Friday, November 29, 2013

The Battle Rages On . . .


2 Chronicles 20:15
He said, "Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem!  This is what the Lord says to you:  'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God's.'"

Our house sits in the middle of a forest populated mainly by deciduous hardwoods.  We are smack dab in the middle of fall, and you know what that means.  Leaves!  Tons of them!  Raining from the sky.  Covering our decks.  Smothering our yard.

Fall isn't called 'fall' for nothing!

And, when it comes to keeping the decks cleared and the yard clean, we have our work cut out for us.  I whisk away the broom while my husband, Danny, wields the leaf blower.  Together, we tackle the onslaught.  Battle back the blitz of leaf troops which seems to gain ground (literally) daily.  Here is a pile I'm in the midst of sweeping up the other day after heavy winds and rain brought in reinforcements.





And, here is what the deck looked like a day later.






The battle rages on . . .

And, many days, I feel like the leaves are winning.  Even when I know that, eventually, all of them will have dropped.  That I will, at some point, sweep the last soldier off the deck and Danny will blow the last warrior from the yard.  The losing battle turned into a war won.

Wouldn't it be splendid if every battle we face on life's journey had a guaranteed winning outcome?  Unfortunately, that's not the case.  We lose a job, go through a divorce, lose a loved one, endure a chronic illness.  And, sometimes, the fallout from our wounds can leave us feeling hopeless and helpless.

It doesn't have to be that way.  All that can change when we stop clinging to our own methods for waging war against the enemy, and hand the battle over to God.  Waving our white flags.  Surrendering to His will.  Trusting in His ways.

"And, we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

He is with us.  He cares.  He is able, ready and willing to aid us in every battle we face.

God will make it a win-win.  Every time . . .

~

What battles are you facing in your life today?

Will you pray with me?
Let us, Father, in hope and trust and humility, not be afraid of or discouraged by the battles of this life, but hand everything over to you with praise and thanksgiving.  We know the ultimate battle belongs to You.  May we ever raise our white flags in surrender to Your will.  Amen.

To listen to the song 'White Flag' by Chris Tomlin, click here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Love Your Enemies


Matthew 5:43-45
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous . . .

I subscribe to a daily post hosted my former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, called Godfruits.  Everyday, I know I can open this gift and find Biblical encouragement, good news videos and stories, and vital inspiration for my daily faith walk.  It has been both boon and blessing to me in a myriad of ways.

So, today, instead of sharing my own reflections with you, I choose to offer this commentary from Godfruits as a "guest post."  I hope you will read and be inspired!

An Armenian nurse had been held captive along with her brother by the Turks.  Her brother was slain by a Turkish soldier before her eyes.  Somehow, she escaped and, later, became a nurse in a military hospital.

One day, she was stunned to find that the same man who had killed her brother had been captured and brought, wounded, to the hospital where she worked.  Something within her cried out, "Vengeance!"  But, a stronger voice called for her to love.  She nursed the man back to health.

Finally, the recuperating soldier asked her, "Why didn't you let me die?"

Her answer was, "I am a follower of Him who said, 'Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.'

Impressed with her answer, the young soldier replied, "I never heard such words before.  Tell me more.  I want this kind of religion."

~

Is this the kind of religion you want, too?

Will you pray with me?
Father, how can we ever thank You enough for sending Your precious Son, Christ Jesus, to teach us the power of love and forgiveness?  May the lesson taught to us by this devoted nurse help us to search our hearts and souls, and to forgive readily with humble and grateful hearts.  Help us to forgive others as Jesus forgave us.  Amen.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bearing Much Fruit


John 15:5
"I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Those of you who have followed this blog for any length of time know that our home is nestled deep in a forest.  This makes having a vegetable garden impossible, and growing flowers?  Problematic at best.  But, we manage to find some which thrive in partial sun/mostly shade, and enjoy them throughout the summer when, and where, they add color and cheer to our deck.

As fall looms and cooler temperatures are in the offing, the plants are not simply surviving, they are thriving!  The first hard freeze is threatening, yet our impatiens have more promising buds than ever.  We cannot bear to see them meet and untimely end.  So, we decide to bring them into the house along with the Dragon-wing begonias.  The "hot house" environment does wonders for the impatiens, but the begonias wish to wilt.  We usher them back outside as soon as conditions are agreeable.

When the next freeze warning is issued, we carry all the plants inside again.  This time, however, the impatiens rest on our hearth as before, while we place the begonias in the garage which is cooler.  This works so much better for both species.  The begonias stay perky.  The impatiens produce seven blooms on one plant and three on the other.  In November?  Unheard of!

Begonias

Impatiens











These plants are both bearing much fruit because we choose to care for them.  From inclement weather, we protect.  In balmy weather, we encourage.  When it rains, we let them soak up nature's moisture.

Doesn't God do the same for us?

Jesus promises us that when we trust and find our rest in Him, He will always be there for us.  Some of us may require more pruning and nurturing.  But, with the Lord as our vine, our essential root in life, we can't help but bear good fruit in His name.

~

Do you have a "green thumb" story to share here?

Will you pray with me?
Help us to ever remember, Father, that apart from Jesus, we can do nothing.  May our lives be faithfully grafted onto His that we might always bear good fruit in this world.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Safe and Sound


Psalm 46:1
God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

My granddaughter, Virginia Rose, has a favorite stuffed animal, a worn and somewhat bedraggled kitty, which she takes with her everywhere she goes.  "Tatty," as Virginia calls him, is her constant companion, whether she is awake or asleep.



