The Call To Perservere

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Perseverance is described as “the patient endurance of hardship; persisting in a state or enterprise in spite of difficulties and discouragement…” according to the New International Version of my Life Application Bible published by Zondervan.

Several New Testament writers talk about perseverance. Here are a few of them:

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3

Rejoice in my sufferings? I’ll try.

“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, ‘He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” Hebrews 10:36-39

Don’t shrink back? I’ll give it my best shot.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:3 & 4

Consider it pure joy? I’ll never make it. Rejoicing is hard enough.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8

Make every effort?!? Okay. Okay, already. I get it. For crying out loud….

Perseverance….it’s not my best trait. BUT, it’s something I’ve come to realize is very necessary in my walk of faith. When I think of “patiently enduring” I almost have to laugh. Only at myself because I know Me so well. I’m not what you call an extremely patient person, but I do think I’m enduring…

enduring in the sense that I know God “will complete the good work He has started in me and will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

I am not about to give up on myself!! I WANT to produce this quality of Christ that is so perfect and complete. I may not reach this perfection in my earthly body, but one day…ONE GLORIOUS DAY…I will see Jesus face-to-face and on that day I will be perfect. Until then, God is forever “working it out in me.”

Thank heaven for that!!

One of the prayers I frequently pray is Psalm 138:8,

“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, O Lord, endures forever–do not abandon the works of Your hands.” 

To think, there is actually hope that this perseverance I struggle to characterize in my imperfect, little self will actually produce something of great value and worth in God’s sight.

When I think of seasons of hardship and keep them in proper perspective I can actually find something to rejoice in.

When I think of seasons of difficulty and keep my eyes on Jesus I can actually believe and save myself from a lot of inner misery.

When I think of seasons of disappointment and keep my mind on Forever I can actually find great joy.

Because this moment in which I am living, in light of Forever, is very short.

Whatever I’m facing, whatever I’m patiently enduring, is but a speck when compared with all of eternity. These moments here on earth are really just one long season of waiting…

waiting for something bigger and better and more beautiful than anything I can possibly imagine.

And so I patiently wait…

God is all about patience, perseverance and perfection.

Over and over again He teaches me, trains me, and tests me

to build a faith within me that anchors me, ables me, and arms me

to take a good look inside of me, above me, and around me

that I might be a child of the King who keeps a proper perspective.

This world is full of people who have no saintly help, no earthly hope, no heavenly home to look forward to.

Deep within me is a longing for this heavenly home. God has placed it inside us all, but some don’t even know what this longing really is. It’s the place where Jesus is preparing our forever-ness.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Perfection takes time.

It can’t be rushed. There are many more who still need to be brought into the Kingdom. Jesus has many more glorious riches to bestow and more great rooms to build.

And this is why I can patiently endure. This is why I can persevere. This is why I can strive to rejoice, to not shrink back, to consider it pure joy, to make every effort. This is why I can wait…for those who seek Him to find Him, those who find Him to know Him, and those who know Him to love Him.

Because my life on this earth was meant to draw others to the Savior and, somehow, God uses my faithful perseverance through hardships, through difficulties, through disappointments to speak His Truth, shine His Light, and share His Love. Oh, yeah.

Yeah. Okay, already. I get it.

And I am so very grateful God never abandons the work of His hands.

It Was One Of Those Days–Part 2!

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Have you ever wondered why we seem to be able to keep ourselves together better in the roaring storms of life than we do in silent showers?

Or how we seem to hold ourselves up better in the bigger trials than smaller struggles?

Or when we seem to press on better through major distractions than minor frustrations?

Yeah…I’ve wondered myself.

When I’m having one of those days, it’s usually the little things that pile up until they become a mountain of turbulence threatening to spew out hot bottled-up feelings and fiery pent-up emotions. I’m the type of person who has to let it all out with a good cry.

See, the thing is, as bad as that sounds, I know I have a God whose rain is more refreshing than any silent shower, whose hands hold me tighter through every small struggle, whose strength presses me past all those minor frustrations. I need Him just as desperately in the day-to-day of life as I do in life’s fiercest battles.

And He’s not turned off by my tears.

If I can trust God for the big things, I can trust Him for the little things, too, because He’s the God who cares about every little detail of my life. To think that God isn’t in the quieter showers is to say that He doesn’t care. To think that God isn’t in the smaller struggles is to say He doesn’t understand. To think that God isn’t in the lesser frustrations is to say I don’t matter to Him and I know all that is a lie.

If you read my last post, you know I’ve had days lately when I just needed a good cry. Shortly after that long 10-hour work day in which my body was both physically and mentally depleted, I went to spend a few days with my parents in Virginia. My father pastors a tiny church and I enjoy worshipping with these gentle “older” folks who have big hearts and a lot of soul. Besides, every opportunity that I can hear my father preach is always sweet.

There are very few young adults in my father’s church, but there’s a young woman named Pam who attends with her Mom when she isn’t working. Pam is precious. She’s sweet. She’s kind. And she can sing. I love it when it’s her turn to provide the special music on the Sundays I’m there.

