Cutting Deep

I got up early this morning and went out to prune my rosebushes. I plant the southern standard, knock out roses. They are hardy. They bloom and rebloom all summer. However, as the summer wears on they get more and more stingy with the blooms, unless you prune them! And one hard truth I’ve learned over the years is that the harder you prune the better they look and the prettier they bloom. Now, I’m not one to cut mine back to the stump every spring, but I do prune pretty hard before they bloom, then as they begin to become crowded with a mix of dying blossoms and new shoots I have to force myself to cut off new shoots. I have to cut back hard if I want them to remain shapely and bloom gloriously all summer.

You know where this is going don’t you? God tells us that those he loves, he disciplines.

“My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” Hebrews 12:5-8 NLT

In John 15:1-2 he says:

“My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.“ (NLT)

God is well aware of the lesson of deep pruning and he’s not afraid to cut out all the rot. Click To Tweet

Pruning can be painful! I am not talking about that thorn that poked my thumb kind of pain, I’m talking about deep heartache and many tears. God is well aware of the lesson of deep pruning and he’s not afraid to cut out all the rot and the non-productive. God loves us so much that he is not going to be content with a relationship where he’s all warm and fuzzy and protects us from all pain. But that’s what we often ask isn’t it? When was the last time you welcomed pruning? I know I’m not begging for it, but I’m trying to learn the lesson that when it comes, and it will, I need to lean in rather than run. I need to trust the pruner. After all, if there’s something growing in me that isn’t good for me I want it removed down to the root, to a place where it won’t  grow back.

I need to trust the pruner. Click To Tweet

If you are in a season of pruning, I know it’s hard. But cling to the pruner who waits right beside you through the bleeding and the healing season. Through all the tears and begging for it to just ‘go away’. Trust the love my sister. Your life can bloom with a beauty that puts my rosebush to shame. Don’t choose to get gangly and live a barely fruitful life! Quit wasting time and effort on empty things and fill your life with the truly beautiful!

 

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My Feet Hurt!

I am that girl, the one who always loved beautiful shoes. I notice shoes, and can guarantee that I will notice yours. Did you know that the University of Kansas even did a study on what shoes say about you?

Well, today, I’m wearing a pair of decidedly unpretty shoes with orthotic inserts. Why?  Well, because of pain, that’s why! I was born with feet that were wonderful for jumping and dancing and gymnastics in my younger years, but which need firm support as I grow older.  I try to forget that and move away from the utility shoe that serves me well back into the things that are beautiful.  I could claim they soothe my soul but in truth, it’s probably my vanity that is best served.

Pain is a powerful motivator.  Not only can pain move me into shoes I would never choose to wear on a day to day basis, it can also move us to give up things that hurt us, to move away from harm and toward safety and the things that are right and good.  God has designed our bodies and our hearts to recoil from pain. It’s for our own good.

At times, God chooses to use pain to redirect our hearts and our lives. Click To Tweet

At times, God chooses to use pain to redirect our hearts and our lives. God loves us, and though he does not want us to suffer pain, he is also wise and knows that pain can often save us from a greater pain. So, when I experience pain what should my response be? I think that I should look closely at the pain for the underlying message. What should I change or do differently, or move away from or move toward to escape the pain? Pain is a teacher, but we must be students and accept the lesson pain offers. We must apply the self discipline to apply the lesson we learn, although if that lesson is from God he will surely walk with us through that pain.

Pain is a teacher, but we must be students and accept the lesson pain offers. Click To Tweet

We are all a bit heard headed. There will be times that the pain will have to increase before we are willing to accept the lesson offered. But if we fail to accept and apply the lesson, we can be sure that our pain will increase until we make a change. God loves us deeply and in his wisdom allows the pain to mold us to a better future.

God loves us deeply and in his wisdom allows the pain to mold us to a better future. Click To Tweet

So, as I accept the painful lesson and put on my orthopedic shoes I should accept the lessons of other pain in my life and look for the change that’s needed. If I choose the wrong change, well, most likely there will be pain there too, pointing me in the right direction. Where is your pain today my friend?  What is God inviting you to change for your long term benefit? Are you willing to look beneath the pain for the lesson? Are you willing to set aside your pride or selfishness to make the change so that pain may subside and your heart may soar free? I pray you are. I pray I am too!

Hebrews 12: 10-11For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

 

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Why I Gave Up Television

The obvious conclusion is that I just didn’t like watching it, but that is wrong. Actually, I found it mesmerizing. But it wasn’t the programming, it was the opportunity to set in one spot, think about nothing and feel no pressure to do anything else that had me coming back night after night. After all, television watching after work in our culture is perfectly acceptable.

