Sunday, July 21, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Courage To Fight Through The Darkness"

 
 
I just finished a local Women's Bible Study this week titled, "The Struggle Is Real".  Can you see my head nodding up and down in a majorly affirmative way?  Oh man, the struggle REALLY is REAL, friends.  Just ask the person sitting next to you; I'm sure they can give you an earful of struggle from their own life library. 

But this study reminded me a bit of the story of Jacob and how he and God wrestled (literally) and he came out of the boxing match both blessed and broken.   He came out with a limp that will be with him for the rest of his life....but the limp is a reminder of the blessing he learned.  He also had a scar from this fight that every time he looked at reminded him of the struggle...and the blessing that came from it as well.

Ever feel like you are one big scar?  I do.  Everywhere you look...every step you take, you see or feel the battle wound, yet ironically, you are stronger having fought through this battle and because of these wounds.  And that's the blessing.....when we can actually "see" and "feel" the scar tissue from the wounds we have received by being a participant in this life...and rejoice.  I think Matthew probably says it better than I can:

"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope.
With less of you, there is more of God and His rule. 

You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you.
Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you."

Matthew 5:3 MSG

If we can bravely stop running and instead, fight through the darkness and not give up until we can see the Light, we may walk out of the darkness with wounds and a limp, but we will discover God's power and presence is there waiting for us.

Have the courage to fight through the darkness, my friend......

Sunday, July 14, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "To See God In The Face We Face"



This week, we found ourselves serving the sweet children of Mt. Vernon once again through Lunches of Love.  It's something this unique little town of 3000 do each year for the last half of summer.  For several hours each day, we slow down our lives to look in the hungry faces of the children in this place we call home.  Their stomachs get nourished....their curiosity gets challenged...and their hearts are taught what crazy awesome love Jesus has for them....even if they don't know Him personally. 

Monday through Friday, you will find the Rotary, the Methodists, the Catholics, the Baptists and many many more, bending down and loaning their hands and feet and time, to a child who needs them.  It's the coolest thing I've ever been a part of....and in many ways, it reminds me of the story in Luke 10 about the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Take a read...

"A Jewish man was traveling to Jericho when he was attacked by bandits....and left for dead.  
By chance, a priest came along...he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.  
Then a Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side."  
Luke 10:30-32

But here's the difference: In Mt. Vernon, they stop and render aide and don't pass the one in need by.

"Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him...and soothed his wounds."

It's so easy to start and end our day overwhelmed with Life....with the pressures of work and home and TV shows that need to be watched.  We claim we can barely find the time to do what we need to do for us, much less for the stranger down the street.  But I dare you...NO...I double-dog dare you....to see God in the faces you face this week.  I bet you'll see them at the grocery store, at Dairy Queen,...and yes, maybe even next door.

"Now which of these would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?" Jesus asked.  
They replied, "The one who showed him mercy."  
Then Jesus said, "Yes, now go and do the same."

Sunday, July 7, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: L-I-V-E


One of my favorite authors once said, "The road ahead would seem obvious if you knew how much road ahead there was."

Unfortunately, no one tells you how much time you have to dance on this earth.  No one tells you if you have enough time to laugh till you hiccup or take a road trip up Pikes Peak or write that best seller.  If you knew how much time you had to live, you'd know how to live, right?

About 12 years ago, Chuck and I were given a peephole into our future.  We discovered that although he was walking fine at the time, he wouldn't always be walking fine.  His Multiple Sclerosis was marching forward in his tall body and we had a limited amount of weeks, days or years before his legs would soon fail him.  It was time to start living life outside of routine.  We were given a gift....a tiny view of the future...and what we did with it was up to us.

We let go of our tight grip on "Can we afford this?" and purchased a motorcycle trike.  We then wanted to take our trike trips to the highest mountains and furthermost oceans, so we added a motorhome to pull our trike to our growing expenses.  We hit the road and we figured out how to live without knowing when we'd die. 

Because we wanted to live first.

Have you ever wondered why God doesn't tell us the length of our years ahead of time?  Why that death date is a mystery until the day it knocks on our door?  I have.  But we discovered there was freedom in not knowing what was around the next corner.  What magical things were waiting for us as we closed our eyes and placed our fingers on random spots on the map as our next destination, simple things like listening to him breathe as he slept, and focused less on when that next hospital stay would be.  And I could see God smiling and nodding His head in affirmation....because He knew we finally understood one of the greatest gifts He gave us in this life here on earth.