I drank deeply as Pam sang, “Will You Hold Me While I Cry?” by Karen Peck and New River. It’s blue grass. Even if you’re not a blue grass fan, this song speaks to the deep caverns in every one of us who’ve ever had one of those days. I’d never heard it before and it didn’t take long for my spirit to respond with tears that flowed freely. I couldn’t stop them. I didn’t even try. Because the words Pam sang spoke to that place inside of me where I know why I love Jesus so. Why I love how He cares for me. Why I love how He loves me. Why I love how He understands me. Why I love how I matter to Him.

Why I love how He cares about my tears.

Because over and over again He’s proven Himself to be my Comforter. My Friend. The One who pours out mercy like a river and love like an ocean when I feel alone. Who reaches out for me with strong hands and a firm grip when I feel weak. Who picks me up and carries me when I have nothing left.

I don’t care how long I’ve been walking with Jesus or how spiritual I think I ought to be, I still have bad days.

I still struggle with laying my burdens at my Savior’s feet. I still wrestle with my inner man and battle with my imperfect faith. I still fall apart at the seams and I still let Him put me back together. I still pant for streams of Living Water and I still long for the Lover of My Soul.

I hope I never get tired of running back to Jesus, over and over and over…

So…gracious me, if you feel like you need a good cry…go ahead. Because when the tears flow…so does the Spirit. He pours out love in a never-ending supply.

Because that’s who God is…He’s love, even when you’re having one of those days.

It’s been one of those days; if anything could go wrong it went wrong

I know I’m feeling sorry for me, there’s a lot of self-pity going on

Tomorrow I will be okay; the dawn will bring a brand new day

I’m sure by then I’ll be fine

Lord, today I really need a friend; I know that You would understand

Would you hold me while I cry? (Karen Peck and New River)     https://youtu.be/3v40qZSX5sQ   

It Was One Of Those Days-Part 1!

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I. Am. Pooped.

Sometimes I’m “too pooped to pop.”

Simply put…sometimes I’m a little more than just plain tired. I don’t know, maybe this term is vulgar to some, but I remember my Mom saying it when I was growing up. I’ve always thought it was kinda funny and it makes me giggle. It helps me down-grade the blahs and lighten up days when skies look kinda gray.

I started a new job a couple of months ago working part-time for the same chain of grocery retail stores where my husband is a co-manager. I unpack boxes and stock shelves on Thursdays, sometimes Fridays, too. I feel the need to remind you that I’m 57 years old.

In the past year, I’ve taken on some other roles, both in the church and in my local community, that have kept me busier than I’ve been in the last 8 years since we moved to our tiny town in North Carolina. Some mornings I wake up and I can’t remember what day it is. I have to lie in bed for a few seconds and think about it. Please tell me some of you have this problem, too. Yes?

No? Alrighty then. Moving on…

I remember being so physically and mentally exhausted a few weeks ago after working a nearly 10-hour day that when I punched the clock and got in my car I started to cry…”Lord, what am I doing here? How long can I possibly work like this?”

Don’t get me wrong…I love to work. I actually like to work hard. I believe God created us to work. After all, He put Adam in the Garden of Eden to work it and care for it and Paul mentions in his New Testament letters that he didn’t rely on others to provide for him but chose to work at his skill as a tentmaker to provide for himself. I decided early on when I first began working grocery retail that I would pretend I was going to the gym to work out.

(Since hitting my mid-century birthday, I’ve come to realize the importance of keeping my temple clean. Let’s face it, the older we get, the harder it is to keep off the unwanted weight and the extra pounds. I try to walk as part of my fitness routine, but I’ve also had to make a lot of dietary changes.)

My work is pretty physical. Between climbing up and down a 6-foot ladder to reach the top of a mountain of stacked boxes, loading them on carts out to the floor then unpacking them, lifting, carrying, bending, stooping, reaching, rearranging, blah, blah, blah…you get the picture…I am literally pooped at the end of the day.

Anyway, back to that 10-hour day when I was so tired I couldn’t help but cry…not only had I hit my funny bone that day on a metal shelf (I actually danced in the aisle, rubbing my elbow, with tears streaming down my face), but I also smashed the middle finger of my right hand, drew blood on my left forearm breaking down a cardboard box, and THEN….the icing on the cake was banging my head on a wire bracket sticking out from the wall that I didn’t see because I have no vision on my left side. I had to hold a paper towel to my head for 5 minutes to stop the bleeding. After that, came the pounding headache. My head was sore for days after.

But, here’s the thing…when I left work that night at 8:00 with a downcast soul, God gave me the most beautiful gift. I drove down country roads with my eyes on the most amazing sunset. At 8:15 I actually pulled over into a farmer’s field of soy beans, parked the car and snapped a sweet picture as a reminder of the goodness of God.

When every muscle in my body was screaming at me, God. Enouraged. Me. He reminded me,

He keeps me and sustains me.