I had just come out of a long hard season. I was a single woman and it was a season when I was working full time, completing a Master’s degree, caring for a couple of young nephews and then moving into end of life care for my mother. I was exhausted. There were so many things that had been put on hold for so long I really had forgotten how to live a life that involved social activities, interacting with others just for the pleasure of spending time together and having a clean home to live in. So, I came home from work, picking up take out on the way home many days, and just sat in front of the television until time to go to bed. I can’t even tell you what I watched, because the program I was tuned into was not the point.

Then, one morning as I was reading my Bible to begin my day and Philippians 4:8 jumped off the page and into my heart.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (NLT)

I was watching pretty mundane television and it was the 90’s. Television was not nearly as edgy as it is today. Still, there was not much I could classify as honorable, lovely or admirable. Then, I realized I was just burning up precious hours of my life on things that did not matter. Basically, throwing those hours away! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that all downtime and relaxation is a waste of time. But I do think we burn a lot of hours where we aren’t really doing anything except letting time pass by.

I realized I was just burning up precious hours of my life on things that did not matter. Click To Tweet

So, I turned off the television and I’ve never really turned it back on. I had cable TV and I cancelled it. My little 12 inch black and white TV stayed with me because I had the occasional need to view a video. When I began hosting a ladies small group in my home, I purchased a slightly larger color television. But I never did hook that television up to anything other than the video player. In our home now my husband has a large television in the “man cave” where he watches sports and the weather while reading a book. Occasionally, he invites me to watch a movie with him and I do. We have a television in our living room used by our small group that connects to a video player and the internet because our church subscribes to a service which streams Bible studies. But in between those studies, I rarely turn it on.

And you know what? I have never really missed it! There was no content that was as interesting as the book I read. No content as interesting as the conversation with friends and family, no time as well spent as that learning to cook or working on my writing or studies. I’ve learned a lot of new things and spent time sharing those skills with others. I’ve made a lot of new friends and met and married my husband. All things I would never have done if I had allowed myself to keep mindlessly setting in front of that little black and white box every evening after work.

Periodically, I’m prompted to take a look at my life and how my time is spent.  I want to focus on things that are excellent and worthy of praise. I want to spend my allotted days wisely. For example, just last week, I deleted all the games off my phone. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that watching television or playing a game on your phone while you wait in some waiting room is wrong, but I am suggesting that you look at how you spend your time.  Are you focused on things that are excellent and worthy of praise? Are you investing the days you have been given wisely and in a manner you can proudly look back over your life and feel good about how you have chosen to spend them?

I want to focus on things that are excellent and worthy of praise. I want to spend my allotted… Click To Tweet

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:20 NIV

 

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Coincidence?

Last week I was under the weather. I had already made a big pot of chicken and rice soup over the weekend and I had a book arrive on my doorstep that I’d promised to read and offer a review. Friends were checking in on me and my husband was taking good care of me. So….how did I describe all this? A fabulous coincidence? No, I described it as a blessing from my God who had a plan in place ahead of the situation.

Friends, how we look at life and how we describe our journey to both ourselves and others matters! When I say, “it’s coincidence” I dismiss my God and my faith. I have done it, but why?

  • I’m are used to hearing others describe events as coincidence and it’s just a natural response?
  • I am afraid of coming off to “preachy”?
  • I overlook the fact that God cares about even the tiniest things in our lives?

God has promised he will meet all our needs. In this case, it was food to eat and love expressed. That doesn’t mean he will always pamper us (providing a good book). But, you can count on God to meet all your genuine needs.

We need to acknowledge the blessings we receive from God’s hand and having our needs met is a blessing!  Anything beyond our needs….definite blessing! First, we must recognize those blessings and experience gratitude. Then, we must acknowledge the God’s provision.  How preachy can one little phrase “God blessed me today with” or “I’m grateful for God’s provision of” really be? We don’t hesitate to brag on our husbands, our children or our friends. So let’s not hesitate to brag on God either.

Gratitude has a powerful influence on how we live our lives. It keeps us aware of all God does for us. It makes us less whiney and more focused on what we have than what we don’t. It replaces worry with contentment.  It grows our faith.

Gratitude makes us less whiney and more focused on what we have than what we don't. Click To Tweet

Contentment is something that others want.  In order to share Christ with others we need to look like we have something to offer that’s worth sharing. Believe me, the more you are living a life of gratitude and acknowledging the source of every good thing, the more your life will impact other lives. But the more you chalk blessings up to coincidence, the less your light will shine in this world and the less blessed you will feel.

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Col 2:7 NLT




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What It Takes to Really Experience Change

Twice a week I go to a deep water exercise class. After several months I’ve begun to see a pattern. There are those who come to work out and there are those who come to tread water and chat. The working out group are getting stronger and hardly miss a class. Some of us are loosing weight and finding that we feel better and enjoy life more. For me, this class has made an amazing difference in just a few short months. It was not easy, especially in the beginning. I had to force myself to go back to class on Thursdays when I was still sore from Tuesdays. But now, after experiencing the benefits for myself, I don’t want to miss a single class!

