a few highlights. Verse 1 “Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.” 6 “It remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience.” 10-11 “for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.”

The theme of this blog is living a life that is free. The only true freedom, rest, and peace that I have found is through the Son of God, Jesus. When I am feeling restless and burdened by this life I thank God that He is right there waiting for me to turn to Him and ask for His rest.

Isaiah 40:28-31 “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God the Creator of the ends of the earth He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Woes of a Coffee Drinker

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This evening after working late there were fifteen minutes to spare before I needed to pick up one of our daughters.  There is a new coffee shop in town that I have been wanting to check out.  After a busy day I had a hankering for cup of Joe to get me through this evening and felt this was the perfect opportunity to check out this local business.   My days of having a sweet treat are over so now I am delighted  to have my warm cup of this energy giving nectar whenever possible.

The coffee shop has the “cool hipster college kid” vibe that I expected.  The shop was complete with college age young adults congregated around a table with their laptop computers.  My coffee orders are simple, dark coffee with some half and half cream.  The young lady with the snazy purple feather earrings directed me to a table off to the side adorned with the coffee, sugars, and creamer.   The table didn’t quite come up to my waste in height.  I filled my coffee cup nearly full then began opening the small packets of liquid half and half creamer.  Half and half is one of my “cheats” to my detox diet that I follow.  The packets are so small I usually add four of them to make the break in the rules worth it.  As I opened the second packet my fingers slipped on the foil as I peeled it back causing me to lose my grip of the packet.  This caused the fingers of my other hand to squeeze the packet as it jerked toward me partially opened.  It was at this moment I was afraid to look around and afraid to look down at my pants.  With a sigh I looked down and yes the creamer had sprayed all over the table, the crotch of my jeans, and onto the floor.  Quickly I wiped my pants, finished doctoring my coffee, put the lid on the cup, wiped the table then wiped the floor.   My parents taught me to clean up after myself.  Had I left the mess I felt that I should never show my face in this newly found community treasure.  If I had not wiped my pants there would have been an even greater reason to never show my face in this public setting.  Thankfully my back was to the college students.  Whether or not I was on a hidden camera now that is the question as everything is videoed these days.

One of my first thoughts was “Man there is actually a lot of creamer in these tiny packets when it is sprayed onto your clothes!!”  It seems to take a few packets working together to make a tasty difference in my coffee.   Then the thought of our influence on the world started crossing my mind.  A negative mess sure seems to scream so loudly.  It takes several positives to really make an impact for good.  The creamer seems so little when poured into the cup of coffee.  In life we can sure cause a heap of heart ache and trouble when we make bad choices just on our own.    When we surround ourselves with positive influences making good choices together we can make a difference in our world for the better together.  This reminds me of what God intended His church to be.  People unified in Jesus Christ working together to spread His light to this dark messy world.

Our influence… are we making the world messier and darker?  Or are we helping to spread light, love, and truth?

God teaching me yet again through my embarrassing moments.

Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Romans 15:5-6 “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Learning to be Faithful and Not to Fear

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The question is never if God has my back.  The question is always do I have His?   Last week we received an email about our oldest daughter’s soccer team.  The team manager was checking to see who would like to play indoor soccer and that the games would be on Sunday mornings.  My husband, daughter, and I all talked and unanimously decided that we would not sacrifice going to church on Sunday mornings.   Her outdoor season worked out well with her games at noon on Sunday.  We were able to go to Life Groups, attend worship service, and even get back for Sunday evening service.  Sunday mornings would not work at all even with our church having two bible study and worship times.   My reply to her email simply said that she would like to play, but Sunday mornings just didn’t work for us.  I replied that God is the most important part of our family and that Sunday mornings are about all the time He truly gets.  I went on to say that we could pay and have her on the roster, but she would only be able to play games that weren’t on Sunday morning.  Then thanked her for all of her work because managing any kind of team requires a lot of time.