He lifts me up and makes me strong.

He is the lifter of my head.

He never, never leaves me.

He gives me everything I need to carry on, day after day after day, no matter what I’m doing, no matter where I’m going, no matter who I’m gracing.

Not only does He paint the skies, but He colors my whole world, even when I feel all gray and washed out.

When I’m having one of those days God gets right in the middle of it and even in busy seasons when one day seems to run right into another I know each day is a gift. We don’t know the impact we have when we learn to appreciate the length of our days. To think of a difficult day as meaningless and purposeless is to lose sight of the gift. To live as though my life is short in light of an eternity with God is to keep a proper perspective and cherish each day as priceless.

So, when I’m having one of those days, I want to be the kind of person who says to God,

“Teach me to number my days, that I may present to You a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

And then, when I least expect it, He will give me a prize…like a sunset.

And I am no longer pooped.

I am renewed.

Superhero Status

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I bet you didn’t know I was a superhero.

I didn’t always think of myself as one. Sometimes I still don’t. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am. Then sometimes I actually have to be-LI-E-Eve it!

I’ve never leaped tall buildings in a single bound or stopped a locomotive with my bare hands. I’ve never swung high above city streets on a spider’s thread or controlled the weather with a hammer. I’ve never protected the world with a suit of iron or fought crime with martial arts skills in a black cape. But, I am still a superhero.

I am a superhero in God’s eyes. He has equipped me with a proper suit….“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

He has enabled me with a proper style…“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 2:4

He has empowered me with a proper strategy…“With Your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.” Psalm 18:29

I have an enemy and he is evil, cunning and deceptive. I don’t like him. AT. ALL. I have fallen prey to his schemes many times in my life. I have believed his lies and listened to his proverbs. I have tuned my ear to his voice and turned my eyes to his direction. I have stumbled and fallen, run in fear and tried to hide. I have even wanted to give up.

This is my journey of faith…sometimes my faith has been weak, sometimes it’s been small, but I’m certain of these things…

When I am weak, God is strong. “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness”…”That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9a-10

When I feel small, God is big. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

When I fall down, God picks me up. “The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” Psalm 145:14

When I listen quietly, God speaks loudly . “God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding.” Job 37:5

When I look up, God looks down. “I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2

My superhero status is only because I have a God who’s the greatest Superhero. EVER. Greater than the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Avengers all thrown together. And more! He has no equal. And I am His child. When He gave me His Name, He gave me His strength. Only through Him can I be so bold and courageous, so enabled and equipped. When the enemy comes against me, I have all I need in my Mighty God. He goes before me. He fights for me. He’s always on my side.

I wish I’d known all this when I was younger, but I’m so glad I know it now. And I just wanted to share it with you. Because we need more superheroes in this world. We need to be a people who rise up in belief that God is above all things. He is Jehovah-Sabaoth, The Lord of Hosts.

“David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.” 1 Samuel 17:45-46

Oh, who doesn’t love the story of David and Goliath?!? Who doesn’t need to hear these words in these days on the Kingdom Calendar?!? Who doesn’t need to be reminded that even though we may be “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” we have a God who has this all-surpassing power just waiting to unleash through jars of clay?!?

Me! I do! I do!

When I feel powerless, God is my Strongtower. He is Lord over all powers, principalities and rulers in high places. I want Him to know that I am His warrior princess because sometimes He calls me to battle and I don’t want to let Him down.

I am a superhero.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

Though it’s waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:1-3, 7 & 11 

The God Who Accessorizes

Okay, people. Here it is. The moment you’ve all been waiting for….

Ta-da!!!!!

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I have pimped my hearing aids.

Oh, I’m sorry…maybe I shouldn’t have said it quite like that. Let me rephrase…

I have jazzed up my hearing aids. I have reached a pivotal moment in my life. I am showing them off and making them stand out by accessorizing them.

I needed some new molds recently. My old molds were giving me an absolute fit!!!! They just would not stay in my ears. Every 5 minutes I was having to push them back in…with every move of my jaw they would ease out of my ear canal like an inch worm. Now for someone who likes to talk a lot you can certainly understand how my jaw is constantly on the move. I was ready to curse my hearing aids and put them death.

My ear doctor (and if you’ve been keeping up with me on my blog you know she is my fabulously sensitive and compassionate daughter-in-law) recommended some new molds made out of a different material. I’d been looking at some pictures of hearing aids on Pinterest all dolled-up with washi tape and brightly dyed molds…some of them even had glitter mixed in the dye!

Can I just say….to-die-for-cool!!!!

Oh, yes, can I have some of these, pretty please?!?

My new molds are actually tie-dyed yellow and green and of course, absolutely, without question….they have glitter.

Oooooooooo, I’m so giddy I’m ready to pop out of my chair.

I found some really pretty complimentary washi tape at Hobby Lobby and picked out a charm and some chain in the jewelry findings section and twa-LA! (don’t know what that word is, I just made it up) I made a darling little dangle to hang from my tubes.