As I’ve studied James with my Tuesday Ladies we learned that it’s important that we let the word point out areas where we need to grow and then work to make changes in our lives.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22

Just like with the exercise class you can attend church services, perhaps a weekly small group, or even have a daily Bible reading and prayer time. You can listen and read and discuss, but if you don’t do the hard work to put what God reveals to you through his word into action in your own life then you will not develop ‘spiritual muscle’. You won’t display the change that the spirit can produce in your life. You will just be fooling yourself.

I don’t want to be a spectator I want to be a changed woman! Click To Tweet

I have decided I’m not going to be a water treader or use my time in God’s word strictly as a social occasion. I don’t want to be a spectator I want to be a changed woman! Just like I have experienced powerful changes in my physical body, I want to experience powerful changes in my life that come only from applying what I’ve learned in God’s word.

Lessons From a Forgotten Purse

We’d left our home over an hour ago, on our way to Kansas to visit family. That’s somewhere around 12 hours in the car to make the trip. I thought of something I wanted to text a friend and reached for my purse….it wasn’t there! My first thought spoken aloud to my husband, “I forgot my purse we have to go back.” His response? “No!”

I had left my purse just inside the kitchen door so it was perfectly safe but I had not felt so insecure in years! No ID, not a coin or credit card to be had, no phone and none of those other things we carry in our purse to make us feel prepared.

This trip forced me to fully rely on my husband. For some of you, that might be no big deal. But for this woman who spent her life as a single career woman until her late 40’s, it was huge! Let me tell you I was not letting that man out of my site!

My imagination went wild. Thoughts like the bridge over the Mississippi collapsing with us on it, me surviving with no memory of who I was and no ID, yeah I went there. Laugh with me now! In truth, once I got my imagination under control, it was a great trip that offered an even better lesson.

Trust is hard. It’s something we need to learn, but we must also be careful to trust only the trustworthy. My husband loves me and he’s a great protector. In truth, a much better protector than the trusty purse and all the things it contains on a given day. Trusting God is hard too. But he is truly trustworthy. Self reliance may be pushed by the culture we live in, and feminist ideals tell us that as women that we can and we must captain our lives ourselves. In truth, we cheat ourselves out of much by living a life that plans, and schemes and manipulates to get what we want rather than walking the path God has for us.

My Tuesday Ladies and I have been doing an excellent study by Jeannie Allen on the life of David. One of the many great take away’s I got from this study just confirmed the lesson of the purse. Peace is found in walking day by day where God leads. Not in planning a path and begging God to take me there,not in demanding that God show me the six month agenda that lies ahead, but in trusting him day by day to walk beside me and be my protector and my provider. Peace is found in walking day by day where God leads. Not in planning a path and begging God. Click To TweetHe is trustworthy, and that’s a lesson that for me has been hard to learn. On the surface, I walked in trust, but down in the deep private part of me I found worry, insecurity and panic at times.  Friend, if this is you, give it up!  This walking in faith, this is peace!

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you. Psalm 143:8 NLT

Choosing A Word

There is a lot of talk about choosing a word for 2017. The idea of this word is to choose something that will guide your actions and development for the year. We recognize that words are powerful. They shape our thoughts and actions.

Our words tend to reflect what’s already in our hearts and minds. More than influencing ourselves, our words influence others. Our words can speak encouragement, graciousness, and peace. Our words can speak criticism, rebuke or failure. But today, I’d like to choose to use my words to speak challenge.

I’d like to challenge you to:

  • Be aware of every word. Choose your words carefully and examine the motives behind the words before you speak. Know that words have power and use the power wisely. Once a word is spoken it can never be recalled.
  • Consciously choose to use words that build up.
  • Refrain from speaking when you have nothing to add or when you are going to cause harm by speaking. For me, speaking can be the nervous filling of an empty space and often, that space doesn’t really need to be filled.

If you want to choose a word for 2017 to shape you, that’s a great idea, just don’t forget that the words you speak everyday are those that shape others.

I’ve decided to choose a word for 2017 myself. I choose Kindness. I want to be a woman who produces fruit in my life, so, I’m going to spend the year cultivating the fruit of kindness.

 

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14 NLT

Powerful Words

My husband calls me a wordsmith. And it’s true, for me words hold a great deal of power.

Words can heal, words can wound, words can fight our battles, or bring peace in order to avoid the battle.

I’ve become increasingly aware that I have a tendency at times to use my words to wound. So, I’ve been paying attention to when I wield those words as a sword. When I feel threatened or backed into a corner, or maybe just a bit insecure I tend to pull out my sword of words and fend off the attacker, real or imagined. But, just as the sword in the hand of a warrior of old could do lasting or even fatal damage, my words work this same damage on relationships in my life.

