My Real Treasure

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“Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

My neighbor has this rusty metal barn. The doors are so dented they now hang askew. Sections of the tin roof have pried away from the nails that once secured them and when the wind blows it makes an unnerving racket. I only hear it when I’m outside, but in the darkness of night when I’m taking my dogs for a last potty run it gives me the heebie-jeebies.

I’ve often wondered why my neighbor puts a padlock on the old banged up doors of his barn. Maybe it gives him a certain amount of security, but I doubt very seriously the itsy bitsy lock would keep anyone out with a determination to get in. I hope nothing of any value is stored inside. I probably wouldn’t be caught dead in it myself. The thought of snakes lurking in unseen places is enough to keep me at a safe distance. I don’t want to get spider webs in my hair, either. Eew.

My husband and I learned soon after we moved into our 100-year old home in our tiny little town that we don’t dare leave anything outside we don’t want stolen. After my cd player was ripped out of the dash of my car and our aluminum ladder removed from its resting place on the side of the house we decided nothing was sacred here. Before we moved to North Carolina, we had lived in one house in one neighborhood for 20 years and never had a single thing stolen from our house, our car, or our property. Bummer.

When my neighbor and good friend up the street had her house broken into earlier this year I began to realize that “the times they are a-changing.” We can take all the precautions we want…install fancy security systems…iron bars on our windows…a few deadbolts and security lights…but when it comes right down to it, even if a thief can’t get in, a fire could still destroy, a hurricane could still level, a tornado could still demolish, a flood could still wash away. No material possessions I own on this earth are meant to last forever and I’ve come to find that the real danger is allowing the enemy to take away the treasures stored in my heart.

“…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…”

I’ve been pondering this word…treasure.

As a noun, a treasure is a quantity of precious metals, gems or other valuable object. As a verb it means to keep carefully (a valuable or valued item); to cherish or hold dear, to prize or value greatly or what I strive to attain and what I most dread to lose.

Years ago I used to think about what I would most want to save if I knew my house was going down in a fire. Aside from the obvious…my family, my children first and foremost or any other living and breathing thing present at the time…I really thought I would save my photo albums. I don’t know why these pictures are so precious to me other than the years of memories and life they represent. They chronicle our family’s history, a part of our heritage permanently captured on glossy paper and preserved in pages and pages of protective plastic. I have at least a dozen photo albums. Yes, I was a picture-taking momma, the kind that embarrassed my children and threatened their very lives with my Canon Sure-Shot if they didn’t grin and bear it! Now that they’re all grown up, though, I think they’re glad I made a big deal about it. These photo albums have given them some enjoyment the last several years. Every now and then when I browse through them I find some empty sleeves where pictures have been removed. Later I’ll find them plastered all over Facebook and Instagram. With a grin and a thought I think to myself, “You did good, momma!”

I know there’s no way I could haul a dozen photo albums out my door or window if a fire was raging behind me, smoke stinging my eyes and choking my lungs. Truthfully, I know I’d just make a run for it because I know my life is more precious than any material thing I possess.

Life…

That’s the real treasure to God. He cherishes me. He places great value on my life. I am of great worth to Him, but He wants to be my treasure, too. That’s why He tells me to guard my heart.

” Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Sometimes I feel like an old rusty metal barn…dented, banged up, and blowing in the wind…but even though I’ve taken a few beatings in my life and weathered many storms, I think I’m well-preserved for from within my heart there flows streams of Living Water. I cling to It. I drink deeply from It. Because this Water is my very life. I cannot live without Jesus. Through every beating I’ve endured, every storm I’ve survived, every dent I proudly display, I’ve come to see my earthly life through a different kind of lens, through His eyes. No possession I posses on this earth can ever compare with the riches that I will gain in heaven.

Like my Canon Sure-Shot, God has preserved my life over and over again. You only need to read my “About Me” page on this blog to understand what I mean. God has captured permanently on the memory of my heart His constant, abiding Presence and the certainty of a royal heritage rich in His grace. Yes, He’s allowed me the blessings of earthly treasures, more than I deserve, but I know not one of these material possessions will follow me into eternity. My heart will. That’s why I strive to guard it, to let God protect it and keep it maintained.

Because Jesus has my heart, I don’t dare leave anything of value unprotected that I don’t want stolen. Riches like love, joy, peace to name a few. When I lose my perspective, sometimes I allow the enemy to steal them away. I have to remind myself that the enemy is a thief, but he can never have my heart. It belongs to the Life-Giver. My physical self may wear out on this earth, but my spiritual self will last an eternity so I strive to preserve it well. When I look through the lens of my Father’s eyes, I see what He has permanently captured…my heart where His Son lives and breathes in me. I keep what’s sacred there under His abiding care. Nothing can be snatched away.

And I think to myself, “You’ve done good, God! You’ve done good….”