BUT!!!! The best part of all is that my new molds stay in my ears ALL. DAY. LONG.

Oh, Sweet Jesus, I think I hear the Hallelujah Chorus….

For anyone who wears hearing aids you’ll understand when I say this is all a very huge, very major, very bold statement for me. When I was growing up they didn’t even make hearing aids to help people with hearing loss like mine. As a teenager, I was so ashamed of being hearing impaired, partly because I was already visually impaired due to the loss of my eye, that I didn’t talk about my hearing loss at all. I didn’t talk about my eye accident. To anyone. EVER.

Now you can’t shut me up.

I was talking to someone earlier this week about hearing loss. A woman I met who also wears hearing aids. We were talking about some of the ‘issues’ we encounter in life being hearing impaired and, like me, she doesn’t consider herself disabled or impaired. When I shared with her the issues I have of being hearing impaired without the peripheral vision, though, she actually stopped talking and blurted out a not-so-nice word that I won’t repeat here. It was her of way of saying, “Well, that stinks…”

Anyway, I use every opportunity I can when I share with others just how good God is to me in all of this. I guess I’ve become so comfortable that pimping-up my hearing aids (that’s actually what it’s called on Pinterest) is just another way for me to show God off. Cause when I show off my hearing aids, I can show others how beautifully God has accessorized my life…

Yes, God is a God who accessorizes. He makes all things beautiful in His time. And He’s made some wonderfully beautiful changes in my heart and soul. Over time, in His way, He has given me

…a crown of beauty for ashes… (Isaiah 61:3)

…a garland of grace on my head and presented me with a crown of splendor…(Proverbs 4:9)

…clothed me with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (still working on that one)… Colossians 3:12

…treasures in heaven that are like fine pearls…(Matthew 13:44-46)

…the best robe, a ring on my finger, and sandals on my feet…(Luke 15:22) 

I think you get the picture.

I have so much to be thankful for as a child of the King. That’s the real reason I pimped-up my hearing aids. To give me more opportunity to tell people that.

God’s riches are so much more than just washi tape and tie-dyed hearing aid molds. So much more than hearing loss and vision loss. So much more than anything on this earth that I think is to-die-for-cool. I can jazz up my hearing aids all I want. I can change the washi tape and change the color of my molds and change the cute little dangles, but I can never change the fact that God’s way of accessorizing my life is better than anything this world could ever offer me.

So….ta-da!!! This is the real moment I’ve been waiting for….

God, can I show You off?

How I Want To Honor God

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OH Gosh.

A few Sundays ago in church we sang Amazing Love as our Call To Worship. I came completely undone when I sang the words,

“Amazing love, how can it be?

That you, my King, would die for me.

Amazing love, I know it’s true

It’s my joy to honor You.

Amazing love, how can it be?

That my King would die for me

Amazing love, I know it true

It’s my joy to honor You.

In all I do, I honor You.” (You Are My King, Amazing Love, lyrics written by Billy James Foote/Performed By The Newsboys)

I was so unglued that my friend standing beside me put a comforting arm around my shoulders while another friend behind me passed a tissue. Spontaneously, without thinking, I blurted out loud, OH Gosh! Sobs were welling up so thick in my throat they threatened to cut off my airway. I had to swallow repeatedly to keep my composure.

I don’t know, I guess I got hung up on the words it‘s my joy to honor You, in all I do I honor You.” 

I couldn’t help but wonder…do I have joy in my heart when I honor my King? Do I honor Him in all I do? Do I have joy in all the ways I honor Jesus?

Let’s face it, we’re going to honor most what we value most in life. Sometimes that honor is misplaced or misdirected and, in all honesty, we all have hearts that are easily led astray and attitudes that quickly run wild. I didn’t even mention wayward tongues. Oops. I just did.

God grace me. Please.

Oh, how I want to honor Jesus. Not just with words and deeds, but in attitudes of my heart and actions of my flesh…in those places where I seemingly put value on worthless things, meaningless stuff, and fruitless labor. When I think of what I set my heart on sometimes I admit…I am guilty of failing the honor test.

My girlfriend and I are doing a Bible study together, No Other Gods by Kelly Minter. It’s about…you guessed it…idols, personal pharaohs, functional gods…the kind of stuff nobody wants to talk about. I won’t scare you off with the details, but I will share this from page 13:

“Most of us think of an idol as a statue of wood, stone, or metal worshiped by pagan people…In biblical terms, it is something other than God that we set our heart on (Luke 12:29; 1 Cor. 10:19), that motivates us (1 Cor. 4:5), that masters and rules us (Ps. 119:133; Eph. 5:5), or that we trust, fear, or serve (Isa. 42:17; Matt 6:24; Luke 12:4-5)….” {Ken Sande, The Peacemaker, Revised and Updated (Grand Rapids; Baker Book House, 2006), 104.}

I actually wrote in the margin…Lord, have mercy. Seriously, I’m thinking outside the box as I address this issue of “no other gods.” I really want to get to the heart of the matter. I can’t just honor God outwardly…I have to honor Him inwardly, too. That’s where a lot of us get hung up.