To live.

"Your life is only a blink long -
and then you wake up to the forever that your life chose."

Sunday, June 30, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Did the Bible REALLY Say That?"


Over the past few months and yes, even years, I have lost count of the number of times I have been told by well-meaning friends,

"Don't worry, Liz.....the Bible says God doesn't give us more than we can handle." 

Hum.  By saying that, it implies that God gave me the hardship in the first place.  Last I checked, God was a God of love....not a God of adversity and pain.  I know full well the struggles in my life are caused by my enemy...the one who desperately wants to shut me up and knock me down in hopes I won't get back up.  What the Bible actually says with regards to this subject is, "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 NIV).

Awww...see the difference?  Go ahead; read it again. 

This got me thinking about what else have we incorrectly given the Bible credit for.  Here's a few examples I thought you might find interesting:

* "Eve was tempted by Satan with an apple" (Deliciousness 1:1)."  Really?  Are you sure?  Genesis 3:6 simply states "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it."  That could have been an orange, or a coconut or maybe even a pomegranate!  Says nothing about it being an apple, although, if I were Eve, I probably would have preferred an apple.

* "God works in mysterious ways" (Factualfiction 39:12).  Nope.....not Biblical.  Although this is a true statement and He's constantly working in crazy mysterious ways in all of our lives, you won't find those exact words written in the pages of your Bible.

* "God helps those who help themselves" (1 Americanians 17:76).   Ouch.  This one should be deleted from your sentence vocabulary bank.  Romans 5:6 actually tells us just the opposite:  "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly."   Or maybe check out Psalms 121:2, "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth."  I don't remember God telling Moses to have the people build a boat as they stared down the Red Sea....just sayin'.

I realize the importance of whether Eve was tempted with an apple or an apricot is of little importance, but what is important is that we know what God's Word actually says.  That we don't blindly believe everything we're told by others....and that we READ THE BOOK and find out for ourselves.  It's a a super cool story that you just might find yourself a part of.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Are You An Orphan or Have You Been Adopted?"


ARE YOU AN ORPHAN
OR
HAVE YOU BEEN ADOPTED?


Growing up, my older brother and I used to regularly tell my sister Debbie that she was adopted because she didn't have the family web toes like we both did.  James and I both inherited our father's web toes on the second and third toes of our right foot and we never missed a chance to remind Debbie she wasn't part of our family since she didn't have web toes too.   She wasn't adopted.....but we loved making her think she was.

But we learn in Ephesians 1:5 that being adopted is a GOOD thing:

"God decided in advance to ADOPT us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and IT GAVE HIM GREAT PLEASURE."

Awwww...the ammunition my sister could have used if she would have known this scripture back then.  It's a privilege....an HONOR....to be adopted. 

Especially by God.

But did you know that not everyone is adopted by God into His family?  There are requirements that must be met before being adopted and being a part of the amazing family of God.  First, you must BELIEVE.....but simple belief in God alone is not enough.  James 2:19 says, "You believe that there is one God.  That's fine!  Even the demons believe that and they tremble with fear."  Belief without repentance...without relationship...
without action...is DEAD as a doornail....six feet under...pushing up daisies....hot as Hades.

So often, we Christians think that by simply proclaiming we believe in Christ and yet never getting to know Him, never speaking to Him through our prayers, never telling others about Him, that somehow, that's enough to get us adopted by God. 

Would YOU want to adopt YOU if you were Him?

I have to ask myself that question daily.  Am I living for my life here on earth or am I living for my life in eternity?  How I live my life here on earth will determine WHERE I spend my life in eternity.  God just wants YOU.  And he wants you to want Him. 

That's all.  He wants nothing more than to adopt you into His family and give you the inheritance He has reserved for you.....He doesn't mind if you have a few warts, bad breath or even web toes. 

He just wants YOU.....to want HIM.


Sunday, June 16, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Let God Pull The Volkswagon"



As I sit here writing this to you, I am preparing to jump on a plane in a few hours and head west to San Jose, CA.  I have been instructed to sit on the right side of the plane, window seat, and look for a cute girl waving at a certain spot on the top of a tall residential building as my plane prepares to land in California.  Sounds crazy, doesn't it?  