 

When I Am Undone

IMG_1135Have you ever been “undone”? You know…unglued. The word may have different meanings for different people depending upon circumstances. My goodness, I’ve been literally, figuratively and spiritually undone many times in my life…if that’s possible. Of course I’m a bit of an expressionist. So, to clarify allow me to explain the “Nina-differences”.

To be undone means to

-literally untie, unwrap, unfasten something.

-figuratively realize that something hasn’t gone as planned.

-spiritually in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “Then I said, ‘Woe is  me, for I am ruined (undone)! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.'” Isaiah 6:5

 

Literally, I can’t explain how I feel when circumstances seem to unwrap my heart’s emotions and unfasten feelings neatly packaged and tied with a string.

Figuratively, I can’t tell you how many times in my life things haven’t gone according to my plan.

Spiritually, I can’t describe what happens in the very depths of my soul when I’ve found myself in the presence of my holy, gracious, and merciful God.

 

It happened the other week. I found myself face-to-face with temptation. Literally, staring it in the face. Figuratively, completely caught off guard. (I won’t tell you what the temptation was because temptation comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s different for each one of us. If I tell you what this was to me then you might not identify.) Spiritually, I came completely unglued when God showed Himself in the midst of it.

The wonder of this testimony is that I actually stared temptation down and, as I did, God came to my rescue. I cannot remember the last time I was so spiritually undone. God didn’t send an angel I could visibly see. He didn’t strike the enemy with a sword or knock him off his feet. He didn’t send a lightning bolt or even an intercessor. No. He did something I never would’ve expected. He sang to me.

Literally, I heard His song in my heart. He unwrapped the tangled nerves in my ears and I heard it loud and clear.

Figuratively, when I thought I might give in to temptation He came unexpectedly. He caught me completely off guard proving that He had a plan meant to get my attention.

Spiritually, the wonder of His presence was very real to me.

 

I was completely undone.

 

“My chains are gone

I’ve been set free

My God, my Savior has ransomed me

And like a flood His mercy reigns

Unending love, amazing grace.” (Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone by Chris Tomlin)

 

Just as Isaiah realized that silence was necessary, humility desired, and holy fear understood I found myself entirely wrapped up in the presence of El Elyon, the Lord of Hosts. When Isaiah heard the Voice of the Almighty he

literally unwrapped his heart,

figuratively lost himself in a powerful, unexpected moment with His God, and

spiritually accepted the atoning work of God and surrendered to His call.

 

How I wanted to do the same.

 

As the haunting voice of God rang in my ears and the melody of Amazing Grace drifted through my inner self I kept silent and just let myself rest in His presence. I wept in gratitude because He didn’t leave me to face temptation alone. He didn’t abandon me or turn away from me. He unwrapped my heart, came unexpectedly and reminded me of the redeeming work of Christ to save…”My God, my Savior has ransomed me…Like a flood, His mercy reigns…Unending love, amazing grace.”

 

“The earth shall soon dissolve like snow

The sun forbear to shine

But God, who called me here below,

Will be forever mine.”

 

I love how God comes to me in my vulnerability. I love how he literally, figuratively, and spiritually unwraps my heart and reminds me of His sweet, abiding Presence. I love how God loves me.

 

I can’t help it. I’m undone. Because I’m just plain amazed by Grace.

 

Taking Life-Giving Words To The Streets

286282_254066424623307_7434725_oI’m not a steamroller. At least I don’t think I am. There may be times I’m pretty adamant about the way I want something done, but it’s usually something within my home or my personal life. I’d like to think I don’t take steamrolling to the streets.

Have you ever watched a steamroller flattening fresh pavement, making it all smooth and level? Would you want to get caught underneath it? I cringe at the thought of my human self flattened and crushed beneath the weight. Slow. Excruciating pain. All life squeezed right outta me.

What is a steamroller, anyway? An overpowering force or a person with such force that overcomes all opposition and pushes through processes and solutions, crushing all opposition; one who quickly dismisses someone in a heated argument, totally ignoring what the other person is saying.

That’s what the dictionary says, anyway. The Nina-definition is slightly different…one whose words hurt and who doesn’t care much about the feelings of others. I only say this because it’s how I feel when someone crushes me with destructive words.

I’m not really a steamroller and I don’t do well around those who are. I’ve battled too many insecurities in my life to allow myself to spend much time around people who make me feel small. When someone enters my little world and makes me feel insignificant and unimportant I tend to withdraw, tune out, or wave the white flag of surrender.

“Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James 3:5 & 6

No, I don’t like the thought of barreling over someone, having no regard for feelings at all, crushing spirits, flattening self-esteem, squeezing the life out of passions. How depressing….I don’t think steamrollers are very good at encouraging others and that’s what bothers me the most. There are too many of us battling poor self-esteem and just plain giving up for lack of godly encouragement.

Why is it so hard for us to encourage one another? What is so difficult about lifting someone up with words of affirmation?

To encourage means to give support, confidence, or hope to someone; to motivate, uplift, inspire, cheer, embolden.