I've been babysitting frequently as of late, and have learned just how important Tatty is to my grandchild.  He accompanies us to the park, to the indoor playground nearby, and even to the grocery store where he sits next to her in the buggy seat.  Of course, when play is involved, this Gammie winds up holding Tatty so Virginia is free to do her thing.

One day, when I'm buckling her into her booster seat, Virginia points to Tatty.

"Gammie!  Tatty buck.  Tatty buck!"

"Oh, you want Tatty to have a seat belt, too?"

"Yep!"

Dutifully, I strap Tatty securely in his place.  "Okay, Virginia, he's fastened in and ready to go."

Virginia heaves a sigh of relief.

"Safe and sound," she says.

Naturally, I get a tremendous kick out of Virginia's precocious statement.  But, it also starts me thinking.  I'm old enough to remember the days when cars didn't even have seat belts.  When they finally did, many people, including my grandfather, refused to wear them.  Over the course of time, though, as traffic congestion increased and the interstates became more like racetracks than freeways, people began to see the sense in wearing a safety belt.

And, then, my thoughts take another turn.  Make a quite unexpected analogy.

That's what my life was like before I accepted Jesus as my Savior - riding around recklessly, wearing no seat belt.  Not safe and sound, but scared and scarred . . .

But, the Lord changed all that the moment I climbed into the car with Him and fastened His loving safety belt around me.  It hasn't always been an easy journey in this faith.  I've had my share of detours, potholes, traffic jams, and fender-benders.

Yet, no matter what has happened or will happen on this road trip, I know one thing for sure.

With God, I am always safe and sound.


~

Are you buckled up with Jesus?

Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for being our refuge and strength when troubles come, keeping us safe and sound in Your loving embrace.  We pray to feel Your presence and Your grace each and every day of this earthly journey.  All this we ask in the precious name of Jesus.  Amen.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Time of Uncertainty


1 Timothy 6:17
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only.  
~C. S. Lewis

Back in October of this year, the federal government shuts down.  My husband, Danny, who is the Region 4 coordinator for Energy Star at EPA, is laid off.  We don't know for how long.  We don't know if any back-pay is in the offing.  So many economic uncertainties to face!

Danny, always practical, sits down to take a hard look at our budget.  After a careful assessment, he shares his ideas.

"This month, no eating out, no internet orders, no matter what, and we need to cut back on what we're spending on groceries.  I think we can survive this."

"I know we can," I assure him.  "Just let me do all the food shopping."

Why should I handle the groceries?  It's been a long-standing joke at our house that if I let Danny loose at our local Publix, I can expect him to buy anything which catches his fancy.  And, never count the cost!  Because, when you endure lean times in your twenties and thirties and have to pinch every penny, once you have a stable, generous income, you tend to allow frugality to go the way of the dinosaur.

"What?"  Danny sounds disappointed.  "Don't you trust me to look for bargains now that we're in this fix?"

"Why, of course, I do.  I know you will.  Let's put our heads together and think of meals that will stretch before we head to the store this week."

And, that's precisely what we do.  We even stop buying the flavored vitamin water we love.  Instead, Danny buys the much, much cheaper bag of fresh lemons to make lemonade.  Amazingly, our food costs plummet by nearly $70 a week!  Wow!

The good news?  Even though the shutdown is long over and we now know Danny will get his pay for that lost time, we have maintained, and will continue to maintain, our savings mentality when it comes to budgeting for food.

The better news?  This time of uncertainty actually brought us closer to God and to one another.  A day didn't go by when we didn't pray together.  When I would see those furrows of worry crease Danny's brow, I'd immediately remind him that God is with us and will see us through, no matter what.  The relief which would flood his face was priceless . . .

And, God, through one unselfish and loving angel, touched us even deeper during this trying time.  We peruse our mail as usual one day to find an envelope addressed to us, but with no return address.  The postmark is metro Atlanta.  We open it to find this:



A most unexpected blessing.  And, because of our careful stewardship during this month of hardship, we were able to use it to bless others.

~

Have you gone through a time of adversity which resulted in unforeseen blessings?

Will you pray with me?
Father, we will no place our hope in the riches of this world, but in the riches of Your heavenly glory.  Remind us each day that You alone are enough to supply all our needs, the ones You know of before we ever know how to ask.  May we, with thankful hearts, always share our blessings with others.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Voice of the Lord


Hebrews 3:7
So, as the Holy Spirit says:  "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts . . ."

I begin writing my novel in the summer of 2007.  And inexplicable do-or-die, now-or-never urge possesses me.  I wind up with thirteen chapters, and am pleased with the story's direction by the time school starts up again.  Too busy and distracted by teaching, I reluctantly shelve my novel until the following summer.

It takes two more summers to complete.  And, the most amazing thing about this whole process?  I am certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt that God, through His Holy Spirit, has sat right next to me the entire time.  Because, as odd as it may sound, I don't write the book.

It writes itself.

And, I know it's good.  Worthy of readership.  Yet, every agent I seek out is not interested in representing me.  No publisher takes the bait.

Rejections take their toll . . .

At the gracious invitation of my brother in Christ, Dusty Rayburn, I am posting on his blog, Devoted Conversations today.  I do hope you will visit and become a fan of Dusty's writing.  Thank you, Dusty, for this opportunity to share with your audience.  God bless always!

Big Plans for Big Play

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