Just a teeny commercial break in our current series “Ain’t No Fairy Tale”. I decided to promote FLURISH after reading the devotional below. It was written by Sarah Young who is a missionary as well as a writer. Some think her writings are controversial, some love her writings. All I can tell you is I have found the following passage to be absolutely true! It is the heart of FLURISH, just expressed in a different, concise way.
Check it out.
“Live first and foremost in My Presence. Gradually you will become more aware of Me than of people and places around you. This awareness will not detract from your relationships with others. Instead, it will increase your ability to give love and encouragement to them. My Peace will permeate your words and demeanor. You will be active in the world, yet one step removed from it. You will not be easily shaken because My enveloping Presence buffers the blow of problems.
This is the path I have set before you. As you follow it wholeheartedly, you experience abundant Life and Peace.”
Sarah Young—- JESUS CALLING
Psalm 89:15-16; Psalm 16:8; II Peter 1:2
So what are your thoughts? Share in the COMMENT section.
If you are a woman reading this, what is it that you want most? Anything jump to the forefront of your mind?
For me I’d have to say I most want to be appreciated and understood and at the least acknowledged as a positive life form (thought well of) from those I consider close to me. I don’t expect these things from anyone else. How about you. What do you really want?
Remember one of Mel Gibson’s movies entitled “What Women Want”?
The movie came out in 2000 about an extreme ladies man who gains the ability to hear women’s thoughts after he has a freak accident. One particular woman he hears at his office is a file girl played by Judy Greer. She is well aware that she goes unnoticed day after day in her work place. Mel Gibson’s character now hears her thoughts. She believes her life matters to no one. She’s contemplating suicide.
The world the file girl lives in is fast paced and people are not paying attention to her, at least not until Mel Gibson’s character hears her dangerous thoughts. Most of us live in this same type of hurried situation day in and day out.
You’ll have to watch the movie or google it to see how things resolve but do you ever feel like the file girl? Like you don’t matter in this rat race life? That no one sees or cares about the details of your day to day existence? Perhaps you are facing something tragic or challenging? Don’t try to run, hide or worse.
In Genesis 16 Hagar was running away because her situation with Abram and Sarai was difficult and complicated. She was a servant used as a surrogate mother and now that she was pregnant she felt resentful. Used, unwanted and abused she probably felt a lot worse than the file girl in Gibson’s movie.
But as Hagar hid in the wilderness, God found her and spoke to her about her life and future, giving her hope. Genesis 16:6-12. Hagar responded by calling God El Roi which is a Hebrew term meaning “the God who sees me”.
I am extremely grateful that God is never too busy or preoccupied to notice us, His children. All we have to do is call out to Him and He hears us. He knows everything about us everyday, every minute, every second. Only an all-knowing, almighty God could keep up with so many people and love each of us as if we were HIS only child.
Today remember HE sees you! Focus on the truth of HIS abiding presence. HE is available if we want Him, He’s only a breath away, call Him. He sees you. He’s waiting.
If I am seen, known and loved by my Lord that really is all this woman wants. What about you?
“Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the soul of his masters.” Proverbs 25:13 English Standard version
If you happen to live in cooler climates, you might be well acquainted with the term “snow day”. Those of us who grew up in the Northeastern area of the US probably remember listening anxiously to the radio or tv as kids early in the morning waiting for the announcement of school cancellations due to weather conditions.
Now our own kids or grandkids look forward to “snow days” just as we did—A free day with no school. Of course in the scheme of things, a snow day was followed later by a “make up” day to replace the required school hours that were lost during the “snow day”. But kids don’t care about such future details.
The good news for us as adults is we don’t have to wait for a snowstorm to grant us a “free snow day”. We can schedule our own every now and then. We can take some time to just BREATHE. We can put all the responsibilities on hold for a day. It will recharge our minds, bodies and souls.
We also are not forced into a “make up” day. We just trust and expect our Heavenly Father to help us with anything that piled up during our day with Him. I have found Him to be faithful each and every time I do this to help me catch up on whatever work I have. It’s a supernatural thing!
The trick is to actually TAKE a “free day”. To entrust your myriad of responsibilities to the Lord who loves you for one 24 hour period and not fret over them. HE actually expects us to do this once a week not once in a blue moon. HE gave us the Sabbath to refresh us to better serve and worship Him. HE knows we need it it whether we realize it or not. (Luke 4:16 for any desiring New Testament proof—Jesus is our ultimate example) We need to incorporate this into our weekly lives no matter what our work schedules dictate.