And this is why I got hung up on the phrase “it’s my joy to honor You, in all I do I honor You,” as I sang Amazing Love in church that Sunday. I know I have attitude issues. I know I have flesh issues. I know I have heart issues. Kelly Minter roped me in when she shared a Scripture from 2 Kings 17:33 & 41,

“They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods…Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols.”

See, I really want to honor God in all that I do because, after all, He gave His all for me…He gave His Son who gave His life and I just want Him to know I’m so very grateful. So–o-o-o, when I think about all of this and ponder all of that and meditate on what this means for me, my spirit really wants to honor God with as much of me as I can give Him. As Kelly says, the whole purpose of getting rid of idols is to make more room for Jesus. (If you read my last blog post, When I Am Distracted, you’ll know this is what I want.)

I’ve come to this place in my life where I want so much to honor God. And if that means I’ve got to give up more of myself and more of my wants and more of my attitudes and….and…more of the stuff in my heart that isn’t necessary, then that’s what I want to do. Some might call this a quest for personal holiness or sanctification, but I won’t scare you off with any of that, either. All I know is I need to tear down some idols. And I’m not talking about wood, stone, or metal. I might even have to grind some to powder and burn them.

But, OH Gosh! This is so-o-o-o-o hard. Yet, I have this feeling that the more of me I give up, the more of this honor I desperately want to give God will actually be the joy of my heart.

Who said this faith journey would be easy? Not God.

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while,

‘He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” Hebrews 10:35-39

But, who said it would be worth it? He did.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.

The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.

They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” Psalm 19:7-11

And that is enough for me.

When I Am Distracted

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I’ve been distracted lately. Like…faraway distracted. Like my mind is a million miles away. So many things seem to detour my affections, divert my attentions, deflect my aspirations. What is this all about, anyway?!?

I’d like to play the name game and rattle off some excuses, but I know I can’t. Can’t blame it on age. Can’t blame it on hormones. Can’t blame it on the bills stacked in my great-grandmother’s secretary or the unfinished walls in my partially renovated kitchen. Can’t blame it on the weeds in my back yard or the dead tree dropping branches all over the newly paved street that runs along my house. Can’t blame it on a new job or an old physical ailment. Can’t blame it on anything or anyone else.

Yes, I could make a mountain of excuses, but I know I can’t. Sometimes God will allow me to see the reasons why I am the way that I am, why I feel the way that I feel, why I do the things that I do, but rarely does He say they’re to be excuses…

excuses to be lazy. Excuses to be indifferent. Excuses to be unmotivated or unproductive, frustrated and…well…distracted.

The thing is…I’m not famous for being easily distracted. In fact, I had an audiologist tell me one time that I have a VERY high tolerance for noise. She gave me a test in the sound booth where she cranked the volume up on certain tones. I was to tell her when the sounds became so unbearable I couldn’t tolerate them anymore. Evidently, she recorded some off-the-chart decibels  in my file. I’ve been known to tune out some of the most unpleasant sounds, ignore some of the most chaotic messes, block some of the most ridiculous sights. I’ve been known to find peace and calm in some of the busiest locations…like supermarkets, airport terminals, and busy city streets.

Sometimes I just live in a world of my own. I guess it’s one of the advantages of being hearing impaired, but lately my world has been noisy. Not in the literal sense. More in the spiritual sense. I’ve just been plain preoccupied. What can I say? It happens sometimes. Not just to me. It happens to all of us. Life just gets distracting.

So…what do I do when my world is spinning way too fast leaving me breathlessly overwhelmed? What do I do when I need my brain to slow down and my thoughts to clear out?

I do the only thing I know to do…I go sit. (literally)

I go sit on the floor. (boldly)

I go sit on the floor at some feet. (unashamedly)

I go sit on the floor at the feet of Jesus. (expectantly) 

Sometimes I think I just forget to put my brain in park. Like a spinning top barely grazing a smooth wood floor, my thoughts turn a mile a minute and I have to force myself to shut them down. It’s not always the physical body that needs rest, you know? Sometimes the brain needs it, too. The part of me that feeds off the heart, the Spirit-fed part of me…the seat of all my emotions, all that I feel. Yeah, that place. It needs rest. And since it’s Spirit-fed I have to feed it with more of what the Spirit wants to give me.

And sometimes that means I just need more Jesus. Sometimes when I think I’ve got enough of Him I really don’t. The truth is, sometimes I can’t get enough. I say that with as much humility as I can. Because I think someone else needs to hear this. Because I think sometimes we try to satisfy ourselves with just a little bit of Jesus and whole lotta everything else. We fool ourselves into thinking that a little bit of Jesus will go a long way. But I happen to think that sometimes life’s distractions are indications that we’re not getting enough of Him, the One necessary thing we need.

In fact, my online dictionary tells me that a distraction is a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else; extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.

Hmmmmmm…..

Food for thought.