This my friends is why I know I serve the One and Only true living God and that every word/promise in the Bible is true!  Today I received an email from the team manager that the game schedules had been changed.  That there were no Sunday games on the new schedule and asked if our daughter would still like to play.   This is just one small example of how God has worked each and every time our family or myself has taken a stand or step of faith.  I had even told our daughter that if she is suppose to play this indoor session that God would change the schedule.  He has provided in this way all of my life.  My human sinful nature started to tempt me and I start to fear things like “What will the other parents say?”  “Now she may not get asked to play at all.”  The fearful, doubtful, and worrisome thought list goes on and on.  The sinful thoughts vary based on the decision that I or our family as a whole needs to make.

God already has the answers and plan.  Sometimes His plan is completely different yet always better.  He has my back.  There is no question about that.  Do I have His?  That is the question.  Can I set my human fears, doubts, worries, and selfishness aside?  Can I stand for my faith in a firm yet calm and loving way?

So often there is a misinterpretation of what standing up for faith requires.  Most often it is a calm and simple no.  Then followed by a calm explanation that God is more important than the other option presented.  This is a work within my life that is in progress.  There have been times I have succumbed to the temptation of fear and self.  Times I have failed to be faithful I have missed a blessing.  Every time I have put God first He has overcome all my fears and doubts.  When I trust in Him fully He shows me His awesome power.

Luke 16:10 “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”

1 Corinthians 1:9 “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

No Fear or Just Desensitized?

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It is rare that I have time to sit and watch television. Sitting and watching a scary movie is yet even more scarce. (Ha Ha scary/scarce) Last night I didn’t feel super great so I wasn’t cleaning, writing, or reading. I found myself alone for a short time. My husband had been watching a zombie movie that I had half way paid attention to. When that movie finished he left to go pick up our daughters and the next movie that came on the television was Silence of the Lambs. Scary movies use to give me terrible nightmares twenty plus years ago so I simply tried to avoid them after learning my lesson the hard way. There are always silly spoofs and references to this movie so I let curiosity get the best of me and decided to watch. It was creepy and the end of the movie did have my heart rate up I must admit. As I went to bed I anticipated that it could be a sleepless night. To my surprise I woke up this morning well rested.

All day I have wondered what the change in me has been in regards to spooky cinema or in general the scary things that can happen in life. It seems there are always terrible evil stories reported by news media so my first thought was that I have been desensitized. To be desensitized I would think means that I no longer care and that is far from true. There are so many situations, evils, and injustices going on in our world right now that are a tremendous burden on my heart and remain in my prayers. So if I am not desensitized what is it then?

As the day continued “fear not” in the biblical context kept coming to mind. Now I cannot say that I am never fearful or get startled. It would be a lie to say I am never anxious. What I kept thinking is that in this life there is trouble, but I know who is ultimately in control. John 16:33 “”I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” There is evil that surrounds us and it seems more so every day. The bible repeatedly quotes God and Jesus stating “Do not be afraid”. There is a continuous promise that He is there and always will be. He has proven Himself faithful time and time again throughout my life. Maybe I am at the point now that I know I am on the winning side no matter what. Sure I have so much more to learn about complete trust and faith. Apparently I am further along now than I was twenty years ago. Who knows what the next twenty years will bring, but what I do know is that God is with me.  I am not going to make it a habit of watching dark movies.  It may be another twenty years before I watch another one.  Garbage in garbage out so I try not to put too much in.

One reference from the movie that I found interesting was the line about coveting. The reference to one of the ten commandments was spot on. Evil actions start with evil thoughts. So even Hollywood really can’t avoid the fact that we sin. That the coveting thoughts we have can turn into dreadful actions if not kept in check. What Hollywood most often avoids is that the remedy for sin and evil is Jesus.

 

So never fear friends I am going to stop typing now and leave you with scripture that I hope assures you of where hope, peace, rest, and fearlessness comes from!!

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Psalms 34:4 “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”