I have worked weekends for 29 years now and it has been a challenge to take my “snow days” or Sabbath days. Sometimes corporate worship with other believers cannot take place the same day as my “snow day” time with Him due to my work schedule, but that’s ok. He sees my heart and knows my desire is to be with Him so I proactively plan to do it as regularly as I can. This will be different for each of us.
For many years I didn’t carve out a 24 hour Sabbath for myself and burn out would overtake me. When I was young it took longer to burn out but now I grow tired faster which is actually a blessing since it forces me to physically rest. Illness sometimes created forced “snow days”. But now I want to be proactive and obedient to HIS command. I don’t always do too well but I keep trying because I know HIS ways are higher than mine so I trust HIM rather than what I think or my schedule dictates.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 English Standard Version
Our world is so busy and everything seems important. The more complicated our world becomes the more we NEED weekly undivided time set apart with Jesus in addition to daily communication with Him. We need to rest, to refresh and to refuel to FLURISH!
Today I’m taking a “snow day” supernaturally as well as physically!! When was your last “snow day”?
After our lovely bike ride and photography session along the Banzai Pipeline I picked the next adventure. The shuttle skirted around the bay just a short mile and dropped us off in Waimea Valley. We walked into an amazingly lush 1,800 acre botanical sanctuary for rare birds and over 5,000 species of plants endemic to Hawaii.
I believe this was the most beautiful display of greenery I’ve seen in my life. Every angle was a fabulous photo op. So of course my photographer husband dove into photo taking frenzy mode. But unbeknownst to him, I had a goal which needed immediate attention to reach.
I wanted to hike to a waterfall at the edge of the garden. I dreamed of a romantic lunch in a scenic spot and swimming in a fresh pool with a waterfall. Now my dear husband knew I wanted to go to the waterfall but he had no idea that I had romanticized about it in my mind. So he meandered along the trail snapping photos of everything while I grew impatient and finally we broke into a spat. I told him I was headed to the waterfall and stomped away in a huff.
During my twenty minute hike at a fast clip, I muttered and complained to God out loud since no one else was around.
“Why doesn’t he understand how important this is to me? I went with him to his photo tours.”
In a still small voice I heard the Father speak in a gentle tone to my heart.
“Remember, Dwight has never been to Hawaii before. He’s overwhelmed by the beauty I created. Let him enjoy it his way. You come with Me. You were worried about having special alone time with Me, so this is your chance. This will be our adventure together at the waterfall.”
That was all I needed to hear. Immediately my heart shed the frustration toward Dwight and overflowed with excitement knowing I had heard from my heavenly Father and He wanted to go on this adventure with me. My pace quickened and I reached the waterfall in no time. My heart pumping with joy, the young attendant took notice and said;
“Nice to see someone so eager to get in the water. You know it’s really cold in there since this is our winter season.”
“I don’t care, I just hiked up here so I could swim in the waterfall pool. I’m hot and need to cool off,” I replied.
I crawled down over the slippery rocks abandoning any fear and dove into the 30 foot deep pool. The exhilaration was indescribable. I could feel the presence of my Lord with me as I bobbed around in the fresh cold water. I struggled to swim toward the waterfall even though I approached from the side rather than head on because of the tremendous pressure.
At one point my energy waned and discouragement made an attempt to overcome me. But the voice of my Lord spoke into my heart again saying, “Relax, I AM here and you have a life jacket on, just enjoy floating with Me awhile.” I followed His instruction and quit fighting the pull and allowed my body to glide across the invigorating waters. To say I had the time of my life is a gross understatement. When do you get to swim in a waterfall . . . with GOD??
In time He helped me get over to the side and find a ledge next to the waterfall where I got my photo taken by my sweet husband who made his way to the waterfall afterall. This remains the highlight for me of a very eventful trip.
How do you experience Jesus in every day life? How does He communicate with you? Each of us has the opportunity to be intimate and close to Him the more we focus on His reality and spend time in His word. He forms a deep bond in your soul if you let Him and each of us can have a totally individualized custom-made relationship with Him IF we choose it. Even on vacation!
“O LORD, I give my life to You. I trust in You, my God!” Psalm 25:1 New Living Translation
What does your beginning look like? Or perhaps I should ask what brought you to Christ?
My mother taught me about Jesus from as far back as I can remember. She took me to the same church she attended as a child. I loved Sunday school and learned all the songs like Deep and Wide, Running Over, and I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy. But I only knew ABOUT Jesus, I didn’t really KNOW Him yet.
Everything surrounding Jesus was joyous and good. So I liked learning about Him. But one day The truth about His purpose on earth shattered my heart. I found out He came here to suffer and die in my place. It was hard to accept at age seven but I understood enough about the reality of Jesus to love Him and want Him in my life no matter what.