I’m sorry, but I can’t help but be reminded of a very well-known story in Scripture:

“Now as they were traveling along, He (Jesus) entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said,

‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’

But the Lord answered and said to her,

‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.'” Luke 10:38-42 (Bold italics are mine)

Oh. My. Goodness. I think I hear the voice of Jesus in my heart,

Nina, Nina…you are distracted by many things, but only one thing is necessary…choose the good part. 

Choose Me.

Yes, Lord. I think I will.

When The Eyes Aren’t Enough

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There’s a reason why there are five senses: Sight. Hearing. Taste. Smell. Touch.

They help us to experience life in the every day.

When I lost my left eye in an accident as a child I was never told there was anything I wouldn’t be able to do. I didn’t grow up thinking I was any worse off for the loss. I adapted. I didn’t just cope, I carried on.

Truthfully…I had a wonderful childhood. Thanks to parents who didn’t fuss over me. They wanted me to have pleasant life experiences.

No one told me early in life that my depth perception would change. I didn’t even know what depth perception was. I grew up learning to sew in a 4-H class one summer and didn’t seem to fret over threading needles. And I played sports in high school. I ran track, played field hockey and wore a cute little cheerleader’s uniform. I did get hit right smack in the eye socket one time by a fly softball playing on the church lawn. That was pretty painful, but without the peripheral vision it was an accident waiting to happen. But, you know? Even people with two good eyes have shared the same pain.

Probably more problematic for me than the loss of depth perception is the loss of peripheral vision. Because I also have hereditary, degenerative hearing loss I am now severely hearing impaired. Which means…if someone comes up beside me on my left side I don’t see them, neither do I hear them. Scary, huh?

My boss at the small town cafe where I worked for three years got a BIG kick out of coming up on my left side and giving me a tickle at the waist. No lie…I jumped every single time. I even let out a squeal. One time he surprised me when the floor was packed with customers having a pleasant dining experience. Let’s just say, after that, he usually waited until there were fewer patrons for fear of starting a stampede. Seriously, if you ever want to run people off just give me a call. You give me a scare and I’ll scream for you.

I guess working at a restaurant wasn’t the most suitable place for a visually and hearing impaired person, but the funny thing is…no one thought of me as ‘disabled.’ Part of the beauty of being able to experience life is not to focus on what I don’t have. I focus on what I do. I still have some of my sight. I still have some of my hearing. I can still taste. I can still smell. I can still touch. Working around all that food at the town cafe certainly brought out the best in my remaining senses.

Did you know there are five basic tastes? Sweet. Bitter. Sour. Salty. Umami. Umami? That’s a new one for me. Had to look it up…it’s a savory taste. Had to look that up, too…it’s an aromatic plant of the mint family, used as a culinary herb, but technically it means it’s full of flavor, delicious.

Whew. You didn’t know this was going to be a culinary lesson, did you? Actually, I have a point. I promise.

Every day life shouldn’t be something we just do. It’s something we should experience. Half the time we don’t even realize how our senses work overtime in helping us get the most out of life. Not just to live like a mindless drone, but live it wonderfully and well. Even when life is hard to understand it’s possible to get clarity and perception when we keep our eyes on the goodness of God.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good, how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Psalm 34:8

I like it in the New Century Version, too: “Examine and see how good the Lord is. Happy is the person who trusts Him.”

Is it possible to taste God’s goodness? I believe it is.

But… here’s the million dollar question…how will I know what something tastes like if I don’t put it in my mouth and see for myself?

“Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.” Jeremiah 15:16

I can see something with my eyes. I can suppose what it might taste like. I can imagine what it might taste like. But, until I taste it, I won’t know for sure.

And that’s a very powerful thought. I want to experience the presence of God. I want to practice the presence of God. I don’t want to hear about Him from someone else. I want to see Him for myself.

I was sitting at a large family-style dinner table in a large dining hall many years ago with eleven other people. In the center of the table was a little bowl with some creamy-looking white sauce. No one seemed to know what it was. So me, being the most curious and quite possibly the bravest, decided to taste it. I didn’t just put a little on the tip of my finger. Oh, no. I took a spoonful. Horseradish. For real. I nearly died of asphyxiation.

Just because something looks good and is pleasing to the eye doesn’t mean that it is.

I can’t just sit back and wait for God’s goodness to reveal itself. Oh, I know it will. I don’t have to do anything to be a recipient, but I do have to choose to see it, hear it, taste it, smell it, even touch it. God’s goodness is part of His character and it can’t be taken out of Him. His good gifts are always raining down, even when I don’t see them, even when I’m not paying attention. But, when I sit up and take notice, my senses come alive and I don’t just think God is good. I know.

Because I experience God.

Because I take refuge in God.

Because I trust in the God of my salvation.

YES! The Lord is good. He is pleasing to all five senses. He is beautiful to my eyes, music to my ears, savory to my mouth, aromatic to my nose, and tender to my touch.