Oh, I like that word…embolden. To give courage or confidence to someone. Like en-courage! There’s something so beautiful about using words to give courage to someone. And who doesn’t need some courage these days!?! Fo’ sho.’ To think, I can actually use words to build up, lift up, and spur someone on…oh that is such a lovely thought, but I don’t just want to think about it, I want to do it.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Oh, sweet Jesus, let me consider….let me understand, let me be intentional, let me observe carefully my sister’s feelings, let me be attentive to my brother’s circumstances, let me fix my eyes and my mind on this thing: to speak encouraging words, uplifting words, motivating words, inspiring words. Because Lord, I know how much need them and if need them, then I know others do, too.

The world is full of broken hearts, crushed spirits, flattened self-esteem, dying dreams. It brings tears to my eyes. There are too many steamrollers out there squeezing life out of the best of us. I don’t want to be one of them. I want my tongue to speak from a heart that seeks to give hope and courage. Life is too precious not to consider the power of words. If I’m gonna light a fire I don’t want it to be from a corrupted tongue, I want it to be with the Spirit’s un-corrupted Presence. He will always bring out the best in me when I give Him control of this little body part…my tongue…that threatens to steamroll those He has placed in my sphere of influence. It takes work. It takes intentionality. It takes the Spirit’s power. If I’m gonna be steamrolled, let it be by the work of the Spirit who knows just how to squeeze out the impurities and the imperfections so that I might walk on level ground.

“Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Psalm 143:10

So what are words of affirmation? Words that lift up…not bring down. Words that encourage…not discourage.  Words that inspire…not dissuade. Words that motivate…not depress. Words that cheer…not sadden. Good words. Beautiful words. Lovely words.

And this is what I want to take to the streets. Life.

Words that give life.

Going With The Flow

IMG_1059Today…I’m going-with-the-flow.

I had a day all planned out. My daily planner had pencil notations from 10:00 this morning all the way to 8:00 tonight. Do you ever have days like that? Actually, I used up a lot of pencil lead writing in this week’s calendar. Yesterday I was wondering how I would handle it all. I thought I might be a little looney by week’s end. Those who know me well know I tend to dramatize the happenings in my life. I might get a little excited. Sometimes I might even get theatrical. Sometimes…

My urban dictionary says that “to go with the flow” means: To not attempt to exert a large amount of influence on the course of events, whether a specific series of events or events in general. A person who does this is often referred to as “laid-back” or “easygoing”.

Do you hear me laughing out loud?! Do you picture me rolling on the floor laughing? Never in a million days on this earth would I consider myself “laid-back” or “easygoing.” Ask my husband. He’ll tell ya.

My last post was titled, Surprise In The Sunrise. So, I guess today I’m having to walk my talk. (Surprise-Surprise!!)

Only You, God. Only You.

For me, as a child of God, going-with-the-flow means that when He surprises me I need to learn to let the Spirit carry me along. I can’t stress over the surprises that mess with my well-planned and perfect-little-organized-schedule. This morning I needed to erase everything off my personal agenda for the entire day. So. What. Did I really just say that? Oh, my goodness, I think I’ve had a breakthrough! My active imagination pictures God celebrating me today…

Beca-a-A-a-use…in God’s economy, I don’t think He likes it when I plan my days down to the last detail and forget to leave room for Him to manifest some of His awesomeness in my life. I learned a long time ago to use a pencil and not a pen when writing in my daily planner. Scratching through the iron pen of my plans and rewriting His will over the top tends to leave a big mess. If I’m not careful I get all mixed up whose will I’m really following. It’s a lot easier to buy extra erasers to delete my well-thought-out plans when God decides He’s got something better in mind.

“All a man’s ways seem right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the motive. Commit your activities to the Lord and your plans will be achieved.” Proverbs 16:2-3

One of the things I’m discovering about surprises is this, if I believe God is in control of all things and I’ve given Him control of my daily life, then I can trust His surprises to be God-ordained, God-orchestrated, divine opportunities and I can live in the moment knowing I’m right where God would have me to be. I can trust that when I go-with-His-flow and ride-on-His-wings then I’ll find myself in the center of His will and that’s such an amazing thought, a thought that allows me to live in the moment.

Because moments are precious. And I don’t want to use all my moments on myself…

Moments like now. I’m sitting at my computer typing this post because I’m sitting with a loved one who is very ill. She’s sleeping right now. Yes, I’m typing, but I’m praying, too. Loving…Caring…Encouraging…More Praying. I’m going-with-the-flow. I’m not trying to change things. I’m not fretting. There’s no drama. There’s no theatrics. There’s no stress. There’s just peace.

For once I’m easy-going, but only because my God makes it easier. For once I’m laid-back, but only because I can lay it all down on the altar. God’s in control. He’s in the details. He’s the Master Planner and I want His personal agenda to override mine every single time. There’s such a plethora of awesomeness knowing He planned this day for me and I can honestly say, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than right here, right smack in the center of His will.

“Many plans are in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21