My father recognized the divine love of Christ that same year of 1970 and made a commitment to Him at a small prayer meeting. I decided if my father did it, I should too. And so I gave my heart to Jesus and began my adventure with Him. The highest praise we can give to God is to give our lives to Him!
So I ask again… what does your beginning look like? Someone may need to hear it.
“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.” II Corinthians 3:18 New Living translation
Do we see, really see the glory of God? It’s here all around us if we look with eyes of faith. Study the planets, the animal kingdom or the workings of the human body. His glory covers every inch of anything we can see, feel and hear plus all the unseen as well. Look deeper. Ask Him to show you His glory. He will. Why wouldn’t we want to know this truly awesome God on an intimate level?! What in this life is more important?
Dating God regularly in various arenas of our world not only renews our mindset from lonely glumness to powerful praise and purpose, it also converts our character. Time with Him anywhere reshapes our character to reflect Him. We begin to become like Him in our hearts.
As this reworking process changes us on the inside, the results will show on the outside. We begin to express His character traits of kindness, faithfulness, love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness and self-control in our daily dealings with others. It is a lifelong dating process to become like the object of our affection, Jesus Christ, God’s only son. He is the exact representation of God on earth.
In 2010 psychologist Robert Zajonc and his team from the University of Michigan found truth in the old belief that married couples look alike. He found that close couples tend to mimic each other’s facial expressions, developing the same muscles and over time begin to look alike.
Do you recognize this couple? They met in 1922 and married in 1926. They worked together as a comedy team in vaudeville, radio, movies and tv for almost 40 years.
This is exactly what we want to do with God. We want to spend time with Him studying His ways and imitating Him. Working with Him, laughing with Him, and learning with Him moment by precious moment. In time, we will begin to look like Him.
Reflecting our great GOD in turn makes us quite attractive. If we display His attributes freely people will be drawn to us. Given enough time with Him to transform us, we will have more friends than we may be able to handle. Loneliness will be a thing of the past. God will fill our hearts. Those full hearts will attract others and voila, Lonely No More!
Consider Enoch in Genesis 5:23 and 24. “Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.” New Living translation
He dated God so intensely that one day God just took him away to heaven with Him. Enoch never experienced death. When you’re in dating mode you give every moment your best shot. You’re attentive and all in. Being aware of His presence is only the beginning. Enoch knew this. He chased after God and was not lonely.
“To walk with God, is to set God always before us, to act as always under His eye. It is constantly to care, in all things to please God, and in nothing to offend Him. It is to be followers of Him as dear children.” Matthew Henry concise commentary on Genesis 5:24
So do you want to remain a Lonely heart or Lonely No More? Try dating God and watch things change. Get started asap.
“I love those who love Me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” Proverbs 8:17 English Standard version
Do you remember your First Love? Probably have warm feelings recalling that special someone whenever they come to mind. We all have fond memories of someone even if the person was totally unaware of our affection. Do you realize God wants to be your First Love? It was part of His His divine blueprint.
In the garden of Eden, God created man and woman to know Himself. He created Adam FIRST and then He created Eve. The Bible says He brought her to Adam which means she also knew God FIRST before she met Adam. We don’t know the time frames for when Adam and Eve met but they both knew God, their Creator first.
God understands human loneliness. He created Eve because He knew it was not good for Adam to be alone forever. (See Genesis 2:18) So at some point God brought them together after they both knew Him. This remains God’s perfect design. For each man, for each woman to know Him FIRST before they come together as a couple.
If we are lonely as Christians, I believe we should start with pursuing God. Knowing Him intimately first before we try to involve ourselves in deep human relationships will widen the foundation for success from which we build any relationship but especially marriage. This is true no matter our age. If we plunge ahead driven by loneliness to any source other than God, there will be needless pain involved.
Needless pain resulting from reckless and irresponsible behaviors. Drinking, which can lead to alcoholism, illicit relationships, job loss, DUI arrest and more…Loveless sexual relationships, leaving a person empty, unfulfilled and endlessly searching for more, not to mention possible unwanted pregnancy, disease or abuse. Compromising convictions and being unequally yoked. What does being “unequally yoked” mean? Involving yourself in a relationship or even marrying someone who is not a believer. There is a long list of negative consequences for the believer who does this, too long to list here. The Bible warns of this in II Corinthians 6:14. All I will say in this writing is, I’ve walked that path and trust me, it does not work! God is not a killjoy…He simply wants to spare you from all this heartache. None of the aforementioned activities are a cure for your loneliness.
In building this foundational relationship with God first through Jesus His Son and His Holy Spirit, you will have your priorities in the proper order. ( Matthew 6:33) Then you can grow as a person and become whole in Him. At the right time, which only He knows, He will bring a partner to you just as He did for Adam, whether it’s a friend or a marriage partner. This process takes time and it’s different for each of us. Remember, healthy people attract healthy people.