Because of Jesus, my eyes can see the goodness of God clearly. My ears hear perfectly. My mouth tastes pleasantly. My nose smells sweetly. My hands touch softly.

Whew. Thank You, Lord, for the culinary lesson. You add the umami to my life. Because of Your presence I can carry on…

The Friends Who Come To My Pity-Parties

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My husband and I moved to North Carolina from Virginia almost eight years ago. Not only did we leave behind our family, our church family, and the home where we’d lived for twenty years raising our sons, but I put almost three hours of driving distance between myself and my ‘band of sisters.’

That’s what I call the girlfriends who have been with me through thick and thin, through storms and smiles, drama and delight, silence and screams, prayer and praise. Gosh, how I adore these four sisters-in-Christ ’cause we all adore Jesus and that’s such a wonderful thing to share.

These ladies and I actually met in church, at different times, but we all met in Bible study. One year I taught a study on prayer. They were part of a group who just didn’t want to stop praying together when the study ended. So….we kept on meeting together, sharing blessings and burdens, praying our little hearts out. Sometimes with tears, sometimes putting dents in the carpet with our knees, but always with passion and heart. I miss them like crazy.

Somewhere along the way I dubbed these girls my ‘band of sisters.’ You know…like ‘band of brothers.’ Why should only the guys get a name that speaks to such fierce loyalty, bound together like glue? I like the fact that me and these girls are one-in-the-Spirit, one-mind-in-the-Christ, and one-love-in-the-Lord.

When I moved to North Carolina I thought my relationship with these ladies would change, but I’m happy to say we’re still connected. I may not be able to carry on telephone conversations because of my hearing disability, but I’ve developed some seriously amazing typing skills. I’ve got a computer keyboard and a smartphone text pad that serve me very well. All this typing has done wonders to strengthen my arthritic fingers.

We girls still send out emails, Facebook messages, and the ever-increasing-vital-to-survival texts. At least for me! I could not live without texting. The first couple of years after moving my husband had to up our phone plan several times before he finally gave in and went ‘unlimited’. I pleaded my case with my usual theatrical flare….”But it’s my lifeline! I can’t live without it!”

I gotta admit, in the eight years since I’ve been in my sleepy-little-but-largely-adorable-small-town there’ve been times when I’ve been incredibly lonely. One thing about small town life is that most everybody is either related by blood or related by marriage and generations of families have grown up and lived locally for like…FORe-E-e-ver! It’s hard to break in a ‘come-here.’ And I get that. I lived in pretty much one locality my whole life, too, before we moved.

I hate to admit this, but I’m just gonna come out and say it…I’m the queen of pity-parties. Sometimes my rotten self just likes to feel sorry. I don’t guess there’s really anything spiritual about that. It’s just me being honest about me. When we moved, one of the hardest things for me was not knowing anyone at all. I mean, not one single soul. No one to invite to my parties. So I had to have them by myself. And…can I just say? They weren’t a whole lot of fun.

So…in my loneliness and my desperation…I started inviting Jesus to my parties. Unbelievably, astonishingly, and GRATEfully I was so glad He came. For anyone who thinks Jesus doesn’t care I can testify that He does. I don’t think I’ve ever been so desperate for Him my entire life. We’ve had some ups and downs these last few years that have threatened to derail my sense of purpose. I’ve done some serious soul-searching and blatant honesty in seeking the face of God. Believe it or not, it’s been a really good thing.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

So that’s exactly what I’ve done! I cast it all…even my sorry self.

Along the way these last few years, I’ve met some wonderful new friends, but when it comes to throwing a pity-party I still go to my band of Virginia sisters. I can’t help it. They just know me so well. Especially my bestie. She and I still do Bible studies together and on Sunday afternoons we’ll Facebook chat about what we’ve learned, share how God has voiced His Word to us, moved us to greater faith, and stirred our hearts to connect with His.

Recently, as I was sharing during one of these chats, I got incredibly carried away. I started typing and couldn’t stop. That Facebook message must have been at least 6 inches long. I pounded the ‘enter’ key and the kitchen table actually rattled…oops…and waited patiently for her reply,

“Oh…I get it…you’re having a pity-party! Yes!! I will come.”

I actually laughed out loud. Only her…

She then proceeded to coat her words, typed in the usual Roman-style font, with the sweetness of a home-baked, three-layer chocolate cake layered with lots of cream cheese icing, topped with a few juicy, ripe strawberries, stuck in some candles and THEN…God love her…she lighted them!!!

But, just so you know, Jesus was at this party, too.

Because Jesus is in the midst of a friendship when He is the center of attention. Jesus is in the midst of a band of sisters when He is the Person of devotion. Jesus is in the midst of me when He is the Friend of compassion. It doesn’t matter what I’m feeling or what kind of party I’m having…Jesus will come.

No, not everyone will come to a pity-party. Not everyone wants to be around someone who throws them. I know better than to invite just anyone, but Jesus isn’t just ANYone. He’s my F.R.I.E.N.D…God love Him…and He lights all the candles on the cakes at my parties. He may not always tell me what I want to hear, but He will tell me what I need to hear, just like my bestie, and that means more to me than anything.