This crazy girl would be my cousin, Sheri.  

Sheri has been the voice of endurance to me over these past roller coaster months since my status changed from married to widowed.  She is a nurse...a paramedic....a fire chief, and yet, was forced to watch her own life change before her eyes when her young husband died from a heart attack eight years ago.  She has been a gift from God to me during this time in my life...and she has given me words of hope for what lies ahead.

So I think that's why this particular scripture strikes a deep cord within me:

 "We can REJOICE, too, when we run into problems and trials, 
for we know that they help us develop ENDURANCE."
Romans 5  

Sheri and I didn't grow up knowing each other, but I remember hearing stories passed around the family about how, when she was training to be a fireman, she would attach a pully-device to her tiny waist and pull a Volkswagen down the street as a way of getting stronger and more equipped to handle the load she longed to carry as a fireman.  The pain and strength it took to pull something many times her own weight.  It developed her endurance.

In much the same way, our struggles and trials in this life are our Volkswagons.   We strap on the Love of God to our weary bodies and let Him pull us and our troubles to safety.  He doesn't ask us to do the work of the pulling...He simply asks us to.release the emergency brake so He is able to accomplish this for us.  


And endurance develops strength of character, 
and character strengthens our confident HOPE of salvation."

Sunday, June 2, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: 'My Chains Are Gone"



About twelve years ago, while sitting in my favorite chair in the living room reading one morning, I came across a website called "Gently Broken".  As I poured over the contents of this beautifully healing website, I came across the song, "Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone".  

At the time, I hadn't been to church in a number of years, so I didn't realize this remake of the Amazing Grace I had known as a child was now a common song in many churches.  And something amazing happened as I heard these words for the first time...

"My chains are gone, I've been set free...
My Savior has ransomed me.  
And like a flood, His mercy rains, 
Unending love, AMAZING GRACE."

These words touched a place inside of me that felt like the finger of God touching my very soul.  It was then that I realized the bondage of legalism I had been living in most of my life.  Much like the earthquake Paul felt while in prison which caused his chains to come unfastened and the cell doors to swing wide open in Acts 16, I felt an earthquake of freedom in Christ I had never felt before.

Tears flowed from my eyes as I found my hands outstretched in front of me, feeling the weight of the heavy chains of denominational rules falling to the floor.  And the chains were replaced with Grace, Forgiveness and Relationship and the knowledge that there was nothing I could "do" to earn my ticket to Heaven...no amount of "works" or "good deeds" could get me an address in Heaven.  I simply needed to Believe and Love the Lord my God with every fiber of my heart. 

"The jailor called for lights, and rushing in (to the cell), he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas asking, 
'What must I do to be saved?'  
They answered, "BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus, and you will be SAVED."
Acts 16:31

Yes, it was Grace that taught my heart to fear that day....and Grace my fears relieved.  How absolutely precious did that Grace appear....that hour I first believed.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "My Letter To The Graduate"



Graduation Week  
(Originally posted in May 2017)

Dear Graduate, 

As you cross that long stage in front of your family and friends and eagerly close one chapter and open the next, there are a couple of things this old lady whose tassel was moved from the right to the left a thousand years ago would like for you to know:

Be An Individual.  There is a reason you are alive.  This culture we live in makes it far too easy to look alike, act alike and believe alike.  Discover who YOU are.....and don't be afraid to be different.  That goofy graduation cap on your head is a ticket to life.  You can stand out and you can be the change you wish to see in the world.  Learn to fly solo......

Help Others.  We all have a calling in life.  And if there's one lesson I've learned over all others, it's that we are placed on this earth to help other people.  In the book The Original Human Dilemma (2004), supposedly in hell, they sit around a great pot, all hungry, because the spoons they hold are too long to bring the food to their mouths.  In heaven, people are sitting around the same pot with the same long spoons, but everyone is full. Why?  Because in heaven, everyone uses their long spoons to feed one another.  So learn to feed others.  Discover the lesson of helping others....it will serve you well in this life.

Don't Let Technology Be Your God.  As someone who is writing this to you from her laptop with her cell phone charging as she types with buds in her ears, I know a bit about this subject.  Techno-gadgets are merely distractions.....just look around you....even us old people have made our phones our god.  If you are going to make a difference.....put down the cell, take the buds out and spend less time in front of the screen.  Put Real Life First.