God will not be selfish with you. He will not withhold any good thing from you. (Psalm 84:11) He loves you beyond imagination, but He does want what is best for you and so you MUST JUST TRUST Him and His timing.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 New International version
Learn to enjoy your time with Him, your First Love, so all who come into your life will experience the best of you because of who you have become in Him and the time spent with Him. “Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 New International version
As I said earlier, many of us have learned the hard way that attempting to defeat loneliness on our own by chasing human relationships first, ended in pain and heartache. But no matter where we are in life, we can begin the process to date our magnificent God! Stay tuned for part III where I will share some ideas that helped me.
For now increase your faith by reading the story of Ruth and Naomi in the book of Ruth. Ruth chose to learn of God through her mentor, Naomi and in time, the Lord provided a faithful partner for Ruth. A beautiful example of the principle of First Love at work.
Shine on. . .
“But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” II Peter 3:18 English Standard version
That Fall as the leaves began to drop, I rejoined life at 42 years of age. Freedom felt scary. I felt as if I woke up from a 22 year dream. Or like I had been drowning below the water and finally able to surface and gasp for life-giving air. Freedom and a second chance to figure out who I was in God’s great plan. Discovering what assignments HE had for me revitalized my will to live and to live well.
I knew the 22 years were not lost or wasted. For in that time HE refined, chiseled and shaped me. Molding my character to better resemble His Son Jesus. Polishing my faith and strengthening it through the fires of a difficult life. Those years challenged me much more than I ever foresaw at age 20. Though many saw my young decision as a real shame, God knew my heart’s motivation and used it for good, healing and preparing me for this day to begin a new chapter in life.
Right off, I joined a small group from the large church I attended. It thrilled my heart to meet and get to know people on a real and raw level. To learn how to get along and operate as the body of Christ. I had never experienced this special forum of love before. I saw it from a distance as a child when cottage prayer meeting groups met in my family’s home. Now I had a safe group to grow further in my faith and share the good, the bad and the heartbreaking.
I also joined a local christian support group sponsored by a church I’d never attended. The group formed to help those in need of healing from recent losses.
I continued volunteer work with the teens at the youth center and also began seeing a Christian Psychologist.
On Friday evenings I attended a class called Wise Choices at another church in a neighboring town. Geared toward singles, this class taught us how to make healthy and wise choices for any relationship whether friends, dating partners or future spouses.
All these groups occupied my free time in positive and constructive ways. I expressed gratitude to God for the opportunities each provided to protect me from the pull to run back to my former life. For the pull could be very strong at times if I got too lonely.
I met people from all four of the churches and made friends in each arena. I had carpool girlfriends and one old guy friend from the past who seemed safe. Plus there were social functions now opened to me for the first time. I cannot even describe to you the excitement that flooded my soul.
Barn dances, hayrides, skating parties, hiking adventures, day trips to the beach, DC or NYC all opened up to me and I was ecstatic. And then I received an invitation for a Murder Mystery dinner. You know the whole 9 yards type where you get an invite in the mail assigning you to a certain character that you are expected to portray the night of the murder.
This was especially intriguing because the only person I knew was the hostess and she was a new acquaintance. So it was scary exciting but I was determined to go all out knowing Jesus was going with me.
My assignment described my character as a wealthy wife to a lawyer in the story. So I needed to have fancy clothes and a big diamond to wear.
I had a midnight blue satin gown I procured from a thrift store and plain black pumps. I decided to have my hair put up for the special occasion. I scheduled my hair dresser friend who excelled in updos.
My boss at the time offered to let me borrow a family heirloom ring. She brought it in for me to see. It was gargantuan! A literal ball of diamonds. It would have been perfect but I feared losing it and not having money to replace it so I declined the offer.
The next day a coworker brought in another ring for me to see. Still a rock but much more manageable.
The ring was a gorgeous emerald cut with trillion cut diamonds flanking it. I fell in love with it and couldn’t wait to wear it for the big event.
Now I needed to dig up a date to play my learned lawyer husband. I wanted to go so bad and tried my older friend but he had plans. The desperation became a downfall for me. In a weak moment I invited the guy from my past. He accepted.
So here I am on my Canadian odyssey. I spent time throughout the week getting to know some of the guys as well as the girls. I chatted on the dock with kids who were fishing or just hangin out in the sun. Reluctantly, I braved canoeing with some overly excited girls. Needless to say that exploit turned out all wet.:( I ran races, shot hoops, broke up some fighting and even ventured out on the lake at midnight to see the full moon and a flock of loons.
So many treasured moments occurred but one gave me a send off I didn’t expect. Soon after our arrival I bonded tightly with a 16 year old named Tasha. She lived in a Children’s home back in PA. Her faith was strong for one so young living in such a difficult circumstance.
Tasha and I bore our souls and prayed together for our futures. We talked and shared our personal stories throughout the week during whatever activity ensued around us. Both desperately wanting to make decisions that pleased God and kept us in HIS will. We felt like kindred spirits. Sisters in Christ, even though I was old enough to be her mother.
At the end of the week Tasha wanted to purchase gifts for all her new friends. Surprisingly, this included me. She decided she wanted me to have a ring and insisted I pick one out for $10 at Walmart. I protested but she explained that it meant a lot to her to be able to give me something to remember her.
She said, “I want you to have a special ring from me. I want you to wear it until the man God has for you replaces it with another ring.”
My heart melted and I agreed to pick out a ring. Tasha smiled the warmest smile as I chose a ring from the large display. She nodded in approval and rushed up to the cashier to purchase it. I put it on as soon as we got in the van to drive back to the Lake House.
The next day everyone parted for home. Tasha and I hugged for a long time before she climbed into the Chevy Tahoe that brought her to Canada. We wrote for a few months afterward, but I never saw her again.
I wore her ring faithfully into the autumn season until my finger began turning green. I reluctantly took off the ring and wrapped it up, storing it carefully in my jewelry box. I felt bad for no longer wearing it. In addition to the oxidation issue, the ring had taken quite a good beating on my job. I decided her words were what truly mattered. I guarded them in my heart.
That experience in Canada fueled my resolve to deal with my haunting past when I returned home. A past which included two men who I loved. Both good men but neither were the fulfillment of God’s plan for me. Neither were the one Tasha told me I would find if I followed God’s wisdom.
The first loved the Lord but could not be a husband due to his circumstances. The second was free to be a husband but had no desire to put Jesus first in his life. I wanted to put Jesus first, walk away and let both of them go. But I struggled emotionally many months over each of them.
My heart ached because of all the compromising. All the sins of idolatry I committed with each of these men tormented my soul. I realized I had placed my desire for a relationship with a man ahead of my desire for a relationship with my God. The same God who gave everything up to save me. The same God who took care of me. The same God who I called Lord. The same God who loved me unconditionally even after I did this to Him. I cheated HIM out of His rightful place in my heart and now it had to stop. Finally I could see the truth and was genuinely sorry. I had left my First Love and now I urgently wanted to return to Him!
My journey began by tough admissions and cutting ties with both men from the past. I slowly took the first few steps of this new adventure to rebuild my life with Jesus. Change was frightening and I had no idea what was ahead. Only that Jesus held my hand in grace.
“Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your First Love. Remember therefore from where you are fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place—-unless you repent.” Revelation 2:4 + 5 New King James version.
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5 New Living translation
Wouldn’t all of us like to know how to make right decisions? Especially concerning the important stuff of life? The verse above is the answer. We simply need to ask God and He will show us. Sometimes in unexpected ways and not as fast as we want it. But He will show us if we truly ask in faith, believing He WILL answer in HIS time.
The summer of 2005 turned into a time of extreme transition for me. I had just spent the past 22 years of my life in a rather cloistered environment steeped in codependency, to say the least. (You can get an inkling of it if you read the Devilish Detonation series) I knew I needed to keep close to God and and spend my time serving where He could use me. If I found myself with too much idle time, the pull of the familiar would take over, drawing me back to where I didn’t want to be. Where my faith ran into a wall and began dying. I could not allow anything or anyone to hinder my relationship with Jesus.
So I began asking Him for wisdom to rebuild my life according to His plan. Not my plan and not even what I THOUGHT was “His Plan” for me. It had to be ALL His idea and so I had to stay closer than ever to hear His voice.
First HE led me to volunteer at a youth center. Attempting to spend quality time with rowdy misfortunate teens week after week is enough to challenge anyones faith. My personal insecurities forced me to pray for wisdom every time I drove to the center. In time I formed a few healthy relationships with the kids and my faith began to soar toward new vistas.
Midsummer I received a deeper challenge: to accompany a group of these kids to a Canadian retreat as chaperone for all the girls. Surely there were others more qualified, I thought. But none of the other volunteers were available. I had some vacation time coming which easily got approved so what excuse did I have not to do it? So I asked for wisdom to know how to be what these young girls needed and plunged ahead in faith.
The entire road trip to Canada became a battle for my focus. Old emotional love attachments knocked on my mind’s door in hopes of admittance. I had to keep sending Jesus to the door to send the former interlopers running.
Another church group from Pennsylvania crossed into Canada behind us and gathered at the old Lake House. We split up the the girls into several rooms on the west side of the house and the boys and their chaperones headed to the east side.
Everyone took turns cooking and cleaning up. We had a common dining and lounge area where we spent our time inside. Otherwise, weather permitting we were out on the lake in canoes, kayaks or row boats. We only had one motorboat for skiing and tubing. This kept the male chaperones busy all day running the boat with screaming teenagers dragged in tow.
One of the male chaperones was a young Pastor from the Coal regions of PA. He took me and a few others across the lake Sunday morning in the motorboat to church. It was a hoot. A savored memory from the trip. He told all types of great stories about how his Dad and Grandfather taught him about Jesus and biblical principles through boating and fishing on this lake.
At the time I heard a small voice inside say, “This is the type of man you should have. A man with a rich Godly background.”
This clue dropped into my heart and I pondered it many times in the following months. His whispered wisdom would not be forgotten.
“So we are Christ’s ambassadors: God is making His appeal through us.” II Corinthians 5:20a New Living translation
As ambassadors may we be mindful to reflect our King with the glory HE deserves. Read on.
The other day I had a customer who couldn’t find her money. She was a big bosom woman and fished around in her cleavage for a wad of cash (You’d be amazed how many women still carry cash that way). It took her awhile to find a sufficient amount when just as she was about to hand it to me the car behind her began honking. Or it appeared the horn blowing emanated from the next car. There were three cars behind her so in reality it could have been any one of those three. I noticed the next car had a big sign on the side of the car saying “JESUS LOVES YOU!”
My coworker shouted across the lane “Guess Jesus is in a hurry?” I shook my head as my heart sank. I wanted the honking to be from someone else. I hoped the driver bumped the horn by mistake somehow. That has happened many times before in my long experience on the Pike, but three honks in succession is too much for even my rationalizing mind.
I finished the transaction with the woman. She exhibited her disgust openly to the honker before driving off. The “JESUS LOVES YOU” car pulled up directly and the driver did not display angst, however, he did appear to be in a hurry so I aided him on his way.
Next car pulls up and I am face to face with an elderly woman. What do I have to lose, I thought to myself. I had to know the truth. So I asked, “Were you the one blowing your horn?”
Her countenance soured immediately. “No. It was that Jesus car in front of me.”
The truth lay bare and ugly as I attempted to smooth out her mood by sharing her frustration. Altho my reasons most likely were different. She pulled away and I ached inside for Jesus. His name was merely on the car but did HE do anything wrong?
The following week that same “JESUS LOVES YOU” car pulled up to my booth. We weren’t flooded with traffic that day so I took a chance.
With as much diplomacy as I had stored in my heart for just such instant occasions I asked the man driving the car;
“Do you remember if you blew the horn last week when you came down my lane?”
At first he hesitated with a seeming tinge of embarrassment, but then he said, “Yes. I was late for work.”
Immediately I could relate. Countless times when I was running late for work or an appointment, I recalled giving in to frustration with other drivers, and yes even speeding.
With as much diplomacy as I had within me, I told him what my coworker and the customer behind him had said after the horn blowing incident. I told him I used to have a license plate on my car that read “DON’T BE CAUGHT DEAD WITHOUT JESUS”. That plate on my car was intentional to keep myself in check because I bear the name of Christ wherever I go. It was a reminder to me to react with the mind of Christ instead of reacting on my human impulse. Sort of like the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) movement from a few years back, remember that? When rubber bracelets were just a new thing.
I told him I was sure he had no intention of making Jesus look bad and that it may be a blind spot for him. His reaction was priceless. In humility he thanked me for reminding him of his responsibilities as a Christian. It was such a moving experience of what passed between us as fellow believers. He accepted the gentle admonishment in a manner of meekness from a virtual stranger out of love for his Savior. I could feel the swell of family love and respect in my heart for this man immediately.
Christianity is so beautiful when we let CHRIST lead. I pray if things were reversed and I was admonished by a loving fellow believer, that my reaction would be the same as my customer in the “JESUS LOVES YOU” car!
“What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way He works fuss over these things, but you know both God and the way He works. STEEP yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” Luke 12:29-31 The Message Bible
I find it interesting that the word steep is used in this passage. My daughter has a small hollow rubber man that hangs over the side of her mug to steep her tea. It amuses me. Anyway, steeping is the soaking process for teas and other foods in water or other liquid to draw out flavor. It involves time, just soaking in the water, becoming saturated and thus steeped.
Ever relax in a hot bath? Just soaking and clearing your mind? All your muscles smile as they begin to loosen up in the warm water. If you weren’t relaxed before the bath, you should feel less tense afterward. Makes for good sleeping too, just sayin. 🙂
Soaking in God is the same as “Seeking First the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness.” Soak Him into your mind by reading about Him. Become familiar with His ways. Study Him in Old Testament stories of His interactions with people like:
Abraham–God counted him righteous, Genesis 15:6
Read Genesis 15-25
Joseph–God was with him, Genesis 39:21
Read Genesis 37-50
Moses– Friend of God, Exodus 33:11
Read the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy
David–A man after God’s own heart, I Samuel 13:14
Read 1 Samuel 16-31, 11 Samuel
And continue to learn about God as He comes to earth in flesh and blood:
Jesus—God’s beloved Son, Gospel of John
HERE’S THE CHALLENGE:
If we desire to FLURISH, we need to seriously put and keep God and His kingdom first in our lives. Have our souls become dried out tea bags and lost their flavor? We may need a fresh steeping. If you don’t know where to begin, make a 5 month committment to God. Set aside some time each day and study these stories. One month for each man’s relationship. (That should give you enough of a time cushion to complete this) Find a quiet spot without interruption. Have some tea or coffee and just hang with God. Maybe even in a tub, altho it can be a challenge to keep your Bible dry. 🙁
Write down the realities of God that you read. How was HE real to the men in the story?
Write down God’s initiatives. How did HE initiate contact with the men?
Write down His provisions for these men who loved Him. How did HE take care of them?
After you finish this five month journey with God, you should have a better handle on who God is and what His Kingdom is about so you can personally promote them in your daily life. Put into practice what you learned about our great God moment by moment of every new day. You will FLURISH and SHINE simultaneously! Total awesome sauce!
Who’s in? Comment about taking the challenge. Share what you learn along the way to encourage others. Happy steeping!
The most tattered book in my possession is called “Hymns of Glorious Praise.” Its battered condition genuinely expresses years of my personal use. (to understand that statement you will need to read my post Ode to Esther)
“The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing psalms, HYMNS, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16 Common English Bible
If you are not familiar with hymns may I introduce a wealth of encouraging expression from the past several hundred years? The language is sometimes archaic but the richness of the writers’ faith is incredibly uplifting. The words alone are worth reading even without the music. In fact, I can’t read music, one note is the same as another to me. So I read through the words of unfamiliar hymns. When I find one that especially moves me I google the title and VOILA, usually the hymn has been recorded on youtube. It’s like finding a new treasure! I listen and learn the tune teaching myself to sing it. Singing new hymns has been a fresh source of flurishing for me.
One of my all time favorites has been around since 1923. It is based on Lamentations 3:22-24 “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness: his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!'” New Living translation
GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS
Thomas Chisholm and William Runyan
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy Faithfulness,
Great is Thy Faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me!
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
New mercies every morning! Just think of it for a moment. Unlimited do overs! Reminds me of a line from another favorite book; L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: “Isn’t it nice to know that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
But the sweetest line to me is in the last stanza “Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” What powerful encouragement for these difficult days in which we live. Our Lord Himself will cheer us up. He will be with us giving guidance, strength and hope everyday. His faithfulness is unfathomable to our finite minds but I know it has been real in my life for 46 years to date.
Hymns bring me such comfort in times of stress and sorrow. When I can’t find the words to pray, hymns bring peace to my soul. When I want to praise Him deeply, I sing a hymn of praise. When I want to feel close to Him, I sing a hymn of assurance. These are just a few reasons to read, learn, sing and play hymns. If it’s been awhile for you or if you’re new to hymns, check out a local used book store or go online for used hymnals. The investment will be minimal but have maximum yield. They are a treasure trove of blessings for your soul in which to FLURISH.
“Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice.”
Philippians 4:4 American Standard version
Summer heat here on the East coast can hit its peak in July. Thinking about winter snow, cold temps and Christmas can be a welcome diversion when the sweltering days drag on too long. So my thoughts turned to Christmas in July.
According to Wikipedia, Christmas in July has some roots here in North American soil. In 1933 at Camp Keystone in North Carolina, the all girls camp decided it would be fun to celebrate Christmas in July complete with Christmas tree, gifts and Santa. It soon became a much anticipated annual event.
Then in 1940 Hollywood produced a movie titled “Christmas in July”. Not sure how much the film has to do with Christmas but it helped promote the slogan in the early forties. As a movie buff perhaps I should give the film the once over?:)
A few years later, a Baptist minister began a Christmas in July drive to provide Christmas gifts to worldwide missions ensuring early delivery. The idea caught on; prompting the U.S. Post Office and U.S. Army and Navy officials to work with gift and greeting card companies to supply early Christmas provisions for the servicemen and women overseas during World War II.
Retailers continued to ride the ‘Christmas in July’ band wagon after the war ended. They offered huge sales to encourage early Christmas shopping and boost sagging summer profits.
Today Christmas in July is celebrated somewhat formally in Australia and parts of New Zealand. The southern hemisphere experiences their winter season in July allowing for more traditional Christmas celebrations. A relatively new custom for the Aussies, Christmas in July gained momentum in the seventies in addition to observing December 25th.
A few years ago I held my own Christmas in July party for a gathering of friends. Tantalizing aromas of roast turkey and baking ham greeted the guests as they entered our home. Thanks to my husband who hauled our fake fir up from the basement, we could all relax in its decorated glow and ornamental beauty while the table was being set. Christmas music from the forties played softly as we engaged in conversation and enjoyed a full course Christmas dinner served by our grown children. We played seasonal games, exchanged gifts and cranked the air conditioning so we wouldn’t bake in our ugly sweaters. We forgot all about the hot, sticky summer for a few hours. It truly was a lovely evening. We ended the festivities with assorted Christmas cookies and steaming wassail followed by caroling.
Sitting in a circle accompanied by a friend and her guitar we sang all our favorite carols. “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night,” etc. Together we unlocked the truths of their timeless words as a soft hallowedness flowed among us. It didn’t matter that it was the middle of July. The true meaning of Christmas was alive and well in our hearts.
As followers of Christ we must endeavor to guard the sacredness of the celebration of His birth. So often all the bells and whistles of the Christmas season shove Jesus in the corner if we are not careful. Christmas in July or any other month for that matter can be a creative idea to celebrate the greatest birth in the history of mankind. You don’t need food and decorations but you do need a heart that longs for your Lord and delights in celebrating Him.
Celebrating the reality of our Living Lord’s birth throughout each year rather than strictly in December might just further your FLURISHING experience. Give it a try sometime soon.
“Celebrate GOD all day, every day. I mean revel in HIM!” Philippians 4:4 The Message Bible
Here on the east coast summer is upon us and brings the season for fun and R & R (rest and relaxation for all you Millennials). Most of us work throughout the year and look forward to a week or two of cherished vacation time. I am doing that even as I write.
Traveling is one of my favorite leisure activities. Whether I travel far across the ocean to Europe, a little jaunt to the beach, visit friends or family in another state or simply travel across the house to the deck for time off there is something I always do.
I make it a point wherever I go to answer a special invitation: “LET’S GO OFF BY OURSELVES AND REST AWHILE.” Mark 6:31a New Living translation. Jesus and His disciples were so busy ministering to others that at times they didn’t even get a chance to eat! Our lives are busy and tiring too which is why we all need vacation time.
So on every vacation or staycation, I bring my Bible and some devotionals. I find a special place at each location where HE and I can have our own private rendezvous. We talk about HIS unique features at whatever locale I am exploring and I relay to Him all my concerns, knowing HE will gladly take care of them. HE delights in lightening our loads.
I have been doing this for years and each place holds the most beautiful memories because we shared it together. On my honeymoon in 2007, I got up before my darling groom awoke and found a place outside our bungalow to relax and share all my new wonders with my LORD. I can still see the precious spot in my minds eye; lush greenery surrounding a small rock wall where I sat and had sweet communion with the Lover of my Soul.
There’s a special olive tree in Salo, a tiny seaside town in Italy that holds another treasured spot in my heart. HE and I sat for part of an afternoon gazing across the sparkling Garda lake there. His creativity amazed my soul and senses.
But it was in 1999 when I realized HE truly wanted to explore with me WHEREVER I chose to go. I found myself alone for an entire day at Disney World, which was not what I wanted. What would I do? Mope and feel sorry for myself? It was kind of tempting but I decided to be brave and go alone on the transit system to the Animal Kingdom. Even tho I didn’t consider myself a huge animal lover, it was the one park I had yet to see. What an unexpected delight to see all the creatures with which HE was so well acquainted. Gorgeous white tigers sun bathing on rocks, giant Komodo dragons hiding in the brush, and frightening Fox bats flying in an overhead cage (grateful for cages!) all fascinated me. Exotic butterflies in exuberant hues floated and flitted by as I walked the trails. I felt like Alice in some sort of wonderland. So blessed and not feeling alone at all! As a side; Jesus and I absolutely loved “It’s a Bugs Life”!!
I could recount for you memory after memory of traveling with Jesus but for now this will suffice. If you want to FLURISH through hectic or anxious vacation/staycation times, answer HIS invitation! HE will enhance every experience more than you can imagine!
Travel safe and never travel alone again!
Shine on. . .