Pity-parties may not be a God-thing, but it’s a God-thing when Jesus shows up and shakes me up. It’s a God-thing when I invite Jesus and He changes my perspective with every word He speaks over me, with every candle He lights. Oh, I need Him so very much.

Jesus…Faithful Friend, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Matthew 15:13

My band of sisters…forever friends, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

I always know when the party’s over, though. After a while it’s time for everyone to go home. Jesus has done His part and it’s up to me to blow out the candles and discard the cake. Because my Jesus-lovin’ girlfriends know this, too, I’m so thankful He’s been in our midst.

Perfect Peace

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Peace.

It’s suppose to be perfect. At least that’s what the prophet Isaiah says in the book God inspired him to write and name after himself.

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

It’s suppose to be a fruit of the Spirit. At least that’s what Paul says in the book of Galations.

“And the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace….” Galations 5:22

Just for the record, I didn’t even have to look up those two Scriptures. They are engraved on my heart and written down in permanent ink within the crevices of my mind where sometimes…when I am fighting the demons of worry and anxiety…I yank them out with a mighty tug and repeat them over and over.

Some mornings I wake up desperate for peace. I want it. I n-e-E-E-ed it. I long for it. I pray for it. I ask God for it.  Some mornings I depend upon this blessed peace like the air I breathe. Happy am I when the promises of God invade my soul, when the faithfulness of God washes over me in bucket loads, coating me with confidence and assurance.

Who doesn’t need some peace these days? Real peace. Not the kind that’s masked with layers of doubt or unbelief, but the kind that’s steadfast and sure.

Some of us need only a dash of peace and we’re good to go. At least for another 6 hours.

Some of us need it poured out like a soothing rain. And we need it every moment of every day.

One of the things I’ve learned is that peace is always there. Ready and waiting for the child of God.

Yes, peace can be perfect because it’s made perfect in Christ. We can’t avoid strife on this earth. It comes to all of us, but it doesn’t have to shake us. It doesn’t have to topple us. It doesn’t have to rule over us. This perfection comes only when I keep my mind on God, on Christ, on things above. It’s perfection at it’s very finest. Completeness of heart and soul. Soundness of thought and mind.

Yes, it’s a fruit within me because I’m a child of the King. Maybe this fruit isn’t always ripe and ready for picking, maybe it isn’t always available in great abundance, but I know it’s there. It’s mine. And even when I struggle to find it in the midst of my cluttered-distracted-and-imperfect-self, I can recall seasons of distress when I not only embraced the blessedness of peace…I lived in it. How positively, how completely, how absolutely perfect it was, too.

It was back in 2002. I was listening to my physician tell me over the phone (back before my degenerative hearing got so bad and I could still carry on a phone conversation with relative patience) that my MRI had revealed a brain tumor and it had to come out. I’d been having dizzy spells, vertigo, fogginess in my brain like I was on cold medicine all the time. Ironically, one of the first and one of the main symptoms of an acoustic neuroma is loss of hearing. Very ironic.

I remember trying very hard to understand what my doctor was telling me, but all my brain was processing were the words…brain tumor…brain surgery. My heart started racing. I could feel my pulse pounding throughout my body and I seriously considered grabbing a paper bag to begin breathing treatments.

But…and this is a BIG but…when I hung up the phone, got up from my chair in the dining room, walked through the kitchen to the family room where my husband sat waiting I can’t even explain to you the powerful way peace washed over me in that moment. BUT. It. Did. It happened. I felt it. I experienced it. I embraced it.

For the next three months as I awaited surgery, this peace carried me. It empowered me. It equipped me. I can’t even tell you how many people noticed it, commented on it, questioned it.

I realized many months later that for those who strive to live and walk in the Spirit, peace is real. True peace isn’t fake. It isn’t phony. It isn’t elusive. It’s there. I just have to let it take root and bear the fruit Jesus intends for it to produce.

Because I’ve known this kind of peace in times of strife I know what it feels like. I wish it came to me as quickly, as powerfully, as perfectly as it did facing brain surgery all the time, but to be honest…sometimes I have to fight for it because the enemy comes against me in some really unexpected ways these days. I hate it that he won’t leave me alone. It makes me fighting mad.

But I know what to do. When worry and anxiety want to get the best of me, I stop. I literally come to a halt. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I put on my shoes of peace and pick up my sword of the Spirit and I quote Scriptures like these (Yes, they’re engraved on my heart!),

“Peace I leave with 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.” John 14:27

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace.” Exodus 14:14

And I repeat like a mantra…I will trust You, Lord. I will trust You, Lord. I. Will. Trust. You. 

Somehow peace comes to me. In all it’s perfected glory. It comes. It’s still there. It’s still real. It’s still a blessed fruit. I may have to wait for it to sprout some blossoms, but when it comes…it’s mine. I breathe in it’s fragrance and I am comforted.

And you know what else? No one can take it away.