Place God as the Driver of Your Life.  Really hear this....NOTHING else matters if you don't have God as your Driver.  You are traveling down the Highway Of This World at a rapid speed.  GET OFF....NOW.  There are exit ramps along the way and they lead to a narrow, difficult and rarely traveled path.  But this path is unlike the highway that leads to certain death and an eternity in hell....the narrow path leads you HOME.  Yes....you will most likely arrive home sore, scratched and tired from the bumps along the way, but you will LIVE to see Home.  

And be happy......that's exactly what God intended you to be!

Now go....jump into that next chapter with both feet!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Don't Waste Your Light"

"He Breathed The Word, 
And All The Stars Were Born."  
Psalm 33:6


Picture this...

God...bigger than life...bigger than earth...bigger than the universe.  And He's blowing His breath straight-up into the heavens and making stars.  Like a sparkler on 4th of July, the bright stars are born by the very breath of God.   Can you just imagine??

When I was a chubby little girl with thick glasses, one of my favorite things to do when it wasn't cricket and grasshopper season, was to lay out in the backyard and stare up into the night sky.  I would daydream about soaring past the bright stars, zipping past the man-in-the-moon and flying straight into the arms of Heaven.  I still, at almost 60, daydream about this on those clear starry nights.

But He didn't just blow life into the stars; He blew life into you and me.  He imagined you first...then He smiled and blew breath into your mother's womb.  He always meant for you to be a light.  And much like the shining stars in the sky above....you were always destined to be a light to others.  You see, God doesn't waste His breath...He breathed you and me into being for a specific reason.  It was no accident...it was no "chance" happening.  There was a plan.  There was always a plan.

This little light of mine
I'm going to let it shine

Just as a star is meant to shine brightly as we lay in the grass looking at it from a trillion miles away, we were meant to be that same light to others.  But our light doesn't have to be seen trillions of miles away; it only has to be seen by the stranger at Brookshires, at Walmart, our friends and family at home, school and work, and yes, even at church.  It's our destiny...our one purpose and reason for being here.  To be the light He made us to be....and to love and trust the One who blew breath-light into you in the first place.

God never wastes His breath...don't waste your light.

Let it shine...Let it shine...Let it shine.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "We Serve A God Who Allows Hurt"



A few weeks ago, I found myself in a roomful of friends discussing each of our "coming-to-Jesus" stories.  It was a spontaneous conversation...one minute we were talking about our grandchildren and what color to paint the living room and the next, we were talking about how we each individually came to be friends with Jesus.

I love conversations like this.  I visualize Jesus quietly sitting at the table with us, whittling wood into a toothpick or something, and smiling.  Smiling cause He already knows our stories yet, goodness...He loves being a "bug-on-the-wall" listening to us share them with each other. 

The more I listened to the different stories, the more I discovered a common-denominator in each of our roads and relationships with Christ.  The commonality was, as our relationships with Christ grew, so did the difficulties, disappointments, and discouragements in our lives.  It was as though the tighter we held Jesus' hand, the stronger the winds smacked us in the face.  I would be amiss if I weren't honest enough to tell you I have wondered, on rare occasions, if whether the relationship was worth it.  I would imagine you have too at some point in this journey...if you're honest with yourself.  

So why are difficulties and disappointments part of the reality of our journey with God?  

Because in the words of one of my favorite authors, Lysa Terkeurst, "If the enemy (Satan) can isolate you, he can influence you.  His favorite entry point of all is through our disappointments (& difficulties).  But we serve a God who allows hurt.  But we also serve a God who uses hurt for good."  In other words, he wants to CRUSH you, sweet friend, by massively discouraging you!

Some time ago, I had a "friend" march herself over to my house and slam-dunk a hurtful comment straight into my heart.  It was like kerosene being thrown onto my already smoldering heart at the time.  But here's the really cool part of this story: Soon after she left, it was as if "Someone" were standing straight-up in front of me and saying:

"That - Was - Satan, Liz".

Please know I'm not calling my "friend" Satan, but I am saying he used her to discourage me...to disappoint me...to CRUSH me with his oversized foot.  And it worked.  For 5 minutes.  
 
When the winds of Disappointment, Difficulty, and Discouragement threaten to blow you off course, step back and listen for His voice to remind you who your enemy is. You might be surprised by what you hear.