Words also have the power to bring life. For me, those words you speak into my life that build me up are the essence of love.

So, I hold in my mouth the power to build up or tear down. I can blame the one who backed me into a corner of insecurity and say they caused me to come out with sword swinging, but in truth, I am the culprit. I know better. I know that my security should not be found in the words or actions of others but I should rely on my faithful savior to…well, save me! But slowly I’m learning that I have already been saved, I’m just not recognizing it, and that it’s going to be gaining control over my words that allows me to live like I believe this truth. Only when I can quit wounding will I be able to live a life that reflects that saving.

This is a season in the year when many of us spend time with those who know us well enough to choose words that wound. It’s a time of year when we are tempted to do our own wounding. I pray that those of us who have been saved will begin to live like we believe it instead of wielding our words in a vain attempt to save ourselves.

 

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My Own Christmas Miracle

It’s the season where we think about miracles, let me tell you about one that happened in my life…

Twenty-five years ago my brother died a few days before Christmas. He and his children had been badly burned in a fire that involved the Christmas tree. It was a live tree, and following an electrical shortage it went off like a bomb! In the following years I struggled with difficult memories at Christmas time and could not bring myself to celebrate, especially with a tree. I always attended Christmas Eve services, but that was it. Also, I was single, a difficult dynamic during a season when our culture focuses on families.

Then, I met and married my husband. Along with the marriage came three lovely bonus daughters and five grandchildren. My new family began to celebrate Thanksgiving together and it became a tradition to put up our Christmas tree and decorate it together on the evening following the Thanksgiving meal. After all, it was much easier to put up and decorate a tree with little boys begging to be the one putting the star on top, than it was to explain why grandma was too sad to have a tree. I began to look forward to this tradition. Suddenly, it became a time of pure joy for me! And this year, I found that it was a time of joy for them as well when one of those boys, now a teenager, asked if we were decorating the tree this year following the Thanksgiving meal. My heart rejoiced again and I renewed my thanks that God, had redeemed this sadness for me in such an incredible way.

I must tell you, we did not put up our tree this year.Not because I am sad, but it is because we have two kittens. I am also realizing that even without the tree, Christmas is no longer a time of sadness for me. Much like my life, it is something my savior has fully redeemed.

Isn’t that just like our loving father! Taking a time of pain and sadness and remaking it into an occasion for rejoicing!

Sorting Out the Truth

Today, anyone with internet access has the ability to make their voice heard around the world.  Many write from places of strong opinion, strong emotion or humor. Much of what is written will resonate with you and much will repel you. How do you sort it out? You compare it to truth. As a Christ follower I’ve made the choice, the commitment, to always choose God’s word as my ultimate truth. I don’t apologize for this.

Because I’m often found with my nose in book, or blog, or website reading, I must be constantly on guard to test it all with my chosen truth, God’s word as found in the Bible, no matter how much what I’m reading may resonate in my heart.

I can be lazy, I can listen to other Christ followers, or read what they’ve written, or read their analysis of what others have written. However, when I do this I run the risk of following the wrong truth. It can also cause me to doubt the truth of the Bible, which just plays right into the hands of the enemy! So, while I appreciate that you read what I’ve written, and although my goal is to always test what I’ve written by God’s word, I don’t want you to take anything I write at face value. Use it as a starting point to test it against your own chosen source of truth.  Why?  Well, here are some things I know:

Christ followers must follow Christ, not those who follow Christ.

This isn’t an issue that is new to our internet age. We seek charisma, we like being spoon-fed rather than doing our own work, we get led down wrong paths by both well-meaning folks and those who have set out to deceive.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say,“He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.” And again,“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.”So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. I Cor 3: 19-21a (NLT)

Emotions deceive us.

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and  examine secret motives. Jeremiah 17:9-10a (NLT)

Sometimes we don’t even recognize our own motives.  We are all pretty good at fooling ourselves.

For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” Mark 7:21-23 (NLT)

God, who created the universe, is perfectly capable of making himself understood.

You can read and understand God’s word with God’s help. Which by the way, he is happy to provide. Feeling insecure and inadequate when you stand yourself up against a popular source, a paid source, an eloquent source?  If you do, then you are depending upon the wrong thing.  Seek God, read the words he’s given, he will lead you to truth, real truth.

The commandments of the Lord are right,bringing joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are clear,giving insight for living. Psalm 19:8 (NLT)

And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. I Cor 2:-4-5 (NLT)

You see? God’s word contains everything we need and it’s the role of the Holy Spirit to show us what we need, when we need it. This is one reason prayer and Bible study, together, are so powerful.

